Since we can’t go anywhere right now, you’d have thought I’d have been all over my reading list in the last few weeks. Safe to say, I haven’t been. I can be a terrible procrastinator, and with so much time on my hands, it’s so easy to just “do it tomorrow”. The fact that the book in question is so short only compounds the fact that it’s taken me so long to read. So long.
This month’s (and half) book was J.D. Salinger’s Franny & Zooey. Made up of a short story, called Franny and a novella, called Zooey, it offers a portrait of a brother and sister in 1950s New York.
That is pretty much the only thing I understand about this book.
At the risk of sounding incredibly conceited, I would say there’s not many works of literature that I can’t at least spin some kind of interpretation on. But this is definitely one of them.
It’s definitely Catcher in the Rye -esque in it’s dryness and cynicism. But where I kind of liked Holden Caulfield for his glibness, I was not a fan of Zooey’s. And where the disenchantment of Catcher in the Rye is, I would say, almost relatable, Franny’s search for meaning verges on irritating. To be fair though, this is probably more to do with her portrayal as a “hysterical woman” than anything else.
As I’m sure I’ve written before, for me, a lot of the magic in literature is down to the characters and their relatability (whether you’ve experienced what they’re living through or not). I think the issue I found with Franny & Zooey, which is fundamentally not there in Catcher in the Rye, is that there’s so much focus on theory and mysticism and religion and academia, that you lose the characters and their experiences. The fact that both stories centre around Franny’s nervous and existential breakdown is kind of made null and void when you consider the fact that we have no context into who Franny is, the experiences that shaped her and the relationships with her family and friends that we get glimpses into throughout.
This was a disappointing one for me, which is annoying since I, like everyone else, loved Catcher in the Rye when I first read it. It’s probably not fair of me to compare, but I think if Franny & Zooey was written in the first person, as a novel, a la Catcher in the Rye i would have enjoyed it a lot more.