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Franny and Zooey Paperback – 4 Mar 2010
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About the Author
J.D. Salinger was born in 1919 and died in January 2010. He grew up in New York City, and wrote short stories from an early age, but his breakthrough came in 1948 with the publication in the New Yorker of 'A Perfect Day for Bananafish'. The Catcher in the Rye was his first and only novel, published in 1951. It remains one of the most translated, taught and reprinted texts, and has sold some 65 million copies. Salinger also wrote several novellas and short stories, including Franny and Zooey, For Esmé - With Love and Squalor, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.
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Top customer reviews
`Franny' focuses on a date with her boyfriend Lane, just prior to an American football game he is anxious not to miss. In contrast to the effusive affection expressed in the letter she sent him before this occasion, she finds him increasingly irritating. This is exacerbated by his boasting about his recent Flaubert essay. For his part, Lane cannot understand why she is not eating, nor can he account for her growing nervousness and disengagement. Twice she has to excuse herself, seemingly unwell. It transpires that she has been reading a devotional book entitled `Way of the Pilgrim'. This has inspired her to endlessly repeat the `Jesus Prayer' in the hope of emulating its hero by praying so incessantly that it is as subconscious an act as her heart beating. Indeed, after the second time, she is found collapsed still murmuring the prayer.
The action in `Zooey' takes place just a few days later. Franny has returned home to recuperate. Zooey, Franny's elder brother, has been enjoying a leisurely soak while rereading a four-year-old letter from his brother, Buddy (who is also the absent narrator). Quite preachy, it exhorts him to better appreciate their mother, Bessie, and explains part of the reason for the family difficulty in coping with other people. (All seven of the children had been precocious prodigies and had featured regularly on the radio quiz show `The Wise Child'). Just after he completes his reading, his mother bursts in. Concerned about Franny, she nags him to talk to her. Eventually, having shaved and dressed, he agrees. Finding that his hectoring tone and insensitivity (unsurprisingly) are upsetting her, he apologises and leaves the room. Seeking inspiration, perhaps, he enters his brother Seymour's room (who had committed suicide some years before). Using the private phone, he calls Franny, pretending to be Buddy, and tries again. This second attempt appears to be effective.
Throughout both pieces, Salinger never falters in his attention to detail. It feels filmic (in point of fact, the narrator describes it as a `home movie'). The realistic dialogue, though dated, is snappy and sprinkled with humour. Characterization, too, is very strong: these people are almost tangible.
Owing to its short length, it would be easy to read this in one evening. One word of caution, however: this is a book to be savoured, both for its language and for its ideas. The issues it highlights are thought provoking and intriguing and it is worth taking one's time over. Further, it naturally lends itself to repeated re-reading - a rare quality indeed. This purchase will repay your investment one thousand-fold: it is emphatically not a read and ditch novel (although you may well wish to acquire copies for your friends). Not often do you get an opportunity to pick up such a well-crafted work of art for so little money. Seize this one.
The first short story follows student Frannny Glass on a date with an arrogant and self-absorbed young man. But as he tries to make out that he's not particularly smitten, pretending to have forgotten her letter which he has just read for the umpteenth time, Franny's protestations of affection actually belie a different truth:
' "Oh, it's lovely to see you!" Franny said as the cab moved off. "I've missed you." The words were no sooner out than she realized that she didn't mean them at all.'
And as an awkward date plays out, with Franny's efforts to discuss her new religious beliefs cut short with her young man's preoccupation not to miss the game, Salinger makes every nuance of their dialogue and actions come alive.
In the following novella, 'Zooey', we follow Franny to her family home in New York where she has retreated to have some kind of religious meltdown or nervous breakdown to the despair of her mother, and the criticism of her outspoken brother Zooey. This is a family of highly intelligent siblings - one brother has committed suicide, leaving its traces on the other members. But Zooey's ultimate and convincing arguments against his sister's giving up on life and the phoneys out there (similarities to Catcher in the Rye) are given with love, and with reference to words once used by the much-missed brother, Seymour...
Has to be one of my favourite authors.
'Franny and Zooey' is composed of a short story and a novella - both exquisitely wrought and complementing each other - concerning the existential crisis and emotional breakdown of Franny Lane, the youngest of seven precociously talented and intelligent children.
'Franny' - the short story - brilliantly depicts the young woman's date with her pompous boyfriend, and already the themes that one would expect from Salinger's teasing, tantalising portion of published works are visible: existential anxiety over what exactly is 'fitting in,' the words and actions of the 'phonies' and how they impact on sensitive people such as Franny.
'Zooey', whilst still being concerned with Franny, portrays her brother's growing concern over his younger sister, who has taken to moping around the house in an emotional lethargy following her nervous episode documented in `Franny'. Zooey, at the rather comic instigation of his mother while he is having a bath, realises that he must help her get over it all in some way, though until the end of the story, doesn't seem to know how to. It is a beautifully-measured novella which takes its time, and reveals through its inaction rather than action.
Both pieces are witty, wordy and brilliantly realised. What I particularly enjoy is how engaging Salinger's style is, how he can deal with important themes relating to humanity and the individual's place within it, with the greatest and ease and enjoyment on the part of the reader. Indeed, many people have commented on the underlying allusions to Zen Buddhism and other spiritualism: huge themes that are dealt with in a wryly understated and very human fashion.
As such, when Salinger arrives at some sort of denouement or conclusion, it hits and resonates, as it does with 'Franny and Zooey,' with huge emotional impact.
This is a book to be savoured, to be enjoyed for its great dialogue, its perfectly profound realism and its humanity. That is, possibly, where one can recognise Salinger's greatness.