Telluride: J.D. Salinger's Life-Changing Advice to His Lover, 'Labor Day' Novelist Joyce Maynard

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J.D. Salinger

The writer says her career might have taken a very different course if it were not for the words of the older author.

Writer Joyce Maynard on Saturday revealed the life-changing advice J.D. Salinger gave her when he seduced her as a 18-year-old before then cruelly dumping her. Maynard recalled the advice during a conversation at at Telluride's County Courthouse with Jason Reitman, who has directed the film adaptation of her novel Labor Day, which stars Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin and Gattlin Griffith. 

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"What always comes to my mind -- and I sometimes hesitate to say it -- is the advice that was given to me when I was 18 years old by the first man I ever loved, who was Salinger. I described it in my much-criticized, much-condemned memoir," said Maynard in a suddenly soft voice.

"Salinger said, 'Always tell the truth. Do not listen to the opinions of others. And do not be afraid of telling the true story, and what people say about you when you do."

Referring to Salinger's reported rage over Maynard's memoir of their affair, Reitman joked the reclusive author might well have added, "As long as it's not about me."

Maynard's writing career did tank for years after she revealed her affair with Salinger in the book At Home in the World. "But actually I hold very close to my heart words that he said when I was 18 and might have been heading in a bad direction, a different direction. I might have been that hot young thing in New York City, becoming a TV personality or anchorwoman, or reporter or just kind of a new journalism flash person,"  she said.

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Indeed, at a dinner with Maynard and Salinger, New Yorker writer Lillian Ross mocked young Maynard for her Tom Wolfe-ish enthusiasm in covering such pop culture subjects as Miss Teen America. But, instead of becoming a flash writer, Maynard became famous for novels about small-town America, to which Salinger introduced her, and which have resulted in movies like Labor Day and Gus Van Sant's To Die For, which made Joaquin Phoenix a star.

Festivalgoers can look forward to further insights into Salinger, since Shane Salerno's new documentary, Salinger, is expected to screen during the course of the weekend.