At Home in the World: A Memoir

Maynard, Joyce

9780312195564

ISBN 10: 0312195567 / 0-312-19556-7
ISBN 13: 9780312195564
Publisher: Picador USA
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Hardcover
Editorial Reviews:
Synopsis:
In 1972, Joyce Maynard, an undergraduate at Yale, wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine called 'An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life'. Among the hundreds of letters she received as a result, one expressed deep affection for her writing, and concern at the exploitation that she might be subjected to. The writer was J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye and famous recluse. Their correspondence led first to friendship, and then to love, and after a few months she dropped out of college to live with him. In spite of the thirty-five year difference in their ages, she believed they would be together always - but after a year, he sent her away. Courageous, beautifully written and affecting, this book is destined to become a classic memoir of a modern woman's life.

Review:
Joyce Maynard's memoir, At Home in the World, is an attempt to make peace with herself. At times, however, it's hard not to see it as an act of war--on her parents and, most notably, on J.D. Salinger. Maynard's account of her year-long relationship with the reclusive American writer is the centrepiece of the book and the publicity pivot on which it turns. And how not? She first encountered Salinger when he wrote her a fan letter following her world-weary but not necessarily wordly wise New York Times Magazine cover piece, "An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life." He was then 53 and, as Maynard paraphrases, wanted her "to know that I could be a real writer, if I would just look out for myself, as no other person is likely to."

By the time she was 19, she was living with the increasingly controlling Salinger and doing her best to adhere to his regimens, from homeopathy at any price to a mostly macrobiotic diet heavy on frozen peas What's worse, he does his best to turn the hugely driven young woman into a mistrusting, publicity-shy prig, not to mention helping her perfect her already anorexic bent. Maynard is such a skilled writer that it's hard not to take her side as the relationship falters. In fact, even when it's going well, it's not easy to sympathise with a man whose idea of an endearment is: "I couldn't have made up a character of a girl I'd love better than you."

But Maynard is as hard on her younger self as she is on the great man. Though she had published intimate essays since her early teens, and long been feted for her "honesty," it has taken the overachiever many years to realise that she had carefully left out her most personal burdens--her father's alcoholism, her mother's nighttime "snuggling" and overwhelming intrusions, the distance between her and her older sister.

Still,At Home in the World is more than a clearing house for past parental and amorous wrongs. It's a cautionary tale about using language and the pretence of truth to obscure key realities. --Kerry Fried

Review

Review:
In 1972, Joyce Maynard, an undergraduate at Yale, wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine called 'An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life'. Among the hundreds of letters she received as a result, one expressed deep affection for her writing, and concern at the exploitation that she might be subjected to. The writer was J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye.

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At Home in the World A Memoir (ISBN: 9780312195564)
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