My Salinger Year (2020) - full transcript

A college grad takes a clerical job working for the literary agent of the renowned, reclusive writer J.D. Salinger.

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I grew up in a quiet suburban
town just north of New York.

On special occasions, my dad
would take me into the city

and we would go and get dessert
at the Waldorf or the Plaza.

I loved watching the
people around us.

They seemed to have
interesting lives.

I wanted to be one of them.

I wanted to write novels,

and speak five
languages and travel.

I didn't want to be ordinary.

I wanted to be extraordinary.

Those memories came storming
back to me last year



when I came to visit my
best friend in New York.

I was only supposed
to stay a few days,

and then return to Berkeley,

where my boyfriend
was waiting on me.

But something shifted.

I wanna stay in New
York for a while.

A while?

What do you mean a while?
What about your semester?

Yeah, but see that's just it,

I don't want to analyze other
people's work anymore, Karl.

I wanna write.

In New York?

Yeah.

In New York.



Isn't that what
aspiring writers did?

Live in cheap apartments
and write in cafes?

Yeah, I know, but
it's what I wanted.

My boss says we're going
paperless, all emails.

It's driving me nuts

with everyone writing
about nothing,

answering thanks or
worse, you're welcome.

My colleague sends
me emails to ask me

when I'm having lunch.

I hope this is just a
trend that will phase out.

I miss your rants.

Everyone in Berkeley
is so serious,

and the jogging
and wearing Tivos.

Fucking Tivos?

I'm like this big cloud of East Coast
irony haunting Southern California.

Turning everything into Ash.

That's me.

Does Karl feel the same?

Um, it's not really
the same for him

'cause he's been there
for a couple of years

and the university sorta
treats him like a star.

Huh, well-

Hey, Jenny.

I don't know exactly how
long I'm gonna be staying

in New York.

Don't worry, just keep
making yourself at home.

Eat anything.

Okay.

MA in English literature,
University College in London,

I suppose that would
make you more appealing

to some publishers,
less to most.

You published poetry?

Yes, yes, in the Paris Review.

I just won their
student contest.

Leave that out. Publishers
avoid wannabe writers.

Oh, that is what I want
to do though. Eventually.

Oh, I got it.

Not a publisher. How
about a literary agency?

Great.

The oldest in New
York. Do you type?

Uh, I took typing
in seventh grade.

Of course you don't type.

She's gonna ask
you if you can type

and you are gonna say?

Yes.

60 words a minute

But do you type on a typewriter?

It's very different from typing
on one of those computers.

Yes.

What do you like to read?

Everything.

Laurie, Hammet, Donald Westlake.

I just finished "A Sentimental
Education" and I loved it.

It was so contemporary,
I was amazed

but to be in this field,

you'll need to read
authors who are alive.

I love Flamel.

I like Westlake. He's funny.

I guess you can start
after Christmas.

We'll talk about Jerry then.

Ah, Jerry.

I'm sure you've
heard that he's crazy

or senile or a
misanthrope, all lies.

He's not the problem.

It's these people who
relentlessly call for his address,

his phone number, asking to
be put in touch with him.

Or even with me.

Reporters, students,
university deans, producers.

They can be persuasive,
manipulative,

but you must never ever
give out his address.

Do you understand?

I understand.

Good, remember,
there's no shortage

of college graduates
who want this job.

Be prepared for long hours.

Pam will give you a key

Pam, okay.

Thank you so much.

I can't tell you how
honored and thrilled I am.

No need to be honored,
thrilled maybe.

Margaret is pretty thrilling.

I'm Daniel by the way.

That Jerry.

I didn't know yet
what a literary agency was,

but it felt like I'd stepped
closer to the world of writers.

I was to be surrounded by
god-like literary names.

No doubt their proximity
would inspire my own writing.

Well, Congratulations
on your new job.

Here's your key.

Do not lose it.

We will expect you at
8:00 AM sharp, January 8th.

I never went back to Berkeley.

New York was to be my new
home, writing my new life

with a coveted job
to pay the rent.

Hi.

Hey.

Hey, come, come, come join us.

Hi.

This is Joanna.

This is Mark, this is Lisa.

They just got engaged, so-

Oh wow. Oh my goodness,
congratulations.

Sit down.

The office is incredible.

It's like nothing's
changed since 1927,

and I'm guessing
my boss represents-

- Anne Rice.
- The Pope.

Thomas Pynchon.

J. D. Salinger.

- No way.
- He's still alive?

Yeah, he is, he lives
up in New Hampshire

in basically total isolation.

Reporters are always trying to
ambush him in the local diner

or try to sneak
onto his property.

I love "Catcher In The Rye",

but "Franny and
Zoe" is my favorite.

My friend Kat used to
work at his publishers.

And one night, she
was working late.

Like 1:00 AM late, and the
phone rings in the office

and keeps ringing.

So she picks it up and she
heard someone screaming.

The manuscript is okay!

I saved the manuscript
from the fire.

Salinger?

His house had burned down

and he called in the
middle of the night

assuming someone would
be at the office.

Isn't that crazy?

I read that he's still writing,

but that he doesn't
wanna publish.

Writing makes you a
writer, not publishing.

Publishing is commerce.

Such a crock of shit, Don.

This is some preemptive
strike argument

in case he never sells a novel,
if you ever finish writing.

I will, but today
is about Joanna

and her crossing
to the dark side

with the book munchers, cheers.

Cheers.
Thanks.

I had met Don days earlier
in a socialist bookstore

where he worked part time.

Haven't seen you
around here before.

Let me guess, you're an
intern at the New Yorker.

Besides fighting materialism

and raising class awareness,
Don was into boxing,

Norman Mailer, and?

I'm writing a novel.

He was straightforward
about being a writer.

I admired his confidence.

Do you know the Panama Cafe?

It's on Avenue Way, it's kind
of like a writers' hangout.

I do actually. Yeah,
they have poetry-

Poetry reading.

