Even as one of the most famous writers of the 20th century, J.D. Salinger spent most of his life as a recluse. By the time he passed away in 2010, he had already stopped publishing. However, a new biography by David Shields and Shane Salerno revealed that he might have secretly written five novels, including a sequel to his most celebrated work, Catcher in the Rye. While these novels are certainly a treasure trove, this news poses an interesting question: How relevant is Salinger in today’s world? The answer to this question is “not very,” at least in regards to the type of people Salinger was writing about.
Salinger was certainly a sensational writer of his era, but, today many youths would have a hard time recognizing his name. The off-chance that they are familiar with his legacy is probably due to forced summer reading assignments or recommendations from a website’s laundry list of good books. While this argument can be made with basically all writers of the past, Salinger’s case is particularly notable because of the content of his works. Works like Catcher in the Rye and the short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” were probably intended for an adult audience, yet his fresh writing style and exploration of raw human emotions are all characteristics that would appeal to young adults. Essentially, Holden Caulfield is the American teenager in every aspect: self-conscious, awkward, and naïve. Therefore, while many authors are being neglected by today’s youth, the disregard of Salinger is especially devastating because young people would identify with his works if they just read them.
Let’s face it: Today’s teenager is more likely to be excited about a new video game announcement than the release of five new Salinger novels. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the majority of people rejoicing in this news are older than Holden Caulfield was when Salinger first created his most famous character. J.D. Salinger is not relevant today, at least not in the way he used to be, and for many of the people that should be reading his works, news like this is just another headline. For those of you who have been touched by Salinger's work in the past, let this all sink in: five new novels from the mind that penned one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.
This is big.
And even though this news is all “alleged”, and even though Salinger probably would have despised all this attention (and the unauthorized biography which revealed this news), I am on cloud nine right now. And to all the other people on the same cloud, when these alleged novels are published in 2015, let’s make sure that they beat out whatever shade of grey is topping the bestseller lists that year.