For years, the literary community believed that JD Salinger was fully committed to his status as a recluse. However, journalists at The Record recently uncovered a decades-old interview that the publication held with the now-deceased author. The following is that transcript from 1981.


Q: JD, it’s really an honor having you here. Thank you so much for agreeing to talk to us here at The Yale Record. 

A: It’s a pleasure to be here! I love meeting new people. And I have a bit of a soft spot for Yale. A few years back I was secretly visiting this hot young thing named Joyce on campus twice a week. Some lovely buildings. Tell me, is Calhoun still as beautiful as ever?

Q: Sure is. Anyway, JD, let’s get down to business, shall we? What was the inspiration for Catcher in the Rye?

A: Well in high school, I was sort of an anti-Holden. Star of the basketball team, girls and guys both flinging themselves at me romantically, the life of the party. People loved me and I loved them. But this one kid, his name was Mark, he sucked. Just a real loser, no direction in life, and he and I never got along. One time, he beat me in ping pong, and that was the last straw. I wrote down everything I could think of to make him seem like a loser in my diary. A few years after college, I found my old journals, changed some names, and I had myself a story.

Q: Very interesting. You mentioned that you were quite the social butterfly in high school. And I’ve heard rumors that, despite your public persona, you remain so to this day. Why do you think you’re so misunderstood, JD? 

A: I don’t know. But I’ve always loved the spotlight. You know, I starred in Seussical the Musical Junior in the sixth grade. So I’m not sure why people view me as a recluse.

Q: Fascinating. What role did you play?

A: With respect, I’d like to keep my private life private.

Q: I’m sorry, that’s very understandable. How about this one, then? Some people have speculated that you chose to use the name Holden Caulfield as a way of sneaking in a little wordplay about preserving innocence. Any truth to that?

A: No, but it’s even crazier. One time, I was talking with my ma and I saw a man in a field holding some cauliflower. I turned to her and meant to say, “Look at the man in the field holding cauliflower,” but misspoke and said, “look at the man in the iflower holdin’ caulfield.” I liked how it sounded, and the rest is history.

Q: You’re a busy man, and I don’t want to take too much of your time. Final question. Last year, John Lennon, a close friend of yours, I believe, was murdered by a man who considered your book his only statement. How do you feel about that?

A: John was a dear friend of mine. Back in our heyday, we spent hours smoking doobies together. He always knew where to get the good stuff. On a personal level, it was tragic to lose a good dealer so young. But on a professional level, it was such a rush to be talked about again—I was seeing my book everywhere! Heck, if you’re a fan and you’ve set your sights on Ringo Starr, don’t stop on my account. 

Q: Mr. Salinger, thanks so much for speaking with me today. 

A: My pleasure. Make sure to swing by my place on Saturday. I’m hosting a little shindig. Everyone who’s anyone will be there.

—A. Cramer