Franny and Zooey

17 08 2012

If you Google J.D. Salinger right now, I bet you come up with two major things before you see anything about Franny and Zooey.  First, you’ll get tons of information about The Catcher in the Rye, his classic novel that is read by pretty much every single high school student in America AND the fact that he was a little bit kooky as far as public figures go.

The Catcher in the Rye has become THE book for teen readers.  Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in the story, is the perfect picture of a disaffected, angry-at-the-world, dropping out of society teenager.  When the story was written in 1951, teens all over the world could relate to Holden and his problems.  In 1989, when I first read the book, teens all over the world could relate to Holden and his problems.  In 2012, teens all over the world can relate to Holden and his problems.  Salinger’s book is brilliant, but that might just be part of the problem – he could never top it.

That book became so popular, so famous, and so well-respected, that Salinger couldn’t write anything else without it being compared to his first novel.  So, in 1965, Salinger walked away. He never published anything ever again.  People think he kept writing, well, they hope he kept writing for the next 45 years, but we don’t know, because he didn’t talk to anyone either.  After 1980, Salinger didn’t give any more interviews, refused to talk to the press, and lived a very private life until he died in 2010.

One of the few works that Salinger published between Catcher and his retirement was Franny and Zooey.  Franny is a short story about Franny Glass, a 20 year old college student who seems to have a nervous breakdown from dealing with the social pressures of college life.  In a lot of ways, Franny is a female (slightly older) version of Saliger’s most popular character, Holden Caulfield.  Zooey is a short novel, packaged in the same book, about Zachary “Zooey” Glass, Franny’s older brother.  Zooey is a 25 year old actor, and his story is mainly about his reaction to and conversations with his little sister during her breakdown.  Zooey also resembles Holden in a lot of ways.

Franny and Zooey, along with quite a few of Salingers short novels and stories, follows the Glass family – a fictional family that allowed Salinger to explore family dynamics from many different angles.  It’s a character driven book without much plot, but paints and amazing picture of two young people that college and post-college aged kids in 1961 could relate to, just as today’s 20somethings can find a little of themselves in both Franny and Zooey.

Franny and Zooey was the 74th book I read this summer as I try to read 90 books in 90 days.