J D Salinger

J D Salinger Born on January 1, 1919, in New York

J D Salinger is an author I was lucky enough to start reading in high school. He speaks so well to adolescent readers and I was no exception.

Some of J D Salinger’s books, novellas and stories:

I wish I could have read more.

Salinger’s Literary influences

Kafka, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Proust, O’Casey, Rilke, Lorca, Keats, Rimbaud, Burns, E. Brontë, Jane Austen, Henry James, Blake, Coleridge, Sherwood Anderson, Ring Lardner, and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Salinger’s spiritual influences

Salinger explored and followed for some time a variety of belief systems. He was involved in spiritual types of yoga and Dianetics, the forerunner of Scientology, among other philosophies. He practiced Zen Buddhism until 1952 when he was influenced by The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna which is about the Hindu religious teacher Sri Ramakrishna. He became a follower of Advaita Vedanta Hinduism. These influences are not hard to find in his writing.

the glass family

Salinger wrote several works in which various members of the Glass family appear as characters. This is a great literary device because readers start to feel like they know the family and are keen to meet more members of the family and see how they interact with other characters that they have already encountered.

Salinger the recluse

Salinger avoided contact with people and although he continued to write in a disciplined manner, he did not publish those works. He moved from New York to Cornish, New Hampshire where he was quite sociable at first, but then cut off ties and withdrew from public view.

Glimpses of Salinger

Joanna Rakoff worked for Salinger’s agent and got rare glimpses into his period of reclusivity. She wrote “My Salinger Year” which is an interesting insight into “Jerry”.

A biography of J D Salinger “J D Salinger: A Life” has been written by Kenneth Slawenski. He draws on Salinger’s letters and memories of the recluse written by his daughter Margaret.

I read “The Catcher in the Rye” as a teenager and loved it. I went on to read “Franny and Zooey” (loved it too) and everything else of J D Salinger’s that I could get my hands on.

Holden Caulfield’s voice (main character of “the catcher in the rye”

Holden Caulfield has a strong, original voice. It is more remarkable because it was pretty much the first of its kind:

  • There weren’t many teenage protagonists before Holden.
  • His voice and concerns capture the teenage years so well.
  • He is relatable and we are keen to share his journey. He’s a little unpredictable and we are keen to travel along with him and find out what happens.
  • This type of consciousness wasn’t a feature of novels and the whole genre of young adult novels that has sprung up owes its genesis to “The Catcher in the Rye” in some capacity.
  • Another example of Holden Caulfield’s voice: “I don’t even like old cars. I mean, they don’t even interest me at all. I’d rather have a goddam horse. A horse is at least human.”
  • Holden has a mixture of great insight into his character, and a lack of insight. “And I have one of those very loud, stupid laughs. I mean if I ever sat behind myself in a movie or something, I’d probably lean over and tell myself to please shut up.”
  • Holden is also an example of an unreliable narrator, which is a very interesting literary device, and one that is not often used.
  • Salinger admitted in an interview in 1953 that Holden had autobiographical elements in his character: “My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the book …
  • It was a great relief telling people about it.”

Holden has contempt for most adults. He suffers in silence but his internal monologue is very critical and insightful.

“Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.”
“Yes, sir. I know it is. I know it.”
Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right—I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game.”

We also see from this quote that Holden identifies with the underdog.

Holden feels deeply and while he finds most people to be ‘phonies’ he could fall for a girl in an instant if the right one came along.

“I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can.”

This is a poignant feeling of Holden’s. “What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t, you feel even worse.”

I loved “The Catcher in the Rye.” I hope others do too.

Disclosure: I receive commissions for purchases made through links in this page.

Franny and Zooey book. Amazon shop now.

J D Salinger. Nine Stories. Amazon shop now.

Your One Mantra

“An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.” – J D Salinger