Jan 28, 2010 -- 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."
"Catcher in the Rye" Author J.D. Salinger Dies
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.
Considered one of the best writers of the 20th century, Salinger stopped having his worked published and became a famous recluse who lived in a small, remote house in Cornish, N.H., refused to accept fan mail, and fought legal battles to keep his works, and sequels, from being published.
One of Salinger's lawsuits made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor and refused to allow publication of an unauthorized biography by Ian Hamilton, which quoted from the author's unpublished letters. Salinger had copyrighted his letters.
In 2009, Salinger sued to halt publication of John David California's "60 Years Later," an unauthorized sequel to "Catcher" that imagined Holden in his 70s, misanthropic as ever.
Salinger reportedly kept 15 finished unpublished manuscripts locked up in a safe. During his lifetime, Salinger turned down offers to put his books on film or on stage by such luminaries Billy Wilder, Elia Kazan, Steven Spielberg and Harvey Weinstein.
The author's wall of secrecy was pierced in 1998 when his former lover, Joyce Maynard, published "At Home in the World," her account of their 10-month affair in the 1970s, when she was a young woman and he was in middle age. She described him as an eccentric, controlling personality. To what must have been Salinger's horror, she also described their sex life.
In 2000, Salinger's daughter Margaret Salinger wrote a scathing book entitled "Dreamcatcher" about her father.
The sale of Salinger's books were expected to accelerate with the announcement of his death.
"J.D. Salinger was one of the great figures of postwar American literature, and we do expect there will be a lot of customer interest in Salinger's books, as there were in John Updike's books, especially his Rabbit series, after his death a year ago," said Tom Nissley, senior editor at Amazon.com books.
"We expect people will also be turning to his lesser-known, but still beloved, books like 'Nine Stories' and 'Franny and Zooey' as well, once the news spreads," Nissley said.
Bob Contant, co-owner of St. Marks Bookshop in Manhattan, also expected a surge in Salinger sales.
"He's such an icon. We have always sold him exceedingly well," Contant said. "Every high school kid has to read J.D. Salinger. So many kids have to read him."
Conor Moran, a manager at the popular bookstore Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., marveled at Salinger's continuing popularity.
"We're still putting it into people's hands 60 years later," Moran told ABC News. "[He] still resonates with readers from all walks of life, people who read it for the first time in the 1950's and high school students reading it for class…[We] continue selling it and creating more and more fans out of the few works that he had for us."
Hanna Siegel, Bradley Blackburn and the Associated Press contributed to this report.