Salinger, J (e rome) D (avid) (1919-), American novelist and short story writer, known for his stories dealing with the intellectual and emotional struggles of adolescents who are alienated from the empty, materialistic world of their parents. Salinger's work is marked by a profound sense of craftsmanship, a keen ear for dialogue, and a deep awareness of the frustrations of life in America after World War II (1939-1945). Jerome David Salinger was born and raised in New York City. He began writing fiction as a teenager.
After graduating from the Valley Forge Military Academy in 1936, he began studies at several colleges in the New York City area, but he took no degree. He did, however, take a fiction writing class with Whit Burnett, an editor of Story magazine, who encouraged Salinger and brought out his first published story, 'The Young Folks' (1940). Over the next several years Salinger contributed short stories to popular magazines such as Collier's, Esquire, and The Saturday Evening Post, continuing to produce work even while serving in combat during World War II as a staff sergeant in the United States Army from 1942 to 1946. After returning to civilian life, Salinger continued to achieve success with his short stories, many of which were drawn from his war experiences. During the late 1940's he published work in Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan, and The New Yorker. At the age of 31, Salinger gained a major place in American fiction with the publication of his only novel, The Catcher in the Rye.
The book quickly earned a reputation as a quintessential American coming-of-age tale. In the early 1960's, Salinger virtually stopped writing for publication and disappeared from public view into his rural New Hampshire home. In an interview that he granted during the 1970's, Salinger maintained that he continues to write daily, and has merely rejected publication as 'a terrible invasion of his privacy. ' Salinger's reclusiveness added to his cult status.
II. Works Print section The Catcher in the Rye is narrated by Holden Caulfield, a 16-year-old boy who has just flunked out of his third private boarding school. Unwilling to remain at school until the end of the term, Holden runs away to New York City. He does not contact his parents, who live there, but instead drifts around the city for two days.
The bulk of the novel is an account, at once hilariously funny and tragically moving, of Holden's adventures in Manhattan. These include disillusioning encounters with two nuns, a suave ex-schoolmate, a prostitute named Sunny, and a sympathetic former teacher who may be homosexual. Finally, drawn by his affection for his ten-year-old sister, Phoebe, Holden abandons his spree and returns home. Salinger's depiction of Holden Caulfield is considered one of the most convincing portrayals of an adolescent in literature. Intelligent, sensitive, and imaginative, Holden desires acceptance into the adult world even though he is sickened and obsessed by what he regards as its 'phonies,' including his teachers, parents, and his older brother. For all his surface toughness, Holden is painfully idealistic and longs for a moral purpose in life.
He tells Phoebe that he wants to be "the catcher in the rye"-the defender of childhood innocence-who would stand in a field of rye where thousands of children are playing and "catch anybody if they start to go over the cliff". Nine Stories, a 1953 anthology of Salinger stories, won great critical acclaim. Reviewing it for the New York Times, novelist Eudora Welty praised Salinger's writing as "original, first-rate, serious and beautiful". In one of the stories, 'A Perfect Day for Banana fish,' the author introduces the fictional Glass family, an Irish-Jewish New York family with seven children.
The family's saga, colored by the suicide of the precocious oldest son, Seymour, and informed by Salinger's growing interest in Zen Buddhism, would become the center of Salinger's work during the next decade. The title characters of the twin novellas Franny and Zooey (1961) are Glass children. Franny is a high-strung college student who feels alienated from the academic world in her desperate search for spiritual meaning in life. Her brother Zooey, by contrast, is a charming and warm easy-going television actor who has made his peace with the corruption he finds in the world. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction (1963), another pair of novellas published as a single volume, are both narrated by Franny and Zooey's older brother Buddy, a writer.
Salinger has described Buddy as his alter-ego. All 11 of the Glass family stories originally appeared in The New Yorker. After the Glass family saga, only two more stories by Salinger appeared in print: 'Haworth 16, 1924' in The New Yorker in 1965, and 'Go Tell Eddie' in an academic anthology in 1969.