Former Salinger Protegee Awaits New Documentary

Aug 30, 2013
Originally published on September 2, 2013 4:59 pm

A new documentary opening next week promises to shed light on the late J.D. Salinger, one of America’s most famous and mysterious authors.

One of the people who agreed to speak about the reclusive author is Joyce Maynard, who dropped out of Yale after her freshman year to live with Salinger in New Hampshire.

She received a lot of criticism for writing about that relationship in her 1998 memoir “At Home in the World.”

As she tells Here & Now, she hopes that the documentary will drive people to seek out the truth in her story, rather than criticize her outright.

To aid that effort, she is republishing her memoir.

Here & Now’s interview with Maynard about her new novel, “After Her,” will air next week.

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Next week, a new documentary will raise the curtain on one of American literatures most mysterious figures.


YOUNG: He, being J. D. Salinger who stopped publishing in 1965, died in 2010. In between, he was rarely seen outside his Cornish, New Hampshire, home. One of those who did see him, Yale freshman Joyce Maynard.

In 1972, Joyce wrote a New York Times cover story, "An 18-Year-Old Looks Back On Life." It captivated young Americans and J. D. Salinger, who was 53. He wrote to Joyce, asked her to come to New Hampshire to live with him. Their relationship lasted for nine months until Salinger abruptly ended it.

Joyce Maynard, of course, became an author in her own right and kept silent about their affair until her 1998 memoir, "At Home in the World." Many of Salinger's fans saw the book as an act of betrayal. She saw it as claiming her voice, which she continues to do. She told us that's why she agreed to appear in the new documentary.

JOYCE MAYNARD: It would not have been my choice that the name of a man who I last had a conversation with in 1973 would continue to haunt me on a regular basis. Not by my choice, but what am I to do? Say nothing? Let other people decide what the truth was? So I did after, with some hesitation, agree to be interviewed for the Salinger documentary, and I have no idea what it will look like.

My hope is that if people are interested in this story, they will go to the source. So I took great pains to make "At Home in the World" available again with a new preface. And the part that I'm proudest of is that, for the first time, I recorded it. It was a grueling process to sit in the studio and go over the story of some of the most painful experiences of my life. But I wanted people to be able to hear in my voice what happened.

YOUNG: Joyce Maynard. The new documentary, "Salinger," opens in theaters next week. And by the way, also next week, we'll have a conversation with Joyce about her terrific new novel, which is inspired by the true story of the San Francisco serial killer called the Trailside Killer. That's next week on HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.