A Fresh Look at J.D. Salinger's Life

A fresh look at J.D. Salinger's triumphant, traumatic, tawdry life

In 1949, still reeling from his heroic service in world War II, already deep in the throes of writing The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger took a vacation at the Sheraton Plaza Hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he met a girl named Jean. She was 14. Salinger was 30. "He was the first adult who seemed to be genuinely interested in what I had to say," she would recall 60 years later.

When he got home, Salinger began writing Jean letters, and the two stayed in touch. Salinger told her, not implausibly, that she inspired his story "For Esmé--With...

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