Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

Struggling to Re-read Salinger

Oh, why did I start? It feels to me like he’s an old boyfriend I need to look in on occasionally. There he hides, up in New Hampshire, around 87 years old by now, eating meticulously, studying homeopathy, reading The New York Times perhaps, and no doubt hating The New Yorker.

J.D. Salinger was in that elite group of authors who in the 1950s brought the teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism into this country. For that alone, I bow to him. Here’s a passage from his 1961 novel “Franny and Zooey” that caught my eye this morning.

“I just think it’s a terribly peculiar coincidence,” [Franny] said, exhaling smoke, “that you keep running into that kind of advice–I mean all these really advanced and absolutely unbogus religious persons that keep telling you if you repeat the name of God incessantly, something happens. Even in India. In India, they tell you to meditate on the “Om,” which means the same thing really, and the exact same result is supposed to happen. So I mean you can’t just rationalize it away without even–“


“What is the result?” Lane said shortly.


“I mean what is the result that’s supposed to follow? All this synchronization business and mumbo-jumbo. You get heart trouble? I don’t know if you know it, but you could do yourself, somebody could do himself a great deal of real–“

“You get to see God. Something happens in some absolutely nonphysical part of the heart–where the Hindus say that Atman resides, if you ever took any Religion–and you see God, that’s all.” She flicked her cigarette ash self-consciously, just missing the ashtray. She picked up the ash with her fingers and put it in. “And don’t ask me who or what God is. I mean I don’t even know if He exists. When I was little, I used to think–” She stopped. The waiter had come to take away the dishes and redistribute menus.


“You want some dessert, or coffee?” Lane asked.

Gad! All the smoking! It’s getting dated, right? But I still love it. I feel deeply indebted to this great old man–despite his many frailties, peculiarities and apparently vicious traits as exposed by his daughter’s tell-all autobiography. I pray he’s in good health.

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posted October 15, 2006 at 5:10 am

Amy, I was heartbroken when I read Salinger’s daughter’s memoirs because it shattered all my romantic notions about the great man. I then pulled down my unread copy of Joyce Maynard’s tell-all and read that. There is no taking away from this man his brilliant creations—the Glass family and Holden Caulfield. But he is a misogynistic, egomanical man. (After exploring Zen, he went on to adopt a lot of L. Ron Hubbard’s dianetics. Cheers, a fan

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posted October 17, 2006 at 9:17 pm

How strange–I just re-read Franny & Zooey not long ago. Re-reading it allowed me to understand the malaise and discontent plaguing the Glass family. I can’t say I understood everything about the book, but I definitely appreciated it more five years later…

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posted October 22, 2006 at 2:23 am

Amy, Your post brought back memories of Catcher in the Rye. I remember my therapist, when I was in my 20’s, laughed and said that this book should be the only book for psychology PhD students. They would learn everything they need.

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posted October 23, 2006 at 5:55 am

I have a stack of books morphing into furniture beside the bed and I’m actually thinking about cracking open some Salinger. I must be crazy. But that excerpt from “Franny and Zooey” sounds so fresh and everyone’s comments are so enticing; a pox on all your houses! :)

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