BN.com Gift Guide

My Salinger Year

Overview

Keenly observed and irresistibly funny, My Salinger Year is a memoir about literary New York in the late nineties, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing.

After leaving graduate school to pursue her dream of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J. D. Salinger. Precariously balanced between poverty and glamour, she spends her days in a plush, wood-paneled office—where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and agents ...

See more details below
Hardcover
$19.31
BN.com price
(Save 25%)$25.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (21) from $10.58   
  • New (14) from $14.27   
  • Used (7) from $10.58   
My Salinger Year

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$12.99
BN.com price

Overview

Keenly observed and irresistibly funny, My Salinger Year is a memoir about literary New York in the late nineties, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing.

After leaving graduate school to pursue her dream of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J. D. Salinger. Precariously balanced between poverty and glamour, she spends her days in a plush, wood-paneled office—where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and agents doze after three-martini lunches—and then goes home to her threadbare Brooklyn apartment and her socialist boyfriend. Rakoff is tasked with processing Salinger’s voluminous fan mail, but as she reads the heart-wrenching letters from around the world, she becomes reluctant to send the agency’s form response and impulsively begins writing back. The results are both humorous and moving, as Rakoff, while acting as the great writer’s voice, begins to discover her own.

Read More Show Less
  • My Salinger Year
    My Salinger Year  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/24/2014
Rakoff’s second book (after A Fortunate Age) is a reflective account of her experiences working in publishing during the mid-1990s, a time when key players in the industry were adjusting to many technological advancements, as well as a unique look at the often misunderstood J.D. Salinger. Having moved back to New York after earning a master’s at a London graduate school, Rakoff takes a low-paying secretarial job at a respected but old-fashioned literary agency (she wrote in a Slate article that it was Harold Ober Associates) that represented high-profile authors such as Judy Bloom and Salinger among others who remain unnamed. Ending her relationship with her “college boyfriend,” Rakoff rented a run-down apartment in the burgeoning but not-yet-gentrified Williamsburg with her new boyfriend, the anti-establishment Don, who spent his time working on his novel while she was away at the office. When an editor from a small press expressed interest in publishing one of Salinger’s minor and nearly forgotten stories, Rakoff began an ongoing correspondence with Salinger, and formed a tender connection with the man that prompted her to read his work, beginning a late-bloomer’s love of an elusive writer. This is a vibrant coming-of-age memoir that moves along with momentum and energy, and one only wishes Rakoff had spent more than one year with Salinger so we’d have an even fuller portrait of a man who was and is often misunderstood. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-06
A sharply observed coming-of-age memoir about an aspiring writer's entry-level job at a fading literary agency.Though Rakoff earned acclaim for her debut novel (A Fortunate Age, 2009), her memoir is more engaging, particularly for its mastery of tone. The author establishes herself as something of an innocent, a master's grad who wanted to write poetry but required a job to tide her over. She found one at an unnamed literary agency that continued to operate with typewriters and fax machines and where her boss's main responsibility was the nonbusiness of J.D. Salinger. It would be easy for a satiric hipster to have satirical fun with the material—particularly with the onslaught of letters from generations of Salinger fans who actually expected (or even demanded) a response—but Rakoff isn't that sort of author. She reserves just the slightest bit of judgmental irony for herself and for her boyfriend, a socialist, boxer and aspiring novelist. Her family recognized that she was a glorified secretary at a menial job that would bring her no closer to fulfilling her literary ambitions and didn't provide her with sufficient salary to pay her bills. Against her boss's admonitions, she developed something of a telephone relationship with Salinger (whom she'd never read before taking the job), finding him "never anything but kind and patient. More so than plenty of people who called the Agency. More so than plenty of his fans." Eventually, Rakoff fell in love with his books, established correspondence with some who wrote him (and learned why a form letter was previously the standard response), assumed more responsibility as a manuscript reader and something of an agent herself, and left the agency as a published poet.Many of the mysteries of the literary world remain mysteries to the author, but she provides good company as she explores them.
From the Publisher

“A beautifully written tribute to the way things were at the edge of the digital revolution, and to the evergreen power of literature.” —Chicago Tribune

“An affecting coming-of-age memoir. . . . Rakoff wisely—and deftly—weaves her Salinger story into a broader, more universal tale about finding one’s bearings during a pivotal transitional year into real adulthood.” —The Washington Post

“Charming. . . . Glamorous. . . . Rakoff does a marvelous job of capturing a cultural moment. . . . What is most admirable is [her] critical intelligence and generosity of spirit.” —The Boston Globe

“The loneliness of life after college [is] perfectly explained . . . There’s something Salingeresque about her book: it’s a vivid story of innocence lost.” —Entertainment Weekly

My Salinger Year describes its author’s trip down a metaphorical rabbit hole back in 1996. She arrived not in Wonderland, but a place something like it, a New York City firm she calls only the Agency. . . . An outright tribute to the enduring power of J.D. Salinger’s work.” —Salon
 
“A breezy memoir of being a ‘bright young assistant’ in the mid-1990s . . . Salinger himself makes a cameo appearance. . . . The ‘archaic charms’ of the Agency are comically offset by its refusal to acknowledge the Internet age.” —The New York Times Book Review

“While it may be the Salinger cameo that initially draws readers in, it’s Rakoff’s effortlessly elegant, unhyperbolic prose and poignant coming-of-age story that will keep them engrossed through the very last word.” —BookPage
    
“Moving. . . . Heartfelt. . . . Rakoff uses Salinger—his fan mail and her favorite character, Franny—to help illuminate her inner life. . . . The memoir is touching, and it’s easy to empathize with how Rakoff, like Franny, is ‘trying to figure out how to live in this world.’”  —USA Today
 
