Literary Groundhog Day

I recently went on my post-graduation vacation, and naturally packed every new book that I had been hoarding at school in anticipation of lying by the pool and relaxing (or at least attempting to). Oddly enough, when I got to Florida the only book I had an interest in reading was one of my all time favorites. One that I had read multiple times, during different stages of my life: Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger.

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I first read Franny and Zooey in sixth grade, immediately after I read The Catcher in the Rye and fell in love with it. I’m not sure why the former is so much less well-known, but my guess would be that because it isn’t layered in symbolism and metaphors it doesn’t fit into schools’ curriculum. Because I was so conditioned by the education system to only think a book is “good” if there is a green light or a hunting hat that represents greater thematic concepts, I shrugged it off as simply okay, but nothing special.

I re-read the book again my senior year of high school, because I had a study hall and would often bring any book I had lying around to glimpse through if I had no homework to do. This time I loved the book, but when I read about Franny’s mental breakdown in college upon reading into too many philosophical and religious pieces, I remember thinking how utterly dramatic she was being. “I read texts about religion and philosophy all the time,” I thought, sitting at a wooden desk and surrounded by the same kids I had grown up with, “what’s the big deal?”

I cried while re-reading Franny and Zooey, for the third time, in a lounge chair only days after graduating college. The feelings I had about Holden Caulfield in sixth grade are the same feelings I have about Franny Glass now. By that I mean, the mantra replaying over and over in my head as I turned the pages was: Oh my god, I am Franny.

This experience made me wonder why I often turn to reading books I have already read in lieu of trying new ones. I think it goes deeper than simply wanting to gain a new perspective on the story after accumulating more life experiences. I think there is a sense of safety in reliving a character’s story. When I am feeling anxious, or when my life is in the midst of uncertainty, it feels pleasant to hone in on a story of which you already know the ending. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I know where Franny and Zooey does.

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