Almost 50 years after giving up to live with JD Salinger, Joyce Maynard is a Yale student with a new novel – Orange County Register
Joyce Maynard is 67 now and, in a sense, the circle has come full circle. She returned to Yale University as a student in 2018 – she is now a junior – after dropping out on day one of her sophomore year in 1972. At the time, she left her scholarship and friends behind. to settle in a cabin in the woods of New Hampshire. with JD Salinger, the reclusive novelist of “Catcher in the Rye”, at his request. He was 53 years old.
Salinger had sought her out shortly after gaining national fame as a teenager for writing a New York Times Magazine cover article, “An 18-Year-Old Looks Back on Life.” This gripping story prompted “this extraordinarily convincing man to tear me out of the world by writing compelling letters to me,” Maynard says, letters she then auctioned off for $ 156,500 in 1999.
The relationship ended after 11 months when the man who told her she was her soul mate handed her two $ 50 bills and told her to leave, calling her, she said, “shallow and corrupt. “. The experience will mark her for life. She was 19.
In the decades that followed, Maynard worked as a New York Times reporter, radio host, national columnist, writing coach, college professor, and essayist, and she is a household name in national magazines.
She has also published 10 novels and five memoirs and is currently working on another of each. “The memoir is about my experience returning to college at age 64,” she says.
Maynard’s new novel, “Count the Ways” (William Morrow, July 13), is an epic family drama spanning 40 years. Maynard has been married twice, has three children, and has lived in the Bay Area since 1996.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How autobiographical is “Count the Ways”?
A: A lot of things that have happened in my life are reimagined in the book. This is my book on marriage and divorce, and I had so much to say. I’ve written about these things before, but at a very different point in my life. I wanted to explore these experiences through the lens of someone my age now, and they look so different.
There are no heroes or villains. I think I’m a nicer, more compassionate person, so it’s a story that recognizes the need for forgiveness all around. One of the lessons of age is that grievance doesn’t serve you very well.
Q: You said that the death of your second husband in 2017 has profoundly changed your outlook.
A: Things that used to seem so important don’t seem so important anymore. Life and the people there seemed more important than ever. Our whole relationship was over just 4.5 years, two of which he was very sick and dying, a struggle we went through together. I don’t know how you go through this without being changed by it.
Q: What prompted you to return to Yale?
A: It wasn’t about getting a degree and there was no illusion that I was going to train for a new career. No registration at the Faculty of Medicine. I was 64 years old, my husband had passed away and I was up for a great adventure. It certainly has been.
Q: Yale is linked to the story of Salinger.
A: I know Salinger is part of how I am viewed, but I am weary of him. We don’t always choose what our problems are. The sad part is that this story continues to happen to young women. People say, “Oh, Joyce is leaving with Salinger,” but I’ll keep talking about it for as long as it happens (referring to her recent Vanity Fair magazine essay).
Q: You have been leading an annual one-week memoir writing workshop in a Guatemalan village since 2001. Is the teacher really the student?
A: Absolutely. When I speak of forgiveness and compassion, it comes from hearing the stories of so many people and the struggles they have survived. I took their stories with me and they informed my life.
Q: Over the past 30 years you have taught “well over 1,000 people” how to bake pies, in honor of your mother baker.
A: Anyone can make the filling, it’s all about touching and handling the dough for a perfect crust. You have to be very attentive, comfortable and free. The making of pies is a metaphor for how I feel about a lot of things.
My shortening has always been half butter, half Crisco. But I found my crust was even better when I used all the butter. This is perhaps my most important legacy.
Q: You have had an emotionally tumultuous life, but you never stop moving forward. What drives you?
A: My vision is that I am lucky. Probably the most important thing for me was never to have an easy and comfortable life. I wanted to have an interesting life. I have found that life is not always fun or practical, but it is very interesting.
Q: Your memoir inspires your readers, but what inspires you?
A: I could talk about music and art, some writers, a beautiful garden, a beautiful place. But the truth inspires me. It’s the unassailable thing and you can’t pretend.