J. D. Salinger

Eyridiki Sellou | May 18, 2023

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J. D. Salinger (), born Jerome David Salinger (New York, January 1, 1919 - Cornish, January 27, 2010) was an American writer.

He became famous for writing The Catcher in the Rye (The Catcher in the Rye), a coming-of-age novel that has enjoyed enormous popularity since its publication in 1951 and has since become a classic of American literature.

The main themes in Salinger's works are the description of the thoughts and actions of young misfits, always silent adolescents who do not express what they feel, the redeeming power children have over these, and the disgust with bourgeois and conventional society. Salinger was one of the inspirers of the Beat Generation literary movement, along with other authors.

Salinger participated in his early twenties in World War II and was among the first American soldiers to enter a Nazi concentration camp, an experience that marked him. In 1953 he left New York City, going to Cornish, reducing human contact to the point of living as a recluse beginning in 1980, perhaps because of difficulty adapting to the limelight.

Salinger was known for his shy and reserved nature, and was often described as a misanthrope; in fifty years he gave very few interviews: in 1953 to a student for Cornish's school page The Daily Eagle, in 1974 to The New York Times his last interview. He made no public appearances, nor published anything new from 1965 (when a final story appeared in The New Yorker) until his death, although he continued to write.


Jerome David Salinger was born in New York City on January 1, 1919, the second son of the two children of Solomon Salinger, known as Sol, an American merchant, Ashkenazi Hebrew from Lithuania, and Miriam Salinger (née Marie Jillich), an American housewife of German, Scottish and Irish descent who converted to Judaism at her own wedding. From the time of her conversion, her mother always considered herself a Jew, and Salinger only learned of her "gentile" origins following the celebration of her own bar mitzvah. He had an older sister, Doris (1911-2001).

The young Salinger attended public schools on Manhattan's Upper West Side, completing his basic education at the McBurney School, after which he was happy to escape his mother's overprotectiveness by enrolling at Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Although he had previously written in the school newspaper at McBurney, it was at Valley Forge that Salinger began writing stories "at night, under the covers, with the help of a flashlight."

He then enrolled as a freshman at New York University, but the following spring he dropped his courses to take a job on a passenger ship. In the fall he was persuaded to learn his father's job in the meat import business, and was sent to the company's Vienna branch, where he perfected his knowledge of French and German.

He left Austria only a month before the country fell under Hitler's control, on March 12, 1938. The following fall he attended Ursinus College in Collegeville, but did so only for one semester. He then attended Columbia University's evening writing course in 1939. His teacher was Whit Burnett, longtime editor of Story Magazine. During the second semester Burnett realized that this young author had talent and, in the March issue

World War II

In 1941 Salinger began a romantic relationship with Oona O'Neill, daughter of Eugene O'Neill, to whom he wrote very long letters every day. The relationship ended when Oona began dating Charlie Chaplin. Salinger was drafted to serve under arms in 1942 and, with the 12th U.S. Infantry Regiment, participated in some of the toughest battles of World War II, including the D-Day landing at Utah Beach and the Battle of the Ardennes. During the advance from Normandy into Germany he met Ernest Hemingway, then a war correspondent from Paris, and remained in correspondence with him. After reading Salinger's writings, Hemingway commented, "Jesus! He has an extraordinary talent!"

He was assigned to the counterintelligence service, as part of which he interrogated prisoners of war, putting his knowledge of languages to good use. He was among the first soldiers to enter a concentration camp liberated by the Allies, perhaps one of the Dachau sub-camps. He later told his daughter, "It is impossible not to smell the smell of burned bodies anymore, no matter how long you live." This experience, perhaps, scarred him hard emotionally (after Germany's defeat he was hospitalized for several weeks to treat a combat stress reaction syndrome) and it is likely that he made use of his wartime memories in many of his stories, such as For Esmé with Love and Squalor, narrated in the first person by a traumatized soldier. Both during his wartime experience and when it ended, he continued to publish stories in high-profile magazines such as Collier's Weekly and the Saturday Evening Post.

After the end of the war, Salinger offered to spend a six-month period devoted to de-Nazification of Germany, during which he met a German woman named Sylvia Welter whom he later married in 1945. He took her with him to the United States, but the marriage failed after just eight months and Sylvia returned to Germany. In 1972, while he was together with his daughter Margaret, he received a letter from Sylvia. He looked at the envelope, tore it up and threw it away. He said it was the first time he had heard from her since she had left him, but "when she was through with one person, she was through forever."

