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My Salinger Year - Joanna Smith Rakoff


Published: 3rd June 2014
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RRP $51.95

Poignant, keenly observed, and irresistibly funny: a memoir about literary New York in the late nineties, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing, where a young woman finds herself entangled with one of the last great figures of the century.

At twenty-three, after leaving graduate school to pursue her dreams of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff moves to New York City and takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J. D. Salinger. She spends her days in a plush, wood-paneled office, where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and old-time agents doze at their desks after martini lunches. At night she goes home to the tiny, threadbare Williamsburg apartment she shares with her socialist boyfriend. Precariously balanced between glamour and poverty, surrounded by titanic personalities, and struggling to trust her own artistic instinct, Rakoff is tasked with answering Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. But as she reads the candid, heart-wrenching letters from his readers around the world, she finds herself unable to type out the agency’s decades-old form response. Instead, drawn inexorably into the emotional world of Salinger’s devotees, she abandons the template and begins writing back. Over the course of the year, she finds her own voice by acting as Salinger’s, on her own dangerous and liberating terms.

Rakoff paints a vibrant portrait of a bright, hungry young woman navigating a heady and longed-for world, trying to square romantic aspirations with burgeoning self-awareness, the idea of a life with life itself. Charming and deeply moving, filled with electrifying glimpses of an American literary icon, My Salinger Year is the coming-of-age story of a talented writer. Above all, it is a testament to the universal power of books to shape our lives and awaken our true selves.

About the Author

Joanna Rakoff's novel A Fortunate Age won the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction by Emerging Writers and the "Elle" Readers' Prize, and was a New York Times Editors' Choice and a San Francisco Chronicle best seller. She has written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue, and other publications. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


by PowerReviews

(based on 1 review)

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A delightful memoir


from Canberra

About Me Bookworm

Verified Buyer


  • Deserves Multiple Readings
  • Easy To Read
  • Engaging characters
  • Informative
  • Page-Turner
  • Well Written


    Best Uses

      "My Salinger Year" is an absolutely delightful read, part literary memoir and part coming of age story. You need not be a fan of J.D. Salinger to enjoy it, but it does explain the profound impact he had on mnay of his readers.

      I'm looking forward to reading more of Joanna Rakoff's work.

      Comment on this review

      "A breezy memoir of being a 'bright young assistant' in the mid-1990s . . . Salinger himself makes a cameo appearance . . . The real star of "My Salinger Year" remains, of course, the Agency itself, with its Dictaphones and fox stoles, its wistful attempts to cling to the days of '"Thin Man" movies and steamship travel' . . . The 'archaic charms' of the Agency are comically offset by its refusal to acknowledge the Internet age." --Suzanne Berne, "The New York Times Book Review" "Charming . . . Glamorous . . . A time-capsule portrait . . . Rakoff does a marvelous job of capturing a cultural moment--the publishing industry on the cusp of the Internet era--and describing the ambition and anxiety of a young, bright, creative person living beyond her means in an expensive and relentlessly competitive city . . . What is most admirable is [her] critical intelligence and generosity of spirit." --Priscilla Gilman, "The Boston Globe" "Absorbing . . . Not only does Rakoff adeptly capture the uncertainty of youth--how one weaves down the road of responsibility, with hardly enough money for rent or sense for relationships--she also perfectly describes the agency's office . . . A beautifully written tribute to the way things were at the edge of the digital revolution, and also to the evergreen power of literature to guide us through all of life's transitions."--Kim Schmidt, "Chicago Tribune " "Gentle, funny, closely observed . . . Covers much more than just Salinger . . . The special unworldliness of the young literary person, who has reached adulthood without ever knowing or caring much about how the world works, is the real subject of "My Salinger Year.""--"Tablet Magazine " "Gripping and funny . . . A coming-of-age story: an involving, evocative tale that will have bookish women everywhere shuddering in recognition. Like Rona Jaffe's novel of the 50s, "The Best of Everything," it is concerned with what it feels like to move toi

      ISBN: 9780307958006
      ISBN-10: 0307958000
      Audience: General
      Format: Hardcover
      Language: English
      Number Of Pages: 249
      Published: 3rd June 2014
      Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
      Country of Publication: US
      Dimensions (cm): 23.6 x 14.7  x 2.6
      Weight (kg): 0.47