Franny and Zooey and ANGST

First off, I can officially say that I really like J.D. Salinger. And not just for Catcher in the Rye.

Second, Franny sounds EXACTLY like I did a few years ago when I had a period of disillusionment about education and being an English major. Way back in the day before I became a super-gung-ho literature nerd, I had a freakout.

I realized that a large part of being an English major (or, really, a student of any of the humanities) is making things up and talking about things that don’t have a tangible value. It’s all about knowledge and education and figuring things out about the world. But I, like Franny, went through a period where I was like, “This is so stupid. Everybody’s so pretentious and nobody really cares what this poem means or that passage of a book might say about society. It’s stupid and they’re all making it up and I CAN’T STAND IT. I don’t want to read books to think.”

I’m actually not exaggerating my (former) feelings about literature at all. A few weeks ago I couldn’t sleep, so I was read through an old notebook from my sophomore year of college. There were several pages of rants that went along those “English majors are pretentious and none of this matters anyway” lines. I had to laugh because, of course, I found a way to get through the disillusionment.

Franny, at the beginning of Franny and Zooey suddenly recognizes the egotistical, conformist nature of the academic world. She feels like the people at her college are all pursuing treasure in the form of knowledge or “wisdom,” but it is all false or, at best, meaningless.

I liked Franny and Zooey because I could relate to Franny, but in a good way. I understood where she was coming from and I could remember feeling that way. But I didn’t relate in a way that made me feel like, “Oh my GOD, it IS all egotistical searching for something that ends up being meaningless.” I just realized that I had been in Franny’s shoes and gotten through it.

My resolution – just accepting that I love analyzing literature and being academic, so I should just let myself be that way – is different from Franny’s. But her plight still gave me an interesting look back at an angst-ridden time in my life.

Rating: *****
Up Next: Foundation

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