The creator of Holden Caulfield (J.D. Salinger for those of you who have just returned to earth after a 59-year inter-stellar vacation) will not be down for dinner. Salinger passed away in his New Hampshire home at the age of 91, spending the last several decades as a recluse.
If you aren’t familiar with Holden, you should be:
Salinger’s only novel, The Catcher in the Rye, was published in 1951 and gradually achieved a status that made him cringe. For decades that book was a universal rite of passage for adolescents, the manifesto of disenchanted youth. (Sometimes lethally disenchanted: After he killed John Lennon in 1980, Mark David Chapman said he had done it “to promote the reading” of Salinger’s book. Roughly a year later, when he headed out to shoot President Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley Jr. left behind a copy of the book in his hotel room.) But what matters is that even for the millions of people who weren’t crazy, Holden Caulfield, Salinger’s petulant, yearning (and arguably manic-depressive) young hero was the original angry young man. That he was also a sensitive soul in a cynic’s armor only made him more irresistible.
Salinger was rumored to have continued writing throughout his entire life, even earmarking certain works for publication after his death. I’m sure we will hear lots more about this in the days to come.