J.D. Salinger might be an icon of adolescence, a writer who is best known for his short novel "The Catcher in the Rye" and its hero lead character Holden Caulfield. But Salinger's own life as that of a recluse living in the hills of Cornish until his death, made him a modern day literary mystery.
Jerome David Salinger was born on January 1, 1919 in New York City to a Jewish father and an Irish-Catholic mother. He attended prep schools during his childhood and was later sent to Valley Forge Military Academy, which he attended from 1934-1936. He attended NYU and Columbia University and began submitting short stories for publication. By 1940 he had done so, publishing his stories in several periodicals including the Saturday Evening Post and Story. He was drafted into the infantry in World War II and was involved in the invasion of Normandy. He saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the war and the experience greatly affected him.
He returned from the war in 1946. After many rejections, Salinger published his first story with the New Yorker in 1948. He wrote almost exclusively for the New Yorker until 1965. "The Catcher in the Rye" was published in 1951 and received much critical acclaim. The story, about a rebellious boarding school student named Holden Caulfield who tries to run away from an adult world that he considers phony, became a popular best-seller and is now thought of as an important staple in American Literature.
Salinger was been married three times. His first marriage to a young woman named Sylvia, who Salinger met in Europe, was brief. His second marriage to Claire Douglas, then a student at Dartmouth College, produced two children, a boy and a girl. After several failed relationships, Salinger finally married a nurse named Colleen 40 years his junior, to whom he was still married when he died peacefully at the age of 91, of natural causes, on January 27, 2010.
Salinger claimed to work best with complete privacy and his reclusive reputation only fueled further interest in his writing right up until his death. What all those years spent pecking away at a typewriter in a small home in Cornish might yield now that he has passed is anybody's guess. Perhaps his writing days were long over, but it's possible that some of the best future works of American Fiction were being written up here in the hills of New Hampshire over the past couple of decades. Right up until his death, Salinger's most famous book still sold a quarter of a million copies every year. But what if, as rumors suggest, his best work was still to come? Although nothing has surfaced yet, it's possible that a posthumous release of his journals might be his true legacy after all.