From The New Yorker to novels

In 1948 Salinger submitted to The New Yorker a short story titled An Ideal Day for the pescibanana. At the magazine's editorial office, known for being harsh in its judgments, they were so impressed by the "exceptional quality of the story" that its editorial editors immediately accepted it for publication and had the writer sign a contract granting them the right of first refusal on all his future work. The enthusiasm with which Bananafish was received, coupled with the fact that Salinger did not like stories being edited by "smartasses," prompted the writer to publish his work almost exclusively in The New Yorker. Bananafish however did not actually represent the first time Salinger came into contact with the magazine; in 1942 they had agreed to publish a short story entitled Slight Rebellion off Madison, which featured a semi-autobiographical character named Holden Caulfield. The story, however, was not later published because of the war. Slight Rebellion was connected to several other stories featuring the Caulfield family, but the point of view with which they were approached then shifted from the older brother, Vince, to the younger, Holden.

Salinger had confided to various people that he felt Holden's character deserved to be the protagonist of a novel. Thus, in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye was released, which was an immediate success, although early critical reactions were not unanimous in judging it favorably. In 1953, in an interview with a school newspaper, Salinger admitted that the novel was "a kind of autobiography," explaining that "my adolescence was very much like that of the boy in the book.... it was a great relief to tell people about it."

The novel is dominated by Holden's complex and nuanced character, and the plot itself is rather simple. It became famous because of Salinger's exceptional ability to capture the most complex details and intricacies, the careful descriptions, the ironic tone, and the sad and despairing atmosphere with which New York is depicted.

However, some readers were scandalized by the fact that Salinger approached religion in critical and irreverent terms and talked about sex in adolescence in an open and casual manner: the book's popularity thus began to falter. Several critics argued that the book should not be regarded as a serious literary work, justifying the opinion by the spontaneous and informal tone in which it was written. The novel was banned by censors in some countries and in some U.S. schools for its casual use of vulgar language: the word goddamn (there are also some rather rough situations, such as an encounter with a prostitute.

However, the novel is still wildly popular, especially in the United States, where it is considered a perfect description of teenage angst. It is quite easy to find The Catcher in the Rye list of required reading for high school students.

In July 1951, his friend and New Yorker editorial editor William Maxwell, in an article in the Book of the Month Club News, asked Salinger to explain what his literary influences were. Salinger said, "A writer, when asked about his art, should stand up and shout loudly simply the names of the authors he loves. I love Kafka, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Proust, O'Casey, Rilke, Garcia Lorca, Keats, Rimbaud, Burns, E. Brontë, Jane Austen, Henry James, Blake, Coleridge. I won't mention any names of authors who are still alive. I think that's not fair."

In 1953 Salinger published a collection of seven short stories from The New Yorker (among them was Bananafish) in addition to two others that the magazine had rejected. The collection was published under the title Nine Short Stories. This book was also very successful, although the writer, already reluctant to publicize his work, would not allow the editorial editor to portray his characters in the illustrations on the dust jacket so that readers would not have preconceived ideas about what they should look like.

Retirement from public life

After achieving great fame through The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger gradually withdrew into himself. In 1953 he moved from New York to Cornish, New Hampshire. In the period following his move to the small town he was relatively sociable, particularly with the students of Windsor High School, whom he frequently invited to his home to listen to records and discuss school problems. One of these students, Shirley Blaney, convinced Salinger to grant her an interview for the school page of The Daily Eagle, the local newspaper. However, after Blaney's interview appeared in "magnificent prominence" in the editorial section of the newspaper, Salinger cut off all contact with the students without explanation. He also showed up in town with much less frequency, and took up with only one friend, the jurist Learned Hand, but he, too, on a rather irregular basis.

In June 1955, at age 36, he married student Claire Douglas. In December Margaret was born, and in 1960 Matt was born. Salinger insisted that Claire abandon her studies, only four months before graduating, and move in with him, which the girl did. Some details of the short story Franny, published in January 1955, are inspired by Claire, including the fact that Claire owned a copy of the book A Pilgrim's Way. Both because of the isolation of the locality in which they lived and the writer's personal inclination, they ended up spending long periods of time with virtually no one to see. Daughter Margaret recounts that her mother admitted that living with Salinger was not easy, both because of the isolation and because of his domineering nature; she was also jealous that her daughter was replacing her, ending up representing the main affection for her husband.

Little Margaret was sick most of the time, but Salinger, who followed the dictates of the Scientist Church, refused to take her to a doctor. Years later Claire confessed to Margaret that she had practically gone over the breaking point, and planned to kill her and then commit suicide. It was going to happen during a trip to New York in the company of her husband. Claire took her daughter from the hotel where they were staying and fled with her; after a few months Salinger was able to convince her to return to Cornish.

