Monday, June 3, 2013

17: Franny and Zooey - J. D. Salinger

“The rest, with very little exaggeration, was books. Meant-to-be-picked-up books. Permanently-left-behind books. Uncertain-what-to-do-with books. But books, books."

“I’m to write and tell you that you have your Whole Life Before You and that it’s Criminal if you don’t go after your Ph.D….you dirty little bookworm”

 “I don’t know what good it is to know so much and be smart as whips and all if it doesn't make you happy.”

It is rare that I close a book with the satisfaction of having just read something lovely, and I would have never guessed that Mr. J. D. Salinger would bring this moment to me. My only experience with JDS is The Catcher in the Rye which I read shortly after high school and felt that I needed to have read it five years earlier to feel any of the reverence that every guy I knew who read it between the ages of 13 and 17 seemed to feel about it.

In the great tradition of dirty little bookworms everywhere, I picked up this book because a cute guy liked it I will be teaching American lit next year and am incredibly passionate about my subject.

First and only complaint: Little Brown, the original publisher of the iconic rainbow striped JDS books has apparently started a new trade paperback imprint called Back Bay Books which has decided to redo the cover meaning my JDS spines no longer match. I know I am not the only freak about this, and it's annoying, especially because Catcher in the Rye is also on its own planet when it comes to its new jacket.

The rest: this book was lovely and you should read it. It’s a quick read that has the cutest sentimental moment ever (it involves a child and a puppy omgawd it's a little kid and a little puppy what more do you want in life you heartless bastard?) intermixed with hilarious dry humor and criticisms of the academic system and certain kinds of religious people. If you are at all booky, educated, or quirky, you too will long to be a member of the Glass family and long to be taught under Seymour and Buddy so that you too can have a nervous breakdown at college – which is really all this book is about when you ignore the humor, charm, and writing. Part of the beauty is that it really is that simple – a girl has a breakdown – but JDS makes it so much more interesting than that. As someone who grew up in a household where buying books was forbidden, I am completely enchanted by the idea of a family growing up where bookshelves line bedrooms. has the best literary Tshirts of all time, by the way. 


  1. I remember really liking this book. Good luck with what's left of a year of reading!

  2. Love this one. Have you read Raise High the Roof Beam? It's secretly the best of the three.

    1. After a not-so-great experience with The Catcher in the Rye and an indifferent experience with Bananfish (because it was mentioned in the YA novel Hard Love) I hadn't been compelled to read any other JDS. Now I will probably push the others a little higher on the list.

  3. Disagree. F&Z is secretly the best of the three. Although, I love RHRBC. My favorite line from RHRBC: Sometimes when I leave, I have a peculiar feeling that both M. and her mother have stuffed my pockets with little bottles and tubes containing lipstick, rouge, hair nets, deodorants, and so on. I feel overwhelmingly grateful to them, but I don't know what to do with their invisible gifts.

    One of my favorites from F&Z: I don't think it would have all got me quite so down if just once in a while--just once in a while--there was at least some polite little perfunctory implication that knowledge should lead to wisdom, and that if it doesn't, it's just a disgusting waste of time! But there never is! You never even hear any hits dropped on a campus that wisdom is supposed to be the goal of knowledge. You hardly even hear the word 'wisdom' mentioned!

    1. Randy, I think that whole bit was actually one of my least favorite parts of the book. I totally get that frustration with the purpose of education - I am a teacher after all - but I don't feel like JDS had his characters give me any understanding of what the difference between knowledge and wisdom is supposed to be from Franny's point of view. I have my own ideas, but what is she supposed to be talking about? Since he leaves it a little ambiguous, I feel like JDS can't articulate it himself, or he wants to leave Franny young and tortured, which makes me feel a little too old for her.

      Alternately, maybe I am totally missing something?