Glad I Read: My Salinger Year

My Salinger YearSometimes a book just picks me up in its pretty arms and carries me away for a while. Such was the case here. Joanna Rakoff picked me up and deposited me in a sort of timeless world where books and writing matter more than anything else. This is the year Rakoff accidentally fell into a job at a literary agency – a place stuck in the early 60’s despite a calendar which read 1996, a place where the obsessive reclusiveness of J.D. Salinger controlled behavior, a place where a young woman could discover her passion.

This is just the kind of memoir I love to read because I recognize so much of myself in Rakoff – the yearning, the confusion, the inability to take action when she should. Mostly, I recognize a kindred spirit in terms of book love. Along with her, I lament her boss’ inability to “get books.”

“She’d never spent entire days lying on her bed reading, entire nights making up complicated stories in her head. She’d not dreamed of willing herself into Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre so that she might have real friends, friends who understood her thorny desires and dreams. How could she spend her days—her life—ushering books into publication but not love them in the way that I did, the way that they needed to be loved?”

I love this idea that books need to be loved to fully come alive. I concur. It’s not what this memoir is about but it’s the background idea that drew me in and kept me engaged. Ironically, what pushed me away is that the book becomes more and more about Salinger and Salinger’s writing the longer it goes on. I’m just not in the Salinger Fan Club, so I automatically took an emotional step back just at the time I should have succumbed completely to the story.

But, really, it’s not much of a complaint. Rakoff is engaging and intelligent enough that even I could set aside my personal opinion to appreciate what she is writing. And, I love her retelling of her limited interactions with the man himself.

“Writing makes you a writer,” he’d told me. “If you get up every morning and write, then you’re a writer. Publishing doesn’t make you a writer. That’s just commerce.”

Ultimately a very satisfying memoir and one I won’t soon forget.

Read alikes
The Catcher in the Rye
Rules of Civility
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading

11 thoughts on “Glad I Read: My Salinger Year

  1. I have wondered about this book. The idea appeals to me, but I am not a big Salinger fan, so I wasn’t sure how that would effect my reaction to the book. Sounds like you liked it anyway. Anything about books, right?


  2. This is a wonderful review Alena! I love the first quote you’ve used but I absolutely adore the idea of a book picking you up and carrying you away. The emotional step back too – great image and I know exactly what you mean. I enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye but I’m not sure I would call myself a Salinger fan either. That said, I really really really want to read this and I know that as soon as life slows down for me, I will get to it!


  3. I really enjoyed this book, although there were times when I just wanted to shake the author during some of the issues with her boyfriend . 🙂 and I totally agree with you–you do NOT have to be a Salinger fan to appreciate this book!


  4. I’m so happy to hear that you loved this memoir! I’m reading it this month for my book club and being a huge Salinger fan I’m really excited! This sounds like a great book for all book lovers, whether they’re a Salinger fan or not 🙂


  5. I’ve been hearing really good things about this books! It sounds great — there’s something so wonderful about reading the stories of people who have a passion for books.


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