AUDIE CORNISH, host:
In the novel "The Catcher in the Rye," author J.D. Salinger's protagonist says, what really knocks me out is a book that when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.
But you couldn't do that with Salinger himself. He was a famous recluse and a pillar of American fiction who detested the attention that came with literary fame. He probably would've hated the flowery obituaries that followed his death at the age of 91 this week in Cornish, New Hampshire.
In our celebrity-soaked culture, where people dream of fame for the sake of fame alone, J.D. Salinger was the anti-celebrity. He walked away from autograph seekers, he had his fan mail burned, he took refuge from the phonies he wrote about.
He lived on the other side of the world from Brangelina and from Octomom. While celebrity wannabes aspire to barge onto center stage through the gates of the White House, Salinger wanted nothing more than to slip out the back door.
Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" hero, Holden Caulfield, made a deep impression on me. I was flunking out of my junior year high school English class. He was flunking out of prep school. And boy, did I relate to his too smart for his own good attitude when I was 16.
And I admired the way Salinger was unapologetic about his decision to no longer have his work published. In one of the rare moments he did speak to the press back in 1974, he told a New York Times reporter, quote, "I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure."
I don't expect to hear anything like that from anyone in my generation today. We spill our private lives across the Internet in blogs, Twitter and Facebook. And we expect our favorite actors and writers to do the same. We throw the door open wide, while Salinger wanted to just pull it more tightly shut.
This week, Salinger's literary agent issued a statement saying that in keeping with his lifelong, uncompromising desire to protect and defend his privacy, there will be no service.
At last, Jerome David Salinger, you've found the privacy that you wanted in life.
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