Mark Lawson in The Guardian:
With the death of JD Salinger last week, a remarkable era in US literature came to its end. Mark Lawson reflects on the passing of an unrivalled generation
January 27 is becoming a black-letter day in American literature. On that day in 2009, John Updike died and, this year, the first anniversary of that loss was marked by the news that JD Salinger was dead. It's an artificial coincidence – of a sort that authors as good as Updike and Salinger would have scorned in their stories – but the deaths in close succession of members of the literary generations born in the 1910s, 20s and 30s do have a symbolic significance. If we add the deaths within four months of 2007 of Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut – members with Salinger of the set of major American writers formed by service in the second world war – it's clear that an era in American literature is coming to a close.
There is an obvious temptation to believe that the authors who have recently died form – with others who fought in the war (such as Saul Bellow and Gore Vidal) or were teenagers in America during it (Philip Roth) – the greatest literary generation the country has ever seen or ever will see. This triumphalist but nostalgic position holds that these writers took advantage of their nation's geopolitical power – and a media culture and bookstore customer-base which regarded serious writers seriously – to create a superpower of the pen to match the financial and military clout of the US during what became known as the American century.