Last Rights for JD Salinger: Genius or Just Average?

"Max Brod made the right decision" said Jonathan Franzen, who won the National Book Award for his 2001 novel "The Corrections. "Kafka changed my life. Obviously it was good to disobey."

The fact that Salinger's manuscripts were left intact suggests he intended the to be ultimately published, though Franzen concedes the reclusive author might have been holding on to them for personal reasons. "It's hard to throw away the things you have worked on…to strike the match," he said.

And while Salinger's posthumous writing could "surprise us" and be his best work, often artists who "sequester" themselves from the world don't produce their "most vital" work, Franzen said.

Authors like Salinger have a "curious yin and yang connection between hunger for fame and the need to reject that fame. I think it's pretty clear he made himself a victim of that fame," said Franzen.

"At least when Salinger was younger, there was a feeling that he was such a pure soul and couldn't live in the world. I don't think he was such a pure soul -- a sad story about fame in America and you have to be careful what you wish for. The story is about somebody who had trouble being an adult in the world."

Holden Caulfield Still Resonates With Teens

Boarding school teacher Patrick Clements agrees that Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" has "more significance than merit," but he said the book still works with teens.

"When it first came out and was cutting edge, but it's a different world now," said Clements, 56, who has taught English at New Jersey's Peddie School for 28 years.

"It's not the same electric book it was before, because the shocking parts don't ring the same way," he said. "But it's the underneath part that resonates now, the desire of a brother to protect a sister."

Even at Valley Forge Military Academy, 17-year-olds like Justin Capek confess that Salinger "helped me understand who I am and the importance of being one's self."

"I found that, deeply rooted under the fiction, I was being introduced to the reflection of J.D. Salinger's own philosophies that were established within the tales of Pencey Prep and all of Holden Caulfield's antisocial escapades," said 12th grader Matthew Salinger, who is not related to the author.

"Ultimately, Holden taught me more about myself than I was previously aware of, and I was not alone."

But Roger Lathbury, whose Orchises Press came close to publishing Salinger's "Hapworth 16, 1924" before the author killed the deal in 1997, said Caulfield as a character was "largely dead for Salinger" by the mid-1950s and would likely not be resurrected.

"I never asked and he never told me, but I suspect we will see more of the Glass family than Holden," said Lathbury, 64 and a professor at George Mason University.

Lathbury hopes Salinger might might have "an audience of disinterested readers of his words -- the kind who 'read and run' that he lacked in life," as publishers attempt to shape the "unformed and unpolished" manuscripts."

"I am not wholly sure that art belongs to the artist," said Lathbury, who had a long relationship with the author.

"Sooner or later, you will see the complete published work -- the four published books and all the early stories, one or two of which will be very good, and two embarrassingly bad. It will all be put all together sooner or later in the Library of America volumes."

As for the post-mortem obsession with Salinger, Lathbury said of his old friend, "I am afraid he might have hated it. I think he would have disliked this all intensely. He would not have been happy about it."

ABC News' information specialist Nicholas Tucker contributed to this report.

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