PBS Post – “Six Degrees of Salinger”

On January 16, 2014, posted an article titled “Six Degrees of Salinger,” a play on the Six Degrees of Separation thing where you point out connections between people not commonly known.  They link Salinger to Judy Garland, Billie Jean King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, Ernest Hemingway, Sam Goldwyn, Harper Lee, John Lennon and James Baldwin. Some of the connections were true connections, others are just similarities, but it is a pretty good read and you can find it here: .


They also tell us that PBS will be airing Shane Salerno’s Salinger documentary tonight, January 21, 2014 from 9-11:30 PM. We’ll be setting the DVR to check out the documentary and we’ll certainly post about it soon.

Also coming soon is information about the new biography by Shields and Salerno, recently-released criticism and we’ll be adding to the Reader’s Guides and more.

Editor’s Note: We realize that MLA format has been updated yet again, so we will be doing our best to audit the site and get the correct MLA citations into previous posts as soon as possible. That being said, please double check your MLA format with your current handbook (should be MLA 9) rather than use ours. We’ll post as soon as it’s all fixed. Then they’ll probably update MLA format again.

A Source for Seymour’s Suicide: Rilke’s Voices and Salinger’s Nine Stories by James Finn Cotter

MLA Citation:

Cotter, James Finn.  “A Source for Seymour’s Suicide: Rilke’s Voices and Salinger’s Nine Stories“. Papers on Language and Literature: A Journal for Scholars and Critics of Language and Literature: 25.1 ( 1989 Winter), pp. 83-98.

First Paragraph:

J. D. Salinger’s short story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” employs the traditional device of a surprise ending. Seymour Glass returns to his Miami hotel room, glances at his wife asleep on her bed, takes from his luggage a heavy-caliber German automatic, sits down on his bed, looks again at Muriel, and fires a bullet through his head.


Cotter, after giving a laundry list of possible explanations for Seymour’s suicide, including theories as wide-ranging as sexual frustration to the fulfillment of nirvana, examines the influence of Rilke’s poetry. He starts with “Bananafish specifically, noting that several previous scholars have also pointed to the likelihood that the German poet Seymour refers to in “Bananafish” is Rilke. He compares “Bananafish” to “The Song of Suicide” noting parallels and suggesting connections that include a concentration on materialism, especially connected to the stomach and with “hunger”.  Cotter then expands his analysis to include the other Voices, which as he notes also contain nine items, (ten, with the addition of a title page) and their connections to Nine Stories.

Taking a Walk Through J. D. Salinger’s New York by James Barron

Seton Entrance - Edward Keating/The New York Times

Seton Entrance - Edward Keating/The New York Times

MLA Citation:

Barron, James. “Taking a Walk Through J. D. Salinger’s New York.” The New York Times. The New York Times Co., 28 Jan. 2010. Web. 14 Dec. 2010. <>.

First Paragraph:

Hey, listen. You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over?

There it is: the Holden Caulfield question. Sara Cedar Miller gets it all the time.

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Many thanks to the classmates, friends, colleagues and scholars who have helped make this site possible. Those who have contributed articles directly are listed below with a brief biography and a link to their website wherever possible. Please contact Angelica or lizaio if you need to be added or to append any information below.

Angelica Bega-Hart completed her M.A. in Literature at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she also completed her B.A. in English with a minor in Women’s Studies. In addition to her interest in Gender Studies, Angelica is interested in Chicano/a literature,  the sonnet, horror and the supernatural in literature, American drama, and literary geography (specifically of New York City). Besides Salinger, she counts Edwin Arlington Robinson, Sherwood Anderson, Edward Albee, Sandra Cisneros and Anton Chekhov among her favorite writers. She has presented papers at the University of Virginia and the University of Exeter (UK). Angelica intends to pursue a Ph.D. in the not-too-distant future. She is an adjunct professor of English and is at work on a number of projects including her personal website.

Nicholas Brownforthcoming

Kathy Gabriel forthcoming

Leslie Gleue is originally from Cocoa Beach Florida. She earned her  B.A. in English from the University of Richmond in 2007 and her M.A. in English Literature from VCU in 2010.

