J. D. Salinger, the novelist whose “Catcher in the Rye,” was the gateway drug for a generation of teenagers, readers and writers resisting the social conformity, and who became almost as famous for being reclusive as he was for his novel and his collections of short stories, died at his home in New Hampshire, at 91. He last published in 1965; Salinger claimed that he continued to write and would no longer be published during his lifetime.
With Salinger’s death, the literary world awaits to find out, after more than 50 years of waiting, whether in fact,Salinger left completed work — stories, novels, even poems — and whether it is coherent and intelligible, interesting or out-of-date — whether any of it is good, or even perhaps, great.
In Catcher in the Rye created a teenager character who spoke the feelings of teenagers of all ages, in decrrying the behavior of “phonies.” In his subsequent short story collections, Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenter” Salinger described characters at odds with themselves — and though many readers found them plain odd, they found them compelling. “The Catcher in the Rye” remains one of the perennial best-selling novels, read in schools across the country and the globe, holding a special place on the bookshelves of many. But Salinger’s last published stories, increasingly influenced by Salinger’s own experiments in eastern thinking, give one pause about what direction his unpublished writing may have taken. Hopefully we will know soon.
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