J.D. Salinger died today at 91. Every obituary is sure to mention 2 things: He wrote Catcher in the Rye, and he was a recluse.
Once upon a time, though, he was less secretive about his life. On the jacket of Franny and Zooey, published in 1961, he said: “My wife has asked me to add … in a single explosion of candor, that I live in Westport with my dog.” (It was a rental house; the Schnauzer’s name was Benny.)
Some folks thought that was a feint, though. Contemporary sources complained that at that point, he hadn’t lived in Westport in years.
And a 1999 Travel + Leisure story said:
In 1953, two years after The Catcher in the Rye was published … Salinger, like Holden (Caulfield), wanted to move to the country, from Westport, Connecticut. He began looking around New England for property, and found a 90-acre tract of land high on a hill not in Vermont, but across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire.
A timeline on eNotes.com — hey, how else can you understand some of his references and allusions? — puts him here in 1949. That’s around the time he was writing such classics as “The Laughing Man” and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.”
According to James Lomuscio, writing in the New York Times, Salinger “holed up in a house on South Compo Road” in 1950 to write Catcher in the Rye.
Nine Stories — which, though nobody asked, I like a lot more than Catcher — teems with references to Westport and Fairfield County. (Just check out “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut.”) It’s a wonder anyone moved here after Salinger got through describing some of what went on in those days.
Come to think of it, he didn’t stick around much after that either.