- Okay, there must be something you read that's a guilty pleasure . . . a Harlequin romance stashed under the mattress. A cheesy sci-fi book tucked in the back of the freezer. A celebrity biography, a phoned-in Western . . . something that you'd really rather not be spotted reading. Even just a novel if you're a die-hard non-fiction fan. Come on, confess. We won't hold it against you!
Well, yes, there is, but it's only embarrassing because its author has been so thoroughly repudiated as a wise man -- Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. I bought my first copy at the Woolworth's in town when I was about 14. The clerk didn't want to sell it to me because she was afraid it was "dirty" - and when I protested, saying it was about a brother and sister... well, she really hesitated. But she did let me buy it, and it was better than any 5 & 10-cent store candy!
Even at 14, I was a seeker. I had already written a rather long term paper about Taoism for my poor 9th-grade history teacher, and I already had read Lao Tse, Alan Watts, the Bhagavad Gita, Wordsworth, Tennyson -- all of the usual suspects. (Did you know that Timothy Leary did a translation of the Tao Te Ching? My poor history teacher...)
Franny was me, a little older, and blessed with the perfect eccentric family (and old, smelly cat). I knew what it was like to weep, clutching a book as a talisman, or a touchstone. I knew (it's a bitch to be precocious) what it was like to have an existential breakdown. I even knew what it was like to be so damned sick of your own ego that you couldn't face your own talents for fear of being admired and liking it.
I'm still searching for a pea-green, cloth-bound book of wisdom and solace. Maybe one of these days I'll create a commonplace book and bind it in green cloth. Or maybe I should just bind a copy of Franny and Zooey in green cloth! Whatever - I'll continue to dip in and visit Franny, my first literary sister. (Or maybe my second, or maybe my third - I don't want to make Jo March or Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm jealous. In fact, it's about time I revisited them, too.)