This was a hard one for me to write. Not because I don’t know what to say, rather I have too much to say. As one might gather from the title of this blog, I really like Salinger. Well, let’s go ahead and just say it, he is my favorite writer. He is the reason I started seriously writing. He is also the reason that sometimes I just cannot write.
If I’m writing a story,dialogue is always a traffic jam for me because I break one of the most important rules of writing-don’t edit while you write. I can follow this rule most times, but when it comes to dialog I jam up. Because in the back of my mind is floating any conversation that appears in any of Salinger’s fiction and I know that the crap I typed just doesn’t cut it.
Because of Salinger’s pedestal status I am always a bit sweaty palmed when I write anything about his fiction. Due to the complexity of this story I am only going to focus on the early lunch scene with Franny. I mean stuff gets weird in this one, folks. The “Jesus Prayer” alone would take up a whole post. Maybe a last meal post. Hmmm. Anyway, Here we go. Gulp.
In Franny and Zooey we have amazing dialog between the characters throughout a somewhat fragmented story of an emotionally- hardened, childhood- genius brother and his younger sister who, having traveled back to her home after a momentous non-lunch, is suffering an existential breakdown. Now there’s a mouthful. And all of this is of course layered on top of Salinger’s famous The Glass Family.
And Franny never even eats lunch. But I’m about to help a sister out.
The story begins with Franny heading to lunch with her college boyfriend, Lane, in a nameless college town. As Franny sits across the table from said boyfriend she becomes more and more upset by his conversation that focuses on college, literature, publishing papers, and superficial drivel. Her disenchantment with convention, and her current reality, emerges over this table. Lane, egotist extraordinaire, becomes frustrated with Zooey’s sarcasm and generalizations over the course of the lunch.
After she reaches her boiling point, and with Lane still concerned about getting to the football game on time, Franny starts to feel sick and high tails it to the bathroom- where she proceeds to have a nervous breakdown. Well, she is really just crying hysterically, but I am pretty sure this is where her breakdown starts. It’s where it starts for me anyway.
When she returns to the table, Lane begins to question the small book she’s been toting around. She casually tells him about The Way of The Pilgrim, which is, in its absolutely most shortened form, a story of a Russian wanderer who learns to internalize prayer by repetition, therefore “praying without ceasing.”
We can all guess what Lane thinks about this.
The scene wraps up with Franny fainting, the football game plans being (reluctantly) cancelled by Lane, and when he goes to hail a cab, we see Franny alone, chanting the infamous Jesus Prayer.
Now, I realize that Franny has got some serious existential problems. Hey, I’ve been there. At least once a week. But you know what food always make me feel like its ok to not know The Answer? To know that sometimes its ok to just be?
Not just any cheeseburger. Not a fancy cheeseburger (though those are good, too. Unless they have a stupid brioche bun. Yuck.) But a good old-fashioned diner cheeseburger.
With gravy fries.
And, if I really don’t know my ass from my elbow that week, hell, throw some cheese on ‘em. Make ‘em disco. (Poutine, for the fancy readers)
And while we’re at it, let’s have an extra thick vanilla milkshake. The kind where there are still the big hunks of vanilla ice cream in them. An because we know that no good existential crisis should go without a stiff drink, we’ll throw a little booze in there. If your a purest, like me, take that shot on the side.
I feel better already. I can feel the food coma lulling me into a complacent state of contentment.
If only for a few hours.
But hey, sometimes that’s all we need to keep us from really going off the wall.
So if I was in that lunchroom with Franny and Lane, I would ask the boyfriend to take his food to another table. I would assure her that Lane is every bit the pillowcase he seems. And then I would order her this meal.
Franny’s Existential Crisis Lunch