J.D. Salinger’s “Franny & Zooey” is a pair of tales about a handful of abominable people. I trudged through the reading and tried to understand, to sympathize, but these characters are just terrible, vapid people. Franny was an effete waif constantly wasting away her life in passive despair. Zooey was her overconfident asshole of a brother. Franny’s ivy league boyfriend was as shallow and meaningless as his school’s ball game. Their mother was a browbeaten scab who doused her flame when the winds of conflict tried to snuff it out. All lived in the upper crust; all in the northeastern elite; all in the ivy league of well-to-do families. Ultimately unrelatable.
I tried to like the book. Honestly, I tried.
But Salinger made these characters too real, too human in their portrayal. I had no choice but to dislike them.
At the end, you find the two eponymous characters have a single humane moment. A bit of subterfuge, and touch of disbelief, and you get down to a pair of siblings who finally make an emotional connection after 300 pages.
So maybe that was Salinger’s genius. He wrote a book where you just could not root for anyone, and could only gave a damn after rumination. I picked this up to read twice because it was so forgettable that I forgot I had already read it before I nabbed a printed copy. It’s worth reading, I guess, but only if you like terrible people and want to observe how to make them look like humans.