A keenly observed and irresistibly funny memoir about literary New York in the late nineties, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing.
Now a major motion picture starring Sigourney Weaver and Margaret Qualley
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.
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.