I had wanted to read J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, quite literally, for years. His only other full-length novel(ish), I knew I had to get my hands on it. I had had to read The Catcher in the Rye in year 12 (side note: is there anything better than when you have to read a book for school and you love it? Like, whenever you have to do homework and you’re not in the mood (almost always) you can just re-read the book and tell yourself it’s study), and I fell in love with it. The sarcasm, the wit, the sparseness of the writing that says so much with so little (perceived) effort. And while haters are gonna hate and you either love Holden Caulfield or think he’s an idiot, I was very much in the former category – hell, I read the book five times in that year alone (once again, as a form of ‘study’). So, needless to say, I knew that Franny and Zooey had my name on it.

Comprising of a short story titled Franny and a longer novella, Zooey, the two stories interlace with one another to delve into the relationships that the Glass family have with one another, particularly Franny and Zooey. Furthermore, it explores their relationship with religion and religious philosophy, which was forced onto them by their older, influential siblings Seymour and Buddy. As a result, Franny has dropped out of college because of her belief that education and society is pointless, and that her only salvation is to find inner nirvana through the power of the ‘prayer without ceasing’.

Many aspects of Franny and Zooey and the Glass family are similar to Salinger’s most famous work, The Catcher in the Rye, and Holden Caulfield’s upbringing. Though the parallels between Holden and Zooey are most obvious – their intelligence, their smug, self-assured nature (covering up a far deeper sense of insecurity), and the long-term effects that the death of a sibling has had on their nature, there are also strong connections between Phoebe and Franny, despite their large age difference – both are unsure of the world around them and fully convinced that their older brother is their saviour – even if they also view them as absolute dunderheads.

Though I didn’t love Franny and Zooey as much as I did The Catcher in the Rye, I could understand how I could if I were a teenager filled with angst. Each has a protagonist that is wholly unlikeable, not to mention largely wrong, yet scarily accurate. Zooey, for all his looks and fame, has the same uncertainness that I think we all feel, and the way that he takes it out on his poor, clueless mother reinforces how we frequently deal with inner turmoil – we take it out on those that we love. And Franny, despite being popular and beautiful with a smart, attractive boyfriend, has trouble seeing more than five minutes into the future, and as a result, drowns in herself. And though we may not all look towards religion as our saviour, in Franny and Zooey it acts as a metaphor as much as anything else – don’t we all have something unobtainable, higher and more ‘pure’ than ourselves that we aspire to, regardless of the cost?

Though the novel is short and the writing simple, Franny and Zooey speaks volumes, and it is just one example of what a wonderful writer Salinger was. Though he didn’t deal with adjectives or complex storylines, his stories still invoke the same richness and depths that so many other writers have failed to achieve. His characterisation is both comical and complex, and his use of metaphors (a cluttered lounge room representing a cluttered mind) so simple, Salinger writes in a way that is neither showy nor difficult to read.

Though I didn’t love Franny and Zooey as much as The Catcher in the Rye, I still view it as a wonderful piece of literature and example of a writer who does not fill the need to fill up pages and pages in order to tell a story. If you’ve read his other works but not this, then I would definitely recommend checking out Franny and Zooey.

Have you read Franny and Zooey? Did you have to read The Catcher in the Rye at school? Are you a fan of sparse, simple writing? Let me know!

franny and zooey by j.d. salinger

Franny and Zooey – (image taken from http://www.upload.wikimedia.org)

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