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A Slightly Foxed Podcast Special | My Salinger Year: Joanna Rakoff & Rosie Goldsmith in Conversation

‘There was no voicemail. I was the voicemail.’ In this out-of-series special episode of the Slightly Foxed Podcast Joanna Rakoff, author of the 2008 literary smash hit My Salinger Year (released as a Slightly Foxed limited-edition hardback in March 2024), joins us down the line from her home in Massachusetts for a conversation with our podcast presenter Rosie Goldsmith.

From their respective sides of the Atlantic, Rosie and Joanna take a trip back to New York in the freezing winter of 1966 when Joanna Rakoff, aged 24, landed her first job as assistant at one of the city’s oldest and most distinguished literary agencies. No matter that she didn’t even know what a literary agent was and had lied about her typing speed. She’d also led her parents to believe she was living with a female college friend when she was in fact sharing an unheated Brooklyn apartment with a penniless and unpublished Marxist novelist whose sole and very part-time job was watering the plants at Goldman Sachs.

Rosie and Joanna take us deep into the strange, time-warped world she’s strayed into at The Agency, with its Selectric typewriters, filing cabinets and carbon paper, and into her unusual relationship with its best-known author J. D. Salinger, to whose mountain of fan mail it was Joanna’s job to reply. Salinger was famously reclusive, wanting nothing to do with his fans and Joanna was supposed to reply with a pro forma letter. But the more heart-wrenching the letters she read, the more she found herself pulled into the senders’ lives and, unbeknownst to her terrifying boss (‘whiskey mink, enormous sunglasses, a long cigarette holder’), she replied to every single one and sometimes, fatally, enclosed a personal note herself.

Joanna describes how My Salinger Year came to be, from a gem of an idea explored in the confessional 2011 BBC Sounds documentary Hey Mr Salinger to a best-selling memoir that inspired a Hollywood film starring Sigourney Weaver and Margaret Qualley, and how, when Salinger died, she turned to her bookshelves for comfort. Now, twenty years after its first publication, My Salinger Year joins the much loved Slightly Foxed Editions list of memoirs by such authors as Hilary MantelJessica MitfordRoald DahlGraham Greene and many others.

This episode is available to watch as a video on our new YouTube channel. For those who prefer to listen, it’s also available on our website and through our usual podcast platforms. Please read on for links.


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Show Notes

Books Mentioned

Please find links to books and further reading listed below. The digits in brackets following each listing refer to the minute and second they are mentioned. (Episode duration:  minutes;  seconds)

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Joanna Rakoff, My Salinger Year (0:43)

J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (16:52)

J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zoe (16:53)

J. D. Salinger, Nine Stories (16:58)

J. D. Salinger, Seymour – an Introduction (31:50)

Joanna Rakoff, A Fortunate Age (37:30)

Other Links

Hey Mr Salinger – BBC Radio 4

– The film adaptation, My New York Year

Joanna Rakoff’s website

Holden Revisited, Ysenda Maxtone Graham on J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Issue 38

Opening music: Preludio from Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major by Bach

Hosted by Rosie Goldsmith


A Slightly Foxed Podcast Special | My Salinger Year: Joanna Rakoff & Rosie Goldsmith in Conversation

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