J.D. Salinger: Short Stories Background

J.D. Salinger: Short Stories Background

J.D. Salinger is best known for the coming-of-angst novel The Catcher In The Rye, but he is also revered and respected as one of America's pre-eminent writers of short stories as well. His career as a short story writer began when he was still in high school in Manhattan. Unimpressed by his son's creativity, Salinger's father determined that his son should follow in his footsteps and enter the family meat importing business, but working in Europe in a slaughterhouse for experience nauseated him to such a degree that he decided that he needed to tread a different career path entirely.

His best-known story, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," was published in the New Yorker magazine in 1948, a magazine with which he had cemented a relationship that lasted throughout his career; Salinger had spent much of 1940 submitting short stories to the magazine and receiving rejection slip after rejection slip in return. Some of the rejected stories were published in later years, including "I Was At School With Adolf Hitler" and "Lunch for Three," when the success and controversy of The Catcher in the Rye inspired magazines and publishers to revisit some of the earlier Salinger offerings that they had turned down. In 1941, however, the magazine published "Slight Rebellion off Madison." As the title suggests, the story was set in Manhattan, and its protagonist was a truculent teenager with pre-war jitters, going by the name of Holden Caulfield. The magazine decided not to publish the story when the Japanese carried out their attack on Pearl Harbor a couple of weeks later, deeming it unpublishable because of the way in which Caulfield seemed reluctant to join his peers at war. Salinger was devastated and although the story was published after the war, in 1946, the rejection was something that he never really got over.

Much of Salinger's post-war short story writing was inspired by his experiences in Germany during the war; he was captured and taken to a concentration camp that was an adjunct to the infamous death camp that was Dachau. Salinger suffered from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the things that he had seen, and many of the characters in his later stories also suffer from the same; this is particularly true of the narrator of "To Esme : with Love and Squalor."

After the success of The Catcher in the Rye, and the controversy that came along with it, Salinger became rather frightened of the attention he received and gradually began to live an increasingly reclusive life. He gave his final interview in 1980, passing away almost thirty years later, from natural causes.

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