J.D. Salinger, the reclusive, legendary author of The Catcher in the Rye, died of natural causes yesterday at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire, at age 91. Salinger’s son confirmed the death in a statement to the AP, and the writer’s literary agency told the New York Times that the author had been in good health until earlier this month, despite having broken a hip last May. “He was not in any pain before or at the time of his death,” the agency said in a statement. “Salinger had remarked that he was in this world but not of it. His body is gone but the family hopes that he is still with those he loves, whether they are religious or historical figures, personal friends or fictional characters.”
In addition to 1951’s The Catcher in the Rye, one of the most read novels of all time, Salinger penned critically acclaimed works like Franny & Zooey and the short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” Following the success of Catcher — a tale of adolescence and alienation told through the eyes of one of literature’s greatest protagonists, Holden Caulfield — Salinger famously became a recluse, nearly cutting off all contact from his audience of tens of millions.
Even though he spent the last handful of decades out of the public eye, the impact of Catcher in the Rye and Caulfield continued to resonate, from high schools to universities and into other arts. Musicians who have written songs directly inspired by Salinger include Green Day, whose “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?” appeared on Kerplunk, and the Cure’s “Bananafish Bones,” while the Beastie Boys, Billy Joel and Belle and Sebastian are just a few to have used Salinger and his works as a lyrical touchstone. Catcher in the Rye also played a role in one of music’s biggest tragedies, as Mark David Chapman infamously had a copy of Salinger’s novel on hand when he shot and killed John Lennon in 1980.
After he published Catcher in 1951, Salinger retreated to New Hampshire where he began to start a family. In 1953, Salinger released his short story collection Nine Stories, which featured “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “For EsmÃ© â€” with Love and Squalor.” Eight years later, Franny and Zooey continued Salinger’s exploration of the Glass family. Salinger’s Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, comprised of two novellas Salinger wrote prior to Franny and Zooey, marked the author’s final official published work.