Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jesus Christ.

I love when I'm reading a book (particularly by an author that I admire) and I hit a passage that I simply know is coming straight from the author's head. I acknowledge, of course, the entire book is coming straight from the author's head. It's when I can see that the author is their character and not that the character has been conjured for the purpose of the story that I get excited.

I re-read Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger a couple of months ago and was delighted upon this re-read to discover a bit of Mr. Salinger in Zooey.

In the book, Zooey's little sister, Franny, is going through a bit of a nervous breakdown at the age of 19 when she realizes that she's surrounded by paper dolls at college and that many of her professors are there only to cut out more.

She discovers a book that enlightens her and makes her believe that, in order to find clarity, it would be prudent for her to begin praying all of the time (consciously at first until the praying on a loop becomes unconscious) in order to, in a sense, be one with Christ.

Unfortunately, she's not getting what she expects out of picking up the habit and, despite the incessant praying, is making herself sick.

Her brother Zooey, having read the book and knowing what she's up to sets out to fix her. He points out her inconsistencies in such a logical manner that it really made me sit up straight and say to myself, "This is true."

So, here it is (so purely logical):

Zooey is referencing a time when Franny was a child and decided that she didn't like Jesus.

page 162-165
"...I don't think you understood Jesus when you were a child and I don't think you understand him now. I think you've got him confused in your mind with about five or ten other religious personages, and I don't see how you can go ahead with the Jesus Prayer till you know who's who and what's what. Do you remember at all what started off that little apostasy? ...Franny? Do you remember or don't you?"

He didn't get an answer. Only the sound of a nose being rather violently blown.

"Well, I do, it happens. Matthew, Chapter Six. I remember it very clearly, buddy. I even remember where I was. I was back in my room putting some friction tape on my goddam hockey stick, and you banged in- all in an uproar, with the Bible wide open. You didn't like Jesus any more, and you wanted to know if you could call Seymour at his Army camp and tell him all about it. And you know why you didn't like Jesus any more? I'll tell you. Because, one, you didn't approve of his going into the synagogue and throwing all the tables and idols all over the place. That was very rude, very Unnecessary. You were sure that Solomon or somebody wouldn't have done anything like that. And the other thing you disapproved of - the thing you had the Bible open to - was the lines 'Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.' That was all right. That was lovely. That you approved of. But, when Jesus says in the same breath, 'Are ye not much better than they?' - ah, that's where little Franny gets off. That's where little Franny quits the Bible cold and goes straight to Buddha, who doesn't discriminate against all those nice fowls of the air. All those sweet, lovely chickens and geese that we used to keep up at the Lake. And don't ell me again that you were ten years old. Your age has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. There are no big changes between ten and twenty - or ten and eighty, for that matter. You still can't love a Jesus as much as you'd like to who did and said a couple of things he was at least reported to have said or done - and you know it. You're constitutionally unable to love or understand any son of God who throws tables around. And you're constitutionally unable to love or understand any son of God who says a human being, any human being - even a Professor Tupper - is more valuable to God than any soft, helpless Easter chick.

Franny was now facing directly into the sound of Zooey's voice, sitting bolt upright, a wad of Kleenex clenched in one hand. Bloomberg was no longer in her lap. "I suppose you can," she said, shrilling.

"It's beside the point whether I can or not. But, yes, as a matter of fact, I can. I don't feel like going into it, but at least I've never tried, consciously or otherwise, to turn Jesus into St Francis of Assisi to make him more 'lovable' - which is exactly what ninety-eight per cent of the Christian world has always insisted on doing. Not that it's to my credit. I don't happen to be attracted to the St. Francis of Assisi type. But you are. And, in my opinion, that's one of the reasons why you're having this little nervous breakdown..."

Salinger, J.D. Franny and Zooey. Little, Brown, and Company: New York. 1989.

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