Friday, November 24, 2006

Reader's Diary #193- J.D.Salinger: Franny and Zooey (FINISHED)


Twice this week I've liked something, yet am unable to recommend it. First I went to see Running With Scissors and now I've finished Franny and Zooey. For different reasons, I can understand someone not liking either. Running With Scissors, while very wacky, is dark and arguably depressing. Franny and Zooey is very short on plot.

While I don't want to compare every book to a movie, one aspect of Franny and Zooey reminded me of Before Sunrise. No, it wasn't a love story, but both works were almost completely comprised of talking. In its entirety, Franny and Zooey is made up of three conversations; Franny and her boyfriend Lane, Zooey and his mother Bessie, and Franny and Zooey. Some would undoubtedly consider it boring, but I personally liked it. I loved (and yet hated) the characters, and it inspired a lot of moments of self-reflection.

Like Franny, I've wrestled with selflessness versus selfishness, I've struggled with religion, and I'm still trying to balance my condemnation of phoniness with being overly judgmental. Usually I make my peace by telling myself how such philosophical pursuits are a product of an affluent society; we have clothes, hamburgers and DVD players so we waste our time worrying about the higher order crap. As a species, we seem to require a certain amount of stress in our life.

Yet somehow, it's hard to stay focused on what truly matters. And for the times that we don't, Franny and Zooey just might be the perfect book. I didn't always agree with the philosophy of the characters, but it was nice to have something to consider. For instance, as Zooey talks with Franny about her dedication to the Jesus Prayer (a la The Way of The Pilgrim), he criticizes her for not getting to know Jesus first. I've agreed with such arguments in the past. In fact, it's the primary reason that I don't often vote. I feel terribly irresponsible voting when I don't know every single issue and each party's stance. The problem with the voting scenario, of course, is that most of those that do vote, aren't completely informed either! And the problem with Zooey's argument, is similar. Who really knows Jesus? People spend their entire lives studying the man and still don't have all the answers. But does that mean no one should have faith? Maybe it comes down to moderation again. As I get older, I realize that moderation is my answer to everything. In this case, some knowledge is necessary to make informed decisions of whom (or what) one is dedicating their lives, but if one is to wait to know everything, they'll be waiting forever.

In the end, Zooey makes a bizarre case for Jesus being a metaphorical fat lady that lives in everyone outside ourselves, and for a second I thought I was reading a new age poem from Sounds New. (It's funny how random book choices often overlap with one another, isn't it?) I'm not sure I get his point yet, unlike Franny, who finally found innerpeace with Zooey's theory. Still, it's one of those books that will stick with me and make me think. For the next day or so anyway. Unless I see a World Vision ad before then.

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