J.D. Salinger: Awards & Quotes

Instructor: Tina Miller

Tina earned an MFA in Creative Writing, has several published novels and short stories, and teaches English and writing.

J.D. Salinger is known as a writer by many, but few knew him as a person. Salinger kept much of his life private, but this could not stop the power of his words. In this lesson, we'll look at quotes from Salinger and his literary achievements.

Nice Excitement

In The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger wrote: ''I like it when somebody gets excited about something. It's nice.''

Readers, throughout decades, have been excited about Salinger's writing. His novel, The Catcher in the Rye, has become a classic taught in classrooms across the country. It is revered by both teens and adults, and upheld as a classic coming-of-age tale that crosses generations.

Salinger, a name recognized in many households, has surely received the recognition he deserves, right? What if he didn't? Would it matter to him anyhow?

Missing the Mark

Salinger never yearned for fame. He was a recluse and was protective of his identity.

What he thought of others was often conveyed through his characters, like Franny in Franny and Zooey. ''I'm just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everybody else's. I'm sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting. It's disgusting.'' Salinger didn't strive to be somebody interesting.

J.D. Salinger
J.D. Salinger

After 20 years of reclusiveness, Salinger spoke in a 1974 interview with a New York Times reporter. ''There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. It's peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.''

Acclaim

Salinger never won a literary award. This, however, is not a reflection on who he was as a writer. Salinger wrote a wealth of short stories, published a classic novel, and published several short story anthologies. In 1948, the New Yorker published three of his stories, which would eventually become one-third of his collection of short stories, Nine Stories.

In such stories, Salinger gives insights about an artist's life. ''The worst thing that being an artist could do to you would be that it would make you slightly unhappy constantly.'' As an artist, he knew firsthand about such unhappiness, since he preferred interactions with his characters more than those with people.

One of his most critically recognized short stories, ''For Esmé - with Love and Squalor,'' was written and published after his military service during World War II. This story, set during WWII, was reprinted in Prize Stories of 1950: The O. Henry Awards. Therein, Salinger examined life through his characters. ''He said I was unequipped to meet life because I had no sense of humor.'' Having experienced military combat, Salinger recognized the necessities of life.

Always a Contender

Salinger became a 1952 contender for the National Book Awards for his novel, The Catcher in the Rye. That year, though, James Jones' From Here to Eternity earned the prestige. However, Holden Caulfield, the main character of The Catcher in the Rye, leaves lasting impressions on readers as he journeys through this coming-of-age tale, exploring friendships and relationships.

The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye

Caulfied explains, ''Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.'' He has left his home in search of more. He ponders his existence and his future. ''I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be.'' Perhaps, Salinger, too, just wanted to be a catcher in the rye.

Literary Credence

After the publication of The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger's literary credentials were increasing, enough for his alma mater to recognize him. In 1952, Valley Forge Military Academy named Salinger a ''distinguished alumni.''

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