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J.D. Salinger dies at 91

January 28, 2010 | 10:46 am

JdsalingerFamous and famously reclusive author J.D. Salinger has died, his son said in a statement through his literary representative. He was 91.

Between 1951 and 1963, Salinger published just four books -- "The Catcher in the Rye," "Nine Stories," "Franny and Zooey" and "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction." Although tremendously popular, Salinger withdrew from public life, refusing interviews for many decades. Although he was understood to have continued to write in his isolation, those manuscripts have remained private.

The last public encounter with Salinger was when Joyce Maynard, a Yale freshman, wrote a piece for the New York Times and Salinger wrote her a letter warning of the dangers of publicity. Maynard, 19, had a yearlong relationship with the author, then in his early 50s, and later wrote about it in her 1999 memoir, "At Home in the World."

Despite his seclusion, Salinger's work remained popular. For decades, "The Catcher in the Rye" was required reading for students in junior high and high school. The lively, contradictory voice of the novel's protagonist, Holden Caufield, was thought to be something adolescent readers could connect to. "It was so putrid," Holden says of a movie, "I couldn't take my eyes off it." No wonder that generations did.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Read Times staff writer Elaine Woo's obituary on Salinger

Photo: J.D. Salinger in 1951. Credit: Associated Press