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At Home in the World

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"For over thirty years Jerry Salinger has sought his protection in privacy and silence. I have come to believe that my greatest protection comes in self-disclosure." Unfortunately, as this creepy and pathetic memoir reveals, Maynard's self-protection comes at the expense of the notoriously reclusive author of Catcher in the Rye. Since the age of 18, when a cover story in the New York Times Magazine brought her to the attention of the public (and Mr. Salinger), Maynard (Where Loves Goes, LJ 7/93) has been writing, mostly about herself. (One critic dubbed her "Me-Me-Me Maynard.") Here discretion is not her middle name. Besides the already-reported details of her ten-month-affair with Salinger (his unsuccessful homeopathic treatments for her frigidity, his enjoyment of The Andy Griffith Show), Maynard goes into excessive detail about other aspects of her personal life (her father's alcoholism, her bulimia, her bitter divorce, her breast implants, etc.). Strangely, she says little about her parents' reaction when in 1972 she dropped out of Yale, forfeited the tuition money, and moved in with the 53-year-old Salinger. This is compelling in a horrifying way (like gawking at a car wreck), but in the end, the reader finishes it feeling a bit soiled.‘Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"

Maynard, novelist (Baby Love; To Die For) essayist, columnist and Web-page chatteuse, was a freshman at Yale in April 1972 when the New York Times Magazine published her cover article, "An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life." Of the hundreds of letters she received, one from the reclusive J.D. Salinger, then 53, praising her talent and warning her against the dangers of early success, struck a particular chord. Maynard quickly wrote back and, following a summer of letters, phone calls and visits to Cornish, N.H., she dropped out of Yale and moved in with him. Maynard's observant, straight-faced presentation of what are nonetheless often hilarious events chez Salinger has to be one of the shrewdest deflations of a literary reputation on record. What's plain and most damaging is the nature of Jerry's interest in Joyce, who looked about 11 and who arrived for her first visit in a dress almost identical to one she wore in first grade. Maynard poignantly describes her alienation and isolation, which Salinger reinforced before cruelly discarding her. Unable for legal reasons to quote Salinger's letters, Maynard nevertheless makes the reader see why his words so captivated her: "I fell in love with his voice on the page," she says. Once she moved in, however, Jerry began to sound like an aging Holden Caulfield, abrasive and contemptuous. Maynard takes too long setting up her family history pre-Salinger and far too long recounting her life since, inadvertently revealing why Salinger and others seem to have wearied of her. But her painstaking honesty about herself lends credence to her portrayal of Salinger as something worse than a cranky eccentric. This will be a hard story to ignore. First serial to Vanity Fair. (Oct.)

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