Elizabeth Downing  would have totally quit Yale at 19 years old to go live with J.D. Salinger.  Despite that shocking fact, she is an advertising professional, adjunct professor, fiction and non-fiction author and a lifetime student of literature. She obtained her BA and MA in English Literature from Virginia Commonwealth University, where her main focus was 20th Century American Literature, so in addition to J.D. Salinger her other studies were related to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Though she does like read books by women, and she will take the occasional trip into 16th century England to spend some time with another one of her favorite guys, her heart belongs to the “Boys Club” of the 1920’s – 1960’s. She is a Virginian by choice, having moved to Richmond in 1995 to start what would be a dramatically interrupted academic career that would end in 1999, resume in 2007, and be an all-consuming passion since.

Brian McTague was born in Baltimore, MD. He grew up in New Jersey, where he first read “The Catcher in the Rye” at the age of 14. Forgot about Mr. Salinger (not because he did not enjoy his writing–much to the contrary!) until arriving at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Fall of 2009, where he began his Master’s Degree in Literature with a course dedicated to the reclusive author. The course sparked quite a good deal of interest, enough that he is currently writing his master’s thesis on Salinger’s Seymour Glass stories, with an emphasis on the enigmatic “Hapworth 16, 1924.” Brian will not again forget about J.D. Salinger any time soon!

John Piersol teaches 11th and 12th grade English at the Appomattox Regional Governor’s school in Petersburg, VA.  He grew up in Richmond, received a B.A. in English from the University of Virginia, then went on to receive an M.A. in English and a Secondary English Teaching Certification from Virginia Commonwealth University.  He fell in love with Salinger’s work after reading The Catcher in the Rye for the first time in middle school, and Nine Stories is still his go-to volume when he wants a quick pick-me-up pleasure read.  “The Laughing Man” and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” are his favorite selections, and on certain days he feels that the latter is the most perfect short story he’s ever read.

Lee Spratley – forthcoming

Courtney Sviatko – forthcoming

Timothy Towsleeforthcoming

Brad McDuffie is an Instructor of English at Nyack College.  He recently published his first book of poems, And The West Was Not So Far Away.  He also published a chapbook of poems, Seven Hymns from the West, in the spring of 2010.  His work has been published in various journals including The South Carolina Review, Aethlon and North Dakota Quarterly.  His article, “For Ernest, With Love and Squalor: The Influence of Ernest Hemingway on the Life and Work of J. D. Salinger,” was excerpted by the Kansas City Star in July and will appear in the spring 2011 edition of The Hemingway Review.

The admins, Elizabeth (lizaio) and Angelica would also like to thank the following for their input:

  • Dr. A. Bryant Mangum for his patience, guidance and careful proofreading
  • Mr. John Glover at VCU’s James Branch Cabell Library for technical assitance and general guidance that helped us avoid a number of pitfalls

Brow Beat: From Gotham with Love and Squalor: J. D. Salinger’s New York by Judy Rosen

MLA Citation:

First Paragraph:

“I almost always write about very young people,” J.D. Salinger said in 1946, and today this giant of midcentury fiction is being remembered as a chronicler of his time and, especially, of a time of life. But he was also a poet of place. Nearly all of Salinger’s troubled, brilliant young people—Holden and Phoebe, Seymour and Buddy, Franny and Zooey—are Manhattanites, and their stories are distinctly New York stories, set against a backdrop of bustling avenues and classic sixes on either side of Central Park, and narrated in an ironic, neurotic, contrarian voice whose provenance is unmistakable.

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Lillian Ross on Salinger

The New Yorker recently published a slide show featuring pictures of J. D. Salinger with Erik Ross (son of Lillian Ross), and with his own children. The photos are beautiful and show Salinger in a way the public rarely, if ever, saw him.

Perhaps even better is Ross’s piece on the Salinger she knew in which she reveals his love of children, Hitchcok’s The 39 Steps, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ed. note: we do not own the rights to these photos, copyright and all other rights are the property of Lillian Ross, from whose personal collection the photographs were taken. Please visit the link above to view the photos. Enjoy!

Salinger in Central Park

Salinger in Central Park with Erik and Lillian Ross and with his children, Peggy and Matthew. Photo (c) The New Yorker, from the collection of Lillian Ross.

J.D. Salinger: The Fat Lady and the Chicken Sandwich by James E. Bryan

MLA Citation:

Bryan, James E. “J. D. Salinger: The Fat Lady and the Chicken Sandwich.” College English 23.3 (1961): 226-29. Print.

First Paragraph:

Critics have rightly complained that J.D. Salinger’s “Glass family chronicles” [citation omitted] lack the superb poetry and economy of his Nine Stories period. However the garrulity of Salinger’s recent narrators provides a not unwelcome annotation of symbolism and underlining of theme which can often serve as a reference to the interpretations of earlier stories.

