J.D. Salinger, America’s most iconic and elusive author of all time was misunderstood.
He is most famous for his one and only best-selling novel "Catcher in the Rye." He started writing it while serving in combat during World War II. After returning home, he had difficulty finishing it, but finally got the book published in 1951.
Many people who labeled him a "recluse", "crazy," or "eccentric" never really understood or appreciated the causation of his reportedly questionable behavior. Many are even unaware of his service in the U.S. Army.
This is what The New York Times said in his Jan. 28, 2010 obituary: "J.D. Salinger who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died on Wednesday at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91."
The background of his service and resultant, likely Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was glossed over and never put in context or perspective: “Mr. Salinger had been drafted. He served with the Counter-Intelligence Corps of the Fourth Infantry Division, whose job was to interview Nazi deserters and sympathizers, and was stationed for a while in Tiverton, Devon, the setting of “For Esmé — with Love and Squalor,” probably the most deeply felt of the “Nine Stories.” On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), he landed at Utah Beach, and he later saw action during the Battle of the Bulge.
In 1945 he was hospitalized for “battle fatigue” — often a euphemism for a breakdown. Following recovery, he stayed on in Europe past the end of the war, chasing Nazi functionaries.
It's possible he never "recovered." When he returned to the U.S. he was reportedly haunted by his probable disability. Yet he was offered no meaningful help from the military, suffering in silence, while desperately seeking remedies and outlets for his purported symptoms. There is no doubt that his probable PTSD may well have had a profound impact on his writing. He never published another novel after “Catcher in the Rye,” but did publish two short story volumes.
It was easy at that time to affix labels on someone, dismissing him or her, rather than taking the time to know them, and realizing there is more to a story than what appearances suggest.
I would have never have known the true J.D. Salinger but for a powerful, compelling and wonderful film soon to be released, “Rebel in the Rye,” written and directed by Danny Strong.
“Rebel in the Rye,” tells the true story of an iconic American author who may well have suffered from PTSD and how it affected his personal and professional life. It shows the struggle to survive and how debilitating this wartime affliction can be if not properly treated — and understood.
The message of “Rebel in the Rye” is one resonating today. PTSD is a debilitating condition. It saps the life and creativity of those suffering from it.
In the 1940’s it was seen as "fatigue" of war and dismissed. Today we recognize its seriousness, and thus attend to those affected with respect, understanding, and treatment.
I came away from the screening of “Rebel in the Rye” wondering what might have been had Mr. Salinger received the proper medical attention for his purported condition. To think of the loss to Mr. Salinger personally and to the world — the denial of his complete talents and abilities is a shame.
I urge all to view "Rebel in the Rye," seeing it as a "think film." Meaning, it makes you think during it, and following it. It opens your eyes to better understand the sacrifices of service as well as the need to care for our veterans.
Because of his likely PTSD, Mr. Salinger was prevented from reaching the fullest potential of his amazing talents. That must never be allowed to happen to any veteran today.
Bradley Blakeman was a member of President George W. Bush's senior White House staff from 2001 to 2004. He is also a frequent contributor to Fox News and Fox Business Channel. He currently is a Principal with the 1600group.com a consulting company. — Click Here Now.
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