My Salinger Year – Joanna Rakoff

My Salinger Year - Joanna Rakoff

My Salinger Year – Joanna Rakoff

This memoir came highly recommended by several people and as I had read and liked My Life in MiddlemarchI thought this would be just the book for me.

I bought it as a reward for finishing me second half-marathon (this one) – it was really hard.

Anyway, here is the blurb …

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.

This is an account of year in Ms Rakoff’s life when she worked at Salinger’s literary agency.

It reminded me a bit of The Best of Everything – young people in New York working in the publishing industry.

It is charming. From descriptions of her freezing (and then gas polluted apartment) in Williamsburg to her rare interactions with Jerry, her transition from writing form letters to fans to writing individual letters, her shock at her parents taking out a student loan in her name and finding herself living with her boyfriend without really discussing or agreeing to it – it is all delightful.

The writing is beautiful – deceptively simple (I am sure it is very difficult to master a simple style).

More reviews …


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