My Salinger Year

by Joanna Smith Rakoff

Biography / Autobiography

My Salinger Year Synopsis

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.

The Good Book Guide Review

This delightful memoir takes us back to the New York of the ’90s – to the cross-over period between type-writers and computers, a world where young, hopeful authors are excited about their future, a world about to be transformed by the internet. But most of all, it is about the influence of author J D Salinger. Budding writer Joanna, fresh out of college, struggling with life, money and relationships, has just started working as an assistant to the literary agent who looks after Salinger. Thrilled to be working so closely to such an enigmatic and revered character, she immerses herself in her job, and the borderlines that she is not supposed to cross with him are smudged. As she answers Salinger’s fan mail she realises how huge an influence he has been not only on her life but on so many lives through the ages. Beautifully evocative of a bygone era, Rakoff brings Salinger and a world still naive and full of expectation, charmingly and wittily to life.

My Salinger Year Press Reviews

Here is the story of a reader becoming a writer, of a young woman deciding who she will be, of the power of books. Here is a memoir that manages to be dreamlike but sharp, poignant but unsentimental. Here is a book I'm going to have to insist you read immediately -  Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements


Joanna Rakoff is the literary world's Lena Dunham, both of them witty, sensitive, elegantly baffled, zeitgeist-hitting Brooklyn ladies of their respective half-generations - Sheila Weller, author of the New York Times bestseller, Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon-and the Journey of a Generation


This is an impossibly excellent read-a glowingly entertaining, miss-your-subway-stop engrossing, note-perfect piece of storytelling -  Charles Bock, author of New York Times bestseller, Beautiful Children


An utterly beguiling memoir, not only about Salinger and a bygone era of publishing, but about relationships, finding one's voice, and surviving in the big city -- Caroline Sanderson Bookseller

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781408830178
Publication date: 05/06/2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781408830178
Publication date: 5th June 2014
Author: Joanna Smith Rakoff
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Hardback
Genres: Biography / Autobiography,

About Joanna Smith Rakoff

Joanna Rakoff is a poet and the author of the novel A Fortunate Age, which won the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction by Emerging Writers, was a New York Times Editors' Pick, a winner of the Elle Readers' Prize and a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. As a journalist and critic, she has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue, Time Out and O:The Oprah Magazine. The BBC produced a radio documentary following her as she tracked down the writer of her favourite Salinger fan letter. She has degrees from Columbia University, University College London and ...

More About Joanna Smith Rakoff

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