Tag Archives: New Hampshire

At Home in the World, a memoir by Joyce Maynard

MLA Citation:

Maynard, Joyce. At Home in the World. New York: Picador, 1998. Print.

Jacket Copy:

“The daughter of brilliant and complicated parents-an adoring alcoholic artist for a father and a dazzling, funny, and wildly frustrating mother, driven to see her daughters achieve what had never been possible for herself-Joyce Maynard grew up with a pen in her hand, writing and publishing stories before she reached her teens.

In the spring of 1972, when she was a freshman at Yale, 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.

At Home in the World explores the story of Maynard’s family, her relationship with Salinger, and the way the legendary writer’s influence, along with that of her parents, reverberated through her life in the decades that followed.  In these pages, she chronicles her painful reentry into the world, her development as a writer, her marriage, her struggle to become a healthy parent to her own children, the death of her parents, and the years, following the end of her marriage, when she set out to rebuild her life.

A crucial turning point in Maynard’s story occurred when her own daughter turned eighteen-the age Maynard herself was when Salinger first approached her.  Compelled to achieve a greater level of understanding, Maynard made the decision to break her twenty-five year silence about what had taken place with Salinger.

At Home in the World is at once both a tale of an extraordinary and unique experience, and a universal story about coming of age, the experience of loss and confusion, and the struggle to become whole.  In these pages, Maynard confronts with unblinking honesty, compassion and surprising humor the most painful truths of her experience.  But ultimately, hers is not a story of devastation or regret.  At Home in the World is about redemption and triumph, and the wisdom acquired when at long last a woman embraces the disquieting truths of her history.”

Reader’s Guide – “Zooey”

Publication Details

Franny and Zooey
Image by Megan Inghram

The New Yorker, May 4, 1957 pages 32-42, 44, 47-48, 50, 52,54,57-59, 62, 64, 67-68, 70, 73-74, 76-78, 80-82, 87-90, 92-96, 99-102, 105-106, 108-112, 115-122, 125-139 (original appearance). Later published by Little Brown as Franny and Zooey in 1961, and dedicated to William Shawn.

Character List

Frances Glass (“Franny”)

A 20 year old college student

Zachary Martin Glass (“Zooey”)

Zooey is 25 years old. He is considered one of the most attractive and successful of the Glass children. It is noted that he is a successful television actor.

Bessie Glass

Irish-born family matriarch. Bessie worries about her children who have all seemed to grow up almost by themselves after years of success on “It’s a Wise Child.”

Les Glass

The absent father, Les is more or less only mentioned in “Zooey.” He is of Jewish descent and he and Bessie were successful Vaudevillians

Buddy Glass

Buddy is the second-oldest of the Glass children, he teaches at a women’s college.

Seymour Glass

Seymour has been dead 13 years during the course of events that composes “Zooey.”  Franny says she wants to talk to Seymour and that doing so is the only thing that will make her feel better.

Plot Synopsis

“Zooey” continues the story of Franny’s “spiritual awakening” on Monday, two days after Franny’s trip to Princeton. The novella also gives the reader additional information about the unusual upbringing of the Glass children, whose radio appearances as child geniuses, has created a unique bond among them. Salinger indicates even more in “Zooey” than in other Glass family stories that the Glass siblings have a unique understanding of one another based on this shared experience.

The narrative opens with Zooey, smoking and soaking in a hot bathtub, reading a four-year old letter from his brother, Buddy. The letter encourages Zooey to continue pursuing his acting career. Zooey’s mother, Bessie, enters the bathroom, and the two have a long discussion, wherein Bessie expresses her worries about Franny, whose existential anxiety seen in “Franny” has progressed to a state of emotional collapse. During the conversation, Zooey vacillates between a sort of tit-for-tat banter with his mother and a downright rude dismissal of her and repeatedly asks that she leave. Bessie accepts Zooey’s behavior, and quips that he’s becoming more and more like his brother Buddy.

After Bessie leaves, Zooey gets dressed and moves into the living room, where he finds Franny on the sofa with her cat Bloomberg, and begins speaking with her. After upsetting Franny by questioning her motives for reciting the “Jesus Prayer,” Zooey goes into Seymour and Buddy’s former bedroom and reads the back of their door, which is covered in philosophical and literary quotations. After contemplation, Zooey telephones Franny, pretending to be their brother Buddy. Franny eventually acknowledges the ruse, but she and Zooey continue to talk. Knowing that Franny reveres their oldest brother, Seymour – the spiritual leader of the family, who committed suicide years earlier – Zooey shares with her some words of wisdom that Seymour once gave him. At the end of the call, as the fundamental “secret” of Seymour’s advice is revealed, Franny seems, in a moment reminiscent of a mystical satori, to find profound existential illumination in what Zooey has told her.

Continue reading Reader’s Guide – “Zooey”