Jerome David Salinger (born January 1, 1919) is an American author best known for The Catcher in the Rye, a classic coming-of-age story which has enjoying enduring popularity since is was published in 1951. A major theme in Salinger's work is the agile but powerful mind of disturbed young men, and the redemptive capacity of children in the lives of such men.
Born in New York City, Salinger began his writing career writing short stories for magazines in New York. Of his early work, several stories -- most notably A Perfect Day for Bananafish stood out. He also published two episodes from what would become The Catcher in the Rye before he had to leave America to join the War: I'm Crazy and Slight Rebellion Off Madison.
His writing was interrupted for a few years by World War II, where he saw combat action in some of the fiercest fighting in the war. This scarred him emotionally him, and he later drew upon his wartime experiences in several books, most notably For Esme - With Love and Squalor, which is narrated by a traumatized soldier.
The Catcher in the Rye, his first novel, was published in 1951 and became hugely popular both among critics and young readers. The book, written in the first person, is narrated by the rebellious, immature but insightful teenager named Holden Caulfield.
Salinger later published Franny and Zooey (1961) and Raise High the Roof-Beam, Carpenters and Seymour -- An Introduction (the latter two appearing together in 1963) as well as other short stories (collected in the book Nine Stories).
After the literary fame and notoriety of The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger became a recluse. He moved from New York to Cornish, New Hampshire where he continued to write novels but did not publish them.
Salinger has tried to escape public exposure and attention as much as possible ("A writer's feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second most valuable property on loan to him," he has said). But he constantly struggles with the unwanted attention he gets as a cult figure. On learning of an author's intention to publish J. D. Salinger: A Writing Life, a biography including letters Salinger had written to other authors and friends, Salinger sued to stop the book's publication. The book was finally published with the letters' contents paraphrased; the court ruled that though a person may own a letter physically, the language within it belongs to the author.
An unintended result of the lawsuit was that many details of Salinger's private life, including that he had written two novels and many stories but left them unpublished, became public in the form of court transcripts.
Salinger is a character in the novel Shoeless Joe, which was the basis for the movie Field of Dreams. In the movie, the character is renamed and fictionalized.
He has been a life long student of Advaita Vedanta Hinduism. This has been described at length by Sam P. Ranchan in his book An Adventure in Vedanta: J.D. Salinger's the Glass Family (1990).
A year-long affair in 1972 with eighteen-year old aspiring writer Joyce Maynard also became the source of controversy when she put his letters to her up for auction.
In 1999, Salinger released his first new novel in thirty-four years - Hapworth 16, 1924, first published in The New Yorker as a short story in 1965. It has not appeared in print yet; the novel will eventually be published by Orchises Press, a small publishing company.
In 2000, his daughter, Margaret Salinger, by his second wife Claire Douglas, published "Dream Catcher: A Memoir." In her "tell-all" book, Ms. Salinger stated that her father drank his own urine, spoke in tongues, rarely had sex with her mother, keeping her "a virtual prisoner" and refusing to allow her to see friends or relatives.
In 2002, more than 80 letters from writers, critics and fans to Mr. Salinger were published in the book Letters to J. D. Salinger, edited by Chris Kubica.