J.D. Salinger is of course most famous for his first novel The Catcher in the Rye, which was a highly controversial (although I’ve never really understood why) story about a lonely and disaffected teenager, Holden Caulfield. Salinger also wrote a series of seven stories about the Glass family though, to which Franny and Zooey belong. The book is comprised of a short story, Franny, and a novella, Zooey, which were written in 1955 and 1957 respectively, before being combined together in book form in 1961.
The eponymous short story Franny is about a young girl who meets her boyfriend Lane for a date, and spends the whole time being unable to refrain from being rude and bored with her life in general, and criticising the fakeness of everything around her, much like Holden Caulfield. She appears to be undergoing some kind of spiritual crisis which is based around a book called The Way of a Pilgrim, in which a pilgrim spends his life learning and teaching others how to pray to Jesus properly and unceasingly.
In the novella Zooey, narrated by Franny and Zooey’s older brother Buddy, Franny is in the middle of a nervous breakdown based around her spirituality, and Zooey tries to help her by rambling incessantly about religion while Franny constantly mutters the Jesus prayer to herself and cries.
Quite frankly, I was pretty bored by the whole thing. There’s no doubt that Salinger is brilliant writing about young people and their inevitable apathy and dissatisfaction with adolescent life, but ramblings about religion and spirituality and how to pray properly are the kinds of things which I have absolutely no interest in and very little patience for, and to be honest if I’d realised that the book was going to revolve around a ‘search for spirituality’ I’d probably never have bothered to pick it up off the shelf. Perhaps it’s the kind of book that requires a bit more time devoted to it or a couple of rereads to ‘appreciate’ it, but I really don’t think I can be bothered. I didn’t particularly enjoy The Catcher in the Rye when I first read it, probably because I had to study it for A Level English Literature and I prefer to find books for myself rather than be told what to read, but I have to say that now I’m pretty fond of it and return to it on a fairly regular basis. But I think that’s probably the only work of Salinger’s that I’ll stick with though, or I’ll at least avoid any other tales involving members of the Glass family. I’m sure a lot of people will find Franny and Zooey to be deep and meaningful, or enlightening, or inspirational or something, but I found it a bit pretentious and self-indulgent. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Salinger based it all on his own spiritual forays and appears to have spent a good deal of his life exploring different pathways, but that is really not for me. I won’t tell anyone not to read it, after all you could easily get through it in a couple of hours to see for yourself whether it holds any interest, but I think I’ll stick to reading The Catcher in the Rye.