The XX Factor

J.D. Salinger and Joyce Maynard

J.D. Salinger has just died. One of the few portraits we have of him after he withdrew from public life and the written word and retreated to a compound in New Hampshire was the memoir by Joyce Maynard, published decades after the fact, of a months-long affair with him when she was 18 years old. The Salinger in her portrait was a sexually weird, health-obsessed crank. (Maynard also thinks he may have a couple of unpublished novels squirreled away somewhere.) Maynard was roundly excoriated for having violated Salinger’s privacy and exploiting their long-ago affair for financial gain. I agree with Hanna that there is much to excoriate about Joyce Maynard, but I always felt that she was entitled to write about her own life. Salinger contacted her after he saw her a photograph of her winsome teenage face on the cover of the New York Times Magazine illustrating probably her most famous story about herself. He was 35 years older than she-old enough to understand that when you have an affair with a writer, you may be dealing away your privacy.