This little gem isn't nearly as well known as The Catcher in the Rye, but in many ways it's superior to Salinger's acknowledged masterpiece. Franny and Zooey are upper-middle class siblings, born and raised in Manhattan, both of immense intellectual capacity, and both a little unstable. Their older brothers (of whom more is written in Seymour: An Introduction, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, and Nine Stories) are blamed for the younger kids' problems, though it becomes apparent in the stories that Franny and Zooey are in no small part responsible for their own demises.
Franny is the younger, a college girl whose boyfriend is a poseur and slightly ridiculous. The whole of her story concerns a lunch date between them, a copy of The Way of the Pilgrim, and Franny's internal struggle for authenticity. Zooey's story is a bit longer; a handsome young man pursuing an acting career, he's frustrated by the nonsense around him and worried about Franny. The intersection of themes effected by Salinger in the two stories is nothing short of brilliant.
In many ways, these are the most autobiographical of any of Salinger's stories, and they consequently seem particularly intimate, especially when compared to Holden Caulfield's arm's-length monologue. They're also the most universal, touching on themes a huge number of American young people face, yet whose parents seem all-too-easily to dismiss (despite having experienced exactly the same thing in their own lives). Franny and Zooey is gentle, funny, and perceptive, an unequivocally American classic by an exceptionally American author.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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