Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Reading Challenge: #20–My Salinger Year

Joanna Rakoff has provided that rarity, a memoir that reads like a novel. She does admit she needed to fill in some gaps, which is totally understandable and quite forgivable. The point is that Ms. Rakoff allows her readers to peek behind the curtain where most plebeians are barred when it comes to the world of lit deals. We are given glimpses of when one of the old venerable literary agency’s began to roll out of the Stone Age of carbon copies and Dictaphones into the pacings of the WWW. This is the agency that represented J.D. Salinger. The title is both misleading and essential to understanding the book. Salinger plays his part in Rakoff’s memoir like he did in real life for so many: an enigma of reverberation. He left a lasting impression on Rakoff long after her encounters with him, and she is able to pass that enduring awe to her readers.

Front Cover

The following is a passage, which, for me, serves as the book’s metaphor. How so many freshly degreed lit majors hope to “make good” in NYC as an assistant  at a publishing house or agency and live beyond their means by believing in their facade, to almost succumb to disaster only to recover and continue in the momentum of living as a twenty-something.

 My shoe, with its narrow heel, caught on the thick carpet, and for a moment I thought–I knew, my heart beating faster–that I was going to trip and fall down that small flight of stairs, the world around me rotating, but then I simply laid my hand on the railing, steadied myself, and continued down. p.139

If you are looking at the reminiscent or retro view of the book world, a bit of Mad Men of the literary scene, then I urge you to find My Salinger Year. It’s a bit of The Devil Wears Prada peek of publishing. I wonder if Emily Blunt is busy for this one because I do see a film in the making. Heck, I could see Meryl Streep as an agency queen. Oh yeah–

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6 thoughts on “Reading Challenge: #20–My Salinger Year

  1. Mad Men meets the literary scene? Count me in.

  2. Be honest with me, Cricket. Is this Chick Lit?

  3. Well, a chick writes about her time spent in a literary agency. Are you saying you’re afraid to get in touch with your inner feminine view of Salinger side?

  4. I started reading this and then got distracted by other things. It’s somewhere in my pile. Must go excavate.

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