|Subject: ARCHIVE: January 27, 2010 ~Famed elusive, and inevitably mentally disturbed American writer J.D. Salinger, whose novel, "The Catcher in the Rye", became globally popular, but published little else, spending decades of his final years a near recluse in his New Hampshire home until his death at 91. ...
Bio & PHOTO
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Date Posted: Sunday, January 27, 01:54:02pm
American writer known for his widely read novel, The Catcher in the Rye.
Following his early success publishing short stories and The Catcher in the Rye,
Salinger led a very private life for more than a half-century. He published his
final original work in 1965 and gave his last interview in 1980. ...
[ Jerome David Salinger ]
(January 1, 1919 – January 27, 2010)
Brief Bio of his works …
In the 1940s, Salinger confided to several people that he was working on a novel featuring Holden Caulfield, the teenage protagonist of his short story "Slight Rebellion off Madison", and "The Catcher in the Rye" was published on July 16, 1951, by Little, Brown and Company. The novel's plot is simple, detailing 16-year-old Holden's experiences in New York City following his expulsion and departure from an elite college preparatory school. Not only was he expelled from his current school, he had also been expelled from three previous schools. The book is more notable for the persona and testimonial voice of its first-person narrator, Holden. He serves as an insightful but unreliable narrator who expounds on the importance of loyalty, the "phoniness" of adulthood, and his own duplicity. In a 1953 interview with a high school newspaper, Salinger admitted that the novel was "sort of" autobiographical, explaining, "My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the book ... [I]t was a great relief telling people about it."
Initial reactions to the book were mixed, ranging from The New York Times hailing Catcher as "an unusually brilliant first novel" to denigrations of the book's monotonous language and the "immorality and perversion" of Holden, who uses religious slurs and freely discusses casual sex and prostitution. The novel was a popular success; within two months of its publication, The Catcher in the Rye had been reprinted eight times. It spent 30 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list.
The book's initial success was followed by a brief lull in popularity, but by the late 1950s, according to Ian Hamilton, it had "become the book all brooding adolescents had to buy, the indispensable manual from which cool styles of disaffectation could be borrowed." It has been compared to Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Newspapers began publishing articles about the "Catcher Cult", and the novel was banned in several countries—as well as some U.S. schools—because of its subject matter and what Catholic World reviewer Riley Hughes called an "excessive use of amateur swearing and coarse language". According to one angry parent's tabulation, 237 instances of "goddamn," 58 uses of "bastard", 31 "Chrissakes," and one incident of flatulence constituted what was wrong with Salinger's book.
...In the 1970s, several U.S. high school teachers who assigned the book were fired or forced to resign. A 1979 study of censorship noted that The Catcher in the Rye "had the dubious distinction of being at once the most frequently censored book across the nation and the second-most frequently taught novel in public high schools" (after John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men). The book remains widely read; in 2004, the novel was selling about 250,000 copies per year, "with total worldwide sales over 10 million copies".
In the wake of its 1950s success, Salinger received (and rejected) numerous offers to adapt The Catcher in the Rye for the screen, including one from Samuel Goldwyn. Since its publication, there has been sustained interest in the novel among filmmakers, with Billy Wilder, Harvey Weinstein, and Steven Spielberg among those seeking to secure the rights. Salinger stated in the 1970s that "Jerry Lewis tried for years to get his hands on the part of Holden." Salinger repeatedly refused, though, and in 1999, Joyce Maynard definitively concluded: "The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J. D. Salinger."
Marriage, family, spiritual beliefs …
In February 1955, at the age of 36, Salinger married Claire Douglas, a Radcliffe student (her father was the art critic Robert Langton Douglas). They had two children, Margaret (also known as Peggy - born December 10, 1955) and Matthew (born February 13, 1960). Margaret Salinger wrote in her memoir Dream Catcher that she believes her parents would not have married, nor would she have been born, had her father not read the teachings of Lahiri Mahasaya, a guru of Paramahansa Yogananda, which brought the possibility of enlightenment to those following the path of the "householder" (a married person with children). After their marriage, Salinger and Claire were initiated into the path of Kriya yoga in a small store-front Hindu temple in Washington, D.C., during the summer of 1955. They received a mantra and breathing exercises to practice for ten minutes twice a day.
Salinger also insisted that Claire drop out of school and live with him, only four months shy of graduation, which she did. Certain elements of the story "Franny", published in January 1955, are based on his relationship with Claire, including her ownership of the book The Way of the Pilgrim. Because of their isolated location and Salinger's proclivities, they hardly saw other people for long stretches of time. Claire was also frustrated by Salinger's ever-changing religious beliefs. Though she committed herself to Kriya yoga, she remembered that Salinger would chronically leave Cornish to work on a story "for several weeks only to return with the piece he was supposed to be finishing all undone or destroyed and some new 'ism' we had to follow." Claire believed "it was to cover the fact that Jerry had just destroyed or junked or couldn't face the quality of, or couldn't face publishing, what he had created."
