It seems daunting to me to try to write about this book in isolation. Should I ignore what I know of Salinger’s life? Should I ignore The Catcher in the Rye? I will try to do more of the former than the latter. Much is made of Salinger’s life. I can’t help but know about some of it. But I haven’t read the new biography. Nor have I seen the movie. I don’t think I’ll end up doing either.
I don’t think I’ve read this book before, though much of it seems familiar – perhaps from reading commentary about Salinger and his work, perhaps from his short stories. Perhaps I’ve read it before.
I enjoyed the first section with Franny more, though the scene with Zooey and his mother in the bathroom is amazing. So is the phone call between the two siblings that ends the book. It should be clear by now; I loved this book.
Salinger, it seems (enter Holden) to be after authenticity. Both Zooey and Franny have a strong Salinger-ian aversion to all things phony, especially any phoniness they find in themselves. Hence, Franny’s decision to abandon acting. But in that final moving phone call between Zooey and Franny, he seems to help her find her (and I use this next word deliberately) faith. She can finally get some rest.
He has passed on the wisdom their older brother, Buddy, had written to him (68):
Act. . .when and where you want to, since you feel you must, but do it with all your might.