59. My Salinger Year (Joanna Rakoff)


On the recommendation of a friend, I read this story without realizing that it was actually a memoir.  It was not until I started to write my blog post that I discovered that the main characters name was also the name of the author.  That being said, I truly enjoyed the book.  I think that I would have read it with a different perspective if I had known it was a true story AND if I had read more Salinger books.

The book was set in seasons, which I liked.  As the seasons’ changed, Joanna grew.  She slowly took on more responsibility in her position working as an assistant at The Agency, she grew up in her relationship with her parents  and she learned lessons in her relationships with her friends and boyfriend while she quietly wrote poetry and read manuscripts.

The agency represented J.D. Salinger, or Jerry, as they called him.  Joanna developed a “phone relationship” with him as she forwarded his calls and had quick chats with him when her boss was not available.  She came to understand the impact that his writing had on others as she read fan letters which were never shared with him, at his request.  She made the mistake of venturing away from the form letter responses that had been advised adding her own commentary and some of the letters seemed to haunt her years later.

“but, again, he leaves it to the reader to decide whether or not this is so.  In literature, as in life, sometimes there are no right answers.”

The novel ended with a section describing her life following her Salinger year.  This gave the reader some closure and the memoir essentially ended with the death of J.D. Salinger (which happened in January 2010).  The author shared that she rereads some of his books annually and reflects on her Salinger year.  Although I have a pile of books on my bedside table, I am inspired to read Franny and Zooey in the near future and perhaps, reread The Catcher in the Rye.

“And, thus, with each passing year – each rereading – his stories, his characters, have changed and deepened;”

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Filed under Autobiography, Memoir

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