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  • Anna Rosciszewski

Franny and Zooey - Book Review

Do you ever feel painfully self-aware? That your ambitions may be veritably pointless? Do you sometimes feel that no one else really sees the world like you do? Well, you are not alone, for in J.D Salinger’s writing, many characters struggle with similar feelings of frustration, notably Franny and Zooey Glass. Franny and Zooey is a two part work of fiction written by the American author J.D Salinger, and tells of the search for meaning of the youngest siblings of Salinger’s seven fictional and precocious Glass children, who appear frequently in his short fictions. Franny was originally published as a short story and Zooey as a novella in The New Yorker in 1955 and 1957, respectively. In 1961, Salinger published the two narratives together as one book.

Franny begins in New Haven, where the protagonist, Franny, is visiting her unsuspecting boyfriend, Lane, for the weekend Yale football game. Only, she meets him at the dawn of a mental breakdown and an affiliated spiritual crisis (spoiler: they do not make it to the game). Zooey takes place shortly afterwards and follows Franny’s older and closest brother, Zooey, as he gets ready in the bathroom of their family apartment, and later as he harshly confronts Franny about her fearful state. The two stories reveal the spiritual and psychological implications of Franny’s and Zooey’s bizarre upbringing on a radio show for genius children, their grief for their dead siblings, and a little green Russian novel about the art of perpetual prayer.

Franny and Zooey is an incredibly witty yet frank book about the search for meaning and truth in life after the innocence of childhood has faded away. Salinger’s description of the characters and their settings, notably the cluttered Glass family apartment, captures the realistic inelegance and dread of life, a reflection of Franny’s and Zooey’s irritability and discord. Their conflicts are largely conveyed through their frequently vindictive dialogues, which carry tones of cynicism, sarcasm, and irony. Furthermore, though equally as profound as Franny, the second part, Zooey, is actually quite funny. It is especially amusing when Zooey messes with his fretful mother, whom he derisively refers to as “Bessie,” and who is absolutely sick of his insufferable cleverness and constant sarcasm, for a solid 43 pages.

If you have read and enjoyed The Catcher in The Rye, you would doubtlessly benefit from picking up this book (and reading it too)! The characters of Franny and Zooey are both similar to the protagonist of the aforementioned novel, Holden Caulfield, in their coming of age because they are likewise traumatized misanthropes, disillusioned by the “phoniness” of themselves and everyone around them, and hopelessly aware of the utter “lousiness” of their conditions, two prominent idioms and opinions that were first coined by Holden. However, though they are insufferable and tactless, Franny and Zooey are nonetheless capable of spirituality, which sets them apart from Holden, who deems religion annoying. The two siblings display a desire to do something more than mill around and criticize everything; they dream of acting careers (despite loathing show business). Moreover, it would not be entirely fair to put these three characters into one box. Franny and Zooey come from vastly different circumstances than Holden and thus experience the world and cope with familial loss in a much different way. Though often similar in tone and style, the two books display distinct perspectives of life belonging to uniquely fascinating characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed Franny and Zooey and plan on rereading numerous more times to get a better grasp on the novel’s meaning and to experience its cleverness again, not to mention its unadorned beauty. The rating that I ultimately assigned this wonderful book on Goodreads was 5/5 stars for its humor, ingenuity, and candor. Moreover, I would recommend this book to everyone who has already read Salinger and would like to learn more about the Glass family, a veritable bottomless manifestation of Salinger’s genius. However, it really also is a cool book to get into regardless of if you’ve yet read The Catcher in The Rye (unless you have just started freshman year, you probably have already). Franny and Zooey can tell us all a little bit about ourselves while serving as a warning to avoid pessimism, especially to those still arduously figuring out who they are.

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