My Salinger Year
1996. Joanna Rakoff takes a job at one of New York’s oldest literary agencies. On her first day, her boss gives her a stern talk about someone named ‘Jerry’. She is never to give out Jerry’s address or phone number, or talk to reporters about Jerry, or to call him with questions. It is only then she notices an entire wall of books containing myriad editions of the works of J.D. Salinger. Filled with titanic personalities and legendary authors, ‘My Salinger Year’ is a vivid, funny and charming coming of age story about a young woman trying to find her feet, and her voice.
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 the plush, wood-panelled agency, where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and old-time agents doze at their desks after martini lunches, and at night she goes home to the tiny, threadbare Brooklyn apartment she shares with her socialist boyfriend. Precariously balanced between glamour and poverty, surrounded by titanic personalities and struggling to trust her own artistic sense, Joanna is given the task of 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. Poignant, keenly observed and irresistibly funny, My Salinger Year is a memoir about literary New York in the late 1990s, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing, where a young woman finds herself swept into one of the last great stories and entangled with one of the last great figures of the century. Above all, it is the coming-of-age story of a talented writer and a testament to the universal power of books to shape our lives.