My Salinger Year (MP3 CD)
This was one of the first books I read after graduating college. A scrappy memoir that’s a joy to live vicariously through, Rakoff invites you into her crumbling Brooklyn apartment – where she dreams of becoming a renowned poet, and the heater is as helpful as her ranting, preoccupied boyfriend. She finds a job at a literary agency as the office assistant to J. D. Salinger’s agent. The systems are outdated and the work is menial, but change comes tumbling through and Rakoff is there soaking it all in. For the reader who is figuring out their place in the world, or anyone who likes the literary New York scene.— Brynn
Poignant, keenly observed, and irresistibly funny: a memoir about literary New York in the late 90s, 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 23, 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.