Salinger published Franny and Zooey in 1961, and Raise the Lintel, Carpenters and Seymour. Introduction in 1963. Four long stories-two in each volume-in which developed the saga of the Glass family, namely, the brothers Seymour (already the protagonist of the story An Ideal Day for the Fishibanana), Buddy, Walter, Waker, Franny, Zooey and Boo Boo.

Although Time magazine in 1961 wrote that the saga "is far from complete....Salinger intends to write a trilogy about the Glasses" from then until his last days Salinger published only one short story. His last work was Hapworth 16, 1924, a short epistolary novel, written in the form of a long letter written from summer camp by seven-year-old Seymour Glass. It was around this time that the situation of isolation from friends and family in which Salinger forced his wife-Margaret later wrote that she was a "virtual prisoner"-prompted Claire to separate: it was September 1966. The divorce was made official in October 1967.

In 1972, at age 53, he had a year-long relationship with 18-year-old writer Joyce Maynard, who was already publishing for Seventeen magazine. The New York Times had asked Maynard to write an article for them, which, when published on April 23, 1972, under the title "An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back On Life," had made her the celebrity of the day. Salinger wrote her a letter, warning her about the risks of fame. After they had exchanged 25 letters, the summer following her first year at Yale University, Maynard went to Salinger.

That fall Maynard did not return to Yale and spent ten months at Salinger's home in Cornish; the relationship ended, Salinger later told his daughter Margaret, because she wanted children and he instead could not stand real children again (as opposed to the imaginary children who appear in his writings). Maynard described him as a selfish man incapable of love.

Salinger continued to write regularly, for a few hours every morning; according to Maynard by 1972 he had already completed two new novels. In one of the rare interviews, given to The New York Times in 1974, the writer explained, "Not publishing gives me a wonderful peace of mind...I love to write. I love to write. But I write only for myself and for my own pleasure."

Apparently, several times in the 1970s he was on the verge of publishing one of the new writings, but changed his mind at the last moment. In 1978 Newsweek magazine wrote that Salinger, while attending a party in honor of an old comrade-in-arms, said he had recently completed a "long, romantic book set during World War II," but nothing else is known. In her biography Margaret Salinger described the careful filing system her father used for manuscripts he did not publish: "A red mark means, if I die before I finish it publish it as is, a blue one means publish it but first submit it for revision, and so on."

Later years and indiscretions about his life

He tried to escape visibility and public attention as much as possible, about which he wrote that "A writer's desire for anonymity-unknownness is the second most important endowment entrusted to him." However, he had to continue to struggle against the unwanted attention he received as a character entered popular culture. Dozens of students and ordinary readers went all the way to Cornish just to get a glimpse of him. Some writers sent him manuscripts of their own. In the 1970s and 1980s, writer Franz Douskey, as reclusive as he was and his neighbor, made a habit of diverting tourists by sending them on a series of dirt roads away from the Salinger home and directing them to surrounding towns. Photographers would take many unauthorized pictures of him during moments of his daily life, such as his walks or exiting a store (a 1990 photo shows a surprised and angry Salinger against the photographer who captured him at the supermarket).

Soon after learning that British writer Ian Hamilton was planning to publish In Search of J. D. Salinger: A Writing Life (1935-65), a biography of him that included some of the letters he had written to other authors and friends, Salinger filed suit to prevent the book's release. The book came out in 1988 but with the letters, instead of the original, paraphrased. The court had ruled that even though a person may physically own letters, the language in which they are written still belongs to the author. An unforeseen consequence of the lawsuit was that many details of Salinger's private life, including the fact that he had spent the last two decades writing, in his own words, "Just a work of fiction ... that's all," became public through the transcript of the trial proceedings. Excerpts from his letters also ended up being widely circulated. Salinger himself deposed in court, stating, when asked by the judge what his profession was, "I deal in fiction, I wouldn't know how better to define my work. I follow my characters in their natural evolution. That's my starting point."

During the 1980s Salinger had a romantic relationship with television actress Elaine Joyce. The relationship ended when he met Colleen O'Neill, whom he married around 1988. O'Neill, forty years younger than the writer, once told Margaret that they were trying to have a child.

In a surprise move in 1997, Salinger granted a small publisher, Orchises Press, permission to publish Hapworth 16, 1924, the short story that had previously never been included in any collection; it was scheduled for publication that same year, and the book was included among the list of new releases on Amazon.com and other booksellers. However, it was postponed several times, until 2002. Eventually it was not published nor was a new date set again.

