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At Home in the World: A Memoir (original 1998; edition 1999)

by Joyce Maynard

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279840,505 (3.66)2
Member:MyUtopia
Title:At Home in the World: A Memoir
Authors:Joyce Maynard
Info:Picador (1999), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:non fiction, read in 2010

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At Home in the World: A Memoir by Joyce Maynard (1998)

  1. 00
    An Education by Lynn Barber (ramblingivy)
    ramblingivy: Another memoir of a young woman who fell into a powerful, educative, and perhaps damaging, relationship with an older, flawed, man.
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At Home in the World is a brutally honest memoir by Joyce Maynard. She describes her early life with highly accomplished parents; her father was an alcoholic and her mother a housewife. Both wanted to do more with their lives but were regulated to less than fufilling roles. Her older sister, Rona, was a bit distant and cold but was able to get on with her life.

Then, at 18 while as a Freshman at Yale, Maynard wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine regarding her generation that caught the attention of reclusive writer, J.D. Salinger. After nearly a year, Salinger cruelly pushes her aside leaving Maynard sort of spiraling. Eventually, she is able to get married and have children and get her literary career on track.

I know many of the complaints here on Goodreads was that Maynard spent too much time on her relationship with Salinger even though it was for such a duration of her life. Granted, that is true but it was such a pivotal and influential relationship that it trickled into her life thereafter.

Maynard became a bit obsessive and she showed that obsession. Almost everything in her life came back to that relationship with Salinger. I felt bad for her. She is able to get out of its grip but it took a lot of time and a lot of confidence and determination to do so. I liked that Maynard showed the good and bad parts of her personality. I liked that balance. She admitted to her selective storytelling; it was not a lie but not the whole truth.

I felt bad that her marriage ended but she did have three children whom seem to be very mature and understanding. I had seen the documentary Salinger and read the book of the same name and while, I still feel bad for Salinger himself, he did seem exploitative of Maynard and the other girls he began corresponding with. Salinger knew who he was and what power he had. ( )
  Y2Ash | Apr 16, 2014 |
Joyce Maynard gives a rare glimpse inside the home of two highly intellingent parents. Maynard's life would revolve around school and listeing to her mom critique kids who came to the family home to be toutered in English. Maynard often cites that, "her mom made the pies quite often, which would latter become a way in which Maynard honors her mothers memory". There are impressions that Maynard creates as though she is on the outside looking in to certain situations she encounters in adolescents, which leave her to feel strange regarding her sexuality. As time transcends, she recieves mail after having written to the author J.D. Salinger. Her life turns around completely at that point and the focus of the book shifts to the life she wishes to create with Salinger. At this point the reader is asked to compare her life with her parents which is no pic-nic, but life with Salinger and his children is also odd. There are no end in sight for the many intense stories that develop as a result of the relationship with Salinger, as well as when the relationship would inevitably end. As other chapters detail a happier time, it is also fitted into Maynard's unique perspective as writter who was focused on continuity, no matter what the next writting assigment would be Maynard makes it quite clear that writting was not a part time job. Maynard's writting reminds me of meeting someone on the street, who you will never see again but you just have the most amazing stories to encounter and to share with that person. Maynard continues to flourish in Guatamela a place where she gives courses on writing as well as her home in California. Maynard often speaks difficult topics as she shares stories that define courage, truth, identity, cause and concern for everyday stories that people encounter and wonder about. I once saw an image of clear curtain, what was on the other side, only I could tell. ( )
  Gloria47 | Jul 27, 2013 |
This memoir is the story of author Joyce Maynard's life, focusing mostly on her romantic relationship with J.D. Salinger (yes, the one who wrote Catcher in the Rye). The book covers in great detail, leaving out NOTHING, the bizarre romance between Maynard, a 19-year old Yale freshman, and Salinger, a 53-year old recluse. By the end of this book, I felt that I had spent hours reading a very long issue of a grocery tabloid. There are personal details about both authors' lives that might be juicy gossip, but are not at all interesting or inspiring. By the end of this book, I did not like either author. What I found interesting was my own reaction. I have on my 'to read' list books by both authors - Maynard's book, The Usual Rules (a 4.05 goodreads rating!) and Salinger's Franny and Zooey. After reading this memoir, I was toying with the idea of getting rid of both books, after all, too many books, not enough time. But, just because I don't agree with how a person lives their life or their values, doesn't mean that they aren't a great writer. We have this perverse fascination with authors, actors, politicians, etc. in the spotlight. We want to know everything about them, when what happens in their personal lives is not necessarily a reflection of their work.

On a positive note, this book was our October bookclub read. Although I disliked the book, the discussion was great and lasted many hours. The book raises many issues - dating someone who is 35 years older, making the same mistakes as our parents, why do authors write, etc. - very interesting topics! ( )
  jmoncton | Jun 3, 2013 |
At Home in the World is Joyce Maynard's memoir - a memoir written in her 40s. The driving force of this memoir seems to be to expose her brief affair with JD Salinger in 1972 when she was just 18. This might seem like a strange and obscure thing to focus on for a memoir. When I look back at my various relationships till my first solid one at 26, I do not feel the need to write a memoir. This memoir appears to have been written simply because it was JD Salinger, and not some other guy.

