Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger [Book]

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Franny and Zooey is composed of two sections, which were originally published in the New Yorker magazine as two separate short stories. The first story or section, “Franny,” was published in the New Yorker in January 1955. In “Franny,” Franny Glass meets her boyfriend Lane Coutell for a football weekend at his college. They do not get to join many of the festivities, though, because during their first lunch together, Franny begins to have a breakdown. She tells Lane that she is sick of the phoniness at school and of the egotism of the faculty. She has quit the play she was in because she is embarrassed about what she feels to be acting fake. As she gets worked up, she reveals that she has become interested in the “Jesus prayer,” a continuous prayer meant to cleanse one’s spirit. Lane mostly brushes off Franny’s concerns until she faints on the way to the bathroom. As he is helping to revive her, she begins to speak the prayer.

“Zooey” basically picks up where “Franny” left off. First, though, the narrator names himself. The man claiming to be the author of the story is Buddy Glass, one of Franny and Zooey’s older brothers. The story resumes. It is the Monday after the weekend Franny’s breakdown started, and Zooey is at home in New York City. In his conversation with his mother, Bessie Glass, it is revealed that Franny is now at home, sleeping and crying on the living room sofa. Bessie wants Zooey to talk to Franny, which he eventually does. The two of them have a long theological and personal discussion. We learn that the two of them have basically been raised on a blend of different religions, taught to them by their older brothers Buddy and Seymour. Over the course of this long discussion, Zooey helps Franny sort out her spiritual and personal beliefs, allowing her, by the end, to find peace.

 

***

First off, I have to say…I did it!  I finally read this classic piece of literature from Salinger.  This book has been on my reading list for a couple of decades.  Like most of us out there, I read Catcher in the Rye in middle school.  It wasn’t required reading in my school, but it was just something that I was drawn to as I know it it had a strong message about teenage angst and the pressures of growing up.  Well, growing up rich and insecure that I guess.  Plus it was featured heavily in a Mel Gibson movie I really loved way back then when Mel Gibson didn’t suck.  No matter, I had been meaning to read Franny and Zooey for a very long time, and I have to say that I was not upset.  It is rare for me to think that a book was ever “just long enough”, but in the case of this wonderful little book, I still came away from it wishing it was just a bit longer.

I have never really been fascinated with the idealisms of Zen Buddhism and the likes.  More so I have been fascinated with other people’s fascination with eastern religions.  Therefore it is was an absolute delight to get to find out Salinger’s interpretation of the whole damn thing.  Though not an entirely prevalent theme of the book, it was always there.  Buddhism mixed with a bit of self-realization and social narcissism.  Although Salinger published so little works, it is widely known that he wrote in a very metaphorical sense, and Franny and Zooey is definitely not a book that strays from these ways of being.  Salinger wasn’t a great writer in a lyrical sense, like Flaubert who has a “cameo” in this book, but more of a technical writer who had something daring to say, and managed to say it in a sort of secret code.  And this is exactly how the Buddha man made his way into this text.  The entire Glass family seems to be the sort of group of folks who, even when terrible things happen to them, seem to have it all together, but are all dead inside.  And only when a character like Franny starts to realize this notion does the world around her, as grey as it seems, starts to find her ridiculous and incorrigible, because deep inside they know she is ride.  And to that I say, Namaste motherfuckers.

The character of Zooey is easily the most fascinating creature among these pages (Note:  I actually read a physical copy of this!  Not an audiobook, though I still whole-heartedly defend the magic of audiobooks).  Never seeming to truly get over the death of his brother, Zooey’s evident despair acts as a major theme of the book, or at least a very important character trait in the young man.  I do know that there is probably very little to “give away” about this story, as a classic piece of literature like this has had spoilers from millions of different angles for the last 60 years, but I dare tell you fine readers that Salinger said everything we need to know about the declination of society when he wrote the character of Zooey.

As this is a classic story, and all that is to be said about Salinger and this novel has already been said, I want to take this soap box and stand in a different direction.  For anybody who has read Salinger’s work in the last few years….do you think of Wes Anderson?  Salinger’s influence on a film like The Royal Tenenbaums seems bloody obvious to me now.  This is not to say that Anderson isn’t a truly amazing and original artist himself, as he is obviously one of the most intriguing writers and filmmakers of this day and age.  I would dare say that he is the Felini of the now with is quirky and weird depictions of modern society.  But, in reading this book, and looking back on Catcher in the Rye, it seems as though the two have the same story to tell.  That society as a whole is desperately sinking in to a hole of despair and unintelligable declination.  And boy what a bit of fun it can all be!  While Anderson resorts to comedy as a way of depicting tragedy, Salinger simply kept it simple, and stuff with being one tragic and desolate motherfucker.  And hot damn both of these men are brilliant in their own rights.

It may be the whole “rich people have problems too” sort of mindset that they both work with that makes their work so interesting.  While stories of the poor are interesting in their own right, at times in literature, when you strip a character of all monetary concerns, you can truly get to know the inner nature of a person.  This is obviously the case when it comes to this amazing little piece of literature.  There is no doubt that people will be reading Salinger for years to come, he’s just that damn important.  And I dare say that Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey should be required reading for everyone to learn from before the reach the age of 22.  How do we go about making this a law?  Let’s do that.

 

Note: 2014 is the first year for book reviews at Trainwreck’d Society.  We will be making a valiant effort to read and review at least 100 books.  This is review #8.  Be sure to stay in touch and be on the lookout for further reviews throughout 2014.  Be sure to let us know if we are falling behind.  For a complete list of book reviews, click HERE.  Enjoy!

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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