Several years ago, my sister asked me if I had ever read J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. I had not. Catcher in the Rye was quite enough for me. I read that in high school and found it hard going. But she said I would like this one and she knows me awfully well, so I thought I’d better read it.
I mentally added it to my list. I picked it up and put it down in bookstores several times. I thought about requesting it from the library. Somehow I never could quite summon up the enthusiasm to commit. Not until the Borders going-out-of-business sale. There it was on the shelf. A discounted paperback staring me in the face. What was I waiting for? I had no choice but to buy it.
And this weekend I finally read it.
Franny goes home. This is where the reader meets Zooey, her slightly older brother. (Their mother, Bessie, is there, too.) First, Bessie tries to convince Zooey to talk to Franny. Apparently, Zooey already has talked to her. After a lengthy argument with his mother, Zooey does, in fact, go out (they were arguing in the bathroom) and talk to Franny again.
This is the story in a nutshell. The amazing thing is how bizarrely entertaining the book is, considering it is simply a prolonged gabfest. Nothing happens. The characters are arrogant, irritating, funny, and poignant. They are too intelligent for their own good. It leaves them bored with the world, cynical, and convinced of their own superiority. But being this way has made them miserable. Moreover, they’re aware that their misery is their own fault. I found myself caring for them even though I don’t think I’d want to be trapped next to one of them at a social function.
Salinger is an extraordinary writer. The characters were very real. I could see the settings precisely and watch the scenes as though I were watching a play. The humor leaped out at unpredictable moments, biting and cruel, but the love between the brother and sister was subtly sweet, and the contrast made me more aware of both.
The final verdict is I enjoyed the book so much I might just have to give Catcher in the Rye another chance.