Wednesday, Jun. 03, 2009

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger's entire literary output consists of one novel and 13 short stories, all written before 1959. Twenty-nine years have passed since his last interview — 44 since his last published story — and yet when news broke of the writer's lawsuit against the author of an unofficial Catcher in the Rye sequel, fans reacted as if the 90-year-old recluse had stripped naked and run down the street. Salinger was back! Well, sort of. Actually, not at all. The suit was filed in a Manhattan court by Salinger's lawyers; the author has yet to make a public statement or appearance in connection with the proceedings. And as literary fans know all too well, he probably never will.

Salinger began to withdraw from public life following the 1951 publication of The Catcher in the Rye, which holds the dual distinction of having been both a banned book and required reading in U.S. schools. As adulation for Catcher spread, the author recoiled further. Salinger stopped giving interviews in 1980. In 1986, he sued to prevent biographer Ian Hamilton from reprinting letters the author had sent to fans and friends. Almost everything known about Salinger comes from court transcripts or his daughter's 2000 memoir, Dream Catcher. Today, a new Salinger publication or interview would spark a literary firestorm. Not that such an event is likely to happen; to the creator of Holden Caulfield, we are all a bunch of phonies.

Read a TIME article from 1961 about Salinger.