Tag: My Salinger Year

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

Posted May 17, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 4 Comments

My Salinger Year by Joanna RakoffTitle: My Salinger Year (Goodreads)
Author: Joanna Rakoff
Published: Bloomsbury Circus, 2014
Pages: 272
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When Joanna Rakoff takes her first bookish job for a New York literary agency in 1996 it was like stepping back in time. As an office girl, her job was to type up correspondences, answer the phones and whatever else needed to be done. However there was one strict rule, ‘never give out Jerry’s address or phone number’. Given the time she automatically thought Jerry Seinfeld but soon learned that the Jerry they were referring to was J.D. Salinger.

This memoir is a unique look at not only at how old-fashion the publishing world can be but at J.D. Salinger himself. Joanna Rakoff takes an almost outside view at Salinger as she spends time responding to all of the iconic author’s correspondences. Salinger is an author that has cut himself off from the world and Joanna had to inform all correspondences that their requests cannot be fulfilled; J.D. doesn’t give interviews and doesn’t want to read any of the mail.

My Salinger Year reminded me of Mad Men; while this was a memoir, the whole literary agency was like stepping into the past. The publishing world was running like they are still in the 1960’s, which gave this memoir both a quirky feel to it and exposes the reality of just how old-fashioned this industry can be. Then you have Joanna’s life outside her job, which reminds me very much of the New York literary scene that I love to read about, full of intellectuals, pseudo intellectuals and bohemian socialists. This scene is a lot of fun to read about; these are my kind of people and one of the reasons I read books about this literary scene.

Not only is there the memoir but also there is an element of literary criticism as a selection of books are analysed and discussed within the pages of this book. This changes things up slightly and I found it interesting to explore the works of Salinger in this kind of detail. I never really enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye when I read it but I struggle to find a reason for that. Holden was an unlikeable character that is always complaining about everything but this is not a reason to dislike the book. I’m always standing up for books with unlikeable characters, I feel like I may have misjudged the novel. Now that I have some more experience in critical reading I may need to pick up The Catcher in the Rye one more time.

Even if I don’t reread The Catcher in the Rye, I’m interested in the life of J.D. Salinger and will pick up a biography of this iconic author. I know there was a biopic/documentary about Salinger as well; I might have to check it out. He has really peaked my interest; the reclusiveness and introversion makes for a fascinating person. My Salinger Year is an interesting journey into the publishing world, the New York City literary scene and J.D. Salinger; I enjoyed reading this memoir and recommend anyone interested in these topics to check it out.