Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Franny and Zooey

After JD Salinger died, I got that old familiar craving to read The Catcher in the Rye (for the __ time?) and, horror, it was not on my shelf. But there was Franny and Zooey, which I haven't read for quite a while. Dave Eggers wrote a lovely bit in the New Yorker re: the influence of JD Salinger, which almost goes without saying for a person like Eggers, forgoodnesssakes. These parts struck me:
I read “The Catcher in the Rye” the average number of times for a young person my age—which is to say, every few years between when I was sixteen and twenty-six or so.
Hey, meeee tooooo!!!!
His is still my favorite dialogue, the dialogue that rings truest, that’s at once very naturalistic and musical; it’s really remarkable how difficult it is to do what he does between quotation marks.

I think what's really interesting about his dialogue is, take for example, our Holden Caulfield - his language is pretty dated, but it remains so immensely readable! But, that sentence really made me want to go back and read Salinger with a more critical eye.

After he died I read that Salinger became a Buddhist as well as a semi-reclusive, so it was with only a small amount of surprise to rediscover (me and my memory!) Franny (the first of two short stories in the slender 1961 book) is about a young woman practicing Buddhist-style mediation with a Christian prayer. What I found remarkable about the story, as I read it again, was what brilliant control Salinger had over the narrative structure (and yes, that delicious dialogue) and in no more than 44 pages we learn so much about the characters. Zooey continues the arch and further examines (I don't think I'm ruining it for you...) the act of the repetition of the Jesus Prayer and delves even further into the marvelous Glass family. I found the both stories near-transcendent, they were so beautifully crafted and told.

And what really struck me, as I re-read these stories, was how much Salinger and one of my other favorite childhood books, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg inspired me for a life of arts, literature, and, dare I say it? Sophistication and education (me and Wes Anderson, right?) And to live in NY, which A Certain Husband continues to resist...

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