J.D. Salinger died today at 91. I was surprised to read the news; I was sure he’d been gone for years.
In a deft portrait of the author’s complex personality, Hillel Italie wrote that “decades after publication, [The Catcher in the Rye] remains a defining expression of that most American of dreams: to never grow up.”
Perhaps that’s why the book didn’t resonate when I last tackled it.
A student in an “enriched” American Studies course, I was 15—and desperate to grow up. In a single semester I read The Red Badge of Courage, The Jungle, The Scarlet Letter, My Antonia, The Red Pony, and 1984. I also recall reading Poe and Wilde and Ibsen and Twain. But I don’t remember much about The Catcher in the Rye. Maybe I was too old to appreciate it?
Maybe I should find an old copy and give it another read.
Anyway, I wonder what new gems will emerge after the reclusive author’s death. One of Salinger’s neighbors “said the author had told him years earlier that he had written at least 15 unpublished books kept locked in a safe at his home,” according to the AP story.
“I love to write and I assure you I write regularly,” Salinger said. “But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it.”
My sentiments exactly.