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The love scene between Bessie Glass and her son is the answer to the love scene between Franny and Lane in Princeton, and to the lousy television script that Zooey reads in the bath. They are honest with each other. She is dumb as a post. But she knows that Franny is hurt and that she can't fix it.


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And just when the scene might get sentimental, Buddy steps in to let us know that the eyes that used to announcethe tragedy of her two dead sons now tear up with the announcement that some remote Hollywood starlet's marriage is on the rocks. That Buddy Glass is putting this sentence in Zooey's mouth didn't hit me until two readings later, in my junior year of college. I noted the additional complexity in blue. I trusted Zooey because he was angry.

Rereadings: Seventeen writers revisit books they love

I never marked the last line of the scene, when Zooey makes fun of his mother's pitch-perfect exit "In the old radio days, when you were all little and all, you all used to be so--smart and happy and--just lovely. Morning, noon, and night. Her interest in the religious practice of a thirty-three-year-old Russian peasant with a withered arm who repeats the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" until it enters the rhythm of his heart always seemed to me like a precious symptom towhich the author had devoted perhaps a little too much attention.

What I realized, lying in bed in the basement, was that Franny and Zooey and The Way of a Pilgrim were similar, if not the same book. They were answers to the question of how to live. The question interested me because I was twenty-three years old and living in my parents' basement in West Orange, New Jersey, along with the family dog, an unwashed poodle. Before that, I had been living in Manhattan, in a five-room apartment on East Fourteenth Street between Second and Third Avenues that I shared with five people between the ages of twenty-four and thirty-two. It was hot in the winter.

The summer was worse. People wandered in and out. The building next door was a residence for the deaf, and at night its tenants would bring their Dominican boyfriends to our stairwell, lean up against the wall, spread their legs, open their mouths, and roll their eyes toward heaven without making a sound.

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Everyone I knew wore leather jackets and took drugs. Two of my roommates were heroin addicts. I was afraid to put a needle into my arm.


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    I was also scared. If there was someone out there with "any crazy, mysterious gratitude for his insight and intelligence," it wasn't any psychiatrist I knew. And it wasn't J. Salinger either. I was looking for answers, and the notes I made toward the end of the book at age twenty-four quiver with sardonic disappointment. But it seemed like a better description of the weakness of Franny and Zooey than anything I could invent on my own.

    I noticed that Franny is described as "a first-class beauty," and I found the description cheap. I marked Zooey's line to Franny: "How in hell are you going to recognize a legitimate holy man when you see one if you don't even know a cup of consecrated chicken soup when it's right in front of your nose? And those were the last words I wrote in my copy of Franny and Zooey. The affair had gone cold.

    Reading the book again, for the first time as a writer, I was amazed by how many perfect moments there are, by how rich and funny and wise it is, by how much and how little I understood, and by the fact that the entire book is only two hundred pages long.

    I still love the bathroom scene the best. But I also love the end of the book, particularly the moment when Franny announces that she wants to talk to Seymour,the moment of pure emotion that the book has been building toward for almost the entire two hundred pages, and that Salinger, Buddy, and Zooey answer by looking out the window and seeing a little girl in a red tam, with her dachshund wandering on the sidewalk nearby.

    It's not Seymour exactly. It's the little girl from the airplane, or someone like her, a vision of sustaining innocence that will carry us through the harder part of the lesson, Seymour's Fat Lady, for whose sake Zooey Glass once polished his shoes every night before appearing on the radio.

    She had thick legs, very veiny, and her radio was always going full blast. She had cancer. The Fat Lady is Christ. Or forgiveness. There was a time when this sentence didn't make sense, or didn't convince me to underline the words or put a check mark or a star in the margin. I'm not saying that the line is unsentimental. There may be higher peaks of wisdom to climb. Still, in the interests of full disclosure, it seems only fair to relate that after I closed the book, I opened it again, got out my fancy new disposable fountain pen, and added a black check mark to the author's italics.


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      Powerful New work by a modern master. By Anne Fadiman Editor. Is a book the same book—or a reader the same reader—the second time around? The seventeen authors in this witty and poignant collection of essays all agree on the answer: Never. The editor of Rereadings is Anne Fadiman, and readers of her bestselling book Ex Libris will find this volume especially satisfying.

      Fadiman has published a memoir about her relationship with her father, The Wine Lover's Daughter Fadiman was a founding editor of the Library of Congress magazine Civilization. Since January , in a program established by Yale alumnus Paul E.

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      Francis , Anne Fadiman has been Yale University 's first Francis Writer in Residence, a position that allows her to teach one or two non-fiction writing seminars each year, and advise, mentor, and interact with students and editors of undergraduate publications. In she received the Richard H. Fadiman is married to the American author George Howe Colt. They have two children and a dog named Typo. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. American essayist, journalist and magazine editor. New York City , New York.