Monday, August 6

Familiar Streets, Salinger on Family

Portugal is familiar as ever. And I do mean familial-er. The uneven stone streets of this land reach out and greet me as a sister because I, too, am uneven. And we will keep on walking, dear.

I might start including scraps from my scrappy journal, as I write them. My tone betrays my own voice as I tend to immediately mimic the writers that I read, just as teenage girls begin to talk like their favorite friends, accidentally.

6 Aug 07 - 4:45 pm - Cascais, Portugal

I have just finished Salinger's Franny and Zooey, and am terribly glad that for perhaps the first time in my life I happened to arrive at a meeting point ten minutes earlier than planned. I'm leaning my somewhat tired back against the old marble wall at the Cascais Station. The cool breeze keeps washing away the station-smell of urine in the crevices of the steps.

Jasmin will soon be here to greet me. I can't wait to hug her. It's been a year.

On the walk to Cascais from Monte Estoril I did my civic duty and helped at least three German tourists. I also avoided a nice Brazilian lady who was trying to sell me something with my mostly true, "I'm sorry but I don't speak Portuguese." She later diverted a helpless English speaking tourist to me. I'm not sure if I helped the lady find a bus to Cabo do Roca, but I gave it a shot.


I am so glad that sweet Jesus urged me to plant Franny and Zooey in my carry-on as I viciously packed for six weeks of travel. I read it straight through on the two aeroplanes, and then finished it, quite triumphantly, while leaning against the train station wall in old Cascais. I've read the book about three times since college, and it still makes me giggle aloud at every third page. The interplay of the Glass family is a riot, and Salinger's narration absolutely kills me. Incidentally, I think that English and Theater majors would find the conversation perfectly self-deprecating to their studies. Artists do tend to take themselves far too seriously. And the Glass family certainly does.

The plot weaves around the spiritual crisis of young Franny Glass. Muffled within a host of superfluous cigarettes and god-damns, Salinger still paints a more honest picture of the real Jesus than might be found in many a church-house. That's one of the reasons I like him so much.

I found this excellent NY Times book review by John Updike from 1961. I disagree with the guy on many points, but his words are far more erudite than mine about why Salinger is a genius:

"...Salinger's conviction that our inner lives greatly matter peculiarly qualifies him to sing of an America where, for most of us, there seems little to do but to feel.

...His fiction, in its rather grim bravado, its humor, its morbidity, its wry but persistent hopefulness, matches the shape and tint of present American life."

-John Updike, NY Times (Sept 17, 1961)


cari said...

Quite triumphantly, eh. Lo quiero leer.

olivia said...

i would like to read this.

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