Just finished reading Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger. It was a slog to get through. It's basically two inter-related longish short-stories about the Glass Family's youngest siblings, Franny and Zooey, and how they both are trying to stay sane in a world gone mad. But really deep down both stories are mainly about how both Franny and Zooey seem to be coming to understandings concerning the limits of spirituality and the idea that life isn't really about finding God as much as it is about finding ways to be kind.
I know I just turned Salinger's book into a fortune-cookie. The message he seems to want to tell us is that point-blank, however, and at the end of the day I like knowing that simplicity and kindness are Salinger's aims. Both stories are heavy on dialog, so much so that both seem like diatribes, talk-heavy screenplays. A poetry occurs throughout though, a vivid overreaching for meaning that has benevolence at its core. Both Franny and Zooey are haunted by Seymour, their oldest brother who committed suicide in "A Perfect Day for Banana Fishing," one of those Salinger stories that has the innocence of a fairy tale and the bite of a docudrama. Franny and Zooey's stories are too hefty and mouthy to reach "Banana Fishing" heights, but the phone conversation at the end of Zooey's story truly is a work of genius. And then when all is said and done, and Z remembers Seymour telling him to "shine his shoes for the fat lady," all is forgiven. "The Fat Lady is Christ," Zooey tells Franny, and then Franny is able to sleep.
All that talking and complaining stops in that moment of peace unlocked by the most uncomplicated of statements: we're all a bunch of morons. So shut up and make do.