J.D. Salinger is remembered today as the pioneering author of The Catcher in the Rye, a novel now considered to be one of the finest examples of its genre. But, there was a lot more to him than literary brilliance.
He had a relationship with a 19-year-old when he was fifty-three.
In 1972, Salinger started a relationship with Joyce Maynard who was nineteen at the time. The two exchanged letters and met during her freshman year at Yale. She moved into his house in Cornish, New Hampshire, and lived there for eight months. They ended their relationship over the issue of children. After they separated, Maynard wrote a memoir titled At Home in the World in the nineties that spoke about their relationship. Later that same year she sold off letters that Salinger had written to her. They were returned to the writer.
He worked on The Catcher in the Rye while fighting in WWII.
He was drafted into service in 1942 and served for two years. During that time he worked on chapters of the novel. They were kept on his person throughout this period, even when he went into battle.
He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
After his time serving in the Second World War, he suffered what was then considered to be a nervous breakdown in Nuremberg. Now, it is labeled as PTSD. Scholars often link Salinger’s experiences in the war to the way he crafted his characters in his stories and novel, especially Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.
Salinger was involved in various legal battles.
At one point he sued his own biographer, Ian Hamilton, to keep a book he didn’t like from being published. It made use of letters he wrote to friends and family. The court ruled that Hamilton could not use the letters. On another occasion, an Iranian film titled Pari was slated for release and blocked in the United States. It was an unauthorized, loose adaption of the two stories Franny and Zooey.
He hated the idea of A Catcher in the Rye movie.
Despite receiving several offers to make the novel into a book, Salinger declined. He was willing to let something, possibly, happen after he died but had no desire whatsoever to see the results for himself.
The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most frequently banned books.
Over the last fifty years the novel has been banned over and over again due to the use of swear words, sexual themes and Holden’s broader state of mind and intent. There are references to suicide that some schools and governments have cited as inappropriate.
While in school he enjoyed acting.
As a young man, his interest in the arts was slightly different. Rather than writing Salinger expressed love for acting while in school. He even signed his yearbook with the names of characters that he played.
The Catcher in the Rye is the only novel he published during his lifetime.
It has been the source of Salinger’s fame for the last almost seventy years and has sold around seventy million copies.
Salinger met Ernest Hemingway more than once.
The first time the two met was in Paris while Salinger was serving in the war. Salinger decided to seek him out and was even able to show him a copy of one of his recent stories. They met again in Germany in 1944. He was in a farmhouse that had been set up for war correspondents.
He explored numerous religions throughout his life.
Although he was raised Jewish, Salinger researched other religions. These included Buddhism, Catholicism, Hinduism, and Christian Science (Scientology). Although no one knows for sure which, if any, he stuck with, it is thought that Hinduism was especially impactful on his consideration of the world.