J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of Catcher in the Rye, has died. He was 91.
My obituary my seem unusual. I am a film critic and none of Salinger’s works were ever adapted into film (with the exception of one Iranian film that was not cleared for release in the U.S.). Yet Holden Caulfield created an archetype that has had an enormous impact on film, literature, and pretty much every form of media in existence. You can see traces of Salinger in the works of John Hughes, in the works of Wes Anderson, in the works of Terrance Malick, in the Beatles’ discography, in Nirvana’s discography, in every book that Louis Sachar and William S. Burroughs. They all have a special disdain for the world of “phonies,” people who go through life without questioning what it all means. This was the character who created the disillusioned youth and thus created the hippie. Thank you very much for that, Mr. Salinger.
I kid, of course. Salinger could hardly imagine how his work would be taken by the public at large. Indeed, he appeared to disdain them as much as anyone else, not publishing a word since 1965. I have a feeling, with his death, a lot of his works will come to light. Shame we had to wait so long. Then again, what he has published demonstrates that nothing was ever as strong as Catcher in the Rye. Nothing showed the world how the youth really felt about it. That motive has definitely transcended time. Salinger was one of the most important writers of the 20th century and he only did it in one work.
So, as I often do when writing one of these, I would like to thank you. Thanks for Catcher in the Rye. And thanks for having the sense to not try and outdo yourself. Many work themselves to death with no idea that their work will ultimately be taken. Even when people wouldn’t recognize it, you may have been far smarter than you let on. And that would make you one of the smartest human beings in history.