I experienced very ambivalent feelings about this book. I enjoyed reading it, but I was frequently annoyed by the author for her claims at exposing herself, yet leaving me with a very strong feeling that she was being, at times, insincere and, at other times, melodramatic. I felt as if she did not relate things as they really are but, rather, as she hopes they will be seen, such as removing context from statements made by herself or her children and framing them in a dramatic straightforwardness that gave the speaker the appearance of wisdom, insight or some other kind of special quality. There was a lot of this but very little evidence to suggest its actual fact.
This is a pleasant book to read, but I do not think she is a great writer. I feel like I have gotten to know a soft shell rather than a great portion of the mind of a person. Apparently revealing comments on such things as her bulimia feel artificial next to her statement that this was "her problem with food". When she was young, she seemed to have an obsession with her appearance that required her to include her photograph with her articles and on the cover of her books. Later in life she had a boob job. There is obviously a very troubled vanity here that doesn't understand its root.
But, for all that, I find her quite likeable. I feel as if she wants to be an honest writer but does not know how to do it. She often says (and you can even hear her say this on her website) that she has always acted to please other people, as especially illustrated in her troubling relationship with Salinger.
For a year after she wrote a career "landmark" article in the NYT, she corresponded with Salinger, who may have been more attracted to her youthful and intelligent face in her publicity photos. He lauded her as a great writer, and wrote to her obsessively. Within a short time she was equally obsessed, partly because of the flattery he lavished on her over her writing. They met and started having an affair that lasted a year. It was marred early on by small episodes, on his part, of irritability with her domestic habits - small things, like leaving a mess in the kitchen. Over time, he started criticising her choices in subject matter in her writing and her approach to her career. He wanted someone who thought just like him, and she wasn't it. It's not her fault, and it is unfair to criticise her at all for this choice of direction at 18.
The rest of the book covers her subsequent life, marriage, children, moving, writing, the deaths of her parents, and achievements of her family members, up until the day she decides to visit Salinger again, in prelude to the publication of this book. The visit is a nasty one, showing what a mean man he is, and probably giving some kind of good-riddance ending to her lifelong preoccupation with that memorable year in her life.
For all its faults, this book is a special insight into the person of Salinger and the life of a decent and troubled writer, Maynard. If you don't own a copy, just view this interview with her (provided in a link through her site) which gives a good summary of the contents of her book.
  bezzalina | Jan 26, 2009 |
Story of brodcaster and journalist Joyce Maynard's relationship with legendary writer JD Salinger, who was 35 years older. I , ihaven't read anything else about Salinger, so can't vouch for the balance of the account. But it seems to be an honest, believeable, in-depth account considering that the author was a teenager at the time. It's beautifully written and most illuminating of such relationships. ( )
  Bat | Nov 13, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312202296, Paperback)

Joyce Maynard's memoir At Home in the World is an attempt to make peace with herself. At times, however, it's hard not to see it as an act of war--on her parents and, most notably, on J.D. Salinger. Maynard's account of her year-long relationship with the reclusive writer is the centerpiece of the book and the publicity pivot on which it turns. And how not? She first encountered Salinger when he wrote her a fan letter following her world-weary but not necessarily wordly wise New York Times Magazine cover piece, "An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life." He was then 53 and, as Maynard paraphrases, wanted her "to know that I could be a real writer, if I would just look out for myself, as no other person is likely to." By the time she was 19, she was living with the increasingly controlling Salinger and doing her best to adhere to his regimens, from homeopathy at any price to a mostly macrobiotic diet heavy on frozen peas. (Lamb burgers, formed into patties and then frozen--before being cooked at a dysentery-friendly 150 degrees--also figure heavily.)

What's worse, he does his best to turn the hugely driven young woman into a mistrusting, publicity-shy prig, not to mention helping her perfect her already anorexic bent. Maynard is such a skilled writer that it's hard not to take her side as the relationship falters. In fact, even when it's going well, it's not easy to sympathize with a man whose idea of an endearment is, "I couldn't have made up a character of a girl I'd love better than you." But Maynard is as hard on her younger self as she is on the great man. Though she had published intimate essays since her early teens, and long been feted for her "honesty," it has taken the overachiever many years to realize that she had carefully left out her most personal burdens--her father's alcoholism, her mother's nighttime "snuggling" and overwhelming intrusions, the distance between her and her older sister.

Still, At Home in the World is more than a clearing-house for past parental and amorous wrongs. It's a cautionary tale about using language and the pretense of truth to obscure key realities. One of the many curiosities in this discomfiting book? Salinger dreamt that he and Maynard had a child together: "I saw her face clearly. Her name was Bint." The World War II veteran then looks up the word. "What do you know," he says. "It's archaic British, for little girl." Maynard never, even now, has questioned his definition. In fact, it's slang, used especially in World War II, for prostitute. When Salinger forced the 19-year-old to clear her things out of his New Hampshire house, she was still unaware of the word's force. "On the window of Jerry's bedroom, where the glass is dusty, I write, with my finger, the name of the child we had talked about: BINT." --Kerry Fried

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:40 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In the spring of 1972, when she was a freshman at Yale, Joyce Maynard wrote a cover story for The New York Times Magazine about life as a young person in the sixties. Among the hundreds of letters she received in response was one from the famously reclusive author J.D. Salinger. They embarked on a correspondence. Within months she had left college and moved in with him - believing, despite their thirty-five-year age difference, that she had found her soulmate and that they would be together always. Shortly before the publication of Looking Back, the book she wrote over the course of her time with him, Salinger sent Maynard away - an event so devastating that she herself retreated from the world for two years in a New Hampshire farmhouse.… (more)

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