Template:Infobox Writer

Jerome David Salinger (born January 1, 1919) is an American author best known for The Catcher in the Rye, a classic novel that has enjoyed enduring popularity since its publication in 1951. A major theme in Salinger's work is the strong yet delicate mind of "disturbed" adolescents, and the redemptive capacity of children in the lives of such young men. Salinger is also known for his reclusive nature; he has not given an interview since 1980, and has not made a public appearance, nor published any new work (at least under his own name), since 1965. In the mid 1990s, there was a flurry of excitement when a small publisher announced a deal with Salinger to bring out the first book version of his final published story, "Hapworth 16, 1924", but amid the ensuing publicity, Salinger quickly withdrew from the arrangement.


Jerome David Salinger was born in Manhattan, New York, to a Jewish father of Polish origin and a half-Scottish, half-Irish mother. (His mother changed her name to Miriam and passed as Jewish when she married; J. D. did not find out that his mother was not Jewish until just after his bar mitzvah).[1] His father, Solomon, worked for a meat importer. The young Salinger attended public schools on the West Side, the private McBurney School in ninth and tenth grades, and then was happy to get away from the over-protectiveness of his mother by entering the Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania.[2] He started his freshman year at New York University (NYU), but dropped out the next spring to work on a cruise ship. The next fall, he was prevailed upon to learn the meat-importing business and was sent to work at the company in Vienna, where he could also perfect his French and German skills.

He left Austria only a month or so before the country fell to Hitler, on March 12, 1938. That fall, he attended Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, but for only one semester. Salinger attended a Columbia University evening writing class in 1939. The teacher was Whit Burnett, longtime editor of Story Magazine. During the second semester of the class, Burnett saw some degree of talent in the young author. In the March–April 1940 issue of Story, Burnett published Salinger's debut short story, a vignette of several aimless youths, entitled "The Young Folks." Burnett and Salinger would correspond for several years thereafter, although a mix-up involving the proposed publication of a short story collection, also entitled The Young Folks, would leave them estranged.

World War IIEdit

In 1941, Salinger started dating Oona O'Neill, daughter of Eugene O'Neill, writing long daily letters to her. This ended when Oona began a relationship with Charlie Chaplin. Salinger was drafted into the Army in 1942, where he saw combat with the U.S. 4th Infantry Division in some of the fiercest fighting of World War II, including action on Utah Beach on D-Day and in the Battle of the Bulge. During the campaign from Normandy into Germany, he met Ernest Hemingway, then a war correspondent, in Paris. Salinger was assigned to Counter-Intelligence, in which he interrogated prisoners of war, putting his foreign language skills to use. He was among the first soldiers to enter a liberated concentration camp. He told his daughter later, "You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose entirely, no matter how long you live."[3]

His experiences, perhaps, scarred him emotionally (he was hospitalized for a few weeks for combat stress reaction after Germany was defeated), and it is likely that he drew upon his wartime experiences in several stories, such as "For Esmé with Love and Squalor," which is narrated by a traumatized soldier. He continued to publish stories in magazines, such as Collier's and the Saturday Evening Post, during and after his war experience. After the defeat of Germany, he signed up for a six-month period of "de-Nazification" duty in Germany. Among those Nazis he arrested was a low-level official, Sylvia, whom he married and brought back to the States. The marriage fell apart after a few months and Sylvia returned to Germany. (In 1972, his daughter Margaret was with her father when he received a letter from Sylvia. He looked at the envelope, tore it up, and discarded it, unread. He said that that was the first time he had heard from her since she left, but "when he was finished with a person, he was through with them.")[4]

From The New Yorker to novelsEdit

By 1948, with the publication of a critically-acclaimed short story entitled "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," Salinger began to publish almost exclusively in The New Yorker. "Bananafish" was one of the most popular stories ever published in the magazine,[citation needed] and he quickly became one of the publication's best-known authors. It was not his first experience with the magazine; in 1942, Salinger had received his first acceptance from The New Yorker for a story entitled "Slight Rebellion off Madison," which featured a semi-autobiographical character named Holden Caulfield. The story was held from publication until 1946 because of the war. "Slight Rebellion" was related to several other stories featuring the Caulfield family, but perspective shifted from older brother Vince to Holden.

