Reclusive writer Jerome David Salinger (1919-2010) was born on this day in New York City and is best known for his shining novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951), often banned for its content and "vulgarity."
"I'm aware that a number of my friends will be saddened, or shocked, or shocked-saddened, over some of the chapters of The Catcher in the Rye. Some of my best friends are children. In fact, all of my best friends are children,” Salinger wrote in 1955.
In this novel, Salinger created one of literature's most memorable characters, Holden Caulfield, the intelligent, sensitive, yet discontented sixteen-year-old, struggling to come to terms with life. Writer Stephen King praised Caulfield as "maybe the greatest American-boy narrator since Huck Finn."
"Certain things should just stay the way they are," Caulfield observed. "You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.”
The title comes from Holden's desire to catch children who are playing in a field of rye from falling off a cliff.
"That's all I'd do all day," Holden said. "I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy."
Crazy or not, when a publishing executive tried to convince Salinger to change the book's "somewhat ambiguous" title, the intensely private novelist replied, "Holden Caulfield wouldn't like that."