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Jerome David Salinger was born on January 1, 1919 in New York City to a Jewish father and an Irish-Catholic mother. He attended prep schools during his childhood and was later sent to Valley Forge Military Academy, which he attended from 1934-1936. He attended NYU and Columbia University and began submitting short stories for publication. By 1940 he had done so, publishing his stories in several periodicals including the Saturday Evening Post and Story. He was drafted into the infantry in World War II and was involved in the invasion of Normandy. He saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the war and the experience greatly affected him.
He returned from the war in 1946. After many rejections, Salinger published his first story with the New Yorker in 1948. He wrote almost exclusively for the New Yorker until 1965. "The Catcher in the Rye" was published in 1951 and received much critical acclaim. The story, about a rebellious boarding school student named Holden Caulfield who tries to run away from an adult world that he considers phony became a popular best seller and is now thought of an important staple of American Literature.
Salinger has been married three times. His first marriage to a young woman named Sylvia, who Salinger met in Europe, was brief. His second marriage to Claire Douglas, then a student at Dartmouth College, produced two children, a boy and a girl. After several failed relationships, Salinger finally married a nurse named Colleen 30 years his junior to whom he is still married.
Salinger claims to work best with complete privacy and his reputation as a recluse only fuels interest in his writing even to this day. What all those years spent pecking away at a typewriter in a little house in Cornish might yield after his death is anybody's guess. Perhaps his writing days are over, but it is possible that some of the best future works of American Fiction are being written up here in the hills of New Hampshire.