Salinger had confided to several people that he felt Holden deserved a novel, and The Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951. It was an immediate success, although early critical reactions were mixed. While never confirmed by Salinger himself, it is believed that several of the events in the novel are semi-autobiographical. A novel driven by the nuanced, intricate character of Holden, the plot is quite simple. The book became famous for Salinger's extensive and exceptional eye for subtle complexity, detail, description, ironic humor, and the depressing and desperate atmosphere of New York City. The novel was banned in some countries, and some US schools, because of its bold and (to some) offensive use of language; "goddam" appears 255 times, and a hand full of "fuck"s (which the would-be censors seldom notice he was trying to erase from the school wall), plus a few seamy incidents such as the encounter with a prostitute (even though it was a chaste encounter). The book is still widely read, particularly in the United States, where it is considered an especially skillful depiction of teenage angst. It is not unusual to see The Catcher in the Rye on a "required reading" list for American high school students. It still sells about 250,000 copies per year as of 2000.[citation needed]

In July 1951, his friend and New Yorker editor William Maxwell in Book of the Month Club News asked Salinger about his literary influences. Salinger said, “A writer, when he's asked to discuss his craft, ought to get up and call out in a loud voice just the names of the writers he loves. I love Kafka, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Proust, O'Casey, Rilke, Lorca, Keats, Rimbaud, Burns, E. Brontë, Jane Austen, Henry James, Blake, Coleridge. I won't name any living writers. I don't think it's right." [5]

In 1953, Salinger published a collection of seven short stories in The New Yorker ("Bananafish" among them), as well as two that they had rejected. The collection was published as Nine Stories in the United States, and For Esmé with Love and Squalor in the UK (after one of the most beloved stories). It was also very successful, although Salinger had already begun to tightly regulate publicity. He would not allow publishers to illustrate the dust jacket, so that his readers would have no preconceived notion of how the characters looked.

Salinger published Franny and Zooey in 1961, and Raise High the Roof-Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction in 1963. Each contained a pair of related short stories or novellas. Some of the material had been originally published in the The New Yorker.

Encounters with HollywoodEdit

In a 1942 letter to Whit Burnett, Salinger wrote with fervor, “I wanted to sell some stuff to the movies, through the mags. Gotta make a killing, so I can go away to work after the war.” After being disappointed, according to Ian Hamilton, when “rumblings from Hollywood” over his 1943 short story "The Varioni Brothers" came to nothing,[6] Salinger was unhesitant when Samuel Goldwyn offered to buy the film rights to his 1948 short story, "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut". His agent Dorothy Olding later explained this uncharacteristic relinquishing of control with the simple statement that “we thought they would make a good movie.”[7]

Indeed, "a good movie" would seem to have been implied by the production’s pedigree, which included Oscar-winning actress Teresa Wright and Casablanca screenwriters Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein. (Some years earlier, Salinger had actually referenced Casablanca in his 1944 short story "Both Parties Concerned"; one of its characters, upon learning his wife has left him, re-enacts the "Play it, Sam" scene from the film with an imaginary pianist.) However, the eventual film version of "Wiggily", renamed My Foolish Heart (and with Susan Hayward replacing Wright at the last minute),[8] was critically lambasted upon its release. Goldwyn biographer A. Scott Berg wrote that “in the Epsteins’ version, more than had ever been suggested [in the original story was] shown, resulting in a ‘four handkerchief’ movie with a farfetched plot.” Berg called the film a “bastardization.”[7]

Salinger would never relinquish control of his work to Hollywood filmmakers after that. In a letter written in the early fifties, Salinger spoke of mounting a play in which he would play the role of Holden Caulfield opposite Margaret O'Brien, and, if he couldn’t play the part himself, to “forget about it." Almost fifty years later, Joyce Maynard would definitively conclude, "The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J. D. Salinger."[9]

Nevertheless, when The Catcher in the Rye was released in 1951, numerous offers were made to adapt it for the screen (Samuel Goldwyn among them.)[7] In the seventies, Salinger told Maynard that "Jerry Lewis tried for years to get his hands on the part of Holden,"[9] and luminaries ranging from Jack Nicholson to Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio have since made efforts to make a film of Catcher.[10]

The legendary writer-director Billy Wilder recounted his abortive attempts to snare the rights to Catcher in 1999, saying, "Of course I read The Catcher in the Rye....Wonderful book. I loved it. I pursued it. I wanted to make a picture out of it. And then one day a young man came to the office of Leland Hayward, my agent, in New York, and said, 'Please tell Mr. Leland Hayward to lay off. He’s very, very insensitive.' And he walked out. That was the entire speech. I never saw him. That was J. D. Salinger and that was Catcher in the Rye."[11] More recently, Salinger's agents received bids for the Catcher movie rights from Harvey Weinstein and Steven Spielberg,[12] neither of which was even passed on to Salinger for consideration.

