29 December 2008

Franny and Zooey - J.D. Salinger

An artist, in this case an author, often only needs one work to propel them to fame. For J.D. Salinger that work was Catcher in the Rye. When I was younger, I pictured the Catcher as Gary Carter, and the Rye as a box of Special K; how they went together, don't ask me. After I read the book, things made a lot more sense. And by making sense I mean, they made no sense at all.

Given this one work of fiction, Salinger's future prospects were all but assured. For whatever reason - most likely due to his strength in this area - good old J.D. switch to the short story forum, and began writing about the Glass family, publishing works in the New Yorker (so right away, you know its gotta be good right - no comment). Franny and Zooey introduces us to the youngest eponymous siblings. In the first part, Franny meets her boyfriend Lane and proceeds to have a breakdown over what ostensibly seems to be a lack of onion on her cheeseburger, or some other mundane reason. Perplexed, the reader moves onto the second part, where we learn of the wit and genius of Zooey, who ultimately attempts to succour Franny from her meltdown.

Most likely, the story requires the context of Nine Stories, Salinger's other short fiction work on the Glass family, to be fully appreciated. What is not in doubt, is Salinger's undertone of writhing antipathy for 1950s culture, and his dry wit and humour, which ultimately comes out through outstanding character dialogue. Still, I would strongly recommend the Gary Carter and Special K book before this nonetheless well written work.

To me, everything is beautiful. Show me a pink sunset and I'm limp, by God. Anything. 'Peter Pan.' Even before the curtain goes up at 'Peter Pan', I'm a goddam puddle of tears.