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J.D. Salinger, 'The Catcher in the Rye' author, dies

J.D. Salinger, the legendary author, youth hero and fugitive from fame whose "The Catcher in the Rye" shocked and inspired a world he increasingly shunned, has died. He was 91.

Salinger died of natural causes at his home Wednesday, his son said in a statement from Salinger's longtime literary representative, Harold Ober Agency. He had lived for decades in self-imposed isolation in the small, remote house in Cornish, N.H.

"The Catcher in the Rye," with its immortal teenage protagonist, the twisted, rebellious Holden Caulfield, came out in 1951. Enraged by all the "phonies" who make "me so depressed I go crazy," Holden soon became American literature's most famous anti-hero since Huckleberry Finn.

The novel's sales are astonishing - more than 60 million copies worldwide - and its impact incalculable. The book remains a defining expression of that most American of dreams: to never grow up.

The cult of "Catcher" turned tragic in 1980 when crazed Beatles fan Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon, citing the novel as an inspiration.

Salinger's other books include "Nine Stories" and the novellas "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" and "Seymour - An Introduction." His last published story, "Hapworth 16, 1928," ran in The New Yorker in 1965.

Jerome David Salinger was born Jan. 1, 1919, in Manhattan. Like Holden, Salinger was an indifferent student with a history of trouble in various schools. He served in the Army from 1942 to 1946, carrying a typewriter with him, writing "whenever I can find the time and an unoccupied foxhole," he told a friend.

Holden first appeared in "Last Day of the Last Furlough," published in 1944 in the Saturday Evening Post. Salinger's stories ran in several magazines, especially The New Yorker, where excerpts from "Catcher" were published. The finished novel quickly became a bestseller.

The world had come calling, but Salinger was bolting the door. By 1952, he had migrated to Cornish. Three years later, he married Claire Douglas, with whom he had two children before their 1967 divorce.

Salinger became famous for not wanting to be famous. Against his will, the curtain was parted in recent years. In 1998, author Joyce Maynard published her memoir "At Home in the World," in which she detailed her eight-month affair with Salinger in the early 1970s. In 2000, daughter Margaret Salinger's "Dreamcatcher" portrayed the writer as an unpleasant recluse.

Matt Salinger disputed his sister's book when it came out and labeled it "gothic tales of our supposed childhood."

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