In 1972, Joyce Maynard wrote an essay for the New York Times Magazine called "An 18-Year-Old Looks Back at Life." It won her instant fame — and a letter from J.D. Salinger, renowned author of Catcher in the Rye and other fiction, who was then 53 years old. Soon after that, at his urging, Maynard left behind her scholarship at Yale and moved in with him at his New Hampshire home, where she shared the very private life that would lead to him being called a recluse. The relationship lasted for seven months before he abruptly dumped her.
Maynard became a successful journalist and novelist, married and had three children. She didn’t talk about her relationship with Salinger, even to her husband, until 1998, when she published a memoir about it, At Home in the World. The book was widely vilified for invading Salinger’s privacy; Maynard was called a "stalker" and "leech woman," among other things. She also sold Salinger’s love letters to a collector. (Salinger, who died in 2010, made no public comment.)
Twenty years later, on Sept. 5, Maynard published an essay in the New York Times, "Was She J.D. Salinger’s Predator or His Prey?" In it, she recalls the reaction to At Home in the World and how her affair with Salinger has in many ways defined public perceptions of her.
Most importantly, she wonders whether readers might look at her experience 46 years ago — as a teenage girl under the spell of a powerful and charismatic older man — differently in light of the #MeToo movement.
It’s a fierce essay with a stunning punch at the end. Read it at nyti.ms/2PCeV1u.
Maynard will be a featured author at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Nov. 17, talking about her 14th book, a new memoir about her second marriage titled The Best of Us. She might have other topics to discuss as well.
Colette Bancroft, Times book editor