Rating: 5/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
There aren’t a lot of books that, after I finish, immediately want to reread. Franny and Zooey has become one of my favorite reads of 2019, and quite potentially one of my favorite books ever.
Franny and Zooey is divided into two parts: the first centers around Franny having a sort of breakdown at dinner with her boyfriend Lane. The world, as she starts to see it, is filled with people whose sole concern is for their egos (or as Holden would’ve called them, phonies). She becomes obsessed with a religious book called The Way of a Pilgrim, which tells of a pilgrim who goes on a journey to find out how to pray incessantly. At the end of the story, Franny is shown reciting the Jesus Prayer.
“I do like him. I’m sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect…”
The second part starts off with Zooey reading a letter from his older brother, Buddy, in the bathtub. The letter details Seymour (the eldest of the Glass siblings, who committed suicide during his vacation in Florida) and Buddy’s educational philosophy for both Franny and Zooey (which, strikes a resemblance with what Teddy believes, a character in Salinger’s other book, Nine Stories). While Zooey is reading the letter, his mother, Bessie Glass, walks into the bathroom and talks to him about Franny, who, since we last left her, had returned to her house and had been crying for the past few days. Zooey eventually decides to talk to Franny, and while his intentions were to help her, his words didn’t come out as such, leaving Franny to cry even harder. At the end of the story, Franny receives a phone call from her eldest living brother, Buddy, who turns out to be a Zooey in disguise. Zooey then goes on to tell Franny about the Fat Lady, a made-up person Seymour told Zooey about when Zooey refused to shine his shoes for the ‘Wise Child’ show. After telling her about this Fat Lady, Franny experiences a sort of religious epiphany, and goes on to drift into a dreamless sleep.
“But I’ll tell you a terrible secret — Are you listening to me? There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy. And all his goddam cousins by the dozens. There isn’t anyone anywhere that isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that goddam secret yet? And don’t you know — listen to me, now — don’t you know who that Fat Lady really is? … Ah, buddy, Ah, buddy. It’s Christ Himself. Christ Himself, buddy.”
I liked Catcher in the Rye, but I loved Franny and Zooey. It had elements of religion, philosophy, and education, all subjects that I’ve been intrigued by. I’m not sure what exactly about these two that drew me in, maybe because at one point, I related to Franny just as I related to Holden; maybe because Zooey’s phone call in the end not only helped Franny but helped me realize that the we are all the same. This is a book that will resonate with people who have looked at the world and looked back at themselves. This is a book about identity, religion, finding our place in a world that is chaotic and at times seem meaningless.
“An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s. You have no right to think about those things, I swear to you.”
It’s a beautiful book, one that will undoubtedly leave its characters peering into your mind long after you’ve closed it and set it back on your nightstand. This is a must-read for anyone who liked Catcher in the Rye.
Review of Nine Stories coming up soon.