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J.D. Salinger’s Legacy Lives On

New cover design by UK publisher Hamish Hamilton

New cover design by UK publisher Hamish Hamilton.

Beloved, yet reclusive, author J.D. Salinger passed away on Wednesday at the age of 91. Though he had not published new material or made public appearances in decades, he was still considered an icon of American literature. Salinger published just four books between the years of 1951 and 1963: The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, and published his last short story in 1965. His first (and only) full length novel, The Catcher in the Rye, shot him to fame and forced him into the limelight he would soon come to abhor. With 16-year-old Holden Caulfield’s angry and honest narration, The Catcher in the Rye, stuck a chord with young people around the world, and inspired generations. The Guardian credits him with “inventing the 20th-century teenager”.

Through his short stories, Salinger also painted a poignant portrait of the Glass family. The author wove threads of his own life into these characters, making them all the more three dimensional. Salinger joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and fought in the D-Day attack on Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. The stress of combat caused him to be hospitalized in 1945 for a nervous breakdown. Salinger drew on this real-life trauma to write A Perfect Day for Bananafish, which centers on Seymour Glass, plagued with post-traumatic stress after returning home from the war.

The author spent the last decades of his life living in seclusion at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire. His rare public appearances were usually in a courtroom; he filed several lawsuits to defend and protect his work. Though he stopped publishing, he was rumored to have continued to write. Entertainment Weekly quotes a rare interview with Salinger in 1974: “There’s a marvelous peace in not publishing,” he said. “Publishing is a terrible invasion of privacy …. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.” Perhaps, he still has a few more stories left to tell. The tales that he has already given the world remain hugely poplar. Before his death, Salinger worked with his UK publisher, Hamish Hamilton, to design new book jackets for the re-issues of all his books. They are due in stores next month.

Read CNN.com article
Read The Guardian obituary

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