Love is the one
who's hard to find,

love's the one who
knows your mind,

love's the one who
feeds your soul,

love's the one to have and hold.

But hold a minute, hold how,

there's a hundred hungry
ways to hold her up

or hold her down.

Will she still be
able to get around.

Will she be able to hold
her breath.

Where the hell were you?

Cut the goddamn grass today

or else I'm selling
your K car, you hear?

Dear Mr. Salinger,
I read your book,

"The Catcher In The
Rye" three times now.

It's a masterpiece, and I
hope you're proud of it.

I mean, you certainly should be.

Most of the crap that's written
today is so uncompelling

it makes me sick.

I mean, not too many
people write anything

that even approaches sincerity.

And I don't mean to
say that everyone

who reads your book gets it.

Not at all, lots
of people don't.

I mean I can give you
plenty of idiotic examples,

but I won't.

Hell, you might be
laughing out loud right now

at the thought but
I think I get it.

Maybe I don't.

Wow.

Well, you are here.

I am.

We know you can type, hooray

but have you ever
used a dictaphone?

At ease.

It can be tricky at first,

but I'm sure you'll
get the hang of it.

Play, rewind, and I think
those control speed.

- Hugh can help.
- Hugh?

You can get started with these.

This is our technological
area. It is all very new.

This is a Xerox machine
you'll use to make copies

of my correspondence.

I believe that is the button
you press to make a copy.

Did she give you her speech

about the evils of
the digital age yet?

Max, this is Joanna,
my new assistant.

Hello, Joanna. Nice to meet you.

So there are no computers?

We choose not to use computers.

I've seen them in action.

They just make more work
for everyone, wasting time.

All right, as you can see,

we have a relaxed,
cordial environment.

We ask that you don't
wear dungarees, sneakers,

T-shirts, sweatshirts,
especially the kind with hoods.

No open-toed shoes,

but it's perfectly fine to wear
trousers if you're a woman,

and no need to wear
stockings in the summer.

Bare legs are perfectly fine.

And if Jerry calls you just say,

"Yes, Jerry, I will
let my boss know."

Jerry Salinger?

Well of course, Jerry Salinger.

And above all, you
never ever call him.

Why would I
call Jerry Salinger?

Jerry doesn't wanna hear
about how much you love

"The Catcher In The Rye".

And he doesn't want
to read your stories.

Don't have stories.

Good, writers make
the worst assistants.

Get to work.

The proprietor
hereby grants to the publisher.

Starting from the day...

I'm Hugh, you must be Joanna.

Yes, hi. Nice to meet you.

If you need anything,
I'm right here.

I take care of contracts, legal,
copyrights, the fun stuff.

Salinger's letters, fan mail.

You need to answer
them using these.

There's one for each
type of inquiry;

adaptation, autobiography,

autograph, photograph,
interview, celebrity auction.

Mr. Salinger does not wish

to receive mail
from his readers.

Thus we cannot pass
your kind note onto him.

1963?

That's the year he stopped
responding himself.

You need to take the new one
based exactly on this verbatim.

No change.

So Salinger doesn't
get any of his mail?

Not one. You shred
them in the shredder.

You should always read them.

Yes, indeed.

- Just in case.
- Just in case.

In case of what?

We've been extra careful

since the Mark
David Chapman thing.

John Lennon's assassin.

When the police
arrived at the Dakota,

they found Chapman calmly
sitting on the sidewalk

reading "Catcher In The Rye".

At his trial Chapman said,

that the big part of him
was Holden Caulfield?

And the small part of him was,

the devil.

Did Chapman write to Salinger?

We'll never know, since
we throw away the mail.

Read everything thoroughly.

Use your judgment.

I think about Holden a lot.

When I first think about him,

I get a stupid grin
on my face, you know?

Thinking about what a
funny guy he is and all.

But then I usually
get depressed as hell

'cause I only think about Holden

when I'm feeling
very emotional and,

I can get quite emotional.

I can get quite emotional.

This boy is so earnest.

A major loser is what he is.

- Hey, he is not.
- He is.

He's very sweet.

He's a little funny,
but he's sweet.

And he cares so much.

I can't send him a
letter that says,

"Dear kid, Mr. Salinger
has no interest in you.

So please fuck off."

Look, this one is
from the Netherlands.

Me and my wife trace Holden's
steps around New York.

Did you know that the ducks

in Central Park
stay through winter?

My God, literally a bunch
of obsessive freaks.

I haven't read
"Catcher In The Rye".

You're kidding.

I haven't read any Salinger.

Wow, everybody's read
Catcher at the very least.

Yeah, well, at the risk
of disappointing you,

there are actually a few
writers that I've yet to read.

Well, I'm shocked.

Okay, look, this girl is
ready to go to bed with him.

He's 70 something.
Don't be naive.

Good literature is a
powerful aphrodisiac.

I never had that
teenage Salinger moment.

We never read "Catcher
In The Rye" at school.

And later I was interested
in difficult, gritty fiction.

Hey, hun.

Jenny's not here right now.

Oh, I'll be in the kitchen.

I imagine
Salinger's books

to be insufferably cute,
quirky and precious.

I didn't want to be entertained.

I wanted to be provoked.

My shoulder hurts from
carrying all those manuscripts.

- Hey, Joanna.
- Hi.

Oh, I found a writer for
Max out of the slush pile.

The stories are so good,
I read them last night

and I was sobbing by the end.

What's the slush pile?

The slush pile?

Okay, it's like the most amazing

and most horrible
part of our job.

The stack of manuscripts
nobody wants to read.

Basically it's all the
unsolicited query letters.

People with no referral
who write to agents cold.

The slush pile is
like 99% crazy shit.

Though some of it is
seriously hilarious.

But very, very occasionally
you find something amazing.

Your boss doesn't let you read?

I'm available to
read manuscripts,

should that be something
that you're interested in

at home or my free
time of course.

Manuscripts?

No.

