Franny and Zooey


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A funny, poignant snapshot of young adulthood from the much-loved author of The Catcher in the RyeFranny Glass and Lane Coutell are the perfect campus couple: beautiful, intelligent, their whole lives ahead of them. But one weekend when Franny is visiting, amid the excitement of the big Yale game, something goes wrong and tensions begin to surface. Are they really such a perfect match after all?Franny's older brother is Zooey. They come from a sophisticated yet highly eccentric family: all seven Glass siblings are former ...

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Jul 18, 2018

Franny And Zooey

I had the opportunity to read "Franny and Zooey" for a book group following upon the death of J.D. Salinger (1919 -2010). I had read "Catcher in the Rye" and this book as well, as I remember, late in high school but had not revisited the author since then.

I was struck by the religious, spiritual themes of the book, especially its involvement with Eastern religion and with mysticism. My interest in Buddhism has increased in recent years as I have become older. Salinger's books, which appealed to young people many years ago, seem to have aged with the time.

The book includes two short interrelated stories written a few years apart, "Franny" (1955) and "Zooey" (1957), which were published in book form in 1961. The two are the youngest children of the Glass family that Salinger created. Franny is 20 and her brother Zooey 25. There were seven Glass children, all of whom were intellectual and child prodigies who appeared, over the course of nearly 20 years, on a radio quiz show called "Its a Wise Child." Their intellectual brilliance, among many other factors, have left them confused about themselves. The oldest Glass child, Seymour, had committed suicide seven years before the events described in "Franny and Zooey". In these two stories, Franny and Zooey are shown with their difficulties and with their attempts to come to a sense of peace, understanding, and detachment in terms which are overtly spiritual.

The story "Franny" takes place over a college football weekend in 1955 where Franny comes to visit her boyfriend, Lane Coutrell. The story takes place over lunch between Franny and Lane and consists of their conversation. Franny is critical of her boyfriend and of his conventionality. She criticizes her professors and most of the people around her for what she sees as complacency, ignorance, and egoism. In seeming contrast to what she perceives, Franny carries with her a Russian religious book called "The Way of a Pilgrim" The Way of a Pilgrim which discusses the need for continuous prayer as a well to self-illuminations. She discusses "The Way of a Pilgrim" and other forms of religious mantras found in Eastern religion with a skeptical and uninterested Lane during the course of their lunch. She collapses.

The longer story "Zooey" takes place a few days following Franny's weekend with Lane. It is set in the Glass family home in New York City. The first character we meet is Zooey who is rereading a long letter from his brother, Buddy, which recounts the Glass family story and urges Zooey to be active and to make something of his life. The remainder of the story consists of conversations between Zooey and his mother, Bessie, and between Zooey and Franny. Zooey struggles to overcome his feelings as a "freak" and as an outsider and to suppress his disdain for a culture devoted to television. Zooey is concerned for his sister and for her devotion to what he perceives as a religious cult which will separate her from the need to go forward and live. Franny and Zooey have two intense conversations, the first face-to-face, and the second over the telephone where Zooey initially disguises himself as the brother, Buddy. Both Franny and Zooey seem to find ways of moving forward following their conversations.

The book as a whole reminded me most of the Bhagavad gita in its theme of activity and doing what one needs to do more than of any Buddhist teaching. The book also reminded me of Kerouac who was active at about the same time as Salinger. Reading it as someone who is far from young, I had a sense of the quandries in which Franny and Zooey found themselves. I have struggled with some of the same religious texts and issues over the years. For all its success, this is a book that should be read quietly and in solitude.

Robin Friedman (less)


Mar 12, 2009

Who doesn't like Salinger??

Classic Salinger, although not quite as good as 'Raise High the Roofbeam Carpenters' but the characters' dialogue is hilarious. It's a great way to get to know the other members of the "Glass" family- they're a bit disturbed to say the least. Entertaining!


Oct 12, 2007

Absolutely Loved Franny and Zooey

JD Salinger is so amazing and both these stories, but especailly Zooey, prove that. Salinger devolpes understandable, if not likeable, characters that you as the reader feel compelled to keep a tight hold of. I have read all of Salinger's stories about the Glass family and they are all spectacular. My favorites are Zooey and A Perfect Day for a Banana Fish. Excellent reads, although they are in a slightly different style than Salinger's most well known book, Catcher In They Rye.

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