Author. His novel "The Catcher in the Rye" (1951) is considered the classic 20th Century novel of alienated youth. It has sold over 60 million copies worldwide. The author himself became legendary for his reclusive behavior. Salinger was born in New York City, to prosperous parents of Jewish-Scottish-Irish descent. He graduated from the Valley Forge Military Academy in 1936 and attended New York University, Ursinus College and Columbia University without earning a degree. From 1940 his stories appeared in such magazines as Collier's and the Saturday Evening Post, but he would later repudiate most of his early work. He served in the US Army during World War II, seeing action in the D-Day Invasion and serving as a counterintelligence officer in France. After the war his short fiction was published almost exclusively in The New Yorker. With the acclaimed story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" (1948) Salinger introduced his Glass family saga, about an eccentric clan seemingly adrift from contemporary society; the characters would appear in most of his subsequent tales and novellas, collected in the books "Nine Stories" (1953), "Franny and Zooey" (1961), and "Raise High the Roof-Beam, Carpenters; and Seymour -- an Introduction" (1963). The author's favorite theme of troubled, sensitive youth found its best expression in "The Catcher in the Rye", which he admitted was "sort of" autobiographical and "a great relief" to write. Its narrator, teenager Holden Caulfield, is expelled from his prep school and goes off on a three-day jaunt in Manhattan. It turns into a journey of self-discovery as he heaps scorn on the "phoniness" of the adult world and tries to confront his own weaknesses and the inevitable loss of innocence. Written in a lively colloquial style seasoned with brittle humor and profanity, "Catcher" was an immediate hit, spending 30 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. Critical reaction was divided between high praise and condemnation for its language and the hero's anti-establishment attitude, and the book became the target of numerous censorship campaigns, in the US and abroad. It acquired new relevance with the youth movements of the 1960s and has since been embraced by generations of high school and college students who identify with Holden's angst. While "Catcher" was working its way to classic status, fame was driving Salinger into near-total seclusion. He was not known as a shy or timid man. For years he toyed with the notion of becoming an actor; and writer A. E. Hotchner, a drinking buddy of Salinger's in the late 1940s, claimed he had "an ego of cast iron". But his need to keep his private life private, apparent from the start of his career, grew obsessive. In 1953 he bought a remote 90-acre property in Cornish, New Hampshire, and as time passed he was seldom seen venturing beyond its confines. He refused to be photographed, rejected all fan mail, and rarely gave interviews, restricting those to brief phone conversations. His literary output diminished and in 1965 he stopped publishing altogether - although he apparently never stopped writing. "I love to write and I assure you I write regularly", he told a journalist in 1980. "But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it". The world was not willing to oblige. When crazed Beatles fan Mark David Chapman murdered John Lennon in 1980, he claimed he was motivated in part by "Catcher" and had a copy of the book with him at the crime scene. Salinger made no public statement and never spoke to the press again after the tragedy. Instead he continued to make news for filing lawsuits to protect his work and his privacy, notably in 1987, when the US Supreme Court ruled in his favor to bar the use of his unpublished letters in an unauthorized biography. (Salinger had the letters copyrighted when he learned of the project). Then there were the tell-all memoirs by his onetime lover Joyce Maynard ("At Home in the World", 1998) and his daughter Margaret Salinger ("Dreamcatcher", 2000), both of whom described the man as an eccentric control freak. None of this affected the lasting popularity of his best known work. When Salinger died at 91, "The Catcher in the Rye" was still selling 250,000 copies a year. And the mystery of what he wrote during his long silence - the manuscripts reportedly locked in a safe inside a concrete bunker at his home - will no doubt entice fans of literature for years to come.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards