Like many others have, I’d like to take a minute to share my thoughts on the death of J.D. Salinger. It was announced today that the famously reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye passed away on Wednesday from natural causes at the age of 91.
Liking The Catcher in the Rye as a teenage is not a unique sentiment. And my feelings on it are not unique. But there’s a reason why so many people love that book in a way that feels so personal to them. It’s impossible to describe the story to people who’ve never read it, or to convince those who didn’t like it of Salinger’s brilliance. On the surface, not much happens. But the mind of Holden Caulfield is so beautifully portrayed throughout the course of that story. His idiosyncratic, often contradictory views on humanity are heartbreaking, hilarious, and perfect.
I read The Catcher in the Rye when I was fifteen years old, which to me, was the perfect age to be introduced to Holden Caulfield. Tenth grade was a low point for me, because I felt so incredibly disconnected to the rest of the world. I felt so angry at myself for not being able to connect to anyone, even though I hated most of the people at my school, and told myself that I didn’t want to be friends with them, anyways. So to find a book that carefully laid out every emotion that I was feeling was a pretty special thing. Also, it was unlike most books that I read at the time. My literary tastes had fallen more along the lines of the work of Meg Cabot prior to reading Catcher. Not only did it make me feel a little less lonely, it also opened my eyes to the possibility of reading books that were both entertaining AND had something important to say.
Catcher is obviously Salinger’s most famous work. It’s going to live on forever as a literary classic. But his short story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” (which can be found in his Nine Stories compilation), is another masterpiece. It takes a while to make its impact, but once it does, it’s unforgettable.
J.D. Salinger is responsible for what is arguably the most iconic novel of the 20th century, and he’s inspired countless writers to write their own stories of teenage angst (for better or worse). As an aspiring writer myself, Salinger is definitely one of my heroes.
Rest in peace.