Monday, October 6, 2014

My Salinger Year, Joanna Rakoff

Category: Nonfiction: Memoir; Literary/Writers

Synopsis: Rakoff tells of her year spent in the publishing agency that represented J.D. Salinger.

Date finished: 12 August 2014

Rating: ***

I enjoyed this book. It was a quick, enjoyable (for the most part—more on that in a second) read. Unfortunately, this is one of those memoirs that will slip quietly from my mind within a few months.

Rakoff is just out of college when she lands a personal assistant job at a publishing agency (never named) in the 1990s. Her boss (also unnamed) is a bit difficult. Her boyfriend’s a jerk. Her life at the time is in disarray. And she has just been presented with her college credit card bills to pay. It’s your typical twenty-two-year-old stuff. Although Rakoff is a few years ahead of me, I could relate to the period of time she’s talking about and the office atmosphere at that time. (Putty-colored desktop computers weren’t yet on everyone’s desktop, for example.)

The trouble with this book is it’s a coming-of-age story about a woman who doesn’t know who the heck she is, so the reader, no matter how patient and understanding, can’t know who the heck she is. No conclusions are reached. No hindsight is engaged by the grown-up Rakoff. She worked a year, moved on, and who knows what happened to her. And because we didn’t know her (because she didn’t know herself) who really cares what happened to her?

What is a coming-of-age story without wisdom? Blah.

The parts about Salinger were sweet. I think that’s part of the reason I finished the book, so I’d be sure not to miss any hints into Salinger’s personality or life.

In the end, this just didn’t satisfy me. I think it would be a good beach read, but it’s not for the reader looking for a personal story with any depth.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
I don’t think so.

You might also enjoy:
Summer at Tiffany


  1. Yes, this was a ephemeral read...I enjoyed it but there was not much there to hang on to. I didn't even feel like bothering to write a review, so thanks for expressing my thoughts pretty exactly.

    1. It's really too bad. This could have been a great book.