Franny and Zooey is the third book by J. D. Salinger, published as a whole in 1961. The main action of the story takes place in two separate scenes during a weekend in New York. Franny is a precocious twenty-year old student who meets up with her ivy league boyfriend, then promptly has a mental breakdown. Zooey is her brilliant older brother who tries to talk her out of it.
Zooey is the coolest character I’ve met in a long time. There’s this whole spiel with his mother where he’s sitting in the bath trying to get her to go away, and she’s on the other side of the shower curtain just casually ignoring him. He calls her Bessie, his father Les, his sister buddy. He’s a real twit, but there’s something really charming about him.
Zooey borders on pedantic at times, but it never becomes annoying or condescending because he kinda knows it. When they were little the Glass children starred in a radio show where they answered smart questions and won over their audience. The younger siblings were educated by their older brothers, and Zooey blames them for turning them both into intellectual, anti-social freaks.
Zooey has to recite a prayer before he can eat anything, he has an opinion about everything and dislikes almost everybody. Franny is frustrated with the quirks and egos of her teachers, classmates and housemates. She hounds her boyfriend, rants at his beliefs, passes out in a restaurant and spends the rest of the weekend crying and refusing to eat.
To me, the main relationship in the book felt like it was Franny and Zooey versus the rest of the world. In their morbid, hyper-intellectualism, they really are socially and emotionally crippled.
Salinger’s prose is easy to digest, but also incredibly witty and full of great characterization. This is the perfect book to read on a lazy Saturday afternoon, lying on the couch in an existential stupor with a martini and an old cat. And maybe a cigar.