The writer, who avoided publicity and did not publish an original work over the past 45 years, was the creator of Holden Caulfield, the delinquent, alienated antihero of “The Catcher in the Rye”, which became required reading for generations of teenagers after its publication in 1951.
But in recent years, his reputation was tarnished by two accounts, one by a former lover and the other by one of Salinger’s daughters, who painted him as a controlling and an unpleasant eccentric.
“The Catcher in the Rye” was praised by “The New York Times” as “an unusually brilliant first novel”. But while an instant hit with many, who related to its tale of adolescent angst and adult hypocrisy, it was met with alarm in other quarters. Some school boards made it required reading. Others banned it amid protests from parents over swearing — including the frequent use of “goddam” and, more rarely, “fuck” — as well as the bad example they believed Caulfield set.
Four years after the novel’s publication, Salinger expressed disappointment that the book, which he acknowledged was based on his own upbringing, had met with some hostility.
“I am aware that a number of my friends will be saddened, or shocked, or shocked-saddened, over some of the chapters of “The Catcher in the Rye”. Some of my best friends are children. In fact, all of my best friends are children,” he wrote in 20th Century Authors. John Lennon’s murderer, Mark Chapman, cited “The Catcher in the Rye” as an inspiration for the killing in 1980. Salinger published other books, including the well-received “Nine Stories” and “Franny and Zooey”, before he became an almost total recluse. His last published work, “Hapworth 16, 1924”, was printed in the New Yorker in 1965.
Ten years ago, it was revealed that Salinger had a secret cache of about 15 novels which had never been published. In his last interview, in 1980, he said that he wrote only for himself.