Despite his troubles with Hollywood, Salinger has been described as a devoted film buff, his favorite films including Gigi, The Lady Vanishes, and The Lost Weekend, along with the films of the Marx Brothers.[13] Predating VCRs, Salinger had an extensive collection of classic movies from the 1940s in 16mm prints. Maynard wrote that "he loves movies, not films,"[9] and his daughter went to far as to say that her father's "worldview is, essentially, a product of the movies of his day. To my father, all Spanish speakers are Puerto Rican washerwomen, or the toothless, grinning gypsy types in a Marx Brothers movie.”[13]

Withdrawal from public lifeEdit

After the notoriety of The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger gradually withdrew into himself. In 1953, he moved from New York to Cornish, New Hampshire. Early in his time in Cornish he was relatively sociable, particularly with the high school students who treated him as one of their own. However, after one interview for the high school newspaper ended up in the city paper, Salinger felt betrayed. Salinger withdrew from the high schoolers entirely and was seen less frequently around the town, only seeing one close friend regularly, jurist Learned Hand.

In 1955, when he was 36, he married Claire Douglas, a Radcliffe student. He insisted that she drop out of school, only four months shy of graduation, and live with him, which she did. Certain elements of the story "Franny", published in January, 1955, are based on Claire, including the fact that Claire had the book The Way of the Pilgrim.[14] They had two children, Margaret and Matthew. Due to their isolated location and Salinger's proclivities, they hardly saw other people for long stretches of time. Margaret reports that her mother admits living with Salinger was not easy, due to the isolation and his controlling nature, and the jealousy of Margaret replacing her in Salinger's affection.[15] Margaret was sick much of the time, but Salinger refused to take her to a doctor as he had embraced Christian Science. In later years, Claire confessed to Margaret that she, Claire, went "over the edge;" she had made plans to murder the thirteen-month-old Margaret and then commit suicide. It was to happen during a trip to New York with her husband. "It would be she, Claire, not the fictional Seymour, who'd go bananas and leave guts spattered across the hotel room for the horrified spouse to witness." Instead, Claire, when in the hotel, acted on a sudden impulse to take the child and run away.[16] The marriage with Claire ended in divorce in 1965.

His last published work was "Hapworth 16, 1924," an epistolary novella in the form of a long letter from seven-year-old Seymour Glass from summer camp, that was published in the New Yorker in June 1965. It is said that, on several occasions in the 1970s, he was on the verge of publishing another work but decided against it at the last minute. In 1978, Newsweek reported that Salinger, while attending a banquet in an army friend's honor, said he had recently finished "a long, romantic book set in World War II," but no further details are known about that book.

Later years and instances of exposureEdit

Salinger tried to escape public exposure and attention as much as possible ("A writer's feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second most valuable property on loan to him," he wrote.) However, he continued to struggle with the unwanted attention he received as a popular-culture figure. Dozens of students and readers would drive to Cornish to get a glimpse of Salinger. Some writers would leave manuscripts. In the 1970s and 1980's the reclusive writer Franz Douskey, who lived near Salinger on Dingleton Hill, would misdirect tourists down a series of dirt roads that led them away from Salinger's house into nearby towns.

On learning of the intent of British writer Ian Hamilton to publish In Search of J. D. Salinger: A Writing Life (1935-65), a biography including letters Salinger had written to other authors and friends, Salinger sued to stop the book's publication. The book was finally published with the letters' contents paraphrased. The court ruled that, though a person may own a letter physically, the language within it belongs to the author. An unintended consequence of the lawsuit was that many details of Salinger's private life, including that he had written two novels and many stories but left them unpublished, became public in the form of court transcripts.

