Study Guide

J.D. Salinger Recluse

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Salinger's third book, Franny and Zooey, came out in 1961, and included two previously published novellas about the Glass family. Though a third book brought even more attention, his reputation as a hermit was already sealed. A profile of Salinger in Time magazine noted, "As nearly as is possible in an age in which all relations are public [and this, people, was in pre-Facebook 1961], J.D. Salinger lives the life of a recluse. He says that he needs this isolation to keep his creativity intact, that he must not be interrupted 'during working years.' But the effort of evading the world must by now be almost more tiring than a certain amount of normal sociability would be."

In 1963, Salinger published Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, another collection of two previously published novellas. Two years later, The New Yorker published "Hapworth 16, 1924," a long story that took up almost the entire magazine. Salinger never published anything again.

His personal life changed quite a bit during the mid-1960s as well. He and Claire Douglas divorced in 1967, after twelve years of marriage. In 1972, he began a correspondence and then a love affair with Joyce Maynard, who had written an essay for The New York Times Magazine. Salinger was 53; Maynard was an 18-year-old freshman at Yale. The relationship broke up after less than a year.

Only a few details of Salinger's life since then are known. In 1988, he married his third wife, Colleen O'Neill, who is forty years his junior. Also around that time he sued biographer Ian Hamilton, to prevent the publication of a book that Hamilton was planning to write about Salinger. Hamilton was forced to rewrite the whole thing under the terms of the legal settlement, leaving out much quoted material. In 1998, Salinger's former lover Joyce Maynard wrote a detailed memoir about their relationship, and two years later his daughter Margaret published her own book about growing up with her reclusive father. He cut off contact with his daughter once he learned she was planning to write the book. In June 2009, Salinger sued to block the publication of an unauthorized sequel to The Catcher in the Rye.

J.D. Salinger turned 90 years old on New Year's Day, 2009. He was still writing, though he made clear that none of his material would be published until after his death, which arrived a bit more than a year later, in late January 2010. Right up to the end, Salinger still lived out there in Cornish, in a little house in the woods, where the ducks all go someplace else when the lake freezes up.

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