Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Mysterious Mr. Salinger

J.D. Salinger's death was announced today. He was 91 years old.

Salinger was undoubtedly famous for his literary contributions. He was controversial as well, both for his reclusiveness and his strange (arguably abusive) relationships with women.

His fame, after his meteoric rise to success with The Catcher in the Rye, has been maintained primarily by his mystique. Salinger was an argument against PR--perhaps he was more famous for his lack of connection with the outside world.

But his work stands for itself after all this time. His Holden Caulfield is one of the most influential and lovable characters in American literature. The first time I read Catcher I thought it was the funniest book I'd ever read. The second time I read it I thought it was the saddest.

That was Salinger's great power--to create a layered story that could elicit any number of emotions. His characters are real and multidimensional, and we love them as much for their flaws as we do for their strengths.

Since Salinger kept to himself for the last half a century, no one will really notice that he has passed into the beyond. But his books, especially one notable American classic, will pay tribute to him in a way that he never cared to do for himself.

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