40 Before 40 {Book #32}: ‘Franny and Zooey’ by J.D. Salinger

40 Before 40 {Book #32}: 'Franny and Zooey' by J.D. Salinger

Titular characters, Franny and Zooey Glass, are sister and brother respectively, coming from a large New York family. The Glass family is one of some importance for writer, Salinger. Apart from the two short stories of ‘Franny and Zooey’ which have been merged together into this charming novella, Salinger also wrote about other members of the family in ‘Nine Stories’, ‘Raise High the Roof Beam’ and ‘Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.’ This is my first introduction to the quirky and enigmatic Glass family, but I doubt it will be my last.

The entire Glass family, particularly the brood of seven siblings, is portrayed as having higher than normal intellectual capacities. Franny, herself, is written as very emotional and spiritual; whereas, Zooey’s personality relies heavily on wit and sarcasm, and maintains a little more of the world-weary traveler. The pair’s personalities compliment each other, and consequently, they rely on each other for both emotional support and intellectual discourse. The story begins with Franny suffering an emotional breakdown. Through the haze of her cigarette smoke, you see almost immediately that this character is one not easily understood or soon to be forgotten.

‘I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.’ {Franny}

As the reader, you enter Zooey’s story through the doorway of a bathroom – his bathroom – as he sits reading in the bath, until his mother unceremoniously intrudes upon his solitude. It is then that Zooey is compelled through pages of intriguing conversation and maternal goading, to help his younger sister Franny through her emotional setback. Zooey first attempts to reach his sister through a little rouse, but eventually turns to brutal honesty.

‘You’re lucky if you get time to sneeze in this goddam phenomenal world.’ {Zooey}

If you have never read anything by Salinger, then he is best described as unique. While most authors follow certain guidelines for story telling – i.e. an inverted pyramid, chronological format, or hourglass structure – he follows no organizational plan or structure. To use a crude metaphor, while most authors write in black and white, Salinger writes in big, bright, disruptive color. He doesn’t restrain himself with the need for a plot or a climax, he simply shares his and his characters thoughts via an explosion on the page, comparable to a journal or collection of personal letters. In the end, you either enjoy reading Salinger or you don’t – and I do.

Salon Summary

RECOMMENDABILITY: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆
REPETITIVE READABILITY: 3 {out of 5} stars | ★★★☆☆
RATING: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆

Two down on my 40 Before 40 list –  38 more to go. Read along with me.

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