Born in the year 1919, Jerome David Salinger lived an unconventional life. Born to a successful businessman, Sol Salinger, he always felt the weight of needing to excel in whatever he did. Initially, he succumbed to the pressure and even flunked out of High School. But soon he found his calling and through his passion and perseverance, became a benchmark for not only his contemporaries but also for authors for decades to come!
An introduction to writing -
After faring miserably in High School, ‘Sonny’ was shipped off to the Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania. He worked hard and graduated from the Academy, before returning to his home city of New York. Through his college years, Salinger was a fanatic when it came to learning new languages. He often visited countries to learn new languages and lived with the locals to understand their usage and nuances. No sooner did he come back home, than his next adventure was in place. He went to Germany, in an effort to understand its people, its culture and most importantly, its language. When Salinger came back to New York, from Germany, he was determined. He joined Columbia University and soon started a whole new chapter of his life through his encounter with his language professor, Whit Burnett.
Growth and Guidance -
Apart from being Salinger’s language professor, Whit Burnett was also the editor of The Story Magazine, an influential publication of the time that showcased an array of short stories. During the course of their journey at the university, Burnet realised Salinger’s potential as a writer and pushed him to create stories for his magazine. Salinger’s work had soon started appearing in The Story, and as a result, in other big-name publications as well - such as the Collier’s & The Saturday Evening Post. Thus his career in freelance began!
Interruptions in career -
Just as had settled in as a successful freelance writer, his career was interrupted by World War II. Salinger served in the army for over two years, however, through all that, the wheels of this writer’s imagination kept turning. He found his inspiration while he was on the battlefield and decided to write about a character who was a deeply unsatisfied young man named Holden Caulfield. This is what sowed the seed for a novel that would change the world of Literature. It was about a teenage protagonist and his rebellion against narrow, prejudiced society mind-sets, full of judgement and stereotypes.
Out of the War and Towards Success -
The pressures and trauma of war didn’t sit very well with Salinger. He suffered a nervous breakdown on his return and was hospitalised for further treatment. But as always, he jumped back into action and in 1946 he quickly resumed his life as a writer, soon finding himself published in his favourite magazine, The New Yorker!
Simultaneously, he continued to work on his novel, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. In 1951, the book was finally published. Salinger earned his share of positive reviews but also a barrage of negative ones from the unkind critics. But despite its fair share of harsh critics, the book achieved unprecedented success and went on to become an integral part of the literature curriculum of schools across the world.
It has sold over 65 million copies till today and has inspired authors, even beyond boundaries of language and country!
Through his life, Salinger did not let his setbacks define him and label him a failure for eternity. He worked hard towards building the good life he envisioned for himself, and made sure he achieved it. He used Freelancing as a stepping stone to realizing his dream of becoming an author, only going to show that every great success story starts with a dream and a will to achieve it!
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