I have read Cather in the Rye twice in my lifetime. Both times I missed what others seem to have to have found. When I was in college, the book was a rage read. I did not like it. Thinking I was too immature or just an inexperienced reader, I read it as a mature woman. Both times, the book left me wondering what all the thrill was about.
Last winter I saw J. D. Salinger on a PBS documentary. He was rather interesting as a man, although being a recluse is a little at odds for a writer. I thought maybe I would checkout his work again sometime. I expect that someday after his death the old manuscripts he wrote and then locked in a vault will be printed soon.
This winter I saw the movie Labor Day at the theater. With actors Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet, the movie was an interest-holding tale even though the story wasn’t overly astounding; I thought the ending tacked on a bit. However, it was taken from a novel and I was interested enough to sit through credits to see the name Joyce Maynard. Something about the name seemed familiar, but I could not retrieve info from my mental file cabinet.
So I looked her up on the internet and saw she had been in a short relationship with Salinger when she was 18…and he was 53. When she was 44, she wrote a memoir-tell all-about her life. I remember when the book came out and I dismissed it thinking she was another person trying to make a buck off the name of a famous author. However, now after seeing Labor Day, I wanted to know about her own writing.
Joyce Maynard came from a talented and intelligent set of parents who were very unique. Her growing up years were formative and somewhat odd. She was a very successful writer herself by eighteen. Then she fell into a relationship with J. D. Salinger that was…well, downright weird. The man was a couple of levels beyond peculiar. Here were two dysfunctional people who found each other resulting in Maynard’s throwing away her Yale scholarship!
Despite finding myself irritated with both Maynard’s and Salinger’s behavior, I kept reading. I will admit to being interested in how such talented people could wreck their own lives. It always interests me how some people can break the rules and still sit on a pedestal too. But in the middle of the book, there was a turn as this young girl began to develop into a stronger woman. It became very interesting to see how Maynard developed, overcame flaws, and reached a sound maturity. She made a wonderful mother herself.
While I have gained no desire to read more of J.D. Salinger, I do want to find more of Maynard’s work. In looking at her lists of novels, I see I have already read her book, The Good Daughters. I remember it as a very good read, an unusual plot, although in places, needing a serious suspension of disbelief. She has a brand new novel out, The Usual Rules. I think I am going to give that book a shot!
It is always interesting to see how writers produce their works. It does seem that gifted people often pay the price of some kind of dysfunction for their gift like alcoholism, depression, mental issues. Then again maybe there are no true “normal” people! J