In 1999, twenty-five years after the end of their relationship, Joyce Maynard auctioned off some letters Salinger had written to her. The sale served to publicize an autobiography by Maynard herself, At Home in the World: A Memoir, which came out that year. Among other indiscretions, the book tells how Maynard's mother had advised her on how to impress the aging writer, and describes in full her relationship with him. She recounted meeting him years after the affair and for the last time, in 1997.

In the debate that followed over both the autobiography and the letters, Maynard argued that she had been forced to auction them off because of financial problems and would have preferred to donate them to the Beinecke Library. The letters were purchased for $156,500 by software developer Peter Norton, who announced his intention to return them to Salinger.

The following year, his daughter Margaret, with the help of his second wife Claire, published Dream Catcher: A Memoir. In her book of "revelations," Salinger described her father's terrible domination and control over her mother and dispelled many of the myths about Salinger that had been spread by Ian Hamilton's book. She wrote, about the war experience, "The few men who survived it sustained injuries in body and soul," but after all, for her, her father was "One of the first soldiers to enter a real concentration camp that had just been liberated." One of Hamilton's theses was that Salinger's experience and the subsequent post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered had left him psychologically scarred, and that he was incapable of dealing with the traumatic aspect of his wartime experience. The daughter, on the other hand, paints a portrait of her father as that of a man who was enormously proud of his military record, who had kept the same haircut from the draft and retained his uniform, and who used an old Jeep to get around his fields and into the village.

Margaret also presented other indiscretions about Salingerian "mythology" to the public, including his supposed interest in macrobiotics and adherence to what is now called "alternative medicine," as well as a passion for Eastern philosophies. A few weeks after the book's presentation, her brother Matt, in a letter to The New York Observer, discredited the value of the autobiography. He called his sister's writing "a gothic tale inspired by an imagined childhood of our own" and stated "I have no authority to say whether she is consciously altering facts or not. All I know is that I grew up in a very different home and with two very different parents from those described by my sister."

In June 2009 Salinger through his attorneys sought a ban on the publication of 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, whose author uses the pseudonym J. D. California: it is a volume presented as a sequel to Catcher in the Rye, without having obtained permission from Salinger himself, who of his own masterpiece thus intends to protect absolute copyright, including the right to publish any sequels.


J. D. Salinger, long-suffering from pancreatic cancer, died Jan. 27, 2010, at age 91. In 2013, Salinger - The Mystery of Catcher in the Rye was presented, a biographical documentary of the writer directed by Shane Salerno and produced by The Weinstein Company film company.

In the late 1940s, Salinger was an enthusiastic follower of Zen Buddhism, to the point that he "gave reading lists on the subject to the girls he was dating" and met Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki. From Buddhism he then switched to Hinduism. From then on the writer, as described in Som P.Ranchan's book An Adventure in Vedanta: J. D. Salinger's the Glass Family, studied Hinduism in the Advaita Vedānta version throughout his life. Other important figures for him were Shri Ramakrishna and his student Vivekananda. This school of thought emphasizes celibacy and detachment from human responsibilities such as family as ways forward for those seeking enlightenment. Margaret argues that perhaps if her father had not read Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, which expounds on the possibility of attaining enlightenment for those who follow the path of the "breadwinner" (obviously a married person with children), she would never have come into the world.

J. D. and Claire were initiated into this path of Kriyā Yoga in a small Hindu temple that was located in a not-very affluent neighborhood of Washington. They were taught a mantra and breathing exercises that they were to practice for ten minutes twice a day. Salinger suddenly became enthusiastic from time to time about different creeds, creeds he insisted Claire follow as well. He approached Dianetics (which later took the name Scientology) and, according to Claire, also met the founder L. Ron Hubbard himself.

These were gradually replaced by a passion for a large number of spiritual theories and beliefs.

In a 1942 letter to Whit Burnett, Salinger wrote enthusiastically, "I wanted to sell some stuff in the movies, through magazines. I must try to make a big splash so that I could go away and work after the war." After being disappointed in this aspiration, however, according to Hamilton, when "the chatter coming from Hollywood" about his 1943 short story The Varioni Brothers failed to materialize, Salinger did not hesitate when independent producer Samuel Goldwyn offered to buy the film rights to the short story Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut. Although the writer sold the rights with the hope, according to his agent Dorothy Olding, that "they would make a good movie out of it," the film version of the tale was panned by critics upon its release in 1949. The film, a melodrama titled This Mad Heart of Mine and starring Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward, deviated so much from Salinger's text that Goldwyn biographer A. Scott Berg called it a "bastardization."

