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Although The Catcher in the Rye caused considerable controversy when it was first published in 1951, the book-the account of three disoriented days in the life of a troubled sixteen-year-old boy-was an instant hit. Within two weeks after its release, it was listed number one on The New York Times best-seller list, and it stayed there for thirty weeks. It remained immensely popular for many years, especially among teenagers and young adults, largely because of its fresh, brash style and anti-establishment attitudes-typical attributes of many people emerging from the physical and psychological turmoil of adolescence. It also was the bane of many parents, who objected to the main character's obscene language, erratic behavior, and antisocial attitudes. Responding to the irate protests, numerous school and public libraries and bookstores removed the book from their shelves. Holden simply was not a good role model for the youth of the 1950s, in the view of many conservative adults.
Said J. D. Salinger himself, in a rare published comment, 'I'm aware that many of my friends will be saddened and shocked, or shock-saddened, over some of the chapters in The Catcher in the Rye. Some of my best friends are children. In fact, all my best friends are children.
It's almost unbearable for me to realize that my book will be kept on a shelf out of their reach.' The clamor over the book undoubtedly contributed to its popularity among the young: It became the forbidden fruit in the garden of literature. For some reason-perhaps because of the swirling controversies over his written works-Salinger retreated from the New York literary scene in the 1960s to a bucolic New Hampshire community called Cornish, where he has lived a very private life and avidly avoided the press. Despite the fact that he has granted few interviews, there is a substantial body of critical and biographical works about Salinger and his all-too-brief list of literary creations.
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