Last week it was poor Gumby and Pokey mourning the passing of their creator. This week it is Holden Caulfield, the rebellious and confused adolescent main character in “Catcher in the Rye”. James Salinger, the renowned creator of Holden Caulfield, passed away at the age of 91, as reclusive as he has been for many years.
James Salinger shunned the fame that came with writing a story that can qualify for the title “great American Novel”. Unlike many authors who would revel in the glory of a book tour and the opportunity to expound endlessly on their motivations, symbolism and true meaning, James Salinger wanted none of this. Mr. Salinger would have been just as happy with critical success alone and none of the trappings that come with popular success and celebrity. The author might have been happy and secure in his work simply knowing in his own mind that it was a job well done. This last is not entirely certain due to the complete lack of introspection made available publicly. It could also be argued that without the critical acclaim that came with some of the short stories published prior to his first novel; the world would never have been exposed to “The Catcher in the Rye”.
Rarely mentioned, James Salinger, like so many of his generation, was a true hero as well as an iconic literary figure. He was amongst those landing on Utah Beach on D-Day. He was also present at the liberation of a concentration camp. It is thought that he suffered from post-traumatic stress, though this does not seem to ever have officially been confirmed.
Ironically, it is likely that the eccentricity of his reclusiveness propelled his fame further than might have otherwise occurred. His isolation is definitely responsible for the spotlight falling on him at regular intervals through the curiosity of the public and the media always eager to fill that desire to know.