Tabs wrong, margins wrong,

proper names wrong,
really, everything wrong.

You can start retyping today.

And here as a bonus
is today's dictation.

Forget about manuscripts.

You need to get that right.

Is it on?

As you know, I believe
that computers make work

rather than alleviate it.

But I agreed to install
one in the office

on a trial basis because-

It came in an elegant black.

Because Hugh
discovered that people,

I don't know who
these people are

and why they don't have
more important things

to do with their lives,

but people have been publishing
whole Salinger stories

on their personal e-webs.

Web blogs.

Web blogs, ridiculous.

This is blatant
copyright infringement.

And we're going to have
to scour the worldwide web

to put an end to it.

And that is all the
computer is to be used for.

Sorry to interrupt.
Just passing through.

Don't mean to cause a fuss.

We can turn it off now.

Uh, it's already off.

Okay, good.

And then maybe the little
coat that goes over it,

I've seen it in
pictures. Thank you, Max.

I'm afraid
we don't have...

There were
hundreds of us, thousands maybe,

all girls working at literary
agencies or publishing houses.

We answered calls
for our bosses,

ushered in the writers,
fetched them water.

Never belying the fact

that we wanted to be
writers ourselves.

We whispered about
the lucky ones,

the ones who were
mentored by their bosses,

who were allowed to take
on books or clients.

The ones who broke the
rules to show initiative.

The ones who wanted
it badly enough.

Please find two
copies of the contract

with St. Martin publishing.

Let's face it. I
was a secretary.

Hello?

Hello? Hello?

Hello.

Speaking to? It's Jerry.

Hello, Mr. Salinger.

Who is this?

This is Joanna.

Who?

I'm Joanna, I'm
Margaret's new assistant.

Oh, Margaret's new assistant.

Nice to meet you, Susanna.

How do you like your job?

I love it.

Good to hear.

I'm calling to
speak to your boss.

Unfortunately, she's
not in right now.

Can I leave her a message?

Oh, no. I'll call back.

Well, I'm sure you
have a lot of work.

It was very nice
talking to you, Susanna.

I'm looking forward to
meeting you in person.

You too.

Have a great day.

Goodbye.

I never say have a great day

Jerry?

He's deaf, explosion
during the war.

- She just left?
- Yes.

Better go tell her.

Quicker.

Margaret. Sorry.

I'm sorry to disturb you,

we just got a call from,

your client just called.

I wonder which one.

I have to take this.

Go ahead, boss. I'll wait
for you at the restaurant.

You did the right thing.

Salinger wants to
publish a book.

The press is gonna go nuts.

No press, no one must
know, that's our job.

So it's true. He's been writing.

Well, no, it's an old story.

Hapworth, publisher.

Clifford Bradbury
approached him to publish it

as a standalone book.

He has been thinking
about it for eight years.

The publisher wrote
to him back in '88.

Jerry liked the fact that
he wrote on a typewriter.

How did he get Jerry's address?

He addressed it
to J.D. Salinger,

Cornish, New Hampshire.

Postman delivered it.

That's brilliant.

Wait, wait, wait, wait,
wait, wait, wait, Margaret.

What kind of publisher is this?

It can't be Little Brown
or any major house,

they would have just called you.

Oh boy, you're gonna
love this, Max.

It is a tiny press in Virginia,
kind of a one-man operation.

Marygold press.

Mary Bell's Press?

Yes, that's it. You know them?

They publish poetry and I
like a few of their poets.

Are you
fucking kidding me?

A one-man press is going
to publish the first book

from Salinger in three decades?

That's fucked.

Publishing Salinger is different
than publishing poetry.

Thank you.

Obviously, we have
to proceed carefully.

Find out everything we can
about this Clifford Bradbury.

I'll call 'em.

I won't mention Salinger
and I'll ask for his catalog

and a sample for our records.

Good thinking.

Hugh, get me the contract
with the New Yorker, please.

What's Hapsworth?

It was published in
the New Yorker in '65.

Took up almost the
whole magazine.

Pretty common in those days.

Esquire did it, Cosmo.

That's where I got my start,

buying stories for a magazine.

For Cosmo?

For Playboy.

How did you end up
working for Playboy?

Enough chit chat, Joanna.

Back to work.

Hi, is this Clifford Bradbury?

Hi, this is Joanna Rakoff.

I work for ANF
Literary Management.

The job of an agent is
to open up opportunities

for their clients.

But when it came to Salinger,
the logic was reversed.

We had to shield him
from the outside world,

bolstering his reputation
as a complicated recluse.

But publishing
Hackworth was going

to get a lot of attention.

Nobody understood
his change of heart.

Night, Jerry.

Maybe I thought I understood.

Maybe he realized
that what he wanted

wasn't what he wanted at all.

Are you serious?

You're like, yeah,
visiting me in my room.

What are you writing?

Writing a very bad
poem.

Listen, Brett and
I were talking and,

look, when you first
got back to New York

and I said that you
could stay here,

to be honest, I thought you'd
go back to Berkeley with Karl.

You're kicking me out?

No, like I'm happy
to have you here.

And you can stay if you want.

But what did you plan on
doing, what are your options?

We disinfected the apartment

'cause the man before
had seven cats,

but young, married,
couple like you

take better care of it, yeah?

We're not married.

The man next door, he
takes care of little things

if you need it.

He's Mexican, he drinks,
but he works hard.

How much?

- 560.
- We'll think about it.

No, we'll take it.

Oh, good deal.
You're Jewish, yeah?

- Me?
- Mm?

No.

I like very responsible.

Let's sign the paper.

The lease is gonna
be under her name.

Hm?

Could just given ourselves
a day to think about it.

This is New York
city, young lady.

The big time.

I barely make $300 a week.

No, wait, we split
the rent, booba.

I'm gonna pay my half.

I just have to avoid
the credit check.

Look, I'll take care of
the furniture, all right?

There's no sink.

What?

There's no sink in the kitchen.

