Thursday, October 14, 2010
Franny and Zooey - J.D. Salinger
I loved Franny and Zooey. I LOVED Franny and Zooey. There were many moments in the book when I wasn't really sure what Franny or for that matter, what Zooey were getting at but they left me feeling pretty good about everything. I feel like speaking in Italics too. And Zooey, you have got a lifelong fan here.
Franny and Zooey are the two youngest members of the Glass family. The plot is not much really, it is basically a sort of meandering, reflective (discourse?) thing on the self. Whether that self is Franny or Zooey or Mrs. Glass. The plot opens with Franny meeting her boyfriend Lane for a weekend. What gets off to a seemingly perfect start complete with Lane's studied nonchalance and stymied eagerness and Franny's sheared Racoon overcoat, quickly degenerates. There is something wrong with Franny. She keeps picking on Lane; the fact that Lane is a pompous ass aside. Franny finally dead faints away at the restaurant.
Enter Zooey. Franny has come home and she seems to be having a nervous breakdown. Is she so disillusioned with the world? She is after some kind of religious fulfillment but what exactly does she want? She incessantly chants the Lord's prayer under her breath but does she understand the whole point behind it? The Glass family is worried about Franny; and Zooey with a little help from Mrs. Glass sets out to try and talk her out of what he believes is a self-imposed funk. Throughout the story, various other members of the family pop in and out. Especially the eldest two: Seymour (killed himself long ago) and Buddy (a somewhat reclusive writer/professor living in the country). Seymour peppers their thoughts and conversations almost constantly and the disquiet and the perplexity the family feel about his death is palpable.
So that is basically all there is to this really small (novella?) story. Now for the writing. This is my first Salinger and it has been a lovely introduction and getting-to-know. Salinger writes with an almost uncomfortable clarity of thought and cuts right down to the bone of things. Neither Franny nor Zooey are particularly likeable nor unlikeable. They are, if you think about it, just an ordinary guy and girl. It is Salinger's depth of writing, his getting under their skins and the stunning imagery he provides that makes one (and themselves) look much closer than is normally comfortable.
The message quite simply seems to be: disillusioned or not, do not feed your ego. Keep playing because that is all you can really do. Do it for the Fat Lady.
And me? I love that. Zooey gave me a sense of quiet towards the end just like he gave Franny.