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franny and zooey


What happened was, I got the idea in my head - and I could not get it out - that college was just one more dopey, inane place in the world dedicated to piling up treasure on earth and everything. I mean treasure is treasure, for heaven's sake. What's the difference whether the treasure is money, or property, or even culture, or even just plain knowledge? It all seemed like exactly the same thing to me, if you take off the wrapping - and it still does! Sometimes I think that knowledge - when it's knowledge for knowledge's sake, anyway - is the worst of all. The least excusable, certainly!


You talk about piling up treasure - money, property, culture, knowledge, and so on and so on. In going ahead with the Jesus Prayer - just let me finish, now, please - in going ahead with the Jesus Prayer, aren't you trying to lay up some kind of treasure? Something that's every goddam bit as negotiable as all those other, more material things? Or does the fact that it's a prayer make all the difference? I mean by that, is there all the difference in the world, for you, in which side somebody lays up his treasure - this side, or the other? The one where thieves can't break in, et cetera?


Don't you think I have sense enough to worry about my motives for saying the prayer? That's exactly what's bothering me so. Just because I'm choosy about what I want - in this case, enlightenment, or peace, instead of money or prestige or fame or any of those things - doesn't mean I'm not as egotistical and self-seeking as everybody else. If anything, I'm more so!

This is just a short excerpt from an ongoing discussion that Zooey Glass has with his sister Franny, who comes home from college in a spiritual crisis, carrying a copy of 'The Way of the Pilgrim' (a 19th century religious classic about a Russian peasant practicing incessant prayer).

J.D. Salinger's 'Franny and Zooey' collects the short story 'Franny' and the novella 'Zooey', about the youngest siblings of the Glass family. Most of Salinger's work after 'The Catcher in the Rye' was concerned with their seven precocious children struggling with their own genius and spiritual sanity in a world that's dopey, inane and phoney. (One of the traits of Salinger's inimitable style was his capacity to render disgust through italics.)

The tone for this fragmentary family saga - besides 'Franny and Zooey' including 'Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters' and 'Seymour, an Introduction' - was set in the short story 'A Perfect Day for Bananafish', in which the eldest son, Seymour, commits suicide while on holiday with his wife. His absence looms large over 'Franny and Zooey', which in some sense is the story of their coping with the loss of their brother.


Why are you breaking down, incidentally? I mean if you're able to go into a collapse with all your might, why can't you use the same energy to stay well and busy? All right, so I'm being unreasonable. I'm being very unreasonable now. But, my God, how you try what little patience I was born with! You take a look around your college campus, and the world, and politics, and one season of summer stock, and you listen to the conversation of a bunch of nitwit college students, and you decide that everything's ego, ego, ego, and the only intelligent thing for a girl to do is to lie around and shave her head and say the Jesus Prayer and beg God for a little mystical experience that'll make her nice and happy.


Will you shut up, please?


In just a second, in just a second. You keep talking about ego. My God, it would take Christ himself to decide what's ego and what isn't. This is God's universe, buddy, not yours, and he has the final say about what's ego and what isn't.

21 stories

For fans of J.D. Salinger , the legendarily reclusive writer who hasn't published anything for the last 40 years (but who is rumoured to have a pile of manuscripts in a safe), here's a treat: 21 uncollected stories , which have only b… Read the full post »

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