Listen to this song if you wanna. "Franny" (of J.D. Salinger's book of two novellas,"Franny and Zooey" published in 1961) tears me apart.
Salinger has built a world I know only so much about. The Glass family appears in all of his novellas and a few of the short stories in his collection Nine Stories. It is massive and beautiful and genius.
There is so much to say, but this is not a critical essay. This is just a fun blog to try to get someone to read "Franny," because it's so sweet and real and lovely.
In "Franny" we meet Lane, a young man waiting for his girlfriend, Franny Glass, at the train station. They go together to a nice restaurant and Franny reveals that she has been drowning in her frustrations and has turned to a beautiful little book about meditation - to put the whole thing far too simply.
Franny is struggling with, as she puts it, "ego." She says, "I'm just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everyone else's."
Through Franny and Lane Salinger paints the perfect picture of collegiate stuffiness and the frustration of trying to pin down the problems with the pretension.
(The boys on the train platform stood) "talking in voices that, almost without exception, sounded collegiately dogmatic, as though each young man, in his strident, conversational turn, was clearing up, once and for all, some highly controversial issue, one that the outside, non-matriculating world had been bungling, provocatively or not, for centuries."
Salinger's genius command of writing conversation rules this novella. When Lane dominates the conversation to brag casually about an A paper on Flaubert, the reader feels the imbalance from the monologue. Franny's flittery apologies for having opinions split the pages, these heartbreaking little confessions of unneeded guilt, until she spills the truth: she is sick of the conceit, sick of the competition. She's just sick "of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody."
Nearing graduation, finding myself adrift and wound up, Zooey speaks to me. She spoke, also, to Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year.
Published in 2014, this memoir details the life of a young woman who has moved from California to New York City to write poetry. It's super-fun because she's my age in the memoir but it's the NINETIES and she describes all her clothes and they sound awesome. Anyway, she then finds a job as an assistant at a literary agency. The very agency, it turns out, who worked for J.D. Salinger. Rakoff recognized the importance of this at the time, but had not yet read his books. At the end of the memoir (no spoilers, not really) she reads them, and they affect her like they should. And "Franny" got to her especially.
In her connection to the novella, I found myself crying at the end of the memoir. What really strikes me about both of these stories is this struggle to understand what it means to be an artist, what it means to be smart, to be competitive. Are we just trying to do something real, or are we just trying to be noticed? Does it really matter what we're doing at all?
At the end of "Franny," she talks about the power of repeated words through meditation bringing you closer to God. Here's what I was taught to say: Thank you, thank you, thank you, for the capacity to see the complexities.
And on that note ... love you. XX