Correction to This Article
The obituary for "Catcher in the Rye" author J.D. Salinger misstated the year in which a memoir by his daughter, Margaret Ann Salinger, was published. The book, "Dream Catcher," came out in 2000, not 2009.
Page 2 of 3   <       >

J.D. Salinger, 91; 'Catcher in the Rye' author became famous recluse

Celebrated author and enigmatic recluse's 1951 novel "The Catcher in the Rye" became an enduring anthem of adolescent angst and youthful rebellion and a classic of 20th-century American literature.

Twenty-five years later, Maynard wrote about the relationship in a memoir, "At Home in the World." According to Maynard, he told her that she was talented and that he loved her. They talked of having children. But she began to annoy him. Sex was unsatisfactory. Eventually, he sent her away.

A decade earlier, Ian Hamilton attempted to write a biography of Mr. Salinger, relying in part on unpublished letters that Mr. Salinger had written to his friend and editor Whit Burnett and others between 1939 and 1961.

Mr. Salinger won a ruling in federal court that protected the contents of the letters from quotation or extensive paraphrase. He forced a revision of the already printed biography, which was published in 1988 under the title "In Search of J.D. Salinger."

Aura of mystery

The legal proceedings only enhanced the aura of mystery and romance that attended him, and it whetted the appetites of the aficionados of his writing.

In 2009, Mr. Salinger won an order from a federal court in New York blocking publication in the United States of a Swedish novel, "Sixty Years Later: Coming Through the Rye," subtitled "An Unauthorized Fictional Examination of the Relationship Between J.D. Salinger and His Most Famous Character." The novel describes a meeting between Mr. Salinger and a 76-year-old Caulfield. The court held that the novel violated Mr. Salinger's copyright on "The Catcher in the Rye."

Apart from "Catcher in the Rye," Mr. Salinger's published stories were populated chiefly by members of the Glass family, a neurotic and oddball clan consisting of a Jewish-Irish couple, Les Glass and Bessie Gallagher, retired vaudevillians, and their seven quirky children, all of whom were prodigies who had appeared on a children's radio quiz program called "It's a Wise Child."

Six of Mr. Salinger's stories concerned the Glass saga, beginning with "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," which was included in "Nine Stories." Eldest son Seymour Glass, the central figure in most of the Glass tales, remarks to a little girl at the seashore that it's "a perfect day for bananafish," then, an hour later, puts a gun to his head and blows his brains out.

"Franny and Zooey" are companion stories about the youngest of the Glass daughters and her older brother, a television actor.

The creator of this family, Jerome David Salinger was born Jan. 1, 1919, in New York, the son of a Jewish cheese importer and a Scotch-Irish mother. In 1934, his father enrolled him at Valley Forge Military Academy, a Pennsylvania boarding school said to be the model for Pencey Prep.

After graduating in 1936, he accompanied his father to Europe to familiarize himself with the operations of the family business. With the political situation deteriorating in Europe and war appearing imminent, he returned to the United States and in fall 1938 enrolled in Pennsylvania's Ursinus College. He left after one semester, declaring that he found college uninteresting.

He would try college once more, taking a class on short story writing at Columbia University. The class was taught by Burnett, who made a strong impression on the young Mr. Salinger. In Story magazine, founded and edited by Burnett, Mr. Salinger published his first short story, "The Young Folks," in spring 1940. This encouraged him to continue writing, and after a year of rejections, he had stories published by magazines including the Saturday Evening Post and Esquire.

Interrogated POWs

During World War II, he served in the Army and interrogated prisoners of war. He participated in the Normandy campaign and the liberation of France, and was said to have witnessed some of the bloodiest combat of the war. At one point, he was hospitalized for combat-related stress.


<       2        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company