Sunday, January 31, 2010

Neighbors Kept Salinger's Privacy

To the world, he was J.D. Salinger, the legendary and reclusive author of the classic novel "The Catcher in the Rye." But to friends and neighbors, he was just Jerry, Manchester television station WMUR reported.

Salinger, 91, died at his home in Cornish, N.H., on Wednesday. He moved to Cornish in 1952, and neighbors said he lived in seclusion. Those who knew him said he wanted to get away from the intense public glare caused by his rise to fame, and he did so on a secluded property in the quiet New Hampshire town.

Cornish Selectman John Hammond said Salinger had been in declining health.

"When I heard the news, I called his wife and offered our condolences, and she said he was at peace and she was with him when he passed away," Hammond said.

In life, the renowned author wanted to be left alone. His property bristles with "no trespassing" signs. But the power of works such as "The Catcher in the Rye" drew literary seekers to the quiet corner of New Hampshire for decades after he stopped publishing.

"He was a man who loved his privacy," said his neighbor, Peter Burling. "He was, I would say, pursued in life by people who wanted to nibble on him, and he didn't want any of that."

Burling said the people of Cornish did their best to shield Salinger from the over-eager grad students and readers who seemed to swarm the town every spring.

"Of course, a great many of us used to study the ways in which we could be less than informative about how to give directions," Burling said.

As people in town continue to respect and guard the Salinger family's privacy, they, along with many others, wonder if the giant of 20th century letters was waiting until he was beyond anyone's reach to publish again.

"Of course, an end comes to every story, but Salinger's is one of extraordinary gifts and wonderful writing, and I look forward to reading what may have been set aside in some publisher's safe for later production," Burling said.

Salinger has not published an original work since the 1960s. Burling said he has no particular insight into whether Salinger kept writing in his later years, but he has faith that he did.


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