I knew that there was something
off about the apartment

but I couldn't put
my finger on it.

And there's no sink
in the kitchen.

We just signed a lease for
an apartment with no sink.

But we can do the
dishes in the bath tub,

it's no big deal.

There's a tub. Trust me.

Dear Mr. Salinger, please
forgive my bad English.

I work much at
night and I like it

because I don't have to
talk to people so much.

My heart is troubled, just
like Holden Caulfield-

Holden is like my
grandfather, you know?

A no-bullshit man.

He taught me a lot
about human nature.

He warned me, I will be
disappointed by most people.

We would be very honored

if you would serve as our
commencement reader next year.

We would, of course provide
you with accommodation

in a very fine inn
where your privacy,

which I know is
important to you,

would be scrupulously respected.

The fishing helps me, a nice
refuge from my nightmares.

It's been 27 years
since Vietnam.

They just keep getting worse.

You know, seeing
your dead friends,

having their guts ripped out.

I'm sure you must have
similar type dreams

being a veteran who-

Does not wish to receive
mail from his readers.

Thus, we can not pass along
your kind note to him.

We thank you for your interest
in Mr. Salinger's book.

My daughter died from leukemia.

She was a talented young writer.

I'm founding a small literary
magazine in her memory,

and I'd like permission
to call it Banana Fish.

The Salinger was her-

Titles can't be copyrighted?

Absolutely, Jerry.

I could write a novel and
call it "The Great Gatsby"

if I wanted to.

So yes, she can call her
magazine Banana Fish.

Great.

But the agency can't advise her.

- Really?
- Yup.

I'm just telling you this
for your own edification.

Send the form letter
and finish shredding.

That's absurd.

Well, of course,
you're right.

She's gonna start yelling at me

the minute she's off the phone.

Pleasure to talk to
you, Jerry, as always.

Goodbye.

Crap sandwich.

Hugh?

Yes.

Do you have the
Salinger contract ready?

Yes, almost there.

Ask Pam to call a messenger

so we can get it over to
the New Yorker before 6:00.

- The New Yorker?
- Yes.

Probably best if I just
bring it myself then, no?

I grew up reading the New Yorker

following my father's ritual.

He would start with
the movie reviews

and then turn to the
talk of the town,

and then the features.

In college, everyone
was into The New Yorker.

Hi.

My boss wanted me to make sure

this was delivered right away.

Thank you.

Can I help you with
something else?

No, no, no, no.

That was it. Thanks.

I was at the Algonquin
serving him a martini.

Anyway, I used my Cosmo
ID to get in the room.

I recognized the agent,
he did not recognize me.

And we spent the evening talking

about William's tragic
death and the agency.

And?

And I lost my job at
Cosmo for not showing up

the next morning.

But I kept the man's
card, and a year later,

I gave him a call at the agency.

Hi.

And he hired me, and
the rest is history.

Joanna, what is it?
Something wrong?

No.

She was walking by looking
cold and hungry and forlorn.

And I invited her in.

Joanna, please sit down.

I really don't
want to interrupt.

Don't be silly.

This is my wife, Helen.

Nice to meet you.

We were just reminiscing,

telling tales about
the lost generation.

Hemingway, Fitzgerald.

Do you know the agency
represented Fitzgerald?

Of course, yes.

And Dylan Thomas, Langston
Hughes, Agatha Christie.

And you've read all
their work, of course

I have, however, my boss
suggests that I read writers

that are alive.

Speaking of living writers,

are you familiar
with Rachel Cusk?

Don't take the bait, Joanna.

I am. Yes, I am, I am.

Her first novel,
"Saving Agnes" was huge.

It won the Whitbread, I think?

And everyone that I knew
in London was reading it.

It was our lives basically,
or it was my life.

What is it about?

Well, it's a coming-of-
age tale, definitely.

I guess it's about the
ways in which women

need to get over this self
-loathing of their bodies say.

I'd say it's more about how
the patriarchy imposes rigid

and terrifying ideas of
femininity onto young women.

How that paralyzes them, and
strips them of their dignity.

I don't know, it doesn't feel
quite that didactic to me.

It's a very introspective novel.

It doesn't really read
like social commentary.

Okay, Joanna meet Rachel Cusk.

- Hello.
- No, no.

- I'm so sorry.
- It's okay.

It's lovely to meet you.

You're a novelist yourself?

Joanne is my assistant.
I don't hire writers.

I'm very particular about it.

Really?

I thought all
publishing assistants

were writing novels
at their desk.

If you can write a
novel at your desk

while fetching coffee for
a tyrant like Margaret,

good luck.

Well, you really
have to love it.

You have to want it more than
anything in the entire world.

More than a boyfriend or a
closet full of pretty dresses,

or a fancy job that
makes everyone jealous.

You need to be
okay with saying no

when you're invited to a party,

and you really need to be okay

with having your mother
and father hate you.

Joanna, don't you have
some dictation to finish?

- Yes, I do.
- Margaret.

Those St. Martins contract memos

need to go out immediately.

- Absolutely.
- Okay.

It was nice to meet
you all, thank you.

- Bye.
- Lovely to meet you.

Hi.

You got a letter from your
high school sweetheart, Karl.

Does he know about us?

Yeah, I'm sure I mentioned it.

Joanna, did you
break up with him?

Like a proper breakup?

"Dear Karl, it's
not you it's me.

I'm sorry, it's over," you
know, the normal stuff?

We haven't talked
in three months

and he knows that I'm not
going back to California.

Did you talk to the
landlady about the heating?

Why do you need a heater?

Your love should keep you warm.

I was hoping you might find
the time to write back,

but I bet you must be
getting a lot of letters.

But I feel like writing again,

if you don't mind me doing so

'cause well, I feel
depressed as hell.

And I figured it's the
honest thing to do.

Your characters are the
only ones in literature

who are truly like me.

I mean, they take action.

They don't sit around
contemplating suicide.

