J. D. Salinger (1919-2010)
v J. D Salinger is one of America's most famous and mysterious authors, best known for his controversial, yet popular, and semi-autobiographical novel The Catcher in the Rye.
v Several schools banned the book due to swearing and loose morals. Some teachers were even fired for assigning it to their students. At the same time, it's one of the most widely read books in school.
v The Catcher in the Rye gained infamy when found in the pocket of Lee Harvey Oswald, after he shot John F Kennedy. Many speculated what role the book may have played in a conspiracy.
v Salinger also wrote a series of short stories about the Glass family, a fictional household of child prodigies, suffering from a variety of traumas. It was the inspiration for Wes Anderson's film The Royal Tenenbaums.
v Salinger published his last book in 1965, choosing to live the rest of his life on a secluded farm in New Hampshire. He gave one last interview in 1980.
v There has been much speculation as to what Salinger wrote in private, and if it will ever be published. According to his daughter Margaret, he had at least fifteen novels ready for print.
v Salinger got into a legal battle with biographer Ian Hamilton, which Salinger won, since Ian wanted to include many private, personal letters that invaded Salinger's privacy. But, since the court transcripts were public, people soon learned what was written anyway.
v Several memoirs by Salinger's close relations give conflicting reports of who Salinger was and what he was like. Son Matthew wrote of his sister's memoir, "I can't say with any authority that she is consciously making anything up. I just know that I grew up in a very different house, with two very different parents from those my sister describes."
Jerome David Salinger was born into a middle-class, Jewish family in New York City. His father sold cheese. Jerry Salinger went to a military academy, as his father wanted him to become a soldier. J. D. liked acting.
After high school, Salinger dropped out of two colleges before finding a mentor at an evening class at Columbia University, Whit Burnett, who was also editor of Story Magazine. Whit helped publish Salinger's first works. In 1941, Salinger dated Oona O'Neil, daughter of the famous playwright Eugene O'Neil. But, she left him to marry Charlie Chaplin.
In 1942, Salinger was drafted to fight in WWII. He was active on Utah Beach on D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, Bloody Mortain, and the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. While fighting, Salinger met with Hemingway and they became friends. Hemingway said, "Jesus, he has a helluva talent." Because Salinger was fluent in French and German he was used to interrogate the enemy, and also helped liberate a concentration camp. While serving as a soldier, he sent a number of stories to magazines to be published. While Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post accepted them, The New Yorker did not.
At the end of the war, Salinger was hospitalized for stress. He later told his daughter, "You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose entirely, no matter how long you live." Salinger then chose to stay in Germany, working for counter intelligence, and fell in love with a German, Sylvia Welter. They married and moved to America, but things fell apart after eight months, and Sylvia returned to Germany.
Salinger turned to Zen Buddhism and writing, with "A Perfect Day for Banana Fish" finally being accepted by The New Yorker, which would publish his works exclusively from then on. Looking for more money, Salinger sold one story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" to Hollywood. The resulting film, renamed My Foolish Heart, was so bad, and departed so far from the original story, that Salinger vowed never to sell film rights again, despite a great deal of pressure to adapt The Catcher in the Rye, which became an enormous success.
In 1955 Salinger, age 36, married again, to a college student named Claire Douglas, who dropped out, just four months shy of graduation. They had two children, Margaret and Matthew. The couple was isolated, practicing yoga, meditation, and a variety of new age religions. When Margaret was sick, Salinger refused to take her to a doctor. At one point Claire was so angry, she considered killing Margaret and herself. They divorced in 1967.
In 1972, age 53, Salinger started a relationship with 18-year-old Joyce Maynard, after she gained fame writing stories for Seventeen magazine. She quit Yale University, losing her scholarship, to live with him (her mom actually encouraged her!). In her memoir, Joyce explained that after ten months together, he, for no reason, ended the relationship, and that he was having affairs with other young women, starting with letter writing. He said she wanted children, and he was too old for that.In 1988, aged 69, Salinger married a nurse named, Colleen O'Neill, age 29. This final marriage lasted until his death in 2010.