Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger

Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite books. So I figured I should probably try out some other works by Salinger. This book is split into two unequal parts. The first, entitled 'Franny' takes place mainly in a restaurant. Franny, whose name we find out later is Francis Glass, has come to visit her boyfriend, Lane, at the college he attends. Franny and Lane bicker over things of a trivial nature throughout dinner. He is somewhat pompous. She is somewhat annoyed at his pomposity. Franny seems to be slightly ill -- not touching her food, looking unusually pale, etc. She begins to describe this book that she is reading. It is about a man that is on a spiritual journey, which essentially entails repeating over and over some variation of, "Jesus, have mercy on me." Franny appears to be rather enamored with this man and his religious quest. The section ends with her fainting dead away in the restaurant and coming to on a couch, staring at the ceiling.

In the much-longer section, 'Zooey', we find out that Franny is the youngest member of the Glass children. The second youngest: Zachary, commonly referred to as Zooey. We find out more about Franny in this section than in the first. Her age. Her feeling about school. Her family life. Both Franny and Zooey feel that their eldest brothers had a detrimental effect on them. They were funnel fed all sort of esoteric knowledge as young kids, leading to their regularly appearing on the radio show, It's a Wise Child. This section take place in the span of a couple of hours at the Glass house. Zooey, a fairly accomplished 25-year-old actor living at home, is getting ready to meet someone for lunch. Franny is lying on the couch, apparently have some sort of spiritual nervous breakdown.

Franny and Zooey has very little plot, but rather driven by its true-to-life dialogue. Salinger's writing is clear, insightful, and organic. I really liked the sentence, "Zooey suddenly, sharply, turned around, without taking his foot off the window seat, and picked up, snatched up, a match folder that was on his mother's writing table."

There is a section where Zooey is talking about possibly going to France for a movie. "But I'd hate like hell to leave New York. If you must know, I hate any kind of so-called creative type who gets on any kind of ship. I don't give a goddam what his reasons are. I was born here. I went to school here. I've been run over here--twice, and on the same damn street. I have no business acting in Europe, for God's sake."

While I like what I have read of Salinger so far, I find it intriguing that he was so good at tapping into 20-something angst. After all he was in his forties when he wrote these stories.

I have been thinking about the ending of this book for quite a while now, and I don't think I am any closer to really grasping it. I have, however, come to the conclusion that my liking the book is not predicated on my fully understanding the ending.


Brooke said...

I'm reading this right now. I don't know how I feel about it yet but Salinger wrote two of my favorite short stories. (A Perfect Day for Bananafish and For Esme with Love and Squalor. If you like him you should check out Nine Stories.)

Carlton said...

Don't tell me what to do.

Nihil Novum said...

Banafish is my favorite story in 9 Stories. Actually, it's the only one I liked when I read it.

Christopher said...

Eric Banafish?


Brooke said...