Monthly Archives: September 2015

Franny and Zooey – J.D. Salinger

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You’re lucky if you get time to sneeze in this goddam phenomenal world.

Years back I tried to read Catcher in the Rye. I didn’t finish it. I’m pretty sure I got thirty pages to the end and said “screw it.” Now, I’ve talked to many people about why I probably didn’t like it and the same word always comes up. Angst. I was an angsty teenager, isn’t that what being a teenager is all about? But maybe my brand of angst wasn’t the sort necessary to appreciate Rye.

So, when I picked up Franny and Zooey the other day because I had finished Bird Box and I hadn’t had time to get to the library to pick up a book that I desperately wanted to read; I was nervous. I thought, “Oh, I’ll just pick it up, read a few pages, probably hate it, put it down and then read something else.” That, obviously, didn’t happen. I actually liked it. No, I didn’t like it. I loved it! Shocked the hell out of me too. I wasn’t aware that it isn’t one but two stories that are linked together.

F and tells the story of sister and brother, Franny and Zooey respectively, and the relationship they have with each other and the rest of their family while one is going through a breakdown. Franny, as told in the first story, is at her wits end with college and is trying hard to be “a good girlfriend” to her boyfriend Lane during a weekend visit to his university; but she can’t hold it in any longer. She talks about how she’s quite theatre and wants to leave the English department because everyone is all about ego and seems so fake.

“I know this much, is all,” Franny said. “If you’re a poet, you do something beautiful. I mean you’re supposed to leave something beautiful after you get off the page and everything. The ones you’re talking about don’t leave a single, solitary thing beautiful.”

She goes on to tell Lane about a book she picked up at the library about a pilgrim in Russia who wants to learn to pray without ceasing and how, when he finally learns how he learn The Jesus Prayer and says it over and over until it is emblazoned upon his heart and it becomes one with his heart beat. That is the key to praying without ceasing.

In Zooey you see that Franny is in full-blown breakdown and is trying to hold on to anything that may give her sanity, even if that thing is The Jesus Prayer. You also see the relationship Zooey and Franny Glass have with their mother, Bessie. She is a riot of a woman and I could actually hear my grandmother’s voice while I was reading. Bessie doesn’t know what to do with Franny but knows that Zooey is the key. I also felt that the relationship between Franny and Zooey is exactly what she needs to be searching for while she’s in that state. It is a beautiful relationship that is just oozing with familial love.

Being a “retired” actor myself the bits at the ends where he is talking to her about why she got out of the theatre and how she’s got it all wrong really struck a cord with me.

Somewhere along the line—in one damn incarnation or another, if you like–you not only had a hankering to be an actor or an actress but to be a good one. You’re stuck with it now. You can’t just walk out on the results of your own hankerings.

To me, this book is for anyone who is looking for something bigger. Anyone who needs someone to tell them that they shouldn’t give up on their “hankerings”, and for anyone who just needs a hand to hold while they climb out of the well that they have dug for themselves.

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Bird Box- Josh Malerman

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How can she expect her children to dream as big as the stars if they can’t lift their heads to gaze upon them?

This book was recommended to me quite a few months back by my friend Josh, no relation. I was struggling at the time to get through a book that I was hoping I would love, but I was crashing and burning every time I opened it. I did finally give up on it and Josh told me to read Bird Box. I ended up reading other things and nearly forgetting about it until I was at that magical place The Ferndale Public Library and happened by it in the library bookstore. I grabbed that and a few Jodi Picoult books and left the library to go have a glass of wine and bask in that warm fuzzy feeling that buying books gives me.

Bird Box is set in Detroit and, funny enough, the author actually lives in the area and is friends with one my managers at work. Set in a time, probably in the not too distant future, where there are things outside that drive you to insanity just by looking at them. The problem? No one knows what they look like. One look at these “creatures” and you are driven to the farthest reaches of madness and you kill anyone and anything near you. That includes yourself.

Finding herself alone and pregnant Malorie is living in an abandoned house with people who share the same ideals she does. Stay inside. Cover all the windows. When you go outside always, always, wear a blindfold. And for God’s sake listen. When your sight is taken away you have to use your other senses to “see” the world around you. Which begs the question. Would you survive? I’m pretty much blind without my contacts in, but I don’t think I would be able to live in a world where I couldn’t see the sky. But you do what you must to survive each day.

Bird Box is an easy read. Now, don’t scoff at me the way my fiancé did when I said that. Some times you want a book that you can devour in one sitting; and that is what I mean when I say that it’s an easy read. Malerman describes the ravaged and torn Detroit as only one who has seen it can. Also, in a world where no one is allowed to see what is outside their front door he gives you the feeling of utter desperation and vulnerability one must feel when they do step outside, blindfolded and ultimately alone.

In short, I loved it. If you’re looking for a book to get lost in during these last few days of summer this one is for you. Take the journey with Malorie as she navigates a new and maddening world with the strength and determination that only a single mother could.


Room – Emma Donoghue

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I’m working on believing.

I bought Room a few years back at a thrift store that I would frequent in Chicago where you could buy book for fifty cents. That was the last I had seen of Room until we moved to Michigan and my coworker, the ever amazing Jobeth, told me I had to read it! She has been the person I go to for book recommendations a lot recently. She hasn’t let me down and she didn’t with Room either.

The story starts with Jack, who is turning five, and his Ma who is desperately trying to give him a birthday that he deserves. You come to realize very quickly that the home that Ma and Jack occupy is a small shed in the back of a house. Padlocked from the outside, Ma sees no end to the monotony of the life that she has created for her and her son. They create their own games, they create their own exercises, they create their own world. Inside room everything is as Ma wants it to be for Jack and that is all he has ever known.

So, when Ma finally tells him that there is more to life than what he sees around him, his world changes and it’s hard for him to grasp the fact that the people on TV are actual people and not on a different planet. One where room doesn’t exist. Ma devises a plan and soon they are out in the world and Jack has to come to terms with the fact that everything he has ever known isn’t true.

Told from the point of view of a five-year old you would think that you would grow tired of Jack’s way of seeing or his way of speaking, but you don’t. I found it endearing to see the world through the eyes of a child again; and also heartbreaking to see the world from a child who hasn’t seen the world before. Heartbreaking and yet a story of sheer bravery, Room will remind us all what it’s like to be a child and remind us that there is such evil in the world. Evil that would keep a young girl away from her family and a young boy away from this big, bad, beautiful world that we all love and hate.