Thursday, January 28, 2010

Book recommendation: "At Home in the World"

In light of today's news about J.D. Salinger's death (RIP), I want to point out a book from 1998 not written by him: "At Home in the World" by Joyce Maynard. It's a memoir, made famous mostly because it focuses largely on Maynard's relationship with Salinger and the time during which they lived together.

It's been many years (10? more?) since I've read the book, and while I don't recall every detail of it, I do recall being extremely interested the entire time I was reading it. There is more to the book than the Salinger bit, and Maynard herself has had an interesting life -- she wrote her first memoir, "Looking Back," when she was 18!

I don't want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn't read it, but I will add this paragraph from the book, the last of the author's notes at the start of the book (emphasis mine):
"All my life I had been trying to make sense of my experiences without understanding a crucial piece of my history. I couldn't have said, two years ago, what it was in how I had lived before meeting Jerry Salinger that made his power over me so vast and enduring. I couldn't have said how the events of that year I spent with Jerry shaped what I went on to do with my life. Now it was hitting me in the image of my daughter. All these years, I had been holding on to secrets that kept me from understanding or explaining myself. I knew it was time at last to explore my story.As for Salinger's death, all I can really say is that a book like "Catcher in the Rye," a book that itself is legendary, doesn't come around often. I didn't read it until later in my life, and I'm not obsessive about it in the slightest like some people are (I've read many books that captivated me more than "Catcher"), I can understand why it became a piece of our literary history. If you haven't read it, do. And definitely read "Franny and Zooey," and "Nine Stories" is worth reading as well. I have not read his other book, "Raise High the Roof Beam, and Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction," anyone have thoughts on that one?


shanalee said...

i gave a good friend raise high the roof beam for his high school graduation. he sent me an email today because that was the book that made him LOVE reading. its pretty special.

Rosie said...

Wow, that's a great compliment to the book! I've always meant to read it, and will at some point. Sooner than later now, I think!


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