The best appraisal I’ve read of Salinger’s legacy is Walter Kirn’s tribute in the February 18th issue of Rolling Stone. Kirn writes that Salinger “single-handedly invented the great American teenager” with the character of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye (1951). And this is perfect: “As a model for genuine rebellion, Holden has always been overrated. He’s more like the kid who makes rebellion unnecessary by rendering grumbling and snickering sufficient.”
Also essential reading is Lillian Ross writing about their long friendship in the February 8th New Yorker. She quotes Salinger: “I started writing and making up characters in the first place because nothing or not much away from the typewriter was reaching my heart at all.”
As for the “dark side” of J. D. Salinger, look no further than Gay Davidson-Zielske’s review of Joyce Maynard’s 1998 memoir, At Home in the World.