Salinger is known for Catcher in the Rye. It is a timeless novel, no doubt. Some novels reveal themselves to us on the second read. And because most of us don’t give novels a second chance, this doesn’t happen often. Catcher in the Rye seemed (mid-way through my first read) as one requiring a second read. But by the time I finished it, I didn’t need a second read, I wanted it. It was one of those books I would revert to every now and then. But that was until I picked up Franny and Zooey.
Published ten years after Catcher in the Rye, it has the same appealing monotony which I now see in Catcher in the Rye. Of course, the two are very different. Catcher in the Rye is narrated by a school boy while Franny and Zooey is conversational; the narrator’s identity being speculative.
What I see evidently, is Salinger’s observation skills. Both Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey have perfectly captured the ‘candid’ flow of thought and flow of conversation respectively. (And that is what the appealing monotony is all about.)
“People never notice anything.” The very statement by Holden is evidence of his observance of them which is in turn an evidence of Salinger’s awareness with regard to people and behavior.
My understanding draws a parallel between his two characters Holden and Zooey on one hand and him on the other. Salinger is known to have lived a reclusive life. This attitude of favoring solitude is also visible in Holden and Zooey. His characters like himself are also observant. Well, in Catcher in the Rye, Holden being the narrator it was imperative that he should be a good or at least satisfactory observer. With Franny and Zooey, he had a choice. Both the books also deal with identity and existential crisis which is explicit in Franny through her actions while both Holden and Zooey have restrained it to be revealed only during introspection.
The relationship, the private wars, the identity and existential crisis are all so ‘today’ ‘here’ and ‘now’ that Franny and Zooey does resemble a bible; just not as holy, though, which is quite a relief, actually.
“I am sick of just liking people. I wish to god I could meet someone I could respect.”
The entire story is based on the tussle on ‘preachy’. It is ironic that Zooey’s confrontation with Franny against what he sees as a saintly attitude is preachy in itself. But, it doesn’t hurt. That’s the difference. There’s something mysteriously beautiful about Franny and Zooey that plays with the grip of ones palm. It’s there but you don’t quite know what it is. Franny and Zooey is a sincere recommendation to all those who have enjoyed or have come to love Catcher in the Rye (even if it was over time). It raises questions and answers just as many—about wisdom, knowledge, love and the human mind. Franny and Zooey is for the readers in the true sense because the innumerable directions or approaches to it give power to the reader’s perception. It is not confined to one theme.