Once again I find it very difficult to put into words my thoughts on this book, which is comprised of two parts: Franny, a short story first published in The New Yorker in 1955, and Zooey, a novella that followed in 1957. From the Author: “Both stories are early, critical entries in a narrative series I’m doing about a family of settlers in twentieth-century New York, the Glasses.”
Franny: It is the big college football game and Lane has carefully made plans for a terrific weekend. First he’ll meet his girlfriend, Franny, at the train station, then they’ll have a wonderful dinner at an upscale restaurant before meeting up with friends to attend the big game of the year.
Life doesn’t always fall into line with our plans though as while eating Franny realizes that she really doesn’t love Lane after all, tells him that she has quit acting because the director is a pompous impostor, her professors are ego driven idiots and she is totally into a book about a pilgrim who goes around the world practicing and teaching “The Jesus Prayer”. She proceeds to have a nervous breakdown rather than dessert, then on the way on the way to the washroom she faints, and they miss the game altogether.
Zooey: picks up where Franny ended. Franny is now at home in New York with her family as they struggle to get her back to her normal self. Zooey, one of her older brothers, is put in charge of this task by their eccentric and highly amusing mother, Bessie.
While the plot doesn’t sound particularly appealing, the dialogue between the different characters in this eccentric, highly intelligent and classically educated family is captivating, often humorous, caustically witty, disdainful of academia and those in the arts, and even insightful. It was a lot like reading a play. It is through this dialogue that we learn about the family and what has led to the eventual falling apart, and hopefully, recovery of Franny.
Salinger’s writing is superb and his use of language impressive. It is the type of book that you can’t help thinking about long after finishing it and appreciating even more so as thought after thought shoots through your brain. In short, I loved this brilliant book!