Remembering J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger in 1951. (AP)

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J.D. Salinger wrote the book on teenage alienation. His novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” out in 1951, has sold 63 million copies. That is a lot of teenagers, for a lot of years, reading Holden Caulfield chasing “phonies” through the streets of New York. 

There was more. “Franny and Zooey.” “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” And then, half a century ago, J.D. Salinger just checked out. Burrowed into the hills of New Hampshire and shut the door. 

This week, Salinger died, at 91. His legacy is huge. And there may be a lot more of it, waiting to be read. 

This hour, On Point: The life and work of J.D. Salinger. 



Joining us from North Haven, Conn., is Amy Hungerford, professor of English at Yale University. She focuses on American Literature since 1945 and teaches the works of J.D. Salinger in her undergradaute course “The American Novel Since 1945.” Her forthcoming book, “Postmodern Belief: American Literature and Religion Since 196o,”  will focus heavily on J.D. Salinger’s use of religion in his writing. 

And from New Haven, Conn., is Will Hochman, professor of English at Southern Connecticut State University. He’s co-author of the forthcoming book, “A Critical Companion to J.D. Salinger” and co-author and co-editor of “Letters to J.D. Salinger.” 

More links: 

Charles McGrath’s New York Times obituary.  Also from The Times, critic Michiko Kakutani’s appraisal; McGrath’s essay on Salinger’s 90th birthday, in December 2008; and Jennifer Schuessler’s piece, “Get a Life, Holden Caulfield,” from this past June.  

The Boston Globe’s obituary by Mark Feeney and Alex Beam’s appreciation

At, you can read and listen to novelist Rick Moody’s appreciation of Salinger

The New Yorker’s website has Louis Menand’s 2001 essay “Holden at Fifty.” They’re also offering links to thirteen stories by Salinger (subscription required). 

Slate’s Stephen Metcalf calls Salinger “the great poet of post-traumatic stress.”

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