Jerome David Salinger was an American author and essayist best known for capturing the alienation and isolation of teenage angst in his novel The Catcher in the Rye. The novel was a controversial success: loved by teenagers everywhere, hated and censored by adults and school systems across the country. To this day, it is still one of the most controversial novels on school reading lists.
Jerome David Salinger was born in New York City in 1919. He struggled to fit in at school, but he was very interested in drama. This struggle to fit in and feeling of isolation is not something that ever totally went away; Salinger switched schools several times in his post-secondary career, and after his experiences in World War II, isolation seemed to become a sense of security for him.
While Salinger was a prolific writer, many of his essays were rejected or delayed in publishing. One essay that was a success was called “Slight Rebellion off Madison”, which featured a surly teenager named Holden Caulfield. This character would later become the protagonist in Salinger’s best-known work The Catcher in the Rye.
Salinger was quoted as saying that The Catcher in the Rye is about “an individual’s alienation in a heartless world.” He later revealed in another interview that Holden is very reflective of how Salinger himself thought and felt during his own teenage years. While Holden feels alienated from the world in the novel, millions of teenagers embraced him as someone who understood their own thoughts and feelings about the world around them. The novel itself, however, became one of the most contested books on school reading lists and in libraries across the country. It was even outright banned in some places, with the coarse language and brief sexual content being cited as the reasons why the book was inappropriate for anyone under 18 to read. For teenagers though, Holden’s stream-of-consciousness was an accurate reflection of their own feelings of apathy and confusion as they tried to navigate their high school years.
After the publication of The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger withdrew from the public eye and began to publish less. He never allowed his works to be adapted into film after a disastrous adaptation of his short story “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” in 1949. He died at the age of 91 in 2010 in his home in Cornish, New Hampshire.
”The true poet has no choice of material. The material plainly chooses him, not he it.”
”Certain things, they should just stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway.”
”I’m kind of a paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.”