'Oh no!' – JD Salinger turns away journalist from his home

Reporter doorstepping famously reclusive Catcher in the Rye author asked to leave

JD Salinger in 1951

No comment: JD Salinger, as he looked in 1951. Photograph: AP

JD Salinger still isn't talking. The famously reclusive author wasn't persuaded to break his silence by a reporter from the Spectator, who made it as far as Salinger's doorstep in Cornish, New Hampshire before being turned away.

The journalist, Tom Leonard, said he heard the author shout "something that sounds like 'Oh, no!'" when told by his wife who was ringing his doorbell, and then saw "a tall but stooped figure in a blue tanktop" sidle "crab-like" out of his kitchen without meeting his eyes. It's hardly surprising: Salinger withdrew from public life in the 1950s, overwhelmed by the success of The Catcher in the Rye, and hasn't spoken to the media since, apart from a brief conversation with a New York Times reporter in 1974 when he said there was "a marvellous peace in not publishing … I'm known as a strange, aloof kind of man. But all I'm trying to do is protect myself and my work."

No new fiction has appeared from Salinger since the novella Hapworth 16, 1924 was published in 1965; although he is thought to have stacks of manuscripts in his New Hampshire home, his published works amount to short stories, including the 1961 novella Franny and Zooey, and 1953's Nine Stories as well as his single iconic novel. "I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure," he said in 1974.

Undaunted, the Spectator's man set off to interview Salinger's neighbours, who supplied a range of not-very-revealing anecdotes: one had seen the 90-year-old in the supermarket the day before, "leaning heavily on a trolley", and recalled an exchange with him in the 1990s when he was irritated with her for dropping a loaf of bread at his feet. Another provided the invaluable titbit that he enjoys spinach and mushroom wraps when eating in a local café, while a third is unlikely to shock the world with the revelation that Salinger is "not one for chitchat".

Salinger's wife, "an attractive woman with perfect teeth and a blonde bob", sent Leonard on his way. "I'm so sorry you've come so far but, as you will know, my husband is someone who values his privacy," she said. "I must ask you to leave now."

Other journalists have fared much the same when faced with Salinger's desire for privacy. Novelist and former New York Post reporter Charlie Carillo recalled in January a trip to the author's house he made in 1986. "I parked the car beside a barn-like garage. I jumped out and took a few steps toward the house when suddenly, a slim man in blue

jeans appeared on the second-story porch. 'Yes?' he demanded, in a strong, hard voice," remembered Carillo. "His hair was snow white and his eyes were dark and grim. I stood before Salinger the way Dorothy stood before the Wizard of Oz. My heart was hammering. 'Mr. Salinger, I'm from New York City,' I began. 'I'm a reporter-' 'Oh, go away, please!' he shouted, waving a dismissive hand at me. 'I've had enough of that, please!'"

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