Sunday, May 10, 2009

Beyond Catcher in the Rye: Much More to Come from Salinger !

On January 1, 2009 J. D. Salinger, the author of the seminal work The Catcher in the Rye, turned 90. It won’t be surprising if some of you thought that he was no more and dead already; after all we haven't heard anything from him in decades. In fact, his last published work was in 1965 with a novellain The New Yorker. His last interview was in the early '80s.

The Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951 when Salinger was 32. It kicked up a controversy that followed the novel almost up to the end of 1980s. Nevertheless, it became one of the most famous novels of the 20th Century despite opposition and criticism. It certainly stands out as one of the finest works in American literature.

Originally intended to be an adult novel, it has become a most popular and widely recommended text in most schools and colleges’ curriculum. A well recognized text for disenfranchised youth, it is proudly kept on that mantle over generations. Holden Caulfield, the pro-antagonist of the novel, has become a symbol of teen rebellion.

Over 75 million copies of The Catcher in the Rye have been printed and sold over the years. It has remained the best seller for many years in a row, a clear indicator of its ever-growing acclaim. This brings the spotlight on Salinger himself. He became the center of a lot of attention, courtesy this novel. This was something Salinger never sought or relished. He disliked such excessive attention from media or the public.

He even sued a British writer named Ian Hamilton for intending to publish his biography that included the letters Salinger had written to his friends and other authors. He somehow failed to stop Hamilton from publishing In Search of J.D. Salinger: A Writing Life (1935-65) in 1988. Salinger’s letters were published by Hamilton in a paraphrased form much against Salinger’s wish.

Although the court ruled that Hamilton had reproduced Salinger’s letters way beyond the limits of fair use, the damage was already done. The much sheltered private life of Salinger by then had become part of the public domain in the shape of court transcripts.

Such bitter and sour experiences hurt Salinger so much s that he withdrew from the public stare into a self-imposed exile. His ineptitude towards the commercial side of publishing discouraged him so much that he bid adieus to the whole publishing scene altogether.

Anyhow, this didn’t really stop him or discourage him from writing. There have been many rumors and speculations about Salinger that sometimes bordered pure myth, the fact remains that he is no mystery man. It is well-known that he has been writing profusely all along without any break only he hasn’t cared to get his work published.

He has been writing for his own satisfaction and not for anyone else. There is little chance that Salinger would decide to publish this voluminous work that is hidden from the public eye in his lifetime. Meanwhile, the manuscripts are destined to keep piling up.

How much creative work has already been penned by him till now, nobody really knows for sure. Nevertheless, one can safely guess that it is plentiful. So it is not the end of Salinger; keep your fingers crossed for much more that is on the way.

Whether J. D. Salinger's new work evinces love or disdain, bricks or bouquets, one thing is sure; Salinger will certainly continue to shake up the literary scene for a long time to come.

The literary world looks forward to much more from Salinger in days to come.

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