J.D. Salinger, the author whose ground-breaking novel, "The Catcher in the Rye," is perhaps the most famous American literary work of the 20th Century, has died.
Salinger's literary agent announced that he died at home on Wednesday of natural causes.
"Catcher" was hugely popular after it was released in 1951, and sales continue to be strong to this day, as does its influence over other novelists. The notorious main character, Holden Caulfield, seemed to distill Cold War anxieties in the body of a boy struggling with adolescence.
The New York Times opines that even the first line of Caulfield's tale "struck a brash new note in American literature."
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."
Following the initial success, Salinger largely turned away from fame. He lived in seclusion on his home in Cornish, N.H., for more than 50 years.
In addition to "Catcher in the Rye," Salinger's body of work includes the collection “Nine Stories” and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.”
As the Associated Press reports, novels from Evan Hunter's "The Blackboard Jungle" to Curtis Sittenfeld's "Prep," movies from "Rebel Without a Cause" to "The Breakfast Club," and countless rock 'n' roll songs echoed Salinger's message of kids under siege. One of the great anti-heroes of the 1960s, Benjamin Braddock of "The Graduate," was but a blander version of Salinger's narrator.
Tragically, Mark David Chapman, the man who shot and killed John Lennon in 1980, cited Salinger's novel as an inspiration and saying that the book holds "many answers."
Salinger was 91 years old.