Franny & Zooey

So I'm restarting book reviews on the blog with Franny & Zooey by J. D. Salinger. I bloody loved Catcher In The Rye and have read it a few times, although how I feel about Holden Caulfield always changes depending on where I am in life at that moment - he either infuriates me or he's my hero. I have a bit of a thing for American literature from the 1950's and it's quite a shame that Salinger didn't leave behind a great deal of work so when I found Franny & Zooey in my local BHF I had to pick it up.

They're two short stories published separately in The New Yorker originally and then as one book starting off with Franny Glass, a young college student who suffers the beginning of some kind of breakdown whilst having dinner with her pompous boyfriend Lane. She feels disillusioned with society, questioning the true meaning of life and these quotes (both stories are mainly made up of dialogue) sum up her feelings perfectly:

"I'm just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everyone else's. I'm sick of everybody that just wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting. It's disgusting."

"I'm sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody."

Now I dunno about you but those kinda hit me where it hurts because I related so hard. I love how everyone has ambition and wants to be a #GirlBoss but then I start wondering what's wrong with me because really all I want is a simple kind of life most of the time! You see it online and in real life, everyone presenting their best selves (not throwing shade because I'm guilty of this too) and sometimes you do get a bit fed up of it. How funny/tragic that 60 plus years after this was first published it's still relevant today.

Zooey picks up where Franny left off and we find poor Franny back at her childhood home in the midst of a full on breakdown. Her mother Bessie is trying to convince her son Zooey to help his sister out and after quite a lengthy discussion in the bathroom of all places (in which he insults his mama many times) he eventually does come to Franny's aid in his own, unique way. Zooey too is frustrated with the 'phoniness' of others but ultimately what he says to Franny is that everyone, both phoney and genuine, are deserving of love; we should forgive people their faults as they're only human after all. It was a nice and unexpected ending if you're looking at just the character of Zooey but maybe not such a surprise considering Salinger's own interest in Eastern religions!

"You can't live in the world with such strong likes and dislikes." - Bessie Glass to Zooey (again, felt like she was talking to me!)

The exploration of Eastern and Russian philosophy is quite a prominent theme and this alongside the open criticism of the family, celebrity and education is quite brave considering this was published in the 50's - an age of conformity, acceptance of intellectuals and extreme patriotism following WWII and the beginning of the Cold War. To me it's a bit rebellious, a kind of eff you to society at the time and in a way I find it relevant to today as the world seems to be reverting back to the 1950's! I hope we can all have at least a little of Salinger's spirit and have the guts to speak out against the mainstream. 

It's a short book so definitely worth giving it a go (I reckon most people could do it in a day) but be aware it's less about plot and more about character development. It gets a bit heavy with the philosophy at times which might be too much for some but personally I really enjoyed the dialogue (people had a 'terrific' way of speaking back then!) 

Have you read this book? 


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