Lee's Reviews > Franny and Zooey

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
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's review
May 30, 2007

it was amazing

I am a huge JD Salinger fan, and I'm one of those people who's read "Catcher in the Rye" like 200 times, several times a year since I was about twelve. I buy into every cliche said about it: it changed my life, it made me want to write, it validated my own teen angst, Salinger captures teen-speak amazingly well, Holden Caulfield is vulnerable and wise, a kid-hero, etc. I have such an emotional attachment to the book that I find it hard to tolerate much criticism of it. Case in point: I recently came across an article written by Jonathan Yardley in 2004 for the Washington Post entitled "J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, Aging Gracelessly". One of the best quotes from the piece:

"Rereading 'The Catcher in the Rye' after all those years was almost literally a painful experience: The combination of Salinger's execrable prose and Caulfield's jejune narcissism produced effects comparable to mainlining castor oil."

Ouch. Double ouch because I had to look up "jejune".

This article prompted me to delve deeper into the Salinger canon, and I resurfaced holding "Franny & Zooey". Yardley may have prompted me to question my devotion, but this book cemented what I already knew: JD Salinger is a wonderful writer and his characters are the written equivalent of crack. You just can't get enough.

"Franny & Zooey" is one of several books/short stories written about the Glass family. There are seven Glass kids, all of whom were, at various points, panelists on a radio quiz show with the best name ever: "It's A Wise Child".

"Franny & Zooey" focuses on the two youngest siblings, hence the title, who are both in the midst of emotional and existential breakdowns. Franny, away at college in Boston, has read a book called "The Way of the Pilgrim, which has instilled in her an obsession with the concept of "praying without ceasing". Suddenly, everything around her is meaningless, she can't study or eat or sleep, and returns to New York to recouperate. Zooey is a sometimes-working actor, determined to help his sister.

The book touches on familiar Salinger-esque themes, including relgious devotion/fanaticism, kids vs. adults, a potentially meaningless world, etc. This book explores religion in an engaging, relatable way. Franny's qustions are universal and Zooey's answers are valid.

Authorities on the Glass Family will appreciate the insight into the unit, particularly into eldest brothers Seymour (who at that point has already committed suicide) and Buddy, who narrates the story. Zooey blames them for using himself and Franny as philosphical guinea pigs, pumping them full from the time they were toddlers with vast and varied dogma simply to see what would stick.

All of that said, I think the most important thing about this book, and all of Salinger's books, is its pure, joyful readability. "Franney & Zooey" contains passages that are absolutely HILARIOUS, specifically the extensive conversation between Zooey and his nagging mother, Bessie, that takes place in the bathroom. I was laughing out loud throughout.

He's been called the voice of several generations, but Salinger's ability to maintain belly-laugh-worthy humor while touching on such dark themes might be the most notable (and most underappreciated) thing about him.
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03/11/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Alexandra (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:47PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alexandra Totally.
I read that article too--and laughed.

Jerod H great review!

message 3: by Ally (new)

Ally The brand new group - Bright Young Things - is nominating books to read in January & Franny and Zooey is among them. Its the perfect place to discuss your favourite books and authors from the early 20th Century, why not take a look...


Vicki G I bet Yardley was just jealous. He's a writer, but how many people are going to know his name 70 years after he writes something. Of course, I don't know who he is anyway. But, on general principle I refuse to read a critical review of a book until I've read the book itself first.

Kelann excellent review! you really captured the meaning of the novel and Salinger's amazing writing ability

Thom Dunn I'm 72 now in 2013. I recall charting connections among the Glass family and parsing Catcher like it was Holy writ.

J.A. White I loved your review--which prompted me to look up "jejune" as well. I also read the book recently for the first time and found it very funny and a surprisingly breezy read. I don't think there's anything pretentious about it; the only time Salinger falls into that trap is maybe "Seymour, an Introduction," which was rough going for me.

Dawn Galland Yes, great review. It's been a long while since I last read this and you brought it back to me. I think it's time to pick it up, again. There's something so simplistic but deep and introspective in his writing. Laughing while discovering hidden complex burdens of life is wonderful.

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