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Remembering J.D. Salinger

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J.D. Salinger, the legendary author, youth hero and fugitive from fame whose "The Catcher in the Rye" shocked and inspired a world he increasingly shunned, has died. He was 91. An obituary can be found here. Jesse Kornbluth has written an appreciation.

Salinger will be read as long as there are misunderstood adolescents -- or students of fine writing, especially funny writing. Also, before Salinger came along, most everything we knew of prep school from books was the sanitized version available in Tom Brown's School Days or The Lawrenceville Stories or, heaven help us, Owen Johnson's Stover at Yale.

Did Dink Stover even have a johnson? No, but Holden did, and after him you couldn't write about Pencey Prep or its ilk without at least admitting to the possible existence of sex. Curtis Sittenfeld and John Knowles and Ethan Canin and maybe Alan Sillitoe and certainly Tom Schulman (screenwriter of Dead Poets Society) and Tobias Wolff all owe Salinger a deep debt of gratitude. Come to think of it, what's "Harry Potter" but the Salinger-esque story of an underestimated hormonal misfit boy packed off to private school?

David Kipen hosted a live appreciation of J.D. Salinger's works Thursday afternoon. A former San Francisco Chronicle book critic, Kipen served as Director of Literature for the National Endowment for the Arts from 2005 to 2010, and is the author of The Schreiber Theory: A Radical Rewrite of American Film History, about the marginalization of screenwriters, and a translation of the Cervantes novella The Dialogue of the Dogs, both from Melville House Books. He is the Director-in-Waiting of The Museum of American Literature, and can be reached at

Click on the arrow in the box below to read a replay:

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