Salinger’s Franny and Zooey


* 1001 Books Book

Salinger, J. D. (1961). Franny and Zooey. Boston: Little, Brown.

In 2009, I saw this book on the 1001 Books list. In finding that I hadn’t read much published from that time (the 1960s) and the brevity of the work, I determined to read it. Yet, this book took me a long time to read – nearly a year. The main reason I’m writing this post is in recognition of the late Salinger.

The novella contains two parts. Part I: Franny begins with undergrad Lane Coutell awaiting his fashionable girlfriend, Franny Glass, as her train comes into Lane’s college town. They are set to watch the “Yale Game.” The lovely Franny greets Lane, clutching The Way of the Pilgrim. The couple proceed to Sickler’s, the restaurant where all want to be seen. Lane talks incessantly and irritates Franny. Franny tells of her book and realizes Lane cares noting about her interests in “praying without ceasing.” Already feeling queasy, Franny faints. When she comes to, Lane rushes out for a taxi, leaving Franny “praying ceaselessly.”

Part II: Zooey introduces Franny’s older brother, genius Zooey Glass, and her mother, Bessie. Still suffering from the breakdown at Sickler’s while at her parent’s Manhattan home, Zooey offers Franny advice and help on Franny’s recovery.

I finished the first part quite quickly but became bogged down by the second part. Many have called this novella disjointed and I agree.I thought Franny’s existential crisis was very realistic and found her intellectual superiority most understandable. I even appreciated how Zooey steers her away from belittling people less intelligent than herself.

Part II was choppy. As it introduces the whole family (nearly reminescent of The Royal Tenenbaums) the readers only see Franny and Zooey, the youngest of the Glass genuises. These characters became tedious for me, unlike the Tenenbaums, to the point where I didn’t care what happened to them. I didn’t even like them anymore.

After reading this book, I found out that Franny was published in The New Yorker a couple of years prior to that of Zooey. In 1961, Salinger published the two in one volume.

Okay, Salinger had some good, raw material here. However, it’s undercooked, even for someone who takes her steak medium rare.

Two out of Five Pearls

Word Bank: intellectualism, mysticism, section man

Places: Ivy League school, One of the Seven Sisters, Manhattan

For more on J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, please check out the following links:

The first part, “Franny,” is significantly shorter than the second. It takes place in an unnamed college town during the weekend of “the Yale game” and tells the tale of an undergraduate who is becoming disenchanted with the selfishness and inauthenticity she perceives all around her.

The second much longer section is named for “Zooey”, Franny’s brother, older by five years, a somewhat emotionally toughened genius who at the age of twelve had “a vocabulary on an exact par with Mary Baker Eddy‘s.” As Franny suffers a spiritual and existential breakdown in her parents’ Manhattan living room – leaving Bessie, her mother, deeply concerned – Zooey comes to her aid, offering what he thinks is brotherly love, understanding, and words of sage advice.

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La Fayette’s The Princess of Clèves


* 1001 Books Book

La Fayette, Segrais, J. R. d., & La Rochefoucauld, F. (1951). The Princess of Clèves. New York: New Directions.

So, I’ve been trying to climb onto the 1001 Books wagon again. A Pre-1700s title stood out to me – The Princess of Clèves. After requesting it through interlibrary loan (ILL), I found myself reading La Fayette’s The Princess of Clèves.

Before I mention the plot, let me explain some of the context. The book was published anonymously in March 1678 and the events took place in 1558.  Some say this is the first work of historical fiction in that someone such as La Fayette researched another day and time and then wrote the novel. Most remarkably, this novel of Henry II’s French Court faithfully adheres to French historical record.

La Fayette brings us to the court of French Henry II. We meet the “who’s who” and become acquainted with the intrigues and the precarious nature of royal favor. Madame de Chartres brings her beautiful ingenue daughter to this very court as a wide-eyed fifteen year old. Her mother seeks out a husband for lovely, virtuous daughter.  The de Chartres don’t do so well thanks to seemingly petty jealousies. Nonetheless, the Prince de Clèves has come into his own inheritance and can do as he pleases. . . He wants the lovely Mademoiselle de Chartres for his wife. Although he’s second-rate, the de Chartres accept his offer. Soon, the Prince of Clèves finds himself disappointed. While she’s nice about his affection, Madame of Clèves does not return them.

Matters aren’t helped when the handsome Duc of Nemours comes onto the scene. The Duc of Nemours and the Princess of Clèves fall in love. The titular character has a dilemma between remaining true to the Prince of Clèves or running off with her perfect match, the Duc of Nemours.

I was happy that the version of book I read had a list of characters in the back. Not knowing much about this part of French history was a bit of a loss for me. Yet, I admired how closely observed the history was in the book. I did research as I read and could appreciate all La Fayette said in this regard. Let me say that her main character was fictitious.

Also outstanding is the psychology of a book from the 1600s! There’s drama and such internal conflict. The emotions and the dilemmas of these characters are very modern.

One thing which bothered me was a lack of names. Okay, she’s Mademoiselle de Chartres and then she’s the Princess of Clèves. Could we at least give her one constant – a name? How about Marie?

Four out of Five Pearls

Word Bank:

Cyphers

Dauphin/Dauphine

Places: France

For more on La Fayette’s The Princess of Clèves, please check out the following links:

Photos: Miep Gies | 1909-2010 – baltimoresun.com


Miep Gies, front row left, the last surviving protector of Anne Frank and her family, appears in 1945 with Otto Frank, front row center, and helpers Bep Voskuijl, front row right, Johannes Kleiman, back row left, and Victor Kugler. They sheltered Anne Frank, her father, mother and older sister and four other Dutch Jews for two years in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.

Photos: Miep Gies | 1909-2010 – baltimoresun.com

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