They pick up a gun and they
shoot themselves in the head.

He's challenging Jerry.

It's a game and
you're falling for it.

I feel this boy just
deserves a proper response,

not our usual bullshit.

Bullshit?

You are confusing
judgment with empathy.

I have read hundreds of
letters just like this one.

It can get overwhelming,
but just do your job.

Did you send my letter
to Mr. Salinger?

Did you send my
letter to Salinger?

You have no right
to keep my letter.

You can't read
other people's mail.

I wat at least expecting
a confirmation.

Dear Mr. Salinger,
I hate school.

Especially English class.

"Catcher In The Rye" is
the only book I liked.

My teacher is going
to make me flunk.

She says I'll have
to repeat my year

and that's gonna
be so embarrassing.

So I asked her, "What can I do?"

"Write a letter to J.D.
Salinger," she told me.

"And make it so good
that he'll write back.

If he writes back,
I'll give you an A."

Please write back,
so I can get an A.

An A earned by trickery
means absolutely nothing.

You'll soon find
out that young women

are often held to double standards
when it comes to success.

You need to prove to
yourself and to your peers

that you do not need
special treatment.

If you desire an A
or a passing grade,

you must do the work
assigned to you.

And if you want to uphold
the spirit of Holden,

try not to care too much
about how people judge you.

This might mean
being more humble,

but it's the only way.

Sincerely, Joanna Rakoff.

You've become quite the expert
in what Salinger would say.

"If you want to uphold
the spirit of Holden",

have you read Catcher yet?

You haven't?

Unbelievable.

Brett got accepted
at Case Western.

I thought he's going
to Brooklyn Law.

He's from the Midwest.

He misses it, you know?

So you'll stay here
until he's done?

Of course not. I'm
going with him.

We're engaged, remember?

Wait, you're moving?

I thought you loved your work?

I do, but Cleveland
is a cool city.

We're already looking for
a place in Shaker Heights.

Wow. Suburbs.

Have you been writing lately?

I don't really write anymore.

I know we used to say that
we wanted to become writers

but that was more your thing.

I kind of grew out of it.

You make it sound
like a teenage phase.

Isn't that what it was?

I don't understand.

You're dropping everything
for Brett's project?

Whoa, Joanna stop.

I don't wanna be a writer.

You keep saying you want to
write, but you work long hours

for other writers while Don
is at home writing his novel.

Oh, we both write,

and we're supportive
of each other's work.

Well, then I'm
happy for you guys.

Please be happy for me.

I'm sorry.

Why don't we go to the
Waldorf and get dessert?

I'll have the $12 cheesecake.

Maybe we'll catch my boss

on her martini
ones or something.

I gotta get back to work.

Everything to your liking?

Yes, thank you.

May I get you a cab?

It's such a nice day,
I think I'll walk.

It is a beautiful day.
You enjoy it then.

Thanks.

Hello.

Hello, Susanna.
How are you today?

I'm great. How are you?

How's the weather in Cornish?

It's very pleasant.

Tell me something, Susanna.

I was looking at those books
from this fellow, Clifford,

in Virginia, Mary Bells Press.

Yes.

What do you think of them?

Honestly, I think the
design isn't great.

I think they'd really benefit
from hiring a designer.

But as far as the books
themselves, I've only read a few.

I do like some of the
poets they publish though.

Well, you read poetry?

I do, yes. A lot.

Do you write poetry yourself?

I do.

Oh, I'm very glad to hear
that.

Poetry is food for the
soul. Never forget that.

Susanna.

Food for the soul,
I've got it.

Susanna, it's important
to write every day.

You know that?

I'll keep that in mind.

Jerry wants to meet Clifford.

Gosh, gotta find
somewhere discreet.

Well, it won't be.

Jerry's driving down to
Washington on Wednesday.

They're meeting in a cafeteria
at Georgetown University.

That's awful. Awful.

Do we trust this
Clifford fellow?

I don't know.

So we're presuming he's
not gonna tip off The Post

that the world's
most reclusive writer

who barely leaves his home,

who hasn't given an
interview in decades,

will be having lunch at Georgetown
University on Wednesday?

Yeah.

You have mentioned this
possibility to Jerry?

I have not. Jerry thinks
of Clifford as a pal.

If I say anything
negative about him,

Jerry will not take it kindly.

That's it. Back to work.

Oh, Joanna.

Tell me what you think of this.

Judy Blume?

- You've heard of her?
- Of course, I have.

I read all of her
books as a kid.

I love her. Everyone loves her.

She was a client of my
predecessor, Claire.

She's not written a
book in a long time.

Have you ever read Judy Blume?

No, I don't read
children's literature.

But they're so wonderful.

I'm sure, Claire had
impeccable taste.

You wanna go out?

We're broke.

So? We'll split a beer.

It's open mic night at the KGB.

- What?
- You can bring a poem.

They'll love you.

- You're not funny.
- I'm not trying to be.

Your poems are good.

I have a Judy Blume
manuscript to read.

Judy Blume?

Judy fucking Blume?

I loved "Then Again
Maybe I Won't".

You liked Judy Blume?

Yeah, I mean, I was a kid
once and like a hero, Tony,

my parents were working class

and moved to middle-class area.

- It's about social class.
- No, it's not.

It turns you on that I like
pedestrian stuff, doesn't it?

To be given Judy Blume's
new book was like

going from sitting in the
stands to hitting a home run.

I felt lucky to
be on the inside.

- Well?
- I like it.

Really?

But what do you make of it?

I'm not sure what you mean.

Well, it's not a
kid's book, is it?

No, no. It's about
kids for grownups.

It's about female friendship.

But will adults buy a book
about kids? Can I sell it?

Lots of books have child
protagonists, "Oliver Twist".

This is not Oliver Twist,
but you would buy it?

I would.

Many people would.

There's the nostalgia factor.

You know, my entire generation
grew up on Judy Blume.

- Maybe.
- Definitely.

All right, you've had your fun.

