Arts and Leisure

Flashback Photo: Catcher in the Rye Author J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger

Catcher in the Rye, the hilarious and profane classic tale of adolescent angst, begins with Holden Caulfield’s unmistakable voice:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

J.D. Salinger spent much of the rest of his life avoiding discussion of that David Copperfield kind of crap, famously withdrawing from the world in the 1950s. He was born Jan. 1, 1919 to a prosperous Jewish family in Manhattan. In 1942 he was drafted into the U.S. Army and he saw combat, entered a liberated concentration camp and met Ernest Hemingway. had grown up in Manhattan, part of a wealthy Jewish family, and served in World War II. He wrote short stories and poems, but with limited success until The New Yorker Magazine published A Perfect Day for Bananafish in 1948.

Rye_catcherOn July 16, 1951, Little, Brown and Company published Catcher in the Rye, the tale of Holden Caulfield’s weekend in New York City hotel after he was kicked out of his fourth prep school, Pencey Prep.

Pencey Prep was full of phonies, and Holden hated them. He also hated the movies, hated growing up, hated cars, hated a lot of things: “Goddam money,” he said. “It always ends up making you blue as hell.”

But Holden also wanted to catch children from running off a cliff and worried about where the ducks in Central Park went in the wintertime.

Catcher in the Rye was banned in schools and in several countries because Holden drank, swore and visited a prostitute (though he was too depressed to have sex with her). That only increased its appeal to teenagers. British literary critic Ian Hamilton wrote it “become the book all brooding adolescents had to buy, the indispensable manual from which cool styles of disaffectation could be borrowed.”

As Catcher in the Rye earned more notoriety, Salinger withdrew from public view, moving to Cornish, N.H., in 1953. For a time he invited Windsor High School students to his house to play records and talk. Then one student persuaded him to be interviewed for the high school paper. After the interview was published, he cut off all contact with students.

After Catcher in the Rye, Salinger only published three more books: Nine Stories in 1953, Franny and Zooey in 1961 and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.

On the dust jacket to Franny and Zooey he wrote,

It is my rather subversive opinion that a writer’s feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second most valuable property on loan to him during his working years.

J.D. Salinger died Jan. 27, 2010.

You can buy Catcher in the Rye from the New England Historical Society’s online bookstore here

Photo of  J.D. Salinger by Washington Post via Wikipedia.




  1. Mark Krone

    July 16, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    He was not a recluse. He was private and since three people had killed in the name of his book, he had good reason to keep his distance. He also liked rural areas more than NYC.

  2. Nadine Laferriere-reeves

    July 16, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    I have that book

  3. Layne Armstrong

    July 16, 2014 at 1:52 pm


  4. Molly Landrigan

    July 16, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Have the book, haven’t read it, will ow!

  5. Molly Landrigan

    July 16, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Oops! Will now!

  6. Francie Foley

    July 16, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    I had to read it in high school. I didn’t get it it care for it. Time to re read I think

  7. Harriet E. Cady

    July 17, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    He lived in Cornish and the woman who was much younger than him as his mistress wrote a story about him after many years and he disowned her.

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