Saturday, October 13, 2007

"Franny And Zooey" - J. D. Salinger

"It's everybody, I mean. Everything everybody does is so - I don't know - not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid necessarily. But just so tiny and meaningless and - sad-making. And the worst part is, if you go bohemian or something crazy like that, you're conforming just as much as everybody else, only in a different way."

"Phooey, I say, on all whiteshoe college boys who edit their campus literary magazines. Give me an honest con man any day."

On college professors:
"They make everything they touch turn absolutely academic and useless - Or worse cultish."

Well, you get the gist of it. Franny and Zooey are sister and brother, 20 and 25 years old respectively. The year is 1955 and the kids are going wild - actually, they seem to be going mental. They are obsessed with acting in almost the same way they are obsessed with zen buddhism, hindu sacred texts, and christian sects - but mostly, they can't stop going on about how everyone else is so dense and frivolous, so absolutely incapable of glimpsing their deep personal moral dilemmas.

Well screw Franny, Zooey and Holden while you're at it. You know what it is, don't you? These kids are rich. Period. That's their number one problem. 1955, 2005 whatever. They're still around, looking pretty and distraught at the lack of meaning, Truth and beauty in life. But guess what? They never worry about the rent, carfare or lunch.

They all annoy the hell out of me. But. I'll never be that witty, dahling. Nor that insightful. Like it or not, Franny's evaluation of campus life, the self-aggrandizement of teachers and general emptiness of students is still true today. It still drives many away from college and turns many more slightly insane.

Franny and Zooey aren't lovable - they are much too self-conscious for that. But at least they don't seem to make up excuses for themselves. In a way, they know they are privileged and detest the way they can't just blend with the crowd of Ivy league nitwits. They are both exceptionally clear-eyed about human nature - which, no matter what anybody says, is not, necessarily, a good thing. They are fiercely critical and more than a little judgemental - also, of their own motivations.

You probably wouldn't want neither of them as friends but you end up wishing them well. For Franny and Zooey, despite their background and upbringing (or precisely because of it), are the kind of young people you could imagine being institutionalized a few years down the road.

It can be argued that right beside Holden Caufield they are J. D. Salinger's closest alter egos. They are a little bit mad and a little bit sad. Sometimes they talk like insufferable snobs and sometimes they're right on the money. Just to be on the safe side we best keep a couple of them around. Preppy kids keepin' it real, and all that.

"I don't think it would have all gotten me quite so down if just once in a while - there was at least some polite little perfunctory implication that knowledge should lead to wisdom, and that if it doesn't, it's just a disgusting waste of time!"

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