I've put new tapes on your desk.

Close the door.

Judy, Margaret's expecting you.

Coffee?

That's very exciting. Yes.

What is it?

- Judy Blume's here.
- Shit.

Michael, hold on one second.

That's today?

I thought we had more time.

She's going to blow
this, isn't she?

I think so.

Hey, we've been renovating,
moving everything around

which is why your books are
down there and out of order.

Don't worry about it.

I'm Joanna, I'm
Margaret's new assistant.

I'm such a huge fan of yours.

That's very sweet of you.

Really nice to meet you.

Judy, how lovely to see
you. Come into my office.

Joanna, why don't you
answer your phone?

There's someone at the
reception who wants to see you.

Me?

- Are you Joanna Rakoff?
- Yes.

Is that your real name?

'Cause it's so ridiculous,
it sounds fake.

You have no right to keep my
letter from J.D. Salinger.

I'm sorry. Who are you?

Because of you, I'm
going to fail English.

Is everything all right here?

- No.
- Yes. Yes.

No.

Why don't we go downstairs
and get a coffee, okay?

Joanna.

Aren't you supposed
to be in school?

Who do you think you are?

It's my job here to
answer Jerry's mail.

Oh, it's Jerry to you.
Is he your sugar daddy?

No, I've never
even met him, okay?

Mr. Salinger does not
want to receive his mail.

So instead you lecture
me like you're my mother.

You're right, okay?

I'm sorry. I apologize.

Your letter was different

and I thought you
deserved a real response

instead of our, I'm sorry,

we can not pass along
your kind note bullshit.

So I wrote you
something more personal.

What makes you think
your advice is better

than some bullshit response?

I'm going to summer school.

So thanks a lot, Ms. Rakoff

You sent a personal
letter to one of the fans

and she came storming in here?

Oh my gosh.

Oh my gosh.

Do you have any
idea how many times

when I was answering
Salinger's letters

I wanted to write
my own one back?

- Really?
- Of course.

"Dear Sir, obsess
over another writer.

I hear Kurt Vonnegut
answers his own fan mail."

I mean sometimes
you just wanna go,

"Hey, loser."

And then others,
they're so engaging.

You just want to
champion them, you know?

Yes, yes, exactly.

But you've crossed the line.

It's a huge rabbit hole
ethically and legally.

I'm taking you off
Salinger's mail.

No, no, Hugh, please?

I love these letters so much,

I promise you this won't
happen again, I promise.

Judy?

- It's all over.
- Judy?

- She's leaving us.
- For whom?

Does it matter?

I were Judy, I
would have left too.

Joanna.

Why?

Tell me, I'm curious.
Why would you leave?

No, I'm really, really sorry.

I didn't mean that, I just...

I'm just sad to see
her leave, that's all.

Well, until you can
articulate a reason

that will enlighten us,

you can go back to
typing your dictation

and fetch Daniel's
prescriptions when you're done.

Close the door.

Okay, you think that
when a man falls in love

he doesn't look at
another woman, hm?

But I have news for you,
every man in this world

is looking at every woman in this
world and deciding whether or not-

He wants to fuck her.

She's sexy, right?

Don, I think you
might be in a hole.

You maybe wanna stop digging.

You think women don't
look at other men? We do.

We even look at other women.

We just don't drool
while we do it.

Booba, booba. I drool
exclusively for you.

- Hey.
- White wine?

No, thanks. I'm gonna go.

I know, I actually
came to give you this.

What's this?
It's from Karl.

He's coming to
Washington for a concert.

He really wants you to go.

You've been in touch with Karl?

He wrote you a letter
but you never answered.

- Wednesday in DC.
- Yeah.

What is it?

Someone should go to the meeting

in Washington with
Clifford Bradbury.

Make sure that he's prepared,

and walk them to the
agency's protocol.

He did sound jittery
on the phone.

I can't leave New York,
but I suppose I could send-

Me!

- You?
- Me.

Why?

Take notes and assist Clifford.

Just let me do this
for the agency.

You are to go to Washington,

be the agency's eyes and ears.

Find out who this
Clifford person is.

You are to meet
with him beforehand

and debrief him afterward.

But you are not to
meet with Jerry.

Jerry must think they are
meeting on their own, understood?

You will not regret this.

We'll see about that.

Hey!

I've got a gift for you.

My birthday was two months ago.

Well, birthdays
are for Hallmark.

It's, it's my novel.

You finished it?

Don't you wanna read it?

Oh, of course I do.

Thanks.

Congrats!

Mr. Bradbury?

Yes. Joanna?

- Hi.
- Hi.

- Nice to meet you.
- And you.

I've widened the spine see,
to give the book some length

because it's too thin.

I also retyped it all
from the New Yorker.

I didn't scan it
and good thing too,

because there were
a few small typos.

New Yorker doesn't make typos.

Oh yes, small ones
but typos still.

Salinger is such a
stickler for details.

- I made two mock-ups.
- Wow.

Do you think I should
have made more?

No.

Oh, I think I should've
made more, yeah.

Mr. Bradbury, it's
gonna go very well.

Just forget everything
that you've heard

about Mr. Salinger.

I think that you'll find that
he's very straightforward.

It's important that
you just be yourself.

What happened?

Jerry Salinger
paid for my lunch.

But how did it go?

- We agreed on everything.
- That's great.

Because I just
missed him then, huh?

- Except the typos.
- What do you mean?

He did not want me
to correct them.

Yeah, he seemed peeved
that I fixed them.

You know, I thought
at one point he'd say

let's just forget the
whole thing, you know?

Did he say why?

He wants it printed exactly
as it ran in the New Yorker

as if the typos were
actually intentional,

it makes no sense.

Hey, don't fix any more typos.

Don't tell anybody
about the book.

No interviews.

That would ruin the whole deal.

Yeah, we don't want to do that.

Great work, Mr. Bradbury.

My boss is going to
be very pleased, okay?

Bye.

