Even readers with a cursory knowledge of author J.D. Salinger know that his life was enshrouded in mystery.
After publishing his masterpiece, Catcher in the Rye, in 1951, he stayed as far from the media spotlight as he could. By 1965, he gave up on the idea of publishing altogether.
According to his biographers David Shields and Shane Salerno, and corroborated later by his son Matt Salinger, he never stopped writing. Publishing, on the other hand, at least according to him was a “damned interruption.”
It doesn’t matter. Catcher in the Rye, all by itself, sold enough to keep him financially stable and secure his position in literary history as one of the greatest writers of our time. Volumes have been written about the voice of the novel’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield. It was sensitive, sweet, and angsty and there never was anything like it at the time.
The beauty of Catcher in the Rye doesn’t simply end with the narration. The book has a magical quality and feels as if it was written in one sitting. This technique has been imitated many times since, but nothing has quite come up to the level as the original.
On January 1st, let’s celebrate J.D. Salinger by taking a look at the prose that made him one of the most unique voices of the 20th century:
“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”
“Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”
“Certain things, they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.”
“I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty…you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.”
“An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.”
“I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.”
“Make sure you marry someone who laughs at the same things you do.”
“It was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you feel like you were disappearing every time you crossed the road.”
“Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They’re always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotion.”
“If Death stepped miraculously through the glass and came in after you, in all probability you just got up and went along with him, ferociously but quietly.”