Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Famous Teleiophile: Joyce Maynard | An Age-Gap Affair From the Nymphet's [Teen] POV


Joyce Maynard summarized her affair with J.D. Salinger in the preface of the 2013 edition of At Home in the World: A Memoir. She shared:

“I did not seek out J.D. Salinger. He wrote me a letter. I was eighteen years old. He was fifty-three.”

“By July, I’d moved in with him, and in September I gave up my little off-campus apartment and my scholarship and withdrew from Yale.”

“But I had loved him once, and more even than loved, had worshipped him.”

“He told me what movies to watch, what music to listen to, what food to eat. Jerry told me what to think, and write, and not write, what was real and what was false. He told me who to be, and because I adored him, I wanted to be that person.”

“The relationship lasted just eleven months, and ended [...] when I was nineteen years old.”

18-Year-Old Maynard
In chapter five, Joyce wrote that Salinger followed up his letters by inviting her to “spend the weekend.” And that her mother was “very proud” that Joyce had “[...] attracted the attention of such a famous and brilliant man.” During Joyce’s first visit, Jerry did not attempt to have sex with her, but they kissed. 

Until her next visit, Joyce and Salinger spoke on the phone “[...] every night, and sometimes in the day [...]” The letters continued too. 

Ten days after Joyce started working at The New York Times, Jerry drove five hours to pick her up. They purchased “[...] a bag of bagels and lox on the Upper West Side”. Then Jerry drove “[....] very fast, the full five hours straight back to New Hampshire.” Joyce wrote: “This time, when I walk into his house, I know where I’m headed (i.e., to Jerry’s bedroom where Joyce stood at the foot of his bed in one of her “short little-girl dresses” ).”

It turns out that that was the beginning of the end of their age-gap relationship, because Salinger opined that Joyce was “shallow”, “worthless”, “corrupted”, “worldly”, “greedy”, and “hungry” for (writing) fame. In addition, despite a number of failed treatments, Joyce suffered from severe “tightness of the muscles surrounding the vagina” and, consequently, could only perform oral sex on Salinger. 

Joyce shared that after they left a doctor’s office for the last time: “Jerry Salinger put those fifty-dollar bills in my hand and told me to clear my things out of his house [...]”


Joyce related some additional age-gap relationships in At Home in the World. For example:

On page 57, Joyce related: “It was not regarded as outrageous or particularly unusual on the Yale campus of 1971-72 for a graduate assistant or even a tenured professor to have an affair with a student.”

Judith, a family friend, became “[...] involved with an eminent Russian poet many years older [...] her teacher at the Ivy League university where she’s a freshman. “A dashing man with a Russian accent and a pipe, reciting poetry?” (185)

On page 87, Joyce reminded me that before they met, Salinger: “[...] hung around places like the Stork Club in New York with Eugene O’Neill’s daughter Oona before she married Charlie Chaplin---a marriage that took place when she was eighteen and he was fifty-three.” 

Max, Joyce’s father, was a professor of English at the University of New Hampshire where Laura Ferris, one of his students a year or two before he retired, became “infatuated” with him and sent him “[...] notes, leaving odd little gifts of candles and incense at his office.” (191). Subsequently, Max left Fredelle, Joyce’s mother, and he and his former student planned to move to “[...] England, where Laura will teach at a Waldorf school and learn to play the cello. They want to have a baby by artificial insemination.” (198)

Interestingly, Joyce shared that during “cuddle time” with her mother, who earned a Ph.D. in English literature from Radcliffe College (Harvard University), they would kiss on the lips and her mother would comment on her “pink childish nipples.” And “as late as junior high” Joyce’s mother would apply Zambu, a Canadian cream, to her vagina. When her mother was reprimanded about her raunchy incestuous behavior, she replied, “Joyce just can’t get enough of snuggling. Can you imagine how she’ll be with men?” (39) And on page 96, Joyce wrote that “The Early Colonist’s [did not have a ] Perception of Childhood.” 

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