In 1972, when Salinger was 53, he had a year-long relationship with 18-year old writer Joyce Maynard, already an experienced writer for Seventeen magazine. The New York Times had asked Maynard to write an article for them which, when published as "An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back On Life" on April 23, 1972, made her a celebrity-of-the-moment. Salinger wrote a note to her warning her about living with such fame. They corresponded. Maynard spent ten months as a guest in Salinger's home; the relationship ended, he told his teenaged daughter Margaret at a family outing, because Maynard wanted children, and he felt he could not stand the reality of children again (as opposed to the fantasy children in his writings.)[17] Twenty five years later, controversy ensued when Maynard put Salinger's letters to her up for auction. The sale helped to publicize a memoir of Maynard's, At Home in the World : A Memoir, which, among other indiscretions, described how Maynard's mother had consulted with her on how to appeal to the aging author. Maynard claimed that she was forced to do so for financial reasons; she would have preferred to donate them to Beinecke Library. In 1999, software developer Peter Norton bought the letters for $156,000 and announced his intention to return them to Salinger.[18]

In a surprising move, Salinger gave a small publisher, Orchises Press, permission to publish "Hapworth 16, 1924," the previously uncollected novella; it was to be published in 1997, and listings for it appeared on and other book-sellers. However, the date was pushed back a number of times, the last time to 2002. It was not published and no new date has been set.

File:Jd salinger.jpg

In 2000, Salinger's daughter Margaret Salinger, by his second wife, Claire Douglas, published Dream Catcher: A Memoir. In her "tell-all" book, Ms. Salinger dispelled many of the Salinger myths established by Ian Hamilton's book. Foremost among these challenges is that Salinger's experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder somehow means that he is a psychologically scarred individual who cannot deal with the traumatic nature of his war service. Ms. Salinger paints a picture of J. D. as a man immensely proud of his service record, maintaining his military haircut, service jacket, and moving about his compound (and town) in an old Jeep. Ms. Salinger offered many insights into the Salinger myths, including her father's supposed long-time interest in macrobiotics and involvement with what is today known as "alternative medicine" and Eastern philosophies.

Salinger had been a follower of Zen Buddhism, and had met the scholar D. T. Suzuki. Then he became a lifelong student of Advaita Vedanta Hinduism. This has been described at length by Som P. Ranchan in his book, An Adventure in Vedanta: J. D. Salinger's the Glass Family (1990). Sri Ramakrishna and his student Vivekananda were important contemporary figures he studied. In this tradition, celibacy and detachment from human responsibilities such as family are emphasized for those seeking enlightenment. Margaret Salinger says that she may have never been born if her father had not read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda who brought the possibility of enlightenment to those following the path of the "householder" (i.e., married person with children). J. D. and Claire were initiated into this path of Kriya yoga in a small store-front Hindu temple in a lower-middle-class neighborhood of Washington, DC. They received a mantra and breathing exercises that they were to practice for ten minutes twice a day. Salinger had sudden jumps of enthusiasm for different belief-systems that he then insisted Claire also follow. Salinger tried Dianetics (later called Scientology), even meeting L. Ron Hubbard himself, according to Claire.[19] [1] This was followed by a number of spiritual/medical/nutritional belief systems including Christian Science, teachings of Edgar Cayce, homeopathy, accupuncture, macrobiotics, fasting, megadoses of Vitamin C, vomiting to remove impurities, solar reflectors for tanning, drinking one's own urine (this is part of the folk-medicine of several cultures around the world; see urine therapy), "speaking in tongues" (glossolalia) which he learned at a Charismatic church, and sitting in a Reichian "orgone box" to accumulate "orgone energy."

Ms. Salinger writes that J. D. rarely had sex with his wife, kept her "a virtual prisoner," refused to allow her to see friends or relatives, insisted on extensive meals and other house-work like laundered and ironed sheets in their poorly equipped rural house.[19] Perhaps the most insightful myth-busting that Ms. Salinger offers describes her father as anything but a recluse or withdrawn. She claims that her father travels often, has friends all over the world, and is a bon vivant in every aspect, except where publicity and celebrity are concerned.

