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Maynard's At Home in the World re-released with new preface

Published September 09. 2013 05:00PM

It has been a big year for author Joyce Maynard.

Not only did she see the publication of her 11th book, she married her soulmate this summer, and her book, Labor Day, has been turned into a movie to be released later this year.

She is also celebrating the re-release of her memoir At Home in the World. The book, which came out last week, features a new preface by Maynard.

"I'm really proud and happy it will be available again after 15 years," says Maynard, "and for the first time, as a recorded audio book." She recorded the new version and is pleased her story can also now be heard in her own voice.

At Home in the World is a true and painfully raw account of Maynard's early years, growing up the daughter of an alcoholic father and a brilliant but unsatisfied mother; her disturbing, 10-month relationship with reclusive literary great J.D. Salinger; and her triumph as she moves past her past and finds her real place in the world.

In 1972 Maynard, an 18-year-old freshman at Yale, was pictured on the front page of The New York Times magazine, which featured her article, "An Eighteen-Year-Old Looks Back on Life." She became an overnight literary phenom.

Along with hundreds of letters, including multiple offers from editors, agents and other publications, was a letter from Salinger.

In the new preface she writes, "I did not seek out J.D. Salinger. He wrote me a letter. I was eighteen years old. He was fifty-three. Eight weeks after receiving that letter, I walked out of the world of my own making and into a world that was his. When he was finished with the chapter that had me in it, I no longer knew where I belonged if such a place even existed."

Maynard's sudden celebrity was intoxicating. But despite being offered more than she possibly could have dreamed, she walked away from it all to move in with Salinger.

She believed she loved him and that he was her destiny.

At first he praised her writing, her vivacity and her mind, but he soon found fault with everything she did. Used to doing what she was told, she tried to mold herself to his ideals, including his rigid style of eating, study of homeopathy, and distaste for the outside world in general. A modern-day Machiavelli, he not only attempted to control her mind, but her body.

When he sent her on her way, telling her "I'm finished with all this," he gave her two $50 bills and the instructions to "clear your things out of my house" before he and his children returned from a Daytona Beach vacation.

The next few months were filled with tears, calls begging Salinger to take her back and promises she would change.

A telling indicator of Maynard's disintegration from the bright, precocious 18-year-old Yale freshman to the 19-year-old, cast aside by the only man she believes she will ever love, is to compare the photograph taken of her in the Yale library for the front page of The New York Times magazine.

Sitting on the floor, cross-legged, she looks thin, young and confident. Less than a year later, in a portrait taken by famed photographer Richard Avedon for an article in Vogue about the 12 significant women of the year, she is almost unrecognizable. Her face is full and her lips are swollen from the effects of bulimia. Her long hair has been cut, her bangs are gone, and she has dark circles under her eyes.

Maynard goes on to tell the rest of her story. She falls in love, marries and has three children, but almost from the start, her marriage was in trouble. She divorces and eventually moves from New Hampshire, where she has lived most of her life, partly to remove herself from what is almost a lifetime of harsh memories.

Writing the memoir was difficult, and she eventually came to realize she had to confront Salinger one more time. Terrified at first, she summons a depth of courage she didn't know she possessed. He is angry and cruel, but for her, it was a turning point.

Maynard ends her memoir shortly after this event, but it is not the end of her story. The book almost ended her career, as writing about Salinger, who was revered by most of the literary world, made her a pariah among her peers. She was both praised and vilified, and it became increasingly difficult for her to sell her work.

In the new preface, Maynard shares the story of trying to sell her book Labor Day. The agent who eventually agreed to represent her, only did so on the condition she allow him to submit the work without her name "so people will read it free from preconceptions."

The book generated a lot of interest, but when it was revealed who had written it, some removed their offers, while others reduced the amount they were willing to pay.

Maynard has not been deterred, and her story is far from over. She has found success and love and is starting a new chapter in her life as well as a new book.

She celebrates her 60th birthday in November.

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