Biography / Memoir

My Salinger Year

My Salinger Year

Summary:

At twenty-three, after leaving graduate school to pursue her dreams of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff moves to New York City and takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J. D. Salinger. She spends her days in a plush, wood-paneled office, where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and old-time agents doze at their desks after martini lunches. At night she goes home to the tiny, threadbare Williamsburg apartment she shares with her socialist boyfriend. Precariously balanced between glamour and poverty, surrounded by titanic personalities, and struggling to trust her own artistic instinct, Rakoff is tasked with answering Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. But as she reads the candid, heart-wrenching letters from his readers around the world, she finds herself unable to type out the agency’s decades-old form response. Instead, drawn inexorably into the emotional world of Salinger’s devotees, she abandons the template and begins writing back. Over the course of the year, she finds her own voice by acting as Salinger’s, on her own dangerous and liberating terms. 

Rakoff paints a vibrant portrait of a bright, hungry young woman navigating a heady and longed-for world, trying to square romantic aspirations with burgeoning self-awareness, the idea of a life with life itself. Charming and deeply moving, filled with electrifying glimpses of an American literary icon, “My Salinger Year” is the coming-of-age story of a talented writer. Above all, it is a testament to the universal power of books to shape our lives and awaken our true selves.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This was a coming-of-age memoir that had me of two minds.  I adored the experiences with the books, at “the Agency” and how Rakoff is trying to find her way in life. What I didn’t enjoy was her choices regarding her relationship and how she managed to just go along with everything in that perspective.

Don’t get me wrong, I know this is a memoir, not fiction – yet there seemed to be so little retrospective concern over the relationship that it made me sad.  For someone who seemed to see so clearly within the publishing industry, she wasn’t able to see clearly personally.

That being said, this book was charming and the nostalgia strikes you deeply as a reader.  I enjoyed the perspective and the overall enjoyment remembering what it was to live in New York in your early twenties.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone willing to visit the older publishing world and New York in the early 90’s.

Measure of a Man

Measure of a Man

Summary: 

He's been called "America's greatest living tailor" and "the most interesting man in the world." Now, for the first time, Holocaust survivor Martin Greenfield tells his incredible life story. Taken from his Czechoslovakian home at age fifteen and transported to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz with his family, Greenfield came face to face with "Angel of Death" Dr. Joseph Mengele and was divided forever from his parents, sisters, and baby brother.

In haunting, powerful prose, Greenfield remembers his desperation and fear as a teenager alone in the death camp—and how an SS soldier's shirt dramatically altered the course of his life. He learned how to sew; and when he began wearing the shirt under his prisoner uniform, he learned that clothes possess great power and could even help save his life.

“Measure of a Man” is the story of a man who suffered unimaginable horror and emerged with a dream of success. From sweeping floors at a New York clothing factory to founding America’s premier custom suit company, Greenfield built a fashion empire. Now 86 years old and working with his sons, Greenfield has dressed the famous and powerful of D.C. and Hollywood, including Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, celebrities Paul Newman, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jimmy Fallon, and the stars of Martin Scorsese's films.

Written with soul-baring honesty and, at times, a wry sense of humor, “Measure of a Man” is a memoir unlike any other—one that will inspire hope and renew faith in the resilience of man. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Please note: I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher and I voluntarily chose to write a review

Review:

This was a short, but fascinating book that I couldn’t put down.  Martin Greenfield is a larger than life character that immediately brings you into his world.  He speaks candidly about his time in Auschwitz and doesn’t hide harsh realities.  In some ways, it was hearing his stories immediately after being liberated from the camp shows more insight to his character than the time up to that point.  One of the things that I appreciated most about him as a person is his matter of fact approach to problems, one day at a time.

I do have to say that towards the end of the book I was a little frustrated with the tone of congratulations that seeps in, but I also struggle to begrudge that from someone who managed to be so successful.  I both dislike and liked the celebrity anecdotes because of that angle.  Nonetheless this is a book I’d highly recommend!

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone who has any passing interest in World War II or tailoring.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

Summary:

The Emmy Award-winning comedian, actress, writer, and star of Inside Amy Schumer and the acclaimed film Trainwreck has taken the entertainment world by storm with her winning blend of smart, satirical humor. Now, Amy Schumer has written a refreshingly candid and uproariously funny collection of (extremely) personal and observational essays. 

In “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo”, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is - a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friends - an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she's experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor's secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably - but only because it's over.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

I really really liked this book.  I wasn’t expecting there to be quite so many serious moments, but it was addressed so wonderfully I didn’t mind taking a break from the comedy and having some “real talk”.  I particularly loved the chapters talking about her working at summer camp and her parents.  They’re thoughtful, interesting and provoked reflection of my own.

Amy Schumer is someone I vaguely watch off and on, but I’m certainly no devotee.  This biography put me a little more over the edge and I’d be interested in watching more of her stuff.  The book certainly isn’t life-changing and she’s the first to admit she’s a work in progress, but that’s why she’s also so endearing.  I’d certainly would recommend this to anyone.

Warning: Contains repeated swearing and sexual content.

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Folks looking for humor, an honest portrayal and a bit of feminist flare.

Bossypants

Bossypants

Summary:

Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

I really enjoyed “Bossypants” because it was light and funny, but also gave us some real insight to Tina’s everyday life.  She really seems like the kind of person that you could hang out with, without feeling overwhelmed.  She’s quirky and unapologetic about it.  The lasting story of the memoir is to be yourself and embrace what you have.  There are no half-veiled “you can do it too if you just work hard!” mini-advice chapters, but the truth as it is and what happened.  I found this refreshing because although I am often interested in a memoir, it doesn’t mean I want to BECOME that person.

I had forgotten that Tina Fey lived in Chicago after college so it was pretty funny to know exactly where she was talking about in her adventures there.  Having gone many times, it was also neat to see some of the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of Second City.  I’d definitely recommend this one and the audio book won many awards if that’s something that appeals to you!

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Folks looking for something funny, light and somewhat insightful, but not too deep.