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 Z 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.