After these events Salinger no longer allowed Hollywood directors and producers control over his work, although when The Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951, numerous offers came his way for him to make the adaptation for the big screen (including one from Samuel Goldwyn). Since its release, the novel has attracted great interest in the film world, and among those who have tried to secure the rights to it are names such as Billy Wilder, Harvey Weinstein, and Steven Spielberg. Renowned actors such as Jack Nicholson and Tobey Maguire have also made offers to the writer for the chance to play Holden Caulfield, and Salinger revealed that "Jerry Lewis tried for years to get his hands on the part of Holden." The writer, however, repeatedly resisted, and in 1999, Joyce Maynard concluded that "The only person who could play Holden Caulfield was J. D. Salinger."

In 1995 Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui made Pari, a free unauthorized adaptation of Franny and Zooey. The film was allowed to be freely distributed and screened in Iran, since the country has no official relations with the United States (much less in the area of copyright). Salinger instructed his lawyers to prevent a screening of the film at Lincoln Center that had been organized in 1998.

Mehrjui called Salinger's move "puzzling," explaining that he saw the film as a kind of cultural exchange."

Despite disputes over adaptations of his works, Salinger has nevertheless been described as a great movie buff, and among his favorite films are Gigi, The Lady Vanishes, The Prisoner of Amsterdam and The Thirty-Nine Club (Phoebe's favorite film in The Catcher in the Rye), as well as all the films of W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers.

Before the advent of the VCR, Salinger already had an extensive collection of 1940s classics in 16 mm. His daughter Margaret went so far as to say that her father's worldview "Essentially is a product of the films of his era. According to my father, everyone who speaks Spanish is Puerto Rican, washerwomen or those toothless, sneering gypsies you see in the Marx Brothers films."

Published and released in collections and books

See The Uncollected Stories of JD Salinger, at geocities.com. URL accessed July 2, 2007 (archived from the original url on October 28, 2009).


Salinger would have made a testamentary provision that the unpublished material be published 50 years after his death, thus in 2060. But in November 2013 his three writings The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls, Paula and Birthday Boy were made public on the web. In the biography titled Salinger - The Mystery of Catcher in the Rye (Salinger), David Shields and Shane Salerno claim instead that the authorized date is between 2015 and 2020: the works would cover five stories about the Glass family; a novel based on his marriage to his first wife Sylvia; a novel in diary form about counterintelligence in World War II; a handbook on Vedānta stories; and other stories about Holden Caulfield's life.

See The Unpublished Stories of JD Salinger, at geocities.com. URL accessed July 2, 2007 (archived from the original url on February 21, 2008).

In W. P. Kinsella's fantasy novel Shoeless Joe (1982), J. D. Salinger is one of the main characters, but in its subsequent film adaptation, Field of Dreams (1989), to avoid possible legal disputes, the character was replaced by that of a fictitious writer named Terence Mann, played by James Earl Jones.

A fictional version of Salinger appears in the animated series BoJack Horseman where he is voiced by Alan Arkin. In the series he will be tracked down by Princess Carolyn who will bring him back to Hollywoo (fictitious name of Hollywood) where he will create the game show Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities: what do they know? Do they know things? Let's find out! in which the main character, BoJack Horseman, will participate in the pilot episode with Daniel Radcliffe.

In 2017 the biographical film about Salinger's life Rebel in the Rye was made, written and directed by Danny Strong. In the film Salinger is played by Nicholas Hoult.

Salinger's work, and especially the short story "An Ideal Day for Banana Fish," is the basis of the inspiration for Akimi Yoshida's manga "Banana Fish," which was also adapted into an anime.

The film A Year with Salinger (2020) is about a California writer who moves to New York where she responds to Salinger's letters.


  1. J. D. Salinger
  2. J. D. Salinger
  3. ^ See Beidler's A Reader's Companion to J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.
  4. ^ come Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Louis-Ferdinand Céline e il movimento degli Angry Young Men
  5. ^ a b c Joyce Maynard: il mio tormento si chiama Salinger, su archiviostorico.corriere.it. URL consultato il 26 dicembre 2013 (archiviato dall'url originale il 26 dicembre 2013).
  6. ^ The Genealogy of Richard L. Aronoff, su aronoff.com. URL consultato il 5 febbraio 2014 (archiviato dall'url originale il 26 aprile 2013).
  7. Prononciation en anglais américain retranscrite selon la norme API.
  8. a b Slawenski, 2010, p. 16.
  9. Slawenski, 2010, pp. 11-12.
  10. Slawenski, 2010, pp. 14-15.
  11. Slawenski, 2010, pp. 20-21.
  12. Slawenski, 2010, pp. 24-29

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