Sunday, April 13, 2008

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Not too long ago Carlton posted a great review of Franny and Zooey here.

The two main characters in this book are both self indulgent and heartbreaking. Franny is on a spiritual quest that would be more appropriate for a man ready to leave his family, take up religious fasting, and sit under a tree awaiting enlightenment than for a college student from a troubled family of freaks out of New York who has become disillusioned with the people handling her education. Zooey is on a quest to set his younger sister straight but he likes the sound of his own voice too much to do any good. The only person Franny wants to talk to about anything is her brother Seymour that has committed suicide years before our story takes place. The narrator of this little book is Buddy, their other brother who lives between the academic world and his secluded telephone-free house in the woods. Everyone seems to think Franny's situation would smooth over if she could talk to Buddy but there's no way for the family to get into contact with him. We meet him, however, through a lengthy letter that he had written Zooey years before lecturing him about this and that...

It seems that all the Glass children are preachy after their years of being child stars on the radio show It's A Wild Child, where they gave advice and insight to the people called in. For instance, Buddy told the listeners once that , "a man should be able to lie at the bottom of a hill with his throat cut, slowly bleeding to death, and if a pretty girl or an old woman should pass by with a beautiful jug balanced perfectly on the top of her head, he should be able to raise himself up on one arm and see the jug safely over the hill." These people and their conversations are absolutely impossible. I like reading them, but if I had to sit in a room and actually listen to one I think I would become frustrated with all of the Glass family pretty quickly. I prefer Holden's gang.

As Carlton pointed out, there isn't a lot that actually happens: a conversation in a restaurant, a girl faints, a man takes a bath and reads a letter, a man bickers with his mother, he shaves, he talks to his sister who is breaking down on their family's couch, and the brother calls the sister from a private line in the house and pretends to be another one of her brothers. That's it. During the course of reading it, though, I came up with all kinds of other ideas: Franny was pregnant, Franny had a sordid affair with the professor she's raging about, ect. I think those would have been far too easy explanations so I ditched them.

After the book was over I was relieved. Not that I was at the end of it, but that it closed the way that it did, with the fat lady.


Christopher said...

Salinger is brilliant.

Carlton said...

I am of the opinion that J. D. Salinger is one of the many noms de plume for the writer who most often went by R. L. Stine.

Nine Stories is a couple of books down from the top of my "to read" list.

Nihil Novum said...

For even more proof of your hypothesis, Carlton, wait for my upcoming review of The Secret Bedroom!

Brooke said...

*Is confused about all of this R.L. Stine business that keeps popping up.*

I am glad you are going to read Nine Stories.

Nihil Novum said...

Be confused no more, Brooke.