The literary world lost a giant Thursday (January 28), as author J.D. Salinger — the reclusive genius who crafted one of the most iconic and important pieces of youth fiction in “The Catcher in the Rye” — died at age 91.
The author’s son announced that the writer had died of natural causes at his home in New Hampshire.
After spending his youth in New York and serving in World War II, Salinger began his literary career writing short stories for The New Yorker (including modern classics like “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “For Esmé — With Love and Squalor”), but it was his debut novel that made him an icon. “The Catcher in the Rye” told the story of a moody, maladjusted youth named Holden Caulfield, who only wanted to hang out with his little sister and get away from all the world’s “phoniness.” It was a watershed novel that became required reading for teenagers, as it dealt frankly with alienation, sexuality, angst and depression.
Even though it was published nearly 60 years ago, it is still regularly condemned and censored for its vulgar language and loose morals. It also became a touchstone reference point for famous psychopaths, as both Mark David Chapman (the man who murdered John Lennon) and John Hinckley Jr. (would-be assassin of Ronald Reagan) were carrying copies of the book when they were arrested.
The hyperactive mix of praise and controversy surrounding “The Catcher in the Rye” drove Salinger into seclusion, and he had been in self-imposed exile for decades. The writer hadn’t published anything since 1965 (though it is believed that he continued to write), and he gave his final interview to the media in 1980. Most recently, he grabbed headlines in 2009 when he blocked the publication of a would-be sequel to “The Catcher in the Rye.”