Saturday, May 02, 2015

My Salinger Year - Joanna Rakoff

Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus
Bought +Kindle Store

I picked this book up because of an exchange between two book lovers on Twitter.  It was described as "unputdownable", which was recommendation enough for me, and I picked it up.

Joanna Rakoff comes to New York and lands a job at "The Agency", literary agents for authors. The Boss needs someone who can work a typewriter, Joanna's English degree does not hurt either.  Joanna likes the idea of doing something related to literature and slowly tries to settle down in her job. The Agency has a star client, J.D. Salinger. Joanna has not read any of his books though she is aware of all the hype surrounding them.

Joanna is suitably impressed when she gets to attend Jerry's phone calls occasionally. In the meantime, a lot is happening with her life.  She has left a serious boyfriend behind, and has hooked up with another.  She struggles to learn her work and also tries to do a bit more.  "The bit more" is reading manuscripts. The agency is flooded with submissions from new authors, and they require some people with good taste to read and judge if the offering is good enough to go ahead. Joanna loves the feeling of power she gets when she discovers a good script and is able to get it pushed for publication.

There are a lot of negative things in her life as well.  Her current boyfriend is not perfect.  Her apartment is shabby.  She has to cut corners extensively because her Assistant's salary is not enough. Joanna grapples with all these problems and tries to find beauty in life through the literature surrounding her.

She finds answers to various problems plaguing her when she finally picks up Salinger's book, Catcher in the Rye.

The book is a treat to read. Joanna sketches out her year at the Agency and all the happenings clearly and without frills.  It is written in the manner of the literature of a bygone era, time of the 'quiet' fiction.  There are times when you do wonder why the book was called "My Salinger Year" when Salinger is not really in the picture so much.  I suppose the author wanted to emphasize the point in her life when Salinger became relevant to her.

I am not sure I liked the end of the book. It is obvious that the author wanted closure, hence we hurriedly get to know some facts about her life, and also her reaction at the death of Salinger.  An open-ended final chapter would have worked fine, I feel.  Joanna can always write another novel about the great love of her life.  I could feel that story lurking behind this novel.


Anonymous said...

Nothing as bad as a bad end and an hastily put together at that.
Remind sme of Yash Chopra movies,w hich smooth till 30 min. before end, when everythign happens suddenly and before you've realised its over.
You liked the book, I think, becuase you could identify with the main character, although she is not like you.

Ava Suri said...

The picture of a young girl struggling at her new job and new boyfriend was compelling. I liked the picture of the author reading manuscripts and judging them.

design by