My childhood hero died today.
NEW YORK - J.D. Salinger, the legendary author, youth hero and fugitive from fame whose "The Catcher in the Rye" shocked and inspired a world he increasingly shunned, has died. He was 91.
Salinger died of natural causes at his home on Wednesday, the author's son said in a statement from Salinger's longtime literary representative, Harold Ober Agency. He had lived for decades in self-imposed isolation in the small, remote house in Cornish, N.H.
Okay, so I wasn't exactly a CHILD. I was 13 the first time I read "Catcher in Rye." The last time I read it was last summer. I've probably read it 100 times in between.
Not only was Holden Caulfield the first "man" I ever loved, there were a good 5-6 teen years in my life was I was convinced that Holden Caulfield and J.D. Salinger were the only two people on the planet who understood anything about me. It wasn't until I got to college that I realized that 90% of the teenage population also felt that way. As I got older, my infatuation with Holden didn't last, but reverence in which I held JD Salinger did. He was the first writer to make me understand how deeply the power of a good story could touch a reader.
Of course, after "Catcher," there was also "Nine Stories," "Franny & Zoey," a series of New Yorker articles, and a few other items written by JD Salinger and set forth for public consumption, but nothing ever came close to the success he had with Catcher. Indeed, I've always believed JD Salinger and Harper Lee were part of a very exclusive club: one that knows what it's like to write The Great American Novel at a very young age. After all, how do you follow up "Catcher in the Rye?"
What's lesser known amongst casual readers is what a huge baseball fan JD Salinger was (if memory serves, I think he was a Red Sox fan). He idolized New York writer Ring Lardner. If you've ever read the book "Shoeless Joe," (the book the movie "Field of Dreams" was based on), you know that, in the book, it's not Terrence Mann that Ray kidnaps and takes with him on his quest to build his baseball diamond and reconnect with his father, it's J.D. Salinger. And the book "The Boat Rocker" is really "Catcher in the Rye."
RIP J.D. Salinger.