While everyone knows J.D. Salinger for his widely-acclaimed masterpiece The Catcher in the Rye, very few are familiar with his other works. His 1961 work Franny and Zooey consists of a short story named Franny and a novella called Zooey. Publishing them together makes sense because both the short story and the novella narrate the story of the Glass family. Franny is short for Frances and Zooey for Zachary and they happen to be the youngest of seven siblings who are famous for starring in a radio program. In this collection, Franny and Zooey are shown to be struggling to come to terms with the ghosts of their elder brothers and sisters, both literally and metaphorically. Two of their elder brothers had passed away tragically and their deaths had clearly left an impression on them. The eldest, Seymour, is especially recalled again and again since he is the biggest inspiration behind their devotion to reading and pursuit of knowledge far and beyond their cultural milieu such as the philosophies of Zen Buddhism and ancient Hinduism. Clearly, Franny and Zooey find it difficult to fit in with the phony and narcissistic lifestyle of their American peers.
This existential crisis of the young American is Salinger's favorite theme in this book. From family love and loss to philosophical debates on life and God, this small book touches on a variety of issues in only a few pages, and depicts intensely the domestic drama of one big family. For those who have loved Catcher and wanted to read more Salinger, this is definitely worth a try. As for others who did not read the book, these tales will be quick but delightful reading for their witty dialogues and intriguing characters.
Anika Saba is Lecturer, Department of English & Humanities, BRAC University.