“I don't know what good it is to know so much and be smart as whips and all if it doesn't make you happy”

too impressive to be put off: Franny and Zooey by J.D Salinger. it's been a month --another  stolid mistake of putting aside a book before writing about it--and while the faint traces of his writing are still lodged, undefiled in my brain, some of the delicate post-reading bits have long fled out of their temporary dwelling here, in perpetual search for other places to inhabit…

the book is divided into two parts, unequally in terms of length, and both consist of descriptive sentences constructed cannily and very, very smart and powerful dialogues. the latter is definitely the main strength of the book (most of the main points are emphasised there), and while they may seem to supposedly diminish the need for all the thoughts and the happenings, peerless descriptions are utilised to still sketch them here, as pointed out earlier. i feel like i need to substitute the word 'descriptive' and 'descriptions' as they are often, for some, perceived as an extended platform to exercise one's vast vocabulary, or identified with tiring verbosity--but they really are not the case with this book.

besides, the content of the book is also relevant--not in the way that The Glass Family is noticeably special when coming together as a family unit as well as when separated into autonomous individuals--but in issues that some of the family members are facing. in the first part, Franny mostly tackles the conflicting needs for recognition and self-actualisation within herself during her conversation with Lane -her boyfriend-

"All I know is I'm losing my mind," Franny said. "I'm just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everybody else's. I'm sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting. It's disgusting – it is, it is. I don't care what anybody says."

Lane raised his eyebrows at that, and sat back, the better to make his point. "You sure you're just not afraid of competing?" he asked with studied quietness. "I don't know too much about it, but I'd lay odds a good psychoanalyst--I mean a really competent one--would probably take that statement--"

"I'm not afraid to compete. It's just the opposite. Don't you see that? I'm afraid I will compete--that's what scares me. That's why I quit the Theatre Department. Just because I'm so horribly conditioned to accept everybody else's values, and just because I like applause and people to rave about me, doesn't make it right. I'm ashamed of it. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody. I'm sick of myself and everybody else that wants to make some kind of a splash." She paused, and suddenly picked up her glass of milk and brought it to her lips. "I knew it," she said, setting it down. "That's something new. My teeth go funny on me. They're chattering. I nearly bit through a glass the day before yesterday. Maybe I'm stark, staring mad and don't know it." The waiter had come forward to serve Lane's frogs' legs and salad, and Franny looked up at him. He, in turn, looked down at her untouched chicken sandwich. He asked if the young lady would perhaps like to change her order. Franny thanked him, and said no. "I'm just very slow," she said. The waiter, who was not a young man, seemed to look for an instant at her pallor and damp brow, then bowed and left.

in the second part of the book, Zooey reveals the background of The Glass Family: a family of natural prodigies who participate in an interactive radio show during their childhood. it is always interesting to follow the maturing process of such children: Zooey who has become a handsome actor sufficiently equipped with more than enough wits and perspectives in hands, and Franny who has flowered with her interests in theatre, which she actually gives up in the first part of the book. the problem is, inborn geniuses are often portrayed 'freaks', and so are they, as stated by Zooey in the middle of the book. but to the readers (to me, at least) they are captured very attractively and flamboyantly here, which actually induces some longing in us for a generous speck of their innate intellect…

my favourite description (when Bessie -the mom- tries to converse with the disturbed Zooey, who is still in the middle of his bath)

She lit a fresh king-size cigarette abruptly, dragged on it, then stood up, exhaling smoke. “I’ll be back in a minute,” she said. The statement, innocently, sounded like a promise. “Just please use the bathmat when you get out,” she added. “That’s what it’s there for.” She left the bathroom, closing the door securely behind her.

It was rather as though, after being in makeshift wet dock for days, the Queen Mary had just sailed out of, say, Walden’s Pond, as suddenly and perversely as she had sailed in. Behind the shower curtain, Zooey closed his eyes for a few seconds, as though his own small craft were listing precariously in the wake. The he pulled back the shower curtain and stared over at the closed door. It was a weighty stare, and relief was not a great part of it. As much as anything else, it was the stare, not so paradoxically, of a privacy-lover who, once his privacy had been invaded, doesn’t quite approve when the invader just gets up and leaves, one-two-three, like that.

VERY WELL-WRITTEN i really let out a daft sigh out of awe after reading the previous two paragraphs.

in the latter part of the book, the conversation between Franny and Zooey builds up on the idea that religion could be an excellent tool to conceal people's needs to simply hold on to something, or to just have some private treasures to imperceptibly, indirectly brag about. just like how others may cling tightly to their materialistic or intellectual wealth for any sort of reason: sense of possession, belonging, source of pride--spiritual wealth is nothing different, if not worse. and this vain ego sometimes permeates out of the person, spilling uncontrollably into the surrounding. (real life examples would be religious people who deem superiority on themselves over others. that's the point: oxymoron, don't religions teach you to be a humble man)

i like the book as much as the bell jar, i think. Franny and Zooey is a very solid book. i knew that salinger was a great writer, and catcher in the rye may deserve its own shelf in any great library, but Franny and Zooey has really exceeded what i expected before, especially in terms of fluidity and use of language. RECOMMENDED

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