After abandoning Kriya yoga, Salinger tried Dianetics (the forerunner of Scientology), even meeting its founder L. Ron Hubbard, but according to Claire he was quickly disenchanted with it. This was followed by an adherence to a number of spiritual, medical, and nutritional belief systems including an interest in Christian Science, Edgar Cayce, homeopathy, acupuncture, and macrobiotics.
Salinger's family life was further marked by discord after the first child was born; according to Margaret's book, Claire felt that her daughter had replaced her in Salinger's affections. The infant Margaret was sick much of the time, but Salinger, having embraced the tenets of Christian Science, refused to take her to a doctor.
According to Margaret, her mother admitted to her years later that she went "over the edge" in the winter of 1957 and had made plans to murder her and then commit suicide. Claire had supposedly intended to do it during a trip to New York City with Salinger, but she instead acted on a sudden impulse to take Margaret from the hotel and run away. After a few months, Salinger persuaded her to return to Cornish, NH.
Later Life …
Salinger's privacy was momentarily breached in October 1992 when a fire broke out in his house and Colleen had to drive her blue pickup truck to a telephone box to call the fire brigade. On October 23, 1992, The New York Times edition reported, "Not even a fire that consumed at least half his home on Tuesday could smoke out the reclusive J. D. Salinger, author of the classic novel of adolescent rebellion, The Catcher in the Rye. Mr. Salinger is almost equally famous for having elevated privacy to an art form." One of the reporters who were drawn by the news spotted him looking at the damage, but as soon as he approached, the white-haired writer darted away. …
In 1999, 25 years after the end of their relationship, Joyce Maynard auctioned a series of letters Salinger had written her. Maynard's memoir of her life and her relationship with Salinger, At Home in the World: A Memoir, was published the same year. Among other topics, the book described how Maynard's mother had consulted with her on how to appeal to the aging author: by dressing in a childlike manner, and described Joyce's relationship with him at length. In the ensuing controversy over both the memoir and the letters, Maynard claimed that she was forced to auction the letters for financial reasons; she would have preferred to donate them to the Beinecke Library at Yale. Software developer Peter Norton bought the letters for US$156,500 and announced his intention to return them to Salinger.
Margaret Salinger's memoir Dream Catcher, its cover
featuring a rare photograph of Salinger and Margaret as a child. …
A year later, Salinger's daughter Margaret, by his second wife Claire Douglas, published Dream Catcher: A Memoir. In her book, she described the harrowing control that Salinger had over her mother and dispelled many of the Salinger myths established by Ian Hamilton's book. One of Hamilton's arguments was that Salinger's experience with post-traumatic stress disorder left him psychologically scarred, and that he was unable to deal with the traumatic nature of his war service. Margaret Salinger allowed that "the few men who lived through Bloody Mortain, a battle in which her father fought, were left with much to sicken them, body and soul", but she also painted a picture of her father as a man immensely proud of his service record, maintaining his military haircut and service jacket, and moving about his compound (and town) in an old Jeep.
Both Margaret Salinger and Maynard characterized the author as a devoted film buff. According to Margaret, his favorite movies included Gigi (1958), The Lady Vanishes (1938), The 39 Steps (1935; Phoebe's favorite movie in The Catcher in the Rye), and the comedies of W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, and the Marx Brothers. Predating VCRs, Salinger had an extensive collection of classic movies from the 1940s in 16 mm prints. Maynard wrote that "he loves movies, not films", and Margaret Salinger argued that her father's "worldview is, essentially, a product of the movies of his day. To my father, all Spanish speakers are Puerto Rican washerwomen, or the toothless, grinning-gypsy types in a Marx Brothers movie". Lillian Ross, a staff writer for The New Yorker and longtime friend of Salinger's, wrote following his death, "Salinger loved movies, and he was more fun than anyone to discuss them with. He enjoyed watching actors work, and he enjoyed knowing them. (He loved Anne Bancroft, hated Audrey Hepburn, and said that he had seen Grand Illusion ten times.)"
Margaret also offered many insights into other Salinger myths, including her father's supposed long-time interest in macrobiotics, and involvement with "alternative medicine" and Eastern philosophies. A few weeks after Dream Catcher was published, Margaret's brother Matt discredited the memoir in a letter to The New York Observer. He disparaged his sister's "gothic tales of our supposed childhood" and stated: "I can't say with any authority that she is consciously making anything up. I just know that I grew up in a very different house, with two very different parents from those my sister describes."
J.D. Salinger died of natural causes at his home in New Hampshire on January 27, 2010. He was 91. Salinger's literary representative told The New York Times that the writer had broken his hip in May 2009, but that "his health had been excellent until a rather sudden decline after the new year." The representative believed that Salinger's death was not a painful one. His third wife and widow, Colleen O'Neill Zakrzeski Salinger, and Salinger's son Matt became the executors of his estate.
Learn MORE on the Life and Influence of J.D. Salinger ...
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