Australian writer of books for younger readers, young adults, verse novels and poetry.

Franny and Zooey

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Reading about J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey in two separate places on the same day sent me scurrying to our local library where I found a copy on the shelf. Brilliant! That just doesn’t happen all that often. I hadn’t read this when I first encountered Salinger’s work – and I’m not sure that I would have been so interested in it when I was sixteen or seventeen. I would have loved Franny and her increasingly fierce rejection of narcissism and ego and admired her ability to say all this to the complacent and patronising Lane – and all the while drinking martinis. But the Zooey half might have defeated me. So I’m pleased I have only just discovered this book. For a novella, it packs a lot of punch. The absent siblings – two of whom are dead – shadow Franny, her brother and her mother. There’s a huge amount of dialogue but there’s also so much that is unsaid. And, while Zooey insists that their dead brother, Seymour, has contributed to making he and Franny ‘freaks’, Salinger doesn’t go into Seymour’s story in this book. He did use all the Glass children (precocious participants in a quiz show, ‘It’s a Wise Child’) in short stories and in the novel, Raise High the House Beam, Carpenters – which I will now be looking out for. It does seem odd to me that I didn’t read these when I read Catcher in the Rye and For Esme with Love and Squalor.

I’m intrigued now to read about Salinger’s life – I know so little about him.

I don’t know if it was the influence Franny and Zooey or whether my own story just needed a long percolation, but I’m back writing. I do think something about the pitch of the dialogue in Salinger’s book gave me permission to gather up the threads I’d been spinning in my head, consolidate a character and find her voice. So, thank you Mr Salinger – much appreciated. I do feel so much better when I’m writing!

Have you read a book which has mysteriously provided you with a way into your own work? I just kind of feel as though a door was nudged open, somehow.

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