Franny and Zooey: Biography
Jerome David Salinger was born in Manhattan, New York City, on New Year’s Day, 1919. His mother Marie was Irish and German, and his father Sol was Jewish and sold kosher cheese. He had an older sister, Doris. Salinger attended public schools in Manhattan, but as the family became more prosperous and moved to Park Avenue in 1932, he went to a private school, McBurney, where he wrote for the school newspaper and acted in plays. When he was kicked out for poor grades, he was sent to Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania. This is where he began writing stories secretly at night. He began New York University but dropped out and went to work for a company in Vienna, Austria, to learn the meat importing business.
In 1939, Salinger attended a night class in writing taught by Whit Burnett, an editor of Story Magazine. Burnett became Salinger’s mentor and published his first story in 1940. Salinger was drafted into the Army in 1942 where he saw combat in the D-Day Invasion of Normandy and at the Battle of the Bulge. He was deeply affected by his World War II experience and was hospitalized for war stress. His experience as the traumatized soldier appears in the short story, “For EsmÈ with Love and Squalor,” and in the stories of Seymour Glass who never made an adjustment when he returned home from the war. Salinger had an eight-month marriage to a German woman, Sylvia Welter, in 1946. He began practicing Zen Buddhist meditation in the 1940s and published stories in magazines. His first story about Seymour Glass for the New Yorker in 1948, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” was his big breakthrough. His next hit was a novel, The Catcher in the Rye (1951), a controversial best-seller rejecting the Establishment.
In 1952, Salinger became an adherent of Ramakrishna, studying his form of Vedanta philosophy, expressed in his stories of “Teddy” and “Hapworth 16, 1924.” In 1953, Salinger published his collected New Yorker stories as Nine Stories, containing some of his best work. The same year he moved from New York to Cornish, New Hampshire, for more privacy. In 1955, Salinger married Claire Douglas, and they began a Kriya Yoga practice in their secluded home. They had two children.
“Franny” and “Zooey,” two New Yorker short stories, were published as one book in 1961, followed by two novellas, Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters, and Seymour: an Introduction, published together in 1963. Salinger wrote only one more story, “Hapworth 16, 1924” in 1965 and then became a recluse, refusing to publish or grant interviews, though apparently he continued to write for himself at home. He married his third wife, Colleen O’Neill, in 1988. Salinger died of natural causes at the age of 91 on January 27, 2010. Although he did not publish much and stopped publishing in 1965, he is considered an important American author.