Author J.D. Salinger, who wrote the iconic "Catcher in the Rye," has died at age 91. The author's son, through Salinger's literary agent, said Salinger died at his home in New Hampshire of natural causes.
For several generations of American high school students, the "Catcher in the Rye" was a seminal coming-of-age work assigned in English class, and the tormented teenager Holden Caulfield became a synonym for alienated adolescence. The book was released in 1951 and has been a top seller ever since. It has sold 60 million copies worldwide.
A statement released by his literary agency today said "Salinger had remarked that he was in this world but not of it. His body is gone but the family hopes that he is still with those he loves, whether they are religious or historical figures, personal friends or fictional characters."
The Modern Library and its readers has named it one of the 100 Best Novels in the English Language in the 20th Century.
"I think there was something about his ability to reach the voice of American youth," said David Remnick, editor of New Yorker magazine in an interview with ABC News, "in particular, in post-war America and during the war.
"Before a paragraph is over you are in the mind of a certain kind of kid with certain kinds of problems in a certain country at a certain period of time, " said Remnick. "[His] books matter to people in a way that books don't always matter -- either then or now."
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Salinger, whose full name was Jerome David Salinger, also gained fame with follow-up novels such as "Franny and Zooey," "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters," "Seymour -- An Introduction," and a short story collection called "Nine Stories." His last published story, "Hapworth 16, 1928," ran in The New Yorker in 1965.
"Catcher in the Rye" was a story of an apathetic and rebellious teenager, who was thrown out of private boarding school, and his wanderings around Manhattan while decrying the phoniness of adults. Its themes strike a chord not only with teenagers but with adults as well.
The book's most notorious fan is probably Mark David Chapman who shot and killed John Lennon in 1980. After his arrest Chapman cited Salinger's book as inspiration, saying "this extraordinary book holds many answers."
Patricia Bostelman, a marketing executive at Barnes and Noble, says "Catcher in the Rye" is one of its top-selling titles. "There's obviously a tremendous student audience, but sales remain consistent throughout the year, which means all types of people buy and read this book," Bostelman said.
"It doesn't hurt that he's controversial, "says Bostelman. "He's one of the most frequently censored or banned authors out there."
While the mood of "Catcher" may seem outdated or mild by today's standards, Salinger's enduring appeal was demonstrated by the fact that the terms "Salinger" and "Holden Caufield" were among the most popular on Twitter today. Author, humorist and Apple pitchman under the Twitter name @hodgman writes "I prefer to think JD Salinger has just decided to become extra reclusive."
Others flocked to Facebook and other online social networks to mourn his passing or discuss his books.