Originally published separately as a short story and a novella, Franny and Zooey examines the relationship of two siblings, Franny and Zooey Glass, stOriginally published separately as a short story and a novella, Franny and Zooey examines the relationship of two siblings, Franny and Zooey Glass, struggling to make sense of a dark and unfriendly world. The Glass family has seen its share of tragedies. Of the seven siblings, two are now deceased--one by suicide and one by freak accident.
The compiled work opens with Franny, the youngest, as she visits her boyfriend, Lane, at college. Franny has been reading a “small pea-green cloth-bound book” (p. 8) about a religious Russian pilgrim who prays incessantly. Franny wonders whether such a thing is even possible--praying incessantly. Franny has caught the notion that one can find God through this type of prayer and she clings to it, desperately. The episode ends with Franny laying in the dark, staring at the ceiling, her lips moving in silent incessant prayer.
The story picks back up with Zooey, short for Zachary Glass, soaking in his bath and reading a letter. His relaxation is cut short, though, as his mother, Bessie, comes into the bathroom to talk to Zooey about his youngest sister. Franny has returned to the Glass home to recover from breakdown. Bessie chastises Zooey for refusing to take a more active role in Franny’s recovery. A meddling but affectionate mother, Bessie wants Zooey to talk to Granny, to help her sort through the existential crisis she’s going through at just nineteen years old.
Eventually Zooey does just that and the reader is given a rare and tender glimpse at the relationship between brother and sister. Though not his most famous work, Franny and Zooey may be Salinger’s best. The story reads like a play--very little action takes place, the story is instead moved forward by the development of rich and complex characters. Revealing his Eastern influences, Salinger examines familial love and the impossibility of knowing a God that is all too difficult to find amidst midterms, auditions, and the fast-pace of modern life.
A reader looking for resolution to this question may want to consider looking to C. S. Lewis or someone similar as Salinger does not provide easy, straight-forward answers. Instead, one feels unsettled at the end of Franny and Zooey. A reader willing to suffer the discomfort and lack of resolution will find the luscious language, endearingly flawed characters, and uthentic voice well worth the read....more
Teen suicide isn’t exactly a humorous topic so it may come as a shock to some readers to find that Ned Vizzini’s book, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, manTeen suicide isn’t exactly a humorous topic so it may come as a shock to some readers to find that Ned Vizzini’s book, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, manages to bring a few smiles even as it deals with such a very un-funny topic. Though it is not autobiographical, Vizzini began work on Story only one week after he himself was released from an adult psychiatric hospital. This experience lends an air of authenticity to the story, which follows Craig Gilner on a roller coaster of depression, anxiety, and recovery.
An over-achieving, neurotic, disconnected teen, Craig is so burned out by the age of fifteen that he comes to a drastic decision. He will bike to the Brooklyn Bridge and throw himself off. Somehow, though, he ends up calling the Suicide Hotline instead and decides to give this life thing one more shot. Instead of throwing himself into the river, Craig throws himself at the mercy of the psychotherapists, doctors, and nurses at the psych ward of the hospital just around the corner from his home. There he meets a cast of characters who are all as damaged as he is--a transvestite sex addict, a couple of self-professed “garbage heads,” a schizophrenic, a paranoid college professor, and a girl so broken that she has scarred her own face.
Though he only stays in the hospital for five days, Craig undergoes a transformation surrounded by his fellow misfits. Slowly he comes to understand just what has caused his anxiety and depression and how to deal with the craziness of his surroundings without losing his mind.
With its frequent references to drugs, drinking, sex, and teen suicide, It’s Kind of a Funny Story is, to say the least, controversial. But it takes a frank and necessary look at the mad dysfunction of adolescence in America. As Randy Pausch once said, “Children are living the stories we wouldn’t let them read.” Vizzini gives voice and face to these “children” with grace and courage. A realistic, heart-breaking, and somehow laugh-out-loud funny rendition of what it means to be young and imperfect in post-modern America....more