Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Friday, 29 January 2010

JD Salinger, author of Catcher In The Rye, dies at 91

JD Salinger in 1951
Salinger's Catcher In The Rye attracted a cult following

American novelist JD Salinger, author of classic 20th Century book The Catcher In The Rye, has died aged 91.

The reclusive writer died of natural causes at his home in the state of New Hampshire, his son said.

The Catcher In The Rye, first published in 1951, is a tale of teenage angst. It has become one of the most influential American novels of the modern era.

Soon after its publication, Salinger shunned the fame it brought and became a recluse for the rest of his life.

The son of a Jewish businessman and Scots-Irish mother, Jerome David Salinger was born in New York and grew up in Manhattan.

He enjoyed early success in the 1940s with the publication of numerous short stories in magazines, among them the New Yorker.

First published in 1951
Sold more than 60 million copies in several languages
Cited by John Lennon's killer Mark Chapman as inspiration for his crime

But he is best known for The Catcher In The Rye, which quickly became a bible of teenage dissent in America and a staple of college English courses.

Author and literary director of the prestigious Booker Prize, Ion Trewin said: "It's interesting how one book can really become an institution. It has meant so much to several generations, particularly young people...

"What he will be remembered for is one of the most remarkable books about growing up. I think everybody identifies in some way with it."

Almost immediately after Catcher was published, Salinger became disillusioned with the publishing industry.

In 1953, he bought a house at Cornish, New Hampshire, and retreated into seclusion, giving a rare and final interview in 1980.

Christopher Hitchens says the book inspired him to find out more about the US

Last year, Salinger took legal action to block the publication of a book by a Swedish author entitled 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye that was billed as a follow-up to his classic novel.

He has taken legal action to protect his copyright on previous occasions, but has never appeared in court. He has also refused numerous requests to adapt Catcher In The Rye for the screen.

"Unquestionably in just one title, that book made him qualify as one of the absolute giants of 20th Century literature," said Jon Howells, spokesman for book-seller Waterstone's.

"You will find it on the shelves of every bookshop and library in the land."

Salinger's three subsequent books - including Franny and Zooey - were all best-sellers and featured the neurotic, fictional Glass family.

Catcher In The Rye was a brilliant and very engaging story that I remember to this day
EWT, Fordingbridge

His last published story, Hapworth 16, 1928, ran in The New Yorker in 1965, but there have been no further publications since.

However, friends and visitors to his home have revealed that he has a large safe containing at least 15 completed manuscripts.

"[I] doubt there is a great cache of wonderful stories and novels waiting for us," US author Jay McInerney told the BBC World Service.

Throughout his life, Salinger, who famously befriended women younger than himself, has done everything possible to try to thwart the efforts of biographers.

His first wartime marriage was dissolved in 1946, after less than a year.


He married Claire Douglas, aged 19, when he was 35 in 1954. They had two children and then divorced in 1967.

Former girlfriend Joyce Maynard published an account of their affair in 1998, putting their private love letters up for sale at Sothebys auction house the following year.

His daughter, Margaret "Peggy" Salinger, wrote the warts-and-all autobiography Dream Catcher: A Memoir in 2000, exposing her father as a difficult and isolated man.

For nearly 30 years prior to his death, he lived with Colleen O'Neill, a nurse 40 years his junior.

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