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Was “Catcher in the Rye” Author J.D. Salinger Really a Recluse?

In the public imagination, The Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger joined fellow writers Thomas Pynchon and Emily Dickinson in his desire to be alone. But according to letters to a friend that were released after Salinger's death, the author's private life was much more engaging than what one would expect from a recluse. Salinger wrote that he enjoyed going on bus tours to Niagara Falls, working on his vegetable garden, and even making a habit of ordering Whoppers at Burger King, which he described as "better than just edible." The letters, written to Salinger's old friend Donald Hartog and released by Hartog's daughter, show Salinger as pretty much a regular guy who just didn't want any media attention. But he wasn't exactly hiding in the dark in his attic. Instead, he watched television -- notably Upstairs Downstairs -- and followed the career of British tennis star Tim Henman. Salinger's 50 letters and four postcards to Hartog are now available to the public through the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.

Salient information on Salinger:

  • Salinger wrote some of The Catcher in the Rye while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II.
  • Before Charlie Chaplin married her, Oona O'Neill -- daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill -- dated Salinger.
  • Salinger rejected media attention when Catcher became a hit, but he did grant one interview to a high school reporter.
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