I have heard a couple people remark upon this event today and felt that since I posted about Studs Terkel and David Foster Wallace upon their passing, it would be appropriate to say a few words.
Just two nights ago I was at my friend's apartment and saw his copy of The Catcher in the Rye. This friend has said that he does not like to read that much, but he did enjoy this volume. I made the proposition that we enjoyed this book so much because we both went to prep school and no other book could so perfectly encapsulate the experience. I've read it at least five times, though not in the last few years.
Of course, I have commented at length upon Franny and Zooey http://flyinghouses.blogspot.com/2009/09/franny-and-zooey-jd-salinger.html
Nine Stories is also a masterpiece, as is Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction. Hapworth 16, 1924 is not a masterpiece and perhaps Salinger knew best what to publish in book form. This may cast doubt upon his unpublished work. I remember a friend, some eight or nine years ago now, mention how her high school class Religion class read Franny and Zooey, and how she had become fascinated with Salinger's oeuvre, and how there was a whole slew of things in his vault that would be published after his death. Unlike Nabokov's recent The Original of Laura, reviewed here http://flyinghouses.blogspot.com/2010/01/original-of-laura-vladimir-nabokov.html, Salinger may have more work in his vault because he lived for so long and never published for so long.
It is a sad day, but not an entirely surprising one. He lived a very long time, and must have lived one of the most interesting American lives of the past century, the extraordinarily popular artist who retired from public life at the height of his talents. He has left behind a handful of classics and will be remembered as one of the finest writers this country has ever produced.