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“Holden in the Museum” by John Seelye

MLA Citation:

Seelye, John. “Holden in the Museum.” Ed. Jack Salzman. New Essays on The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Cambridge UP, 2001. 23-33. Print.

First Paragraph:

Seelye’s essay starts with a quote from the novel:  “I was the only one left in the tomb then.  I sort of liked it, in a way.  It was so nice and peaceful.  Then, all of a sudden, you’d never guess what I saw on the wall.”

“I don’t think I was alone, as a college undergraduate in the early fifties, in regarding Holden Caulfield as a royal pain, an affront to my generation, which was prone to assume supine positions in the name of material well-being.  Most of my classmates were conformists eager to become Organization Men inventing Hidden Persuaders, and the grey flannel suit (with that touch of conformist flair, the tattersall vest) was our uniform of choice.  ours was the cause that James Dean’s Rebel was without, and James’s shadow figure, John Dean, was one of us.  Our greatest fear was not of losing our individuality to corporate America but of losing our lives in Korea.  Like Dan Quayle, we did our patriotic best by joining reverse units, hoping that the winds of war would pass by, leaving our private lives unruffled.  About the time that Jack Kerouac was making his westward journey that would become thinly fictionalized as On the Road, I spent two summers driving from Connecticut to California to take part in a naval reserve training program that would result in an ensign’s commission just in time for the end of hostilities in Korea.  It was not me that Salinger’s Catcher caught.”

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New Essays on The Catcher in the Rye

New Essays on Catcher in the Rye Edited by Jack Salzman

MLA Citation:

Salzman, Jack. New Essays on The Catcher in the Rye. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. Print.

First Paragraph:

“In 1959, eight years after the publication of The Catcher in the Rye, Arthur Mizener began a Harper’s magazine essay about J. D. Salinger by noting that he was ‘probably the most avidly read author of any serious pretensions of his generation.’  There were good reasons why this should be the case, Mizener commented.  Whatever limitations the work might have had – either of technique or of subject matter – within these limitations it was ‘the most interesting fiction that has come along for some time.’  Although, as we will see, there was little critical agreement about what the limitations of The Catcher in the Rye may have been, there was little disagreement with Mizener’s contention that Salinger was the most avidly read ‘serious’ writer of his generation.  Soon after Nine Stories appeared in April 1953, it made the New York Times best-seller list.  By 1961 sales of Catcher were reported to have reached one and half million copies in the United States alone.” (from The Introduction)

Table of Contents:

Series Editor’s Preface

This book is part of The American Novel Series

Introduction by Jack Salzman


John Seelye:  Holden in the Museum
Michael Cowan:  Holden’s Museum Pieces:  Narrator and Nominal Audience in The Catcher in the Rye
Christopher Brookeman:  Pencey Preppy:  Cultural Codes in The Catcher in the Rye
Joyce Rowe:  Holden Caulfield and American Protest
Peter Shaw:  Love and Death in The Catcher in the Rye

Notes on Contributors

Selected Bibliography

“Love and Death in ‘The Catcher in the Rye'” by Peter Shaw

MLA Citation:

Shaw, Peter. “Love and Death in The Catcher in the Rye.” Ed. Jack Salzman. New Essays on The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Cambridge UP, 2001. 97-114. Print.

The full article is available here. *Please note we are working to contact the author to make sure that this linkage is acceptable, and it will be removed at the author’s request.

First Paragraph:

“By the time The Catcher in the Rye appeared in 1951, the theme of the sensitive youth beleaguered by society was well established in the American novel.  Reviewing Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms in 1948, Diana Trilling complained about the tendency of contemporary novelists to employ a ‘deterministic principle’ in which the youth was repeatedly presented as a ‘passive victim.’  Also well established by 1951 was the link between neurosis, self-destructive behavior, and social maladaptation on the one hand, and artistic sensibility and special insight on the other.  Not surprisingly, Holden Caulfield was regarded as yet another fictional example of the sensitive, outcast character vouchsafed a superior insight by a touch of mental disturbance.”

Next paragraph for clarification purposes:

“Holden’s disturbance was taken to be both his unique, personal gift and the fault of a hypocritical, uncaring society, one particularly indifferent to its more sensitive souls.  Holden’s insight into the adult world’s hypocrisies, moreover, appeared to derive precisely from his being its casualty.  Given the deplorable world in which he lived, if by the end of his adventures Holden seemed ready to effect some kind of accommodation with society, this struck readers as inevitable, if regrettable.

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J. D. Salinger