- Jo!
- Hi.

You got my invitation.

Yeah.

I'm so glad you're
here. You look great.

So do you.

I'm glad you're here, Jo.

I've been wanting
to go apologize.

What?

I was angry when I
sent you the letter.

I wrote stuff I didn't mean.

No, don't apologize.
You should be angry.

I'm angry at you for
not being angry at me.

Well, I'm not angry and
that's absurd by the way.

You hurt me, and I
needed to unleash.

I deserved a proper
breakup, you know?

"Karl, I'm leaving you."

The usual stuff.

The usual stuff.

felt
depressing when you left.

I didn't read, I didn't
read your letter.

Why?

I couldn't make it past Jo.

Nobody else calls me Jo, so...

I want you back in my life.

You know, even if
it's just a phone call

every once in a while.

You were my best friend.

I miss you, Jo.

I miss you too.

I've learned that as
phony as it may be,

you can't go around revealing

your goddamn emotions
to the world.

Most people don't
give a flying hoot

about like what you think

and feel most of
the time, I guess.

And if they see a weakness,

I mean why for God's sake is
showing emotion a weakness?

Boy, do they jump
all over you, right?

They seem to get right
in your goddamn face

and revel in the fact

that you are actually
feeling something.

Is it good?

What?

The manuscript, is it good?

It's interesting.

But you hate it?

I don't hate it, or
maybe I do hate it

and that's why it's good.

- It's weirdly addictive.
- But?

I don't want to read
about his sex life.

No one wants to read
about his sex life.

Maybe I'm just annoyed
by his nonchalance.

Or because?

He's writing and I'm not.

I understand.

What's going on?

Well, keep us posted
and thank you.

Apparently he shot himself.

Wait, who, who shot himself?

Daniel, Joanna. Daniel
committed suicide.

The Daniel?

In the living room while
Margaret was in the bedroom.

This can't be right.

Daniel is a beautiful man.

He's sweet, he's kind.

This can't be happening.

But he looked fine.

He was bipolar, Margaret took
care of him all these years.

He was her brother?

Lover, for 20 years.

Wait, are we talking
about the same Daniel?

Daniel was married to
Helen whom you've met.

He lived half the
week with Helen

and the other half
with Margaret.

They shared his care.

They shared him.

Margaret shared a man
with another woman?

Joanna, if anyone calls, tell
them she's working from home

and take a message,

and no mention of this.

What about if it's Jerry?

Especially, if it's Jerry.

Can you please do
that some other time?

Fine.

Thanks.

Margaret's
office, Joanna speaking.

Hi, Joanna, it's Jerry.
How are you?

Hi. I'm well, how are you?

How's the weather down there?

Muggy.

Is your boss around?

No, I'm afraid she's out.

She's been out a lot lately.

Yeah, she's very busy.
Lots of meetings.

Is there anything I
can help you with?

Let me ask you something.

This Clifford Bradbury fellow.

Sure.

what do you make of him?

I like him.

Sometimes I think he
can overthink things,

but he just doesn't
wanna let you down.

Have you been writing every
day?

A lot of days.

They've given me more
responsibility around here.

So I've been
reading manuscripts.

You're a writer,
Joanna, aren't you?

Not an agent, not a secretary?

I don't know.

Sorry, I missed that.
I'm a little bit deaf.

Yes. Yes.

I'm a writer.

To write, even if it's just
15 minutes in the morning,

protect that sanctuary, okay?

Don't get stuck answering
the phone, Joanna.

You're a poet.

What's it like working
for the New Yorker?

Well, why don't you come
by the office one day,

we'll show you around.

I would like that very much.

Do you write yourself?

It's okay, we won't
tell your boss.

I published two poems
in the Paris Review,

I'm working on
some new material.

Well, we'd be happy to take
a look at your material

when you feel it's ready.

That would be great. That
would be really great.

- Well, let's cheers to that.
- Okay.

It's satirical stuff I like.

I know, but the New
Yorker's fiction is a joke

and that soppy talk of the
town thing,

Don.

Oh, I'm sorry.

I know you love that shit, that,

"Oh, let's all go meet
up at the Algonquin.

I do so wish you can
join us" bullshit.

So when's the wedding?

It's Columbus Day
weekend, right?

Or am I making that up?

It's next weekend, Don.

Joanna, you're coming, right?

Yeah, yeah. Exciting.

You're an asshole.
You know that, right?

I knew that if I told you
about it, you'd start planning

like let's rent a car,
let's stay in this B&B.

What am I gonna wear?

And then you'd buy that dress

and you'd make all these plans,

and then you'd flip out
at me when I told you

that I wanted to go alone.

You wanna go to your best
friend's wedding alone?

Listen, I don't need to justify
myself to you, all right?

- Really?
- Really, booba.

All my bros from Hartford
are gonna be there.

It's gonna be the end of an era,

and I don't wanna have to worry

about whether you're
having fun or not.

Right, maybe you'll
meet some hot blonde

that wants you to
rip her panties off

and fuck her up the ass

and write an unreadable
story about her.

What, where's this coming from?

Where is the sweet naive
girl I met last Christmas,

'cause you know what, I'd
like her back, please booba.

Stop calling me, booba, okay?

I'm not a child.

I call you booba
because I love you.

It's what my grandmother
calls my mom.

- You love me?
- Of course.

I mean, would I be
here if I didn't?

I told you I've never
lived with a girl before,

you changed me.

You love me, but you don't want
me to go to Mark's wedding?

Correct.

Look, I am older than you.

I try not to remind you of
this, but it is true, all right?

And one day when you are my age,

you will realize that two
people can love each other

and not agree on everything,

and not have to do
everything together.

Do you think I
should pack a tie?

Booba? You're good with
this kind of thing.

Like I don't even have
a suit, so you think,

you think just the
shirt and a tie?

You're depressed.

I swear, I mean I
recognize the symptoms.

I get like that
when I'm emotional.

Well, I can get quite emotional.

