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With his landmark novel Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger was an influential 20th-century American writer.
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During this time, however, Salinger continued to write, assembling chapters for a new novel whose main character was a deeply unsatisfied young man named Holden Caulfield.
Salinger, however, did not escape the war without some trauma and when it ended, he was hospitalized after suffering a nervous breakdown. The details about Salinger's stay are shrouded in some mystery, but what is clear is that while undergoing care he met a woman named Sylvia,
a German and possibly a former Nazi. The two married but their union was a short one, just eight months. He married a second time in 1955 to Claire Douglas, the daughter of a high profile British art critic, Robert Langdon Douglas. The couple were together for a little more than a decade and had two children together, Margaret and Matthew.
When Salinger returned to New York in 1946 he quickly set about resuming his life as a writer and soon found his work published in his favorite magazine, The New Yorker. He also continued to push on with the work on his novel. Finally, in 1951 The Catcher in the Rye was published.
The book earned its share of positive reviews, but some critics weren't so kind. A few saw Caulfield and his quest for something pure in an otherwise "phony" world as promoting immoral views. He seemed unhinged, possibly crazy.
But over time the American reading public ate the book up and The Catcher in the Rye became an integral part of the high school literature curriculum. To date the book has sold more than 120 million copies worldwide. Along the way Caulfield has become as entrenched in the American psyche as much as any fictional character. Mark David Chapman, the man who assassinated John Lennon was found with a copy of the book at the time of his arrest and later explained that reason for the shooting could be found in the book's pages.
Not surprisingly, Catcher vaulted Salinger to a level of unrivaled literary fame. For the still young writer, who had fiercely boasted in college about his talents, the success he had seemingly craved early in life became something to run away from once it arrived.
In 1953, two years after the publication of Catcher, Salinger pulled up stakes in New York City and retreated to a secluded, 90-acre place in Cornish, New Hampshire. There, Salinger did his best to cut-off contact with the public and significantly slowed his literary output.
Two collections of his work, Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, all of which had appeared previously in The New Yorker, were published in book form in the early 1960s. In the June 19, 1965 edition of The New Yorker nearly the entire issue was dedicated to a new short story, the 25,000-word "Hapworth 16, 1924". Then, nothing. "Hapworth" was the last Salinger piece ever to be published while he was still alive.
Despite Salinger's best efforts, not all of his life remained private.
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