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My Salinger Year  - Joanna Smith Rakoff

Paperback

Published: 1st June 2014
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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.

Read Caroline Baum's Review

This is being promoted as the literary equivalent of The Devil Wears Prada. The comparisons are obvious but not entirely accurate: the narrator is not quite the same kind of ingénue and her boss is not a monster, just a typically highly strung neurotic professional. What makes this such an enjoyable and compelling read is the way it takes us inside the world of a literary agency in new York with one very important client, the almost mythically famous and reclusive JD Salinger. A writer who has shut himself away from his adoring public for decades and around whom there are very strict rules of engagement. Rule number one: letters from fans are never to be passed on. Rakoff has a likeable, light tone that hovers between the earnest and the self-mocking, as she strives to please her boss. It's hard not to share her heart-racing excitement when Salinger calls and she speaks to him a little more each time while at home, her love life disintegrates.

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.

REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

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My Salinger Year
 
4.0

(based on 1 review)

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4.0

Thoroughly enjoyable.

By Annie D

from Melbourne, AU

About Me Bookworm

Verified Buyer

Pros

  • Easy To Read
  • Engaging characters
  • Well Written

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Gift
    • Older Readers
    • Travel Reading
    • Younger Readers

    Comments about My Salinger Year:

    I will definitely be on the look out for Joanna Rakoff's next book

    Comment on this review

    Here is the story of a reader becoming a writer, of a young woman deciding who she will be, of the power of books. Here is a memoir that manages to be dreamlike but sharp, poignant but unsentimental. Here is a book I'm going to have to insist you read immediately Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements Joanna Rakoff is the literary world's Lena Dunham, both of them witty, sensitive, elegantly baffled, zeitgeist-hitting Brooklyn ladies of their respective half-generations Sheila Weller, author of the New York Times bestseller, Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon-and the Journey of a Generation This is an impossibly excellent read-a glowingly entertaining, miss-your-subway-stop engrossing, note-perfect piece of storytelling Charles Bock, author of New York Times bestseller, Beautiful Children An utterly beguiling memoir, not only about Salinger and a bygone era of publishing, but about relationships, finding one's voice, and surviving in the big city -- Caroline Sanderson Bookseller A warm, witty, occasionally sly piece of storytelling ... An affectionate love letter to a first job in an industry that in just 20 years has changed beyond recognition -- Sam Baker Harper's Bazaar My Salinger Year's reference points, from the Brooklyn brownstones to the Danish pastries wolfed on the number 6 train to 51st Street, are all American, but the emotional landscape it conjures up will be just as true for readers on this side of the pond. Anyone who has struggled to find their bearings as an unworldly young adult will be deeply moved by it - I certainly was -- Emma Hughes Country Life This book is hard to put down. irresistible -- Lucy Atkins Sunday Times Like a literary The Devil Wears Prada . an irresistible read Harper's Bazaar Anyone who has ever dreamed of a life in books will find much to love in Joanna Rakoff's memoir ... Funny and knowing, it's both an idiosyncratic tribute to Salinger's writing and an affirmation of the power of books to spark tectonic human connections Metro Extraordinary ... Gripping and funny ... My Salinger Year is a treat even Jerry might have enjoyed -- Rachel Cooke Observer An elegant memoir -- Jane Shilling Sunday Telegraph In prose that is clear, precise and evocative, Rakoff renders her people and places touchably real -- Hannah McGill Independent This is a funny, delightful, coming-of-age memoir that completely caught me off guard. So absorbing is it that I devoured the whole thing in one sitting Woman & Home A charming coming-of-age memoir that fizzes with youthful energy and bookish insight Good Housekeeping Spellbinding . You don't have to be a Salinger fan to fall under Rakoff's spell; I'm not and I did -- Laura Miller Guardian Poignant and witty Company Magazine Elegantly written, wryly observed, Rakoff's memoir is a high-quality literary snack Financial Times This is a book for book lovers; not just those who love stories, but those fascinated with peeking "behind the curtain" . A magnificent portrait of a fascinating year; a pleasure to read Irish Examiner Rakoff's raw, honest descriptions of her life in Brooklyn and her loser boyfriend turn this book into a coming of age tale, as Catcher is. But My Salinger Year is more than just a snapshot of a particular time and place. The most powerful and original parts of the book describe the intimate relationships Rakoff establishes with the readers through their letters and explore her theory that ultimately writing is an anatomy of loss Literary Review

    ISBN: 9781408855508
    ISBN-10: 140885550X
    Audience: General
    Format: Paperback
    Language: English
    Number Of Pages: 272
    Published: 1st June 2014
    Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
    Dimensions (cm): 21.6 x 15.3  x 2.2
    Weight (kg): 0.3
    Edition Number: 1