Slim, angsty, and Rory Gilmore-approved

Jess Mariano reading | 31 days of cult classics with Modern Mrs Darcy

31 days of cult classics | Modern Mrs Darcy

Franny and Zooey is a collection of two short stories that originally appeared in The New Yorker in the 50s. In them, Salinger focuses again on two members of his beloved Glass family–Franny and her older brother Zooey–as they grapple with the Jesus prayer, egotism, and broken relationships.

The subject matter is heavy but Salinger keeps it moving with the quippy dialogue–which, whether or not it’s to your taste, is well-written and reminiscent of Hemingway at his best.

Franny and Zooey, J. D. Salinger. 31 Days of Cult Classics | Modern Mrs Darcy

Franny and Zooey was hugely popular among the youthful angsty elite in the 50s and early 60s, but the critics thought it was pretty terrible, and it’s been overshadowed by Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye for the past few decades. But this slim novel has not quite been forgotten–some modern critics even argue it’s Salinger’s best.

It’s popped up in a few surprising places in the past few years.

On the hit show The Gilmore Girls, Jess Mariano (speaking of youthful angst) often had a cult classic in hand: On the Road, Howl, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Jess Mariano reading | 31 days of cult classics with Modern Mrs Darcy

He was never spotted reading Franny and Zooey, but he was searching for the book (or at least that’s what he told Lorelai) in the season two episode Lost and Found:

JESS: Hey.
LORELAI: Did you get lost?
JESS: No, I was looking at Rory’s books.
LORELAI: Uh huh.
JESS: I wanted to see if she had Franny and Zooey. She does.
JESS: I was gonna get it for her if she didn’t. 

Someday, Someday, Maybe | Twitterature with Modern Mrs Darcy

I’m wondering if sales of Franny and Zooey will bounce–or maybe just increased library checkouts–after Lauren Graham named her title character Franny in her debut novel Someday, Someday, Maybe, and wound Salinger’s story into the plot of the book. Graham’s said in interviews that Franny and Zooey made a huge impact on her when she first read it.

If you moderately enjoyed (or at least didn’t hate) The Catcher in the Rye, it may be worth giving Salinger’s lesser-known cult favorite a try. After all, it’s Rory Gilmore-approved.

Have you read Franny and Zooey? (Or more a more fun conversation, tell us whose taste in books you trust the most: Jess’s, Rory’s, or Lauren Graham’s.)

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This is the ninth post in a series, 31 Days of Cult Classics. You can click here to see a list of all the posts, updated everyday in the month of October.



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  1. Jen says:

    I read Franny and Zooey a long time ago. I actually think I owned the book for a while. I remember liking it, but I’m embarrassed to say I don’t really remember it. I guess I’ll have to read it again 🙂

  2. Two things: 1. I loved Franny and Zooey in high school. 2. I love Rory’s bookishness. I always feel vindicated on my multiple-books-at-once habit when I see that episode where Rory takes about six books with her on the bus. (You never know which you’re going to be in the mood for!)

    P.S. On Goodreads, they have a Rory Gilmore Book Club, reading all the books that Rory reads or mentions on GG. I haven’t joined but love the idea…

  3. melyssa says:

    Oh, I loved Jess the best…was so sad when he left never to return and Rory ended up with the annoying blonde guy! Logan, I think. Blech.

    There is also a Rory Reading Quiz out there somewhere – I took it but didn’t score well. That fictional Rory read a lot of eclectic classics!

  4. Leigh Kramer says:

    One of my dear friends loved this book so I read it in college. I thought it was good and I could see why she loved it but Catcher in the Rye is still my favorite of his work. I read an article recently that gave background on Salinger and his sister and how that affected his writing, specifically Franny and Zooey.

    Love the GG nods.

  5. alyssaz says:

    I haven’t heard of Franny and Zooey! I didn’t mind Catcher, though I read it years ago, but left Salinger there. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Someday, Someday Maybe, and after reading this, I am even more intrigued to read both!

  6. Patti says:

    I had never heard of the Jesus Prayer until I read Franny and Zooey. I like the prayer (because I need mercy, and also generally need to be reminded that I am a miserable sinner) and I also liked the book. You can tell if someone has actually read it, or if they are just trying to be pretentious, if they pronounce ‘Zooey’ correctly.

    My husband loves Salinger, and I think F&Z is his favorite. He really wanted to name our son Holden and I balked at the last minute because of all of the angsty implications.

    • Anne says:

      “You can tell if someone has actually read it, or if they are just trying to be pretentious, if they pronounce ‘Zooey’ correctly.”

      Ha! This made me laugh out loud. 🙂

  7. Donna says:

    Late to this game (I’m thoroughly enjoying exploring your backlog of posts!), but I read Franny and Zooey about ten years ago for the first (of many) time because I read a review by Gwyneth Paltrow, of all people. My admiration of Gwyneth’s taste has wavered over recent years, but I’m so glad she introduced me to this wonderful little book. I read it in an afternoon, and for the first 90% of the book, I asked myself repeatedly why I was wasting my time. The last ten pages just took my breath away, and I read them in tears. It has been on my favorite list ever since, and it’s a perennial reread.

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