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‘My Salinger Year’ catches a woman — and world — on the cusp of metamorphosis

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In 1996, Joanna Rakoff was among hundreds of recent university graduates working as assistants at New York publishing companies and literary agencies.

However, Rakoff was uniquely tasked with answering the fan mail of J.D. Salinger, one of the greatest American authors of the post-WWII era. Technically speaking, answering meant sending a form letter — but Rakoff riskily decided to personally respond under her own name to many from around the world who expressed how much Salinger’s books meant to them.

Initially, it did not occur to Rakoff, 48, to write about her stint at the prestigious Harold Ober Associates literary agency, or about her unauthorized gig responding on behalf of the notoriously reclusive Salinger. It was only in the years after the “The Catcher in the Rye” author’s death in 2010, that Rakoff produced “My Salinger Year,” an acclaimed coming-of-age memoir reflecting on that year so pivotal to the direction of her life and career.

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“With time, I realized there was something universal here, that it was a story larger than just my own. I realized a memoir doesn’t have to be about a grand person reflecting on their life, or about an enormous trauma. It can be about small moments and be shaped like a novel,” Rakoff told The Times of Israel in a video interview from her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Joanna Rakoff (Mark Ostow)

Now, Academy Award-nominated director Philippe Falardeau has turned Rakoff’s 2014 memoir into a film of the same name. It opens in United States theaters and on-demand on March 5 and in the United Kingdom on March 17.

The film version of “My Salinger Year” stars Margaret Qualley as Joanna, and Golden Globe Award-winner Sigourney Weaver as her boss, Margaret. The supporting cast includes British actor Douglas Booth as Joanna’s socialist boyfriend Don, and the excellent Irish actor Brian F. O’Byrne as sympathetic older colleague Hugh.

The 24-year-old Qualley, one of today’s leading young actors, holds her own against veteran Weaver.........

© The Times of Israel

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