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‘Catcher in the Rye’ Author J.D. Salinger Dies at 91

Posted on Jan 28, 2010
AP / Amy Sancetta

So long, Salinger: Copies of J.D. Salinger’s classic novel “The Catcher in the Rye” as well as his volume of short stories called “Nine Stories” are seen Thursday at the Orange Public Library in Orange Village, Ohio.

Time magazine fancifully describes author J.D. Salinger, who died Wednesday at age 91, as “the hermit crab of American letters.” That’s because after achieving literary fame with his 1951 (and only) novel, “The Catcher in the Rye,” Salinger wasn’t too keen on being in the public eye. However, Salinger’s crustacean behavior didn’t stop his “Catcher,” or more specifically, the book’s disenchanted hero, Holden Caulfield, from making a significant mark on American culture.  —KA


Salinger’s only novel, The Catcher in the Rye, was published in 1951 and gradually achieved a status that made him cringe. For decades that book was a universal rite of passage for adolescents, the manifesto of disenchanted youth. (Sometimes lethally disenchanted: After he killed John Lennon in 1980, Mark David Chapman said he had done it “to promote the reading” of Salinger’s book. Roughly a year later, when he headed out to shoot President Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley Jr. left behind a copy of the book in his hotel room.) But what matters is that even for the millions of people who weren’t crazy, Holden Caulfield, Salinger’s petulant, yearning (and arguably manic-depressive) young hero was the original angry young man. That he was also a sensitive soul in a cynic’s armor only made him more irresistible. James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway had invented disaffected young men too. But Salinger created Caulfield at the very moment that American teenage culture was being born. A whole generation of rebellious youths discharged themselves into one particular rebellious youth.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, January 30, 2010 at 7:21 pm Link to this comment

ardee, January 30 at 10:09 am:

‘Typical Anarcissie rant, tiresome, self involved and betraying much more about her than about the subject I fear. ...’

But brief, anyway.  Too brief, I think, for a proper rant.

I have to say, though, that I am curious as to what on earth you think I have betrayed about myself by preferring Moby Dick to The Catcher In The Rye.  Self-involved as ever, you see.  Call me Ishmael.

But aren’t you getting a bit long in the tooth to be taking every disagreement or difference of taste personally, like a teen-ager?  If you esteem Salinger above all other authors, why not just let everyone know why?

And as for finding my presence unbearable, why don’t you just skip my stuff?  My biting wit can’t bite you if you don’t let it.

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Ouroborus's avatar

By Ouroborus, January 30, 2010 at 8:16 am Link to this comment

David Ehrenstein, January 30 at 10:30 am


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By David Ehrenstein, January 30, 2010 at 6:30 am Link to this comment

Sseemingly made a career
bashing Salinger”?

Obviously you don’t know how to read.

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By ardee, January 30, 2010 at 6:09 am Link to this comment

Typical Anarcissie rant, tiresome, self involved and betraying much more about her than about the subject I fear. She is one of several reasons why I come here less often than in the past, there are so many forums in which her arrogance, insolence,and pomposity is never found.

The comparison to Melville is from a literary critic, the comparison was also made to Proust in the Washington Post obit. Regardless opinions are exactly that, we each deserve our own, and we each deserve to have them respected. A pity she fails that test, again and again and again.

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By Ouroborus, January 30, 2010 at 6:01 am Link to this comment

Sorry, how imprudent of me; my post was a response to:

David Ehrenstein, January 29 at 4:44 pm

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By Ouroborus, January 30, 2010 at 5:26 am Link to this comment

Okay, you’ve got a blog and seemingly made a career
bashing Salinger; sounds like envy to me; or rather
I’m a published author and I can appreciate all of
Salinger’s idiosyncrasies; got a few of my own. I’d
love to have his success and abilities.
So, you don’t like Salinger; might I suggest you get
over it and move on? No? Oh, well, peace

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By David Ehrenstein, January 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

Salinger was no giant.

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By Maani, January 29, 2010 at 12:10 pm Link to this comment

When I was an English major in college (oh so long ago!), I took a double semester of The American Short Story.  Of the two dozen or so collections we read, only three stood out and made any impact in my life: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Mosses from an Old Manse (though Twice-Told Tales is also fabulous), one of A.E. Van Vogt’s collections (forgot which one), and J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories.

Although mostly melancholy, maudlin or downright depressing, the stories in Nine Stories are unquestionably among the best-written, most compelling short stories ever written.  Anyone who has not read it is urged to.


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By Anarcissie, January 29, 2010 at 10:10 am Link to this comment

Salinger deftly chronicled the upper-middle-class, mostly Jewish, Upper West Side* youth and family life of half a century ago.  While his oeuvre is entertaining, I can’t see it as terribly important or relevant, unless perhaps one reads very few books and they happen to be among them.  Maybe it was imposed in the schools, like the inevitable Lord of the Flies.  There must be some explanation.  But in the same league as Moby Dick?  Please.


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By johannes, January 29, 2010 at 9:58 am Link to this comment

The most strong-beautiful-sad words of this super human ” He was in this world but not of it ” , its an coming and an going, but to find new humans of my hart, its getting to difficult.
My he rest in peace.

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By Ouroborus, January 29, 2010 at 5:20 am Link to this comment

Another giant falls. Zinn and now Salinger.
I’m feeling my own mortality, but more importantly;
America is losing important voices for which there’s
nobody there to step in and carry the battle forward.

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By ardee, January 28, 2010 at 4:09 pm Link to this comment

Salinger’s Catcher..was the most important American novel since Moby Dick. I cannot help but wonder how many manuscripts will now turn up posthumously?

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By Vic Anderson, January 28, 2010 at 3:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

He just(ly) couldn’t take Another PHONY!

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