On January 27, 2010, J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of the novel The Catcher in the Rye, died in Cornish, New Hampshire at the age of 91. Here are 5 fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about this eccentric author...
Salinger Wrote His Most Famous Book During World War II
Salinger served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was involved in the 1944 invasion of Normandy. From the day he landed on Utah Beach on D-Day, Salinger carried six chapters of The Catcher in the Rye and worked on the novel during his war years, carrying pages of his book with him even in battle. He was one of the first U.S. soldiers to enter a liberated concentration camp, serving as a counter-intelligence officer responsible for interrogating prisoners of war. He eventually returned to the United States with a German bride, Sylvia Welter.
The Author Refused to Allow His Work to Be Edited
Following the war, Salinger returned to New York, writing short stories while he completed his novel. Harcourt Brace, the publishing company, agreed to handle his novel but insisted that areas of the book would have to be rewritten. Salinger refused the offer and finally got his book published by Little, Brown and Company with no editorial changes. The book became an instant success and has sold over 65 million copies since its publication.
Sallinger and Charlie Chaplin Were Rivals
In 1941, 22-year-old Salinger dated Oona O'Neill, a 16-year-old New York socialite and the daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill. Their relationship ended when Salinger went to war and Oona moved to California where she met silent screen legend Charlie Chaplin, eventually becoming Chaplin's fourth wife. Salinger read about the marriage in the newspaper and wrote a scathing letter to her about her marriage to the famous funny man.
He Only Gave One Interview Salinger became more and more reclusive after his blockbuster novel was published, going so far as refusing to publicize the immensely popular book or allowing his photo to appear on the dust jacket. However, after he moved to New Hampshire, he did give an interview for a high school newspaper. When he saw that the interview had been published as a front-page article in the local newspaper, he became angry and erected a high fence surrounding his property to safeguard his privacy.
Salinger Was One of the World’s Most Famous Recluses Howard Hughes and actress Greta Garbo were both famous recluses during the 20th century, and Salinger vied with them for the title. Rumors were widespread about this famous author, and he was frequently sought out by both fans and journalists. But he avoided them all and wore mechanics overalls, went to local restaurants and ate his meals in the privacy of the kitchen and even drove around with curtains shielding the windows of his old jeep.