Author: J.D. Salinger.
Genre: Fiction, literature, family saga.
Publication Date: 1957.
Summary: Zooey Glass is a somewhat emotionally toughened genius, who at the age of 12 had "a vocabulary on an exact par with Mary Baker Eddy's". While Franny, his younger sister, suffers a spiritual and existential breakdown in their parents' Manhattan living room, leaving Bessie, their mother, deeply concerned, Zooey comes to Franny's aid, offering what he thinks is brotherly love, understanding, and words of sage advice.
My rating: 8.5/10.
♥ For a point of objection, however eloquent, is only as good as it is applicable.
♥ Have you ever seen a really beautiful production of, say, The Cherry Orchard? Don’t say you have. Nobody has. You may have seen “inspired” productions, “competent” productions, but never anything beautiful. Never one where Chekhov’s talent is matched, nuance for nuance, idiosyncrasy for idiosyncrasy, by every soul on stage.
♥ A woman was saying, with all of Back Bay Boston and most of Harvard Square in her voice, “...and the next morning, mind you, they took a pint of pus out of that lovely young body of hers.” That’s all I remember hearing, but when I got off the plane a few minutes later and the Bereaved Widow came toward me all in Bergdorf Goodman black, I had the Wrong Expression on my face. I was grinning. Which is exactly the way I feel today, for no really good reason. Against my better judgement, I feel certain that somewhere very near here - the first house down the road, maybe - there’s a good poet dying, but also somewhere very near here somebody’s having a hilarious pint of pus taken from her lovely young body, and I can’t be running back and forth forever between grief and high delight.
♥ You’ve even both been up here on many a weekend in the last couple of years, and though we’ve talked and talked and talked, we’ve all agreed not to say a word. Today is the first time I’ve really wanted to speak up.
♥ As always, my passes of omniscience are absurd, but you, of all people, should be polite to the part of me that comes out merely clever. Years ago, in my earliest and pastiest days as a would-be writer, I once read a new story aloud to S. and Boo Boo. When I was finished, Boo Boo said flatly (but looking over at Seymour) that the story was “too clever.” S. shook his head, beaming away at me, and said cleverness was my permanent affliction, my wooden leg, and that it was the worst possible taste to draw the group’s attention to it. As one limping man to another, old Zooey, let’s be courteous and kind to each other.
♥ It was a very touch-and-go business, in 1955, to get a wholly plausible reading from Mrs. Glass’s face, and especially from her enormous blue eyes. Where once, a few years earlier, her eyes alone could break the news (either to people or to bathmats) that two of her sons were dead, one by suicide (her favorite, her most intricately calibrated, her kindest son), and one killed in World War II (her only truly lighthearted son) - where once Bessie Glass’s eyes alone could report these facts, with an eloquence and a seeming passion for detail that neither her husband nor any of her adult surviving children could bear to look at, let alone take in, now, in 1955, she was apt to use this same terrible Celtic equipment to break the news, usually at the front door, that the new delivery boy hadn’t brought the leg of lamb in time for dinner or that some remote Hollywood starlet’s marriage was on the rocks.
♥ “The trouble with me is, I don’t trust any out-of-towners in New York. I don’t care how the hell long they’ve been here. I’m always afraid they’re going to get run over, or beaten up, while they’re busy discovering some little Armenian restaurant on Second Avenue. Or some damn thing.”
♥ “Why do you go, then?” she asked. “If you feel that way.”
“Why do I go?” Zooey said, without looking around. “I go mostly because I’m tired as hell of getting up furious in the morning and going to bed furious at night. I go because I sit in judgement on every poor, ulcerous bastard I know. Which in itself doesn’t bother me too much. At least, I judge straight from the colon when I judge, and I know that I’ll pay like hell for any judgement I mete out, sooner or later, one way or another. That doesn’t bother me so much. But there’s something - Jesus God - there’s something I do to people’s morale downtown that I can’t stand to watch much longer. I can tell you exactly what I do. I make everybody feel that he doesn’t want to do any good work but that he just wants to get work done that will be thought good by everyone he knows - the critics, the sponsors, the public, even his children’s schoolteacher. That’s what I do. That’s the worst I do.”
♥ “Damn him, anyway,” he said. “He’s so stupid it breaks your heart. He’s like everybody else in television. And Hollywood. And Broadway. He thinks everything sentimental is tender, everything brutal is a slice of realism, and everything that runs into physical violence is a legitimate climax to something that isn’t even--”
♥ “That was the worst. What happened was, I got the idea in my head - and I could not get it out - that college was just one more dopey, inane place in the world dedicated to piling up treasure on earth and everything. I mean treasure is treasure, for heaven’s sake. What’s the difference whether the treasure is money, or property, or even culture, or even just plain knowledge? It all seemed like exactly the same thing to me, if you take off the wrapping - and it still does! Sometimes I think that knowledge - when it’s knowledge for knowledge’s sake, anyway - is the worst of all. The least excusable, certainly.” Nervously, and without any real need whatever, Franny pushed back her hair with one hand. “I don’t think it would have all got me quite so down if just once in a while - there was at least some polite little perfunctory implication that knowledge should lead to wisdom, and that if it doesn’t, it’s just a disgusting waste of time. But there never is! You never even hear any hints dropped on campus that wisdom is supposed to be the goal of knowledge. You hardly ever hear the word ‘wisdom’ mentioned!”
♥ “As a matter of simple logic, there’s no difference at all, that I can see, between the man who’s greedy for material treasure - and the man who’s greedy for spiritual treasure. As you say, treasure’s treasure, God damn it, and it seems to me that ninety per cent of all the world-hating saints in history were just as acquisitive and unattractive, basically, as the rest of us are.”
♥ “God damn it,” he said, “there are nice things in the world - and I mean nice things. We’re all such morons to get so sidetracked. Always, always, always referring every goddam thing that happens right back to our lousy little egos.”
♥ “Walt once told Waker that everybody in the family must have piled up one helluva lot of bad karma in his past incarnations. He had a theory, Walt, that the religious life, and all the agony that goes with it, is just something God sicks on people who have the gall to accuse Him of having created an ugly world.”
♥ “Just hold the compliments, buddy - you may live to retract them.”
♥ The color of his pallor, however, was a curiously basic white - unmixed, that is, with the greens and yellows of guilt or abject contrition. It was very like the standard bloodlessness in the face of a small boy who loves animals to distraction, all animals, and who has just seen his favorite, bunny-loving sister’s expression as she opened the box containing his birthday present to her - a freshly caught young cobra, with a red ribbon tied in an awkward bow around its neck.