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Literature

Jerome Salinger - Square Peg in Round Hole
 
Jerome David Salinger was born in New York City on New Year's Day of 1919. His paternal grandfather, Simon, was born in Lithuania, then part of the Russian Empire, and immigrated to America in the end of the XIX century to become the rabbi of a congregation in Louisville, Kentucky. 
 
His childhood, later to be reflected in his works, was tumultuous: he changed schools, colleges, friends and hobbies, dropped out and enrolled again, earning himself the reputation of a mediocre student who had trouble fitting in... And all the time he was writing, creating his own, unique, style and creating his own, still very vaguely formed, characters, that would later appear prominently in his most notable books.
 
Salinger's professional career began, after many years of writing stories for school publications, in 1941, when began submitting his short stories to The New Yorker magazine. Some of them were accepted, including the Slight Rebellion off Madison, a story about a disaffected teenager named Holden Caulfield, the precursor of the main character of his iconic The Catcher in The Rye. Some were deemed "unpublished" due to the start of the war with Japan and the ensuing strict wartime censorship.
 
The writer was drafted into the army, serving both in the Pacific and the European theaters, and saw action in the D-Day invasion, including some of the greatest battles of the operation. Salinger served in the counter-intelligence division, interrogating German prisoners and taking part in the investigations of Nazi death camps. Later in the war, he personally visited the Dachau  concentration camp. 
 
It is possible that the multiple letters and stories he wrote during that period was a way of escaping the harsh reality; after the victory day Salinger collapsed mentally and was diagnosed with what today would be called PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder, frequent among veterans.
 
Salinger's best known and most controversial work, The Catcher in the Rye, was published on July 16, 1951, by Little, Brown and Company. The "sort-of autobiographical" - in the author's own words - story was met with mixed, but mostly positive, reaction. But about a decade later, when a teacher was fired for assigning the book to his pupils in one of the conservative South states, it began attracting public interest, soon becoming the most censored, the most assigned and one of the most sold (even now it sells 250,000 copies a year!) books in America!
 
The stress, the fame and the unwanted attention led Salinger to turn to a life of a recluse: he moved to Cornish, New Hampshire, became a strict Hinduist and even tried Dianetics (though he quickly became disillusioned with Ron Hubbard and what would later turn into the Church of Scientology), and basically isolated himself and his wife Claire Douglas (married in 1955) and his little daughter.
 
Clair later disclosed to one of her family members that she was so depressed that she decided to murder her daughter and then commit suicide, but in the last moment decided to run away from her husband. She returned to him after several months, but divorced him in 1967.
 
Salinger continued his isolated life, occasionally waging legal battles against publishers, copycats and biographers. He published his last work, a compilation of eight short stories, in 1972 and gave his last interview in June 1980. Salinger died of natural causes at his home in New Hampshire on January 27, 2010, aged 91.
 
Sources: 
Skow, John (September 15, 1961). "Sonny: An Introduction"
"J.D. Salinger". Jewishvirtuallibrary.org
Fiene, Donald M. "A Bibliographical Study of J. D. Salinger: Life, Work, and Reputation", University of Louisville, 1962
 

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