<i>Catcher In The Rye</i>'s Low-Profile 50th

JD salinger
This year marks the 50th anniversary of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. But don't expect to hear that from his publisher.

A paperback edition just released makes no reference to the anniversary. There will be no official readings, no panel discussions, not even a press release. You will be lucky to get Little, Brown and Co., a division of AOL Time Warner Inc., even to mention it.

The obvious, unstated reason is Salinger himself. He cannot bear to have others talk about him.

"No comment," said Terry Adams, vice president and director of trade paperbacks for Little, Brown, when asked why there would be no publicity.

Adams has good reason to be careful. Not only is the 82-year-old author famous for avoiding the press, he has a history of stopping others from discussing him:

In 1982, Salinger sued a man who allegedly tried to sell a fictitious interview with the author to a magazine. The man agreed to desist.

Five years later, another Salinger legal action resulted in an important decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court refused to allow publication of Ian Hamilton's unauthorized biography of Salinger that quoted from the author's unpublished letters. Salinger had copyrighted them when he learned what the book was to include.

In 1991, Brandeis University announced Salinger had been selected for one of nine arts awards it was giving out. But then Brandeis withdrew the award, saying Salinger thought it focused unwanted attention on him and might lead people to think he would show up for the ceremony.

In 1996, his agents pursued the author of a Web site devoted to Salinger, and it was taken down.

"I have no comment," his agent, Phyllis Westberg, said Thursday when asked how, or whether, Salinger would want the anniversary of Catcher to be observed. "I don't answer questions about him."

Stores, however, will not ignore the occasion. Barnes & Noble will give the book prominent display. Spokeswoman Debra Williams said the promotion was conceived without any involvement from Little, Brown.

Catcher, of course, doesn't need the publicity. It continues to sell hundreds of thousands of copies and has been taught and translated all over the world. Countless Web sites are devoted to Salinger. It would be hard finding an American author under 50 who doesn't have something to say about "Catcher."

"It had a huge impact, yes," said Rick Moody, 39, author of the novel Ice Storm. "I didn't really realize that the plot could be so loose and lifelike and that the voice could be so genuine...In ninth or 10th grade, he swept through my peer group like a virus."

Salinger was known as an author of short stories when he came out with Catcher in 1951. The novel predates rock 'n' roll and the whole '60s revolution, but narrator Holden Caufield remains synonymous with teen-age alienation, so much so that Catcher ranks high among books aduls want removed from libraries.

In 1980, it would turn up in the most tragic of circumstances: Mark David Chapman was carrying the book when he shot John Lennon.

"My wish is for all of you to someday read The Catcher in the Rye," Chapman later wrote in a letter to a newspaper. "All of my efforts will now be devoted toward this goal, for this extraordinary book holds many answers."

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