“Gentle, funny, closely observed. . . . The special unworldliness of the young literary person, who has reached adulthood without ever knowing or caring much about how the world works, is the real subject of My Salinger Year.” —Tablet Magazine
 
“Gripping and funny. . . . An involving, evocative tale that will have bookish women everywhere shuddering in recognition. Like Rona Jaffe’s novel of the 50s, The Best of Everything, it is concerned with what it feels like to move to the big city, to take on your first job, and to struggle to survive on a tiny salary when all the while your dreams are seemingly being snuffed out at every turn, and your love life is spiraling into muddle and mayhem. . . . So raw and so true.” —The Guardian
 
“Hard to put down. . . . Demands sympathy, admiration, and attention. . . . Irresistible.” —The Sunday Times
 
“Intimate . . . elegant . . . graceful.” —The Sunday Telegraph
 
“As memoirs go, this is possibly one of the year’s funniest, enthralling and entertaining . . . For an insight into old-fashioned publishing this must be hard to beat. Everyone smokes, returns tiddly from boozy lunches, and authors are treated with respect. It knocks spots off The Devil Wears Prada.” —The Sydney Morning Herald
 
“Lures you in. . . . A story about growing up and getting better in a rapidly changing industry and world.” —Flavorwire, “June 2014 Books You Must Read”

Library Journal
03/15/2014
Following her debut novel, A Fortunate Age, Rakoff returns with a debut memoir. It's the early Nineties, and Rakoff, disenchanted with her graduate studies in London, decides she would rather write poetry than analyze it. Chasing this ambition, she flees to New York City and tries to make ends meet by working as a temp at a literary agency. The agency, although frozen in the time of chain-smoking bosses and Selectric typewriters, represents a long list of celebrated clients, including J.D. Salinger himself. Rakoff, who has not actually read any of Salinger's novels, finds herself swimming in Salinger fan mail and typing—on an actual typewriter—responses on the reclusive writer's behalf. Meanwhile, at home, she struggles to keep warm, let alone pursue her literary aspirations. She shares her crumbling Brooklyn apartment with her dubious boyfriend, Don, a competing writer. VERDICT This honest, introspective, and completely compelling story is sure to appeal to readers who are obsessed with the enigmatic Salinger, but it is intended for those who have experienced (or are experiencing) their own bluesy, confused, post-college Salinger Year. Rakoff is a careful observer and endearingly human. Her coming-of-age story is a gentle reminder that we are all, still, coming of age. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/14.]—Meagan Lacy, Indiana Univ.-Purdue Univ. Indianapolis Libs.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307958006
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/3/2014
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 59,240
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Joanna Rakoff’s novel A Fortunate Age won the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction by Emerging Writers and the Elle Readers’ Prize, and was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a San Francisco Chronicle best seller. She has written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue, and other publications. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

How many times had I been told that Salinger would not call, would never call, that I would have no contact with him? More than I could count.
 
And yet one morning, a Friday, at the beginning of April, I picked up the phone and heard someone shouting at me. “HELLO? HELLO?” Then something incomprehensible. “HELLO? HELLO?” More gibberish. Slowly, as in a dream, the gibberish resolved into language. “It’s Jerry,” the caller was shouting. Oh my God, I thought. It’s him. I began, slightly, to quiver with fear, not because I was talking to—or being shouted at by—the actual J. D. Salinger, but because I so feared doing something wrong and incurring my boss’s wrath. My mind began to sift through all the Salinger-related instructions that had been imparted to me, but they had more to do with keeping others away from him, less to do with the man himself. There was no risk of my asking him to read my stories or gushing about The Catcher in the Rye. I still hadn’t read it. “WHO IS THIS?” he asked, though it took me a few tries to understand. “It’s Joanna,” I told him, nine or ten times, yelling at the top of my lungs by the final three. “I’m the new assistant.”
 
“Well, nice to meet you, Suzanne,” he said, finally, in something akin to a normal voice. “I’m calling to speak to your boss.” I had assumed as much. Why had Pam put him through to me, rather than taking a message? My boss was out for the day, it being Friday, her reading day.
 
I conveyed this to him, or hoped that I did. “I can call her at home and have her call you back today. Or she can give you a call when she gets in on Monday.”
 
“Monday is fine,” he said, his voice ratcheted down another notch. “Well, very nice to meet you, Suzanne. I hope we meet in person someday.”
 
“Me, too,” I said. “Have a great day.” This was not a phrase I ever used. Where had it come from?
 
“YOU, TOO!” Ah, the shouting.
 
I put the phone down and took a deep breath, as I’d learned to do in ballet. My entire body, I realized, was shaking. I stood up and stretched.
 
“Jerry?” asked Hugh, stepping out of his office with a mug of coffee.
 
“Yes!” I said. “Wow.”
 
“He’s deaf. His wife set up this special phone for him, with an amplified receiver, but he refuses to use it.” He sighed his trademark sigh. To be Hugh was to be let down by the world. “What did he want?”
 
“Just to talk to my boss.” I shrugged. “I offered to call her at home and have her call him back, but he said Monday was fine.”
 
Hugh wrinkled his face in thought. “Hmm, why don’t you call her anyway. I think she’d want to know.”
 
“Okay,” I said, thumbing through my Rolodex.
 
She wasn’t home and had no answering machine. She didn’t believe in them. Just as she didn’t believe in computers or voice mail, another newfangled invention not employed by the Agency. If you called during business hours, you reached Pam, the receptionist. If you called outside business hours, the phone just rang and rang, as it did at my boss’s apartment, twenty blocks north of the office. I tried again, every hour or so, until the end of the day, to no avail. It would have to be Monday.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)