Salinger's legacy fits into tiny dorm room



COLLEGEVILLE, Pa.

Aspiring novelist Quinn Gilman-Forlini, an ardent admirer of "The Catcher in the Rye," wouldn't mind following in its author's footsteps.

In fact, the Ursinus College junior already has: She lived in J.D. Salinger's cramped old dorm room.

"A lot of people say it's really small, but I just thought it was so charming ... [with] the slanted ceiling and this old radiator," she said. "People come and knock on your door as a freshman wanting to meet you because you live there."

Jerome David Salinger attended Ursinus for only a single semester in 1938. But his mystique has endured, a legacy now further fueled by the release of "Salinger," a film that attempts to shed light on the life of the intensely private man, who died in 2010.

A school directory indicates Salinger transferred from New York University to the small liberal arts campus in Collegeville, not far from Philadelphia. At Ursinus, Salinger wrote a feature called "J.D.S.'s The Skipped Diploma" for the student newspaper; most of the columns contained brief, unrelated items from cheeky observations to movie reviews. He also served as a drama critic, using the byline "Jerome Salinger" -- and he was tough.

"Though undoubtedly guilty of too few rehearsals, the players nevertheless made a courageous attempt at salvaging most of the somewhat feeble (playwright's) humor," Salinger wrote of one production.

He later dropped out, and he never earned any degree. Still, the Ursinus admissions office proudly displays a 1963 letter from Salinger that professes he looks back "with a great deal of pleasure" on his time at the school -- and then asks the registrar to send a course catalog to his baby sitter.

Despite that fondness, the reclusive Salinger denied the use of his name in the scholarship that allows students like Ms. Gilman-Forlini to live in his room. After being contacted by the author's lawyers, the school renamed it the Creative Writing Award.

The prize, first given in 2007, goes to writers who display a "quirky brilliance," unusual perspective or a strong voice -- perhaps like that of Holden Caulfield, the rebellious teen narrator of "Catcher." Winners get $30,000 per year toward the school's tuition of $44,350.

"There's plenty of scholarships for the brightest and most high-achieving students out there. We're looking for something a little different," said English professor Jon Volkmer, who directs the creative writing program and helps choose the winner.

state - intelligencer


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