Salinger’s Soul: His Per­son­al & Reli­gious Odyssey

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2023

Though much has been writ­ten about J.D. Salinger over the years, less has been said about his per­son­al and reli­gious life. This book focus­es on his youth in New York, his trau­mat­ic expe­ri­ence dur­ing World War Two, his reli­gious embrace of mys­ti­cal Hin­duism, his obses­sion with young women — and how all of this shaped his fic­tion. 

Born to a Jew­ish father and a Chris­t­ian moth­er who pre­tend­ed to be Jew­ish, Salinger had his Bar Mitz­vah at Tem­ple Emanu-El in New York, where his father wor­shipped on major Jew­ish hol­i­days. 

Soon after, Salinger and his old­er sis­ter found out their moth­er was not Jew­ish — and he had lit­tle to do with Judaism there­after — in his life or his fic­tion. Instead, Salinger exper­i­ment­ed with East­ern reli­gions, such as Zen Bud­dhism, even­tu­al­ly set­tling on Vedan­ta, a mys­ti­cal form of Hin­duism. Vedan­ta influ­enced his post Catch­er fic­tion, from Nine Sto­ries to Fran­ny and Zooey. Unlike his con­tem­po­raries, Saul Bel­low, Bernard Mala­mud, and Philip Roth, Salinger was nev­er known as a Jew­ish writer,” but he cer­tain­ly became a reli­gious writer.

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