"'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.
Hmmmm. Maybe I'll read this one after I finish East of Eden. Or something. I've had it on the shelf for years but I was so lukewarm with Nine Stories that I haven't really felt like picking it up. I didn't realize that they were two separate stories. Sometimes I feel like the only person who hasn't read The Catcher in the Rye.ReplyDelete
Oh maaaan, I really want to read Nine Stories now because wikipedia tells me there are more tales of the Glass family in it!! So... You might not like this if you didn't like that, but I can't be sure about that because I haven't read it.Delete
It's fine that you're the only person not to have read The Catcher in the Rye. Unless you're a disaffected teenage boy who moans a lot, you probably won't like it.
It's been *years* since i read this one, and the only thing I really remember about it is that I liked it better than Catcher in the Rye (not difficult 'cause I think that book is incredibly overrated) and that maybe one of the characters carries around a copy of a certain book with her. (Gah, that could be from Catcher, too. I can't say)ReplyDelete
So clearly I need to be one of those internet peoples who re-reads this book and then we can have ALL of the discussions about it.
No no, one character does carry round a book with her! That would be Franny. I'm not sure if in a few months (or, let's face it, weeks) all I'll remember is that I like it more than The Catcher in the Rye, but if that's all I remember, that's good enough (SO OVERRATED, RIGHT?!)Delete
But yes! Reread! It's really short, you can do it!
Short comment cos of phone awfulness but urgh we disagree about this book! I think i feel about it how you feel about Catcher, which I loved as a teenager. Stick Salinger on the pile with Little Men :-pReplyDelete
Whaaaaaaat, so you hate this Salinger and love the one I haaaaaaate? That's crazy. We're going to have ISSUES, Mrs H.Delete
This was the only Salinger book I tried to read (Trish, you are not alone!) and I didn't like it. In fact I don't believe I've finished it. I don't remember how far I got, I didn't even remember that it's split in two parts until you mentioned it. I think maybe I should give it a second chance.ReplyDelete
I mean... I recommend giving it a second chance, obviously, but I'm also an advocate of just letting the books you didn't really like go. Like, there's obviously a reason they were unliked, so you should stick with that, you know?Delete
Today I have seen three things about Salinger. One video by someone who counts Catcher as one of his favourite books (and he has good taste in books, btw). One video by someone who ALSO has good taste in books but hated it with a passion. This someone was female, as are many other Holden-haters I've seen/read/met, which makes me think maybe Catcher really is one of those books that men just somehow 'get' more than we do. The third thing is this, which kinda makes me think maybe I should follow your example, try a DIFFERENT Salinger, then see how I feel about a reread of Life, Holden and the Phoniness of Everything (as it is sometimes theatrically known in my head). Because it's been over 10 years since my Catcher experience and I think I wanted it to be a lot of things, so had very high expectations. Maybe THIS time, expecting the urge to flush it down the toilet, I'll be pleasantly surprised?ReplyDelete
This comment makes no sense. Carry on.
It makes total sense! I'm cool with it. I recommend another Salinger before reattempting Catcher, because I liked this so much that it's basically convinced me I should read Catcher again, even though I still know I don't like it! I think you might be right about the boy/girl thing though, at least to a certain extent. Which is interesting.Delete
Can I just say that I hate Catcher and I love Salinger. I've never liked Catcher, but I've read all of his other work and loved it. Nine Stories, this one, Raise High, they are wonderful. I know Catcher is his most famous, but I tell people all the time that they shoudl absolutely not start with that one!ReplyDelete
Aaaaaaand, there you go! I feel like I might be you once I've read more Salinger, Melissa. We shall see.Delete