Joyce Maynard was a writing prodigy (or was she?), published while still a teenager. J. D. Salinger read one of her pieces and contacted her, with encouragement and praise. They corresponded. They met. He was 53, she was 18. They became lovers. Eventually, the relationship ended. Joyce Maynard, repeatedly identified as a lover of J. D. Salinger’s, continued to get published, regularly. I have never read any of her books, though I saw the movie “To Die For”, based on her book, which was very smart and interesting. If you are a serious writer, you could not be more blessed than to have your novel filmed by Gus Van Sant.
In 1998, Joyce Maynard published a book detailing her relationship with J. D. Salinger, thus launching two scandals. The first, that she revealed and exploited her past relationship with a writer who very clearly valued his personal privacy. The second is that the famous writer J. D. Salinger had a marked preference for young, pretty, smart women. Maynard didn’t say so, but it is apparent that one of those young, pretty, smart women was Joyce Maynard who replaced a previous lover, and who was, in turn, replaced by another.
Okay, Joyce Maynard didn’t think that “smart” mattered so much as the youthfulness of these women– except for her. That would not play into her narrative. She wants you to know that J.D. rejected her mind for someone with a more attractive body.
I’m not sure what she thought he should have preferred, if not young, smart, attractive women.
Older women with cooking skills? Older smart women with more wisdom?
And I’m not sure why she might think he should prefer them. Because they deserved to be recognized for their intellect? More so than the younger women deserved to be recognized for their youth or beauty?
The documentary “Salinger” (2013) alluded to his attraction to women whose personalities were yet unformed. A good hard-core feminist would describe it as something else, as vulnerability, I guess, as if these women didn’t intend that their physical attractiveness would attract men who offered something pleasing to them in return: attention. Maybe flattery. Time and money? Possible literary success– a leg up in the cut-throat world of publishing?
The deal used to be this: if you wanted to use the media to gain fame and importance so you could sell more books or disks or movies, or yourself as a politician, then you were tacitly agreeing to the intrusion of the media into your private life, and if they discovered something salacious, tough beans.
If, on the other hand, you chose to keep your privacy, avoid the media, grant no interviews, stage no photo-ops, with or without your children, and so on, the main stream media would or should generally leave you alone.
Joyce Maynard had to portray herself as the “wronged woman”, because otherwise her attempts to sell her correspondence with Salinger to the highest bidder would have been revealed for precisely the repulsive, narcissistic, contemptible act that it was.
In 2010, Maynard adopted two Ethiopian girls. A year later, she decided that she could no longer care for them and sent them to live with a family in Wyoming. Then she announced that she needed her privacy (!) and removed all references to them from her website. I repeat– demanding that people respect her privacy… Yes. Respecting privacy is a good thing.
I doubt that any serious Salinger fans are even touched by the “scandal”, and they should not be. Does Joyce Maynard still demand the respect of writers and critics and people with good taste? She has tried her hardest to cast her exclusion from Salinger’s life in as favorable a light as possible, but the truth of it is far simpler: she is a relatively mediocre mind who, in the context of Salinger’s definitive desire for privacy, rationalized a vicious act of betrayal with “I needed the money to send my kids to college.”