Famously reclusive writer J.D. Salinger has died at the age of 91, according to an announcement from his son. Salinger, best known for his novel The Catcher in the Rye, was reportedly in good health until this month, living in the Cornish, N.H., home where he had lived in seclusion since the 1960s. (Watch an AP report about J.D. Salinger's death.) Here, a selection of obituaries and tributes to one of America's most enigmatic literary giants:
TIME: "Salinger was an author whose large reputation pivots on very little." Indeed, you can comfortably carry his collected works— "one novel, three volumes of stories—in the palm of one hand." Salinger's active publishing career made up a remarkably small part of his 91 years of life: "The first of his published stories that he thought were good enough to preserve between covers appeared in The New Yorker in 1948. Sixteen years later he placed one last story there and drew down the shades. From that day until his death ... Salinger was the hermit crab of American letters. When he emerged, it was usually to complain that somebody was poking at his shell."
GAWKER: Salinger's most notable legacy may be as "unofficial spokesman for every alienated or precocious teenager in the English-speaking world." This is primarily as a result of The Catcher in the Rye, a short novel whose "protagonist and narrator is Holden Caulfield—a disaffected 17-year-old who, in what was slightly revolutionary for its time, talked (and narrated!) like a disaffected 17-year-old." Reportedly, Salinger has been "writing constantly over these last 50 years." We expect the "battle over his unpublished work" to be "drawn out and bitter"—certainly, the "alienated and disaffected" teens who continue to buy his books will follow the proceedings closely.
LA TIMES: Salinger's five decades of self-imposed isolation "inspired a range of reactions from literary critics, some characterizing it as a form of cowardice and others as a cunning strategy that, despite its outward intentions, helped preserve his mythic status in American culture." His work was "humorous and cynical"—always "heavily autobiographical"—and tended to focus on "idiosyncratic urban characters seeking meaning in a world transformed by the horrors of Word War II." But he came to see publishing one's work as an "embarrassment." He once told Joyce Maynard, a writer with whom he was romantically involved, that a writer who chooses to publish "might as well walk down Madison Avenue with his pants down."
NY TIMES: At one time, Salinger was widely regarded as "the most important American writer to emerge since World War II." But with time, more and more of fame derived from "not wanting to be famous." This was not in keeping with early course he set for himself: "As a young man, Mr. Salinger yearned ardently" to become a literary star and wrote bragging letters to editors. "But success, once it arrived, paled quickly for him .... He ordered his agent to burn any fan mail."
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