My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff: Part 2

published 2014

As predicted, my boss arrived at ten, swathed in a whiskey mink, her eyes covered with enormous dark glasses, her head with a silk scarf in an equestrian pattern. “Hello,” I started to say, rising from my chair, as one might for royalty or clergy. But she swooped past me into her office, as if her glasses prevented peripheral vision.

My boss, as far as I knew, had no children, and she – like a certain breed of adult – appeared to have never been a child herself, but rather to have materialized on earth fully formed, in a taupe-hued pantsuit, cigarette in hand.

observations: For the first entry on this fabulous book, see here.

My Salinger Year – a fictionalized memoir - goes down a treat. It is so well-written, and with lovely turns of phrase: Her boss, the woman above, reminds her of ‘Don Corleone and Lauren Bacall’ simultaneously.

And strangely, although the narrator has the most dreadful boyfriend, and it is obvious to everyone that she should get rid of him, this is not as infuriating as it normally is in books, even if you do long to yell at her about him.

Her encounters with JD Salinger - even if it is just her trying to tell him her name, because he is deaf - have the fascination of the truly rare. Everyone is very funny about the hapless Hapworth 16, 1924 – the Salinger story, long more or less unseen, published only in the New Yorker. Salinger suddenly decided a tiny publisher could bring out a new version – a venture that was bound to end badly. (Hapworth itself will need an entry of its own.)

While Rakoff's boyfriend is a complete horror story, her parents aren’t much better (to the outside eye), although she loves them dearly: the scene where her father gives her two envelopes on her birthday, and explains what they are, is, seriously, one of the most chilling things I have ever read.

The opening pages deliberately echo Rona Jaffe’s The Best of Everything (on the blog here – ‘What a sophisticated-looking girl! - and click on the labels below for more entries) – the young women rushing to their jobs in Manhattan offices, handmaids of the arts, hoping for a bright burnished future. 

For entries on Salinger himself, click on the label below.

The mink picture is an advert, and came from the Dovima is Devine photostream.


  1. Thought we were a shoe-in for a 3 in a row, but sadly not. Puzo - tick, Greene - tick, Rakoff - cross!

  2. Moira - I like that sense of humour in this snippet And it's very evocative too; I can really imagine that boss! You've got me keen to find out about those envelopes, too...

    1. It's a highly enjoyable book, Margot, and particularly for women of any age who ever worked - and I think that's most of us...

  3. Still sounds good. Why are there too many good books to read? I suppose I should not complain.

    1. I know what you mean - I look in dismay at my piles of books, my loaded-up Kindle, and the list of books I want to read. But then a book like this is a great reward, it was such a pleasure to read it.


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