I’ll be honest. When I read the blurb for this book, my first thought was: save me from a book set in publishing.
There’s something ouroborous-like about a memoir set in a literary agency, a sense of the book world eating itself. Bad enough that so many novels feature writers as main characters, but a book in which the author admits to being a wannabe writer working in the rareified world of New York literary publishing and then sets out to write about it? Kill me now – and I say that as a bookworm who briefly worked in publishing. But that was before I read the book.
When author Joanna Rakoff (yes, she made it as a writer) sat down to write about her first job as a naïve 24-year-old who just happens to land a job assisting J.D. Salinger’s agent, she somehow managed to make what could have been a tale of irritating privilege into something meaningful. This won’t just appeal to you if you ever worked, or ever wanted to work, in publishing.
This will appeal to anyone who remembers what their first job was like – or anyone struggling through theirs right now. Often, our first jobs coincide with a time when we’re not just trying to learn how to answer a phone correctly, or how to negotiate a difficult boss, but when we’re trying to figure out how to negotiate adult life in general.
So it is with Joanna, who isn’t simply living out a 1990s version of Girls, complete with worn-down loafers, dodgy boyfriend and overpriced, underheated rental. This is a ‘coming-of-age’ memoir that deserves the name, because by the time we reach the end of Joanna’s year, both we and she have learned lessons by the dozen.
Honest, clever and guaranteed to make you cry – just like, dare we say it, good ol’ Salinger. (As a bonus, this book might just inspire you to dig out that battered old copy of Franny And Zooey again…)
Recommended by: Deputy Editor Lauren Hadden