J.D. SalingerA harbinger of things to come in the 1960s, J.D. Salinger has portrayed attempts to drop out of society. Born in New York City, he achieved huge literary success with the publication of his novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951), centered on a sensitive 16-year-old, Holden Caulfield, who flees his elite boarding school for the outside world of adulthood, only to become disillusioned by its materialism and phoniness.
When asked what he would like to be, Caulfield answers "the catcher in the rye," misquoting a poem by Robert Burns. In his vision, he is a modern version of a white knight, the sole preserver of innocence. He imagines a big field of rye so tall that a group of young children cannot see where they are running as they play their games. He is the only big person there. "I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff." The fall over the cliff is equated with the loss of childhood and (especially sexual) innocence -- a persistent theme of the era. Other works by this reclusive, spare writer include Nine Stories (1953), Franny and Zooey (1961), and Raise High the Roof-Beam, Carpenters (1963), a collection of stories from The New Yorker. Since the appearance of one story in 1965, Salinger -- who lives in New Hampshire -- has been absent from the American literary scene.