No other published book has used the word “phony” as many times as The Catcher In The Rye. A novel by Jerome David Salinger about an adolescent boy’s contempt for humanity, it has been linked to assassins Mark David Chapman (he shot John Lennon), John Hinckley Jr (he attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan) and Lee Harvey Oswald (the sniper who shot J.F Kennedy). Considered one of the best-written, best-selling and most controversial books to be published in the 20th century, it was once found on the bookshelf of every teenager.

Its author, the acclaimed and highly influential Salinger, was an enigma who later became a recluse. After his death, a documentary was filmed to shed light on his troubled life. Released in the United States in 2013, it will be screened for the first time here in Singapore on July 19.

Directed by Shane Salerno, it features interviews with some 150 subjects, including actors Edward Norton and Martin Sheen, and writers Gore Vidal and Tom Wolfe.

Here are 5 things you might not know about J.D. Salinger.

1. He didn’t just write The Catcher In The Rye 

Source: The Weinstein Company

A one-hit wonder? Source: The Weinstein Company

Salinger’s name is most closely associated with The Catcher In The Rye, the story of the rebellious Holden Caufield that has become synonymous with teenage angst.
But he also wrote Nine Stories, a collection of short stories that includes the well-received Bananafish. And in 2014, Salinger’s Three Early Stories was published following the revelation that Salinger had written 21 short stories before Catcher that never saw print.
The revelation came via – you guessed it – the documentary Salinger. Five more unpublished Salinger works are also expected in the next five years.
2. He dated Oona O’Neill

Oona O’Neill, who married Charlie Chaplin. Source:

At the age of 22, Salinger began a romance with Oona O’Neill, 16, daughter of the acclaimed playwright Eugene O’Neill.
“Oona had a mysterious quality to her,” says Gloria Murray, daughter of Salinger’s friend. “She was quiet, but she was stunning in her beauty. You just couldn’t take your eyes off her.
But the relationship didn’t work out. Aged 18, she eventually married a certain actor/director named Charlie Chaplin, who was 55 at the time.
3. He served in World War II

Salinger saw extensive combat in WWII. Source:

Salinger was present at the beaches of Normandy on Jun 6, 1944: D-Day. As an intelligence officer fluent in French and German, he was tasked with interrogating POWs and identifying Nazi collaborators among the French.
Salinger also fought in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, which saw 61,000 casualties. And later, in one of his most important formative experiences, his unit helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp. He was later to tell his daughter: “You could live a lifetime, and never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose.”
4. He was friends with Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway was also a combat veteran. Source:

It seems birds of a feather really do flock together. Salinger and Hemingway first met at a hotel in 1944, after the liberation of Paris, and seem to have hit it off immediately.

They had much in common: Both fought in World Wars, their works were deeply influenced by their combat experiences and both were critically acclaimed writers.
5. Salinger turned down all interviews after a high school newsletter published an interview with him
Source: The Weinstein Company

Fame did not agree with Salinger. Source: The Weinstein Company

Today, Catcher In The Rye often appears on lists of the best novels of the 20th century. But though it made him famous, Salinger didn’t like the attention – not one bit.
He refused to do any publicity for the book, and insisted that his photograph be taken off the back cover. Salinger didn’t even want the book to be sent to reviewers.
The final straw came when an interview he did with students from a nearby high school appeared in a local newspaper. When the interview was sold on to a bigger publication, Salinger was livid.
Salinger gave his last interview in 1980.
GV Blogaloud for Salinger
Are you intrigued by J.D Salinger? Professor Kevin Riordan, who teaches English at Nanyang Technological University, and Lim Yan Sin, a graduate student who has written a thesis on the eccentric American author, will be happy to have you tap their brains after the movie.
Understanding Salinger: Discussion with Professor Riordan and Yansin
Sunday, July 19, 1.30pm (screening), 3.35pm (discussion)
GV Plaza
Get tickets here.