The very title of Joanna Rakoff’s memoir, My Salinger Year, is enough to pique the interest of anyone who has read – and loved – anything written by J.D. Salinger. Since the title suggests an actual personal connection with the famed recluse, it is also enough to stir up a little envy. I listened to this book, using, for the first time, Audible. The audio version is actually narrated by the author, which creates a rather intimate illusion that Rakoff is speaking directly to her readers, perhaps over a cup of coffee, or sitting across the table at dinner.
In My Salinger Year, Rakoff recounts her experience working for the agency which represented Salinger. As part of her duties, she often fielded phone calls of those desperate to be put in touch with the author, and answered his fan mail. Occasionally she had direct contact with him. This, for a Salinger admirer such as myself, is fascinating enough to warrant reading the book. However, Rakoff’s memoir is more substantial than a boastful recitation of her Salinger encounters.
The agency is the backdrop, and Salinger is a prominent co-star. But My Salinger Year is really about Rakoff, and one year of her post-college coming of age. She is figuring things out, sometimes painfully–what she wants to do, who she wants to be with, the kind of life she wishes to live. She is doing these things while working what literary types might consider a dream first job, surrounded by books and authors in New York City.
My Salinger Year is a beautifully written snapshot of one woman’s life. The language is exquisite, and the familiarity felt to the author as she narrates her story is remarkable. Particularly fascinating is the peek into an old-fashioned literary agency, operating in the 1990s as if it were stuck in a long lost era. What drew me to this book was my devotion to Salinger, but what kept me captivated was Rakoff’s superb storytelling.
Alysia lives in Metro Detroit with her husband and four children. She writes about family life, parenting issues, and other things of interest to her on her blog, Michigal.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Audible.com. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.