I'm not depressed.

I'm a very happy person.

What?

Nothing.

Getting a kiss goodbye?

All right, goodbye Joanna.

I think about Holden a lot.

When I first think about him,

I get a stupid grin on my face.

You know, thinking about what
a funny guy he is and all.

Then I usually get
depressed as hell

because I only
think about Holden

when I'm feeling very emotional.

I can get quiet emotional.

That's what I had
become, quiet emotional.

Dear boy from Winston-Salem.

My most profound apologies
for taking so long to reply.

I've been thinking about
your letters for months.

I suppose that

I too can get quite emotional
about things sometimes.

But you're right.

Can't go around revealing your
goddamn emotions to the world

but if you can't reveal
your emotions to the world,

then what are you
supposed to do with them?

How do you go on?

'Cause I feel like
crying all the time.

Joanna, what is it?

Has something happened
at the agency?

No, no, no, everything's fine.

I brought you these, and
some soup from Mangia.

I know you like their
mushroom barley.

That's very thoughtful.

You do pay attention, don't you?

You did a fine job
on those contracts.

Those electronic clauses,

they'll be the
death of publishing.

On the other hand,

engaging with Jerry's
fans was irresponsible,

immature and dangerous.

You know about that?

I have fired
assistants for less.

Why didn't you fire me?

Because it's highly unlikely

you will make the
same mistake twice.

Also Jerry likes you.

I am reluctant to
alter his routine.

I don't wanna be a routine.

I have a couple of stories
from long-term clients.

Read them, and figure
out which magazines

they'd be right for,
and send them out.

What if I don't like them?

Then it's your job to
figure out who will.

Right.

Thank you.

Better get back to the office.

Why do you think
Judy Blume left?

I'm sorry that I said that.

No, please.

I would like to
know what you think.

When you met with Judy, did
you discuss her writing?

The quality of her writing
was never an issue.

Maybe she wasn't looking
for the perfect sales pitch.

Maybe she just wanted
to hear what you thought

about the story,
what it meant to you,

or if you love books the
same way that she loves them.

I'm not sure my love of books

was relevant to that discussion.

Maybe it was relevant to her.

I know it would be to me.

Oh.

You know, I sold my first
book when I was in my 20s.

It was about this
young woman journalist

in the Spanish Civil War,

and it was actually
written by a man.

And yet he seemed to
understand intimately

what it would be like
for her as a woman.

Anyway, I sold the book,

and then my boss said that I
should represent the author.

And naturally I said, yes.

And then like right away,

I started to get
nervous, almost panicky.

And what if, what if the author
disappointed me as a person?

And what if I liked the
writing, but not him?

You know, it was about
three weeks later

we met for lunch at Elaine's,

and at 9:00 PM, we
were still there,

just laughing and
talking and sharing

our aspirations and
our love of music

and our love of books.

Daniel?

Yeah.

Daniel.

My condolences, Margaret.

I'll pull my socks up.

Oh.

For months, I had been
touched by anonymous fans.

Touched by their desire
to connect with Salinger.

Their letters had changed me.

The time had come to see for
myself what had moved them.

Salinger's nothing like
I thought, nothing.

He's brutal, brutal and
funny. And I love it.

I love Franny the most.

There's that moment when
the guy in Princeton

is waiting for Franny
at the train station,

and he has the letter in
his pocket, Franny's letter.

And he's read it a thousand
times, he knows it by heart.

But when she gets off
the train and asks,

"Did you get my letter?"

- He says,
- "Which letter?"

Hey, booba.

Thought you'd be at work.

I took the morning off.

I missed you, booba.

Are you going somewhere?

I'm leaving you, Don.

I get it. This is
about the wedding.

Something hit me
while you were gone.

Why are you making
a thing out of this?

Listen to me, something
hit me while you were gone.

But they were never
really engaged.

I didn't miss you.
What?

I didn't think about
you, not for one second.

Okay, so you needed some
time on your own. I get that.

You can keep the
apartment, all right?

You need it more than I do.

You're gonna give me
the, sorry, it's not you,

it's me bullshit?

I should have broke
up with you before.

I'm not in love
with you. I'm sorry.

I knew you could do it.

I knew it!

Come with me. Hugh!

Stop doing what you're doing.

Max, we're coming
into your sanctum.

I have an announcement to make.

What is it?

Joanna has sold a story
I gave her this summer.

Congratulations.

Not surprised. Good job.
You're on your way.

Of course she is.

I knew the moment you walked

through the door that
you were agency material.

Now you can start to build
your very own client list.

A most exciting
feeling for an agent.

Isn't that right, Max?

For once I have to agree
with Margaret, yes.

We will celebrate at lunch.

Hope you like martinis.

Oh, she'll learn to like them.

You know, we have some authors

who would prefer to
be with you, I think

than an old fogy like me.

Some people I think you'll like.

What is it?

I'm so grateful.

I'm so, so grateful.

You're leaving.

I was planning on talking
to you sometime this week.

But you're doing so well.

I mean you have it in you to
become a really fine agent.

You have good
instincts, a good heart.

Thank you.

Thank you, Margaret.

My mind is made up.

Of course I'll stay until
you can find a replacement.

You have other aspirations.

I do.

We just never really
talked about anything

other than the
agency's business.

It's very true.

But I like working with
you. I like working here.

I really, really do.

There's just other
things I want to do.

And I'm afraid that if I don't
do them now, I never will.

I understand.

Hi, Kevin told me to drop
this by at my convenience.

Would you like to give
it to him yourself?

I think he's in.

That would be lovely. Thanks.

Hey there. Oh, guess
who's visiting.

Hello?

Listen, I'm thinking, if I
was the guy who put myself

on a paper and it came out
as "Catcher In The Rye"

I'd get a bang out of the
bastard writing me a letter

pretending to be able to
do the same, follow me?

Oh, Jerry. May I
introduce you to-

Joanna, it's so good
to finally meet you.