Brendan Jay Sullivan, Joyce Maynard, and the Proximity-to-Fame Memoir


As long as there will be famous people, there will be non-celebrities who have stories to tell about them. This practice is fairly popular in book form, and there’s a certain undefined genre of memoirs written by writers who happened to interact with celebrities. Two very good examples are Joyce Maynard’s At Home in the World, the much-maligned 1998 book in which Maynard revealed her relationship with reclusive novelist J. D. Salinger (she was 18, he was 53), and Brendan Jay Sullivan’s Rivington Was Ours, which concerns the author’s friendship with the up-and-coming Lady Gaga when she was a performer on the Lower East Side in 2006. The two books are excellent case studies in how such a story should — and shouldn’t — be told, as well as the particularly unfair and misogynistic way critics and readers respond to these types of books.

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