"'I'm sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect...'"
I went into Franny and Zooey knowing only 3 things relating to it:
- I really hate The Catcher in the Rye, and sort of, by extension, Salinger.
- I had a weird inkling I would like it.
- Number three is a myth because those were the only two things I knew.
It wasn't a lot to go on, but I've had this weird fixation on reading it ever since
this character in Sex and the City was all like 'Salinger used to get me high' and called her daughters Franny and Zooey someone very important and sophisticated said it was a good book to read so I thought, yes, yes I shall. It took actual YEARS to find a copy in a charity shop, but I finally did (last year...) and now, obviously, I've read it.
There are a few important things to know about Franny and Zooey before we begin. FIRSTLY, it's made up of a short story (Franny) and a novella (Zooey) although the two are connected so you could probably just call it a novella. SECONDLY, Zooey is a boy. This is RIDICULOUS to my brain so I sort of want to deny that it's true and think of him as a girl, but no, Zooey is (apparently) short for Zachary and Zooey Deschanel's mum was just crazy for spelling it like that. Franny and Zooey are both members of Salinger's Glass family, who come up in many of his short stories and novellas, which I'm presenting to you as if I know all about them when really I read up about them on Wikipedia as soon as I'd finished this book.
So. Franny is the short story and it really leads into Zooey, as it's pretty much the story of Franny meeting up with her boyfriend, who she doesn't seem to like that much, and having what we find out in Zooey are the beginnings of some kind of breakdown. Except... from the way Franny describes things, it's a lot more complicated than just having a breakdown, and seems to have something to do with not being able to find sincerity or meaning in college, or even life. It was interesting to me that the way Franny describes what she's feeling has parallels with Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, except that because she wasn't walking around moaning and calling everyone phonies, I actually gave a shit.
The deal with Franny and Zooey is this: As the youngest members of their family, and with two much much older brothers by the time they were reading to learn stuff, they were educated by said brothers in a way that has made them unsuitable for the outside world. Unsuitable how? In a way in which they're always striving for something deeper and more meaningful and for some kind of inner peace, while the rest of the world seems to always be striving for, you know, money and things. Which isn't necessarily a wrong way to live*, but it's not really the way for these two, so they don't really fit into it. Nor, really, do they want to.
I'm kind of babbling here. And the reason I'm kind of babbling is that I really really REALLY liked this book and I got a LOT of high-minded and English (and Philosophy, come to think of it) degree-ish thoughts out of a relatively few pages. Small as this book is, there's quite a lot packed into it, and I haven't even said anything about the Franny short story and the ennui of being the same as everyone else and all the other good stuff in those 25 pages. Essentially what I want is to take some kind of American Lit course and then discuss it, OR everyone could just read this and we could discuss it and then I'd be totally happy.
One final note: Franny and Zooey is SO good that it's convinced me to give The Catcher in the Rye one last time. I figure that I can absolutely be that JD Salinger fan who doesn't like Catcher, but having seen more of what I think Salinger is trying to say through Caulfield, I feel like maybe I'll be able to appreciate him a tiny bit more? Or possibly just want to break his face as I have with every other reading of that book. We shall see.
*I'm lying. It's absolutely the wrong way to live, if you only want things.