My Salinger Year

My Salinger Year

Book - 2014 | First edition
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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.
Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2014
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780307958006
Branch Call Number: 921 RAK
Characteristics: 249 pages ; 24 cm


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Nov 01, 2016

This is wonderful, generous book with a smart, insightful, and sincere character (author) at its heart. It's rare to find a story so well and gently drawn about the delicate transition into adulthood after college. And it made me go to the bookstore to find all the Salingers there were!

May 28, 2015

I absolutely loved this story.

Feb 07, 2015

A charming come of age story about a young woman living in New York City in the mid-1990s. I enjoyed the inside look into the workings of a literary agency and learning more about the mysterious Salinger. Quick warning, as soon as your finish, you will have the desire to pull one of Salinger's works off of the shelf!

ontherideau Dec 29, 2014

I loved description of the inner workings of a literary agency and what Salinger was like as a person. The author's personal life wandered a bit or maybe I wasn't paying attention to those details.

KateHillier Oct 02, 2014

I only read The Catcher in the Rye for the first time a few years ago and that remains the only work of Salinger I have ever read. For the vast majority of this novel Joanna Rakoff has never read a work of J.D. Salinger so don't worry, no knowledge of the subject matter is required. This a book more about an experience in a certain time and place and how an eventual introduction to Salinger helped bring that into focus.

It is 1996 in New York. Joanna Rakoff is 23 and gets a job as an agent's assistant at an unnamed literary agency. It happens to be the agency that represents J.D. Salinger and part of her work is dealing with the mass volume of fan mail written to the reclusive author. Salinger does not wish to receive any fan mail. Joanna is fresh off leaving graduate school. She's living in New York with her much older boyfriend hoping for a start as a writer but she quickly becomes absorbed in the agency life - and with a boss that refuses to admit that it's nearly the 21st century and they should consider getting computers.

It's a great book about that time in your life when you're fresh out of school - especially if you're fresh out of school and you're either an aspiring writer or dying to work in the literary world. Her love of literature shines through her various troubles as a new adult - a conversation where her parents inform her that she is now responsible for her finances and student debt is especially hard hitting. She's off on her own for the first time and is also trying to figure out who she is and how she wants to live her life. I found it really quite moving as much as I found it familiar. Lots to think about too. And, as I said, no knowledge of Salinger required.


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Dec 11, 2014

I've learned that, as phony as it may be, you can't go around revealing your goddam emotions to the world. Most people don't give a flying hoot about what you think and feel most of the time, I guess. And if they see a weakness, why for God's sake showing emotion is a weakness, boy, do they jump all over you! They seem to get right in your goddam face and revel in the fact that you are actually feeling something.

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