Salinger's third wife is Colleen O'Neill (b. June 11, 1959), a nurse and quiltmaker. She is 40 years younger than her husband. Colleen told Margaret that she and Salinger were trying to have a child.[20]


Published and collectedEdit

Published and uncollectedEdit

See [2]

Unpublished and uncollectedEdit

At Princeton LibraryEdit

See [5] [6]


  • The American Band Green Day wrote a song titled "Who wrote Holden Caulfield?", in reference the novel The Catcher in the Rye, by Salinger. It is part of the album Kerplunk
  • Salinger is also the father of actor Matt Salinger, Margaret's brother, most famous for starring in a direct-to-video version of Captain America.
  • In a 2006 check in between the The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert jokingly claimed he was interviewing Salinger. Jon Stewart playfully said, "Why must you lie?" and Colbert responded, "If you really want to know about it..." alluding to the opening lines of The Catcher in the Rye. Colbert ended with "Raise High the Roofbeam, Jon-o!"
  • In 2002, 80 letters from writers, critics and fans to Mr. Salinger were published in the book Letters to J. D. Salinger, edited by Chris Kubica.
  • Salinger has continued to write in a disciplined fashion, a few hours every morning. Salinger has several floor-to-ceiling safes containing manuscripts, marked with notations such as "to be published as-is", "to be edited", etc., in anticipation of his entry into parinirvana (a "final" nirvana).[21]
  • Salinger has three cats named Kitty 1, Kitty 2, and Kitty 3.[22]
  • Chasing Holden (2001) Plot Summary: Neil Lawrence (DJ Qualls) is sent to a boarding school by his father. During his first couple days, he meets T.J. (Rachel Blanchard) who he falls in love with. After being assigned a paper on Holden Caufield, the main character in J.D. Salinger's "Catcher In The Rye", Neil decided to go on a journey to meet J.D. Salinger who he feels has played a huge role in his life. Then Neil & T.J. decide to cut class to take a journey to New York City which leads to more turns then they both could have imagined in which both their lives are changed forever.
   "Hey there Salinger, What did you do?
    Just when the world was looking at you
    To write anything, that meant anything
    You told us you were through
    And it's been years since you passed away
    but I see no plaque, and I see no grave.
    And I can't help believing, you wanted it that way."


  • Anonymous (1965). The Way of a Pilgrim. New York: Seabury.
  • Hamilton, Ian (1988). In Search of J. D. Salinger. New York: Random House.
  • Kinsella, W. P. (1982). Shoeless Joe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Kubica, Chris; Hochman, Will (2002). Letters to J. D. Salinger. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Maynard, Joyce (1998). At Home in the World. New York: Picador.
  • Ranchan, Som P. (1989). An Adventure in Vedanta: J. D. Salinger's The glass family. Delhi: Ajanta.
  • Salinger, Margaret (2000). Dream Catcher: A Memoir. New York: Washington Square Press.
  • Wenke, John (1991). J. D. Salinger: A Study of The Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne.
  • Yogananda, Paramahansa (1946). Autobiography of a Yogi. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship.


  1. Salinger, M (2000). Dream Catcher, p. 20.
  2. Salinger, M (2000). Dream Catcher, p. 31.
  3. Salinger, M (2000) Dream Catcher, p. 55.
  4. Salinger, M (2000). Dream Catcher, p. 359.
  5. Al Silverman, ed., The Book of the Month: Sixty Years of Books in American Life (Boston: Little, Brown, 1986), pp. 129-130.
  6. Hamilton, Ian. In Search of J. D. Salinger. New York: Random House, 1988.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Berg, A. Scott. Goldwyn: A Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989.
  8. MISS HAYWARD SET FOR GOLDWYN FILM; She Will Be Seen With Andrews in 'My Foolish Heart,' Which Mark Robson Will Direct. by Thomas F. Brady, The New York Times. (1949-04-02). Retrieved on 2007-01-18.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Maynard, Joyce. At Home in the World: A Memoir. New York: Picador USA, 1998. 93.
  10. News & Features. IFILM: The Internet Movie Guide.. Retrieved on 2004-04-02.
  11. Crowe, Cameron, ed. Conversations with Wilder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.
  12. PAGE SIX; Inside Salinger's Own World. The New York Post. (2003-12-04). Retrieved on 2007-01-18.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Salinger, Margaret A. Dream Catcher: a memoir. New York: Washington Square, 2000.
  14. Salinger, M (2000). Dream Catcher, p. 84.
  15. Salinger, M (2000). Dream Catcher, p. 115.
  16. Salinger, M (2000). Dream Catcher, p. 116.
  17. Salinger, M (2000). Dream Catcher, p. 362.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Salinger, M (2000). Dream Catcher, p. 94.
  20. Salinger, M (2000). Dream Catcher, p. 108.
  21. Salinger, M (2000). Dream Catcher, p. 307.
  22. Salinger, M (2000). Dream Catcher, p. 107.

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