Tag Archives: Donald Greiner

Updike and Salinger: A Literary Incident by Donald J. Greiner

MLA Citation:

Greiner, Donald J. “Updike and Salinger: A Literary Incident.” Critique 47.2 (2006): 415-30.Literature Online. Web. 17 October 2009.

First Paragraph:

“In 2003, when John Updike published The Early Stories, 1953–1975, an 839-page collection honored with the 2004 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, he included a foreword in which he recalled the development of the first two decades of his enduring and esteemed career. The germ of the career took its initial significant shape at Harvard, where Updike was an undergraduate from 1950 to 1954, and where, in 1953, he submitted to Albert Guerard’s creative writing class a story titled “Ace in the Hole.” On the advice of Professor Guerard, he sent the story to the New Yorker, which rejected it. As Updike explains in the foreword, “The next year, though, after ‘Friends from Philadelphia’ and some poems had been accepted by the magazine in my first post-collegiate summer, I resubmitted the story and it was accepted” (ix). Thus, although “Friends from Philadelphia” is Updike’s first professional story, as it was published in the New Yorker for 30 October 1954, “Ace in the Hole” was written earlier and is his initial important contact with the magazine that would feature his work for the next half century.” (115)

Summary:

Greiner’s article analyzes the early effect that Salinger’s fiction had on John Updike. Updike sincerely seemed to admire Salinger’s earlier pieces, including, notably, “Just Before the War with the Eskimos.” Updike’s view on Salinger’s later fiction, was of course, much less positive. Greiner also suggests that since Hemingway and Faulkner’s careers were near close, the literary reputation of America was of concern to a Cold War Era literate populace. Greiner indicates that Salinger had the ubiquitous distinction of being the preeminent literary figure poised to fill the void left by these Modernist literary giants. Greiner suggests that 1948 was a banner year for Salinger, but that, by the 1960’s his decreased publications and his own devaluation of his early work (by not choosing these works to be collected) led Updike to take his place as the favored writer of The New Yorker.

Reader’s Guide – “Zooey”

Publication Details

Franny and Zooey

Image by Megan Inghram

The New Yorker, May 4, 1957 pages 32-42, 44, 47-48, 50, 52,54,57-59, 62, 64, 67-68, 70, 73-74, 76-78, 80-82, 87-90, 92-96, 99-102, 105-106, 108-112, 115-122, 125-139 (original appearance). Later published by Little Brown as Franny and Zooey in 1961, and dedicated to William Shawn.

Character List

Frances Glass (“Franny”)

A 20 year old college student

Zachary Martin Glass (“Zooey”)

Zooey is 25 years old. He is considered one of the most attractive and successful of the Glass children. It is noted that he is a successful television actor.

Bessie Glass

Irish-born family matriarch. Bessie worries about her children who have all seemed to grow up almost by themselves after years of success on “It’s a Wise Child.”

Les Glass

The absent father, Les is more or less only mentioned in “Zooey.” He is of Jewish descent and he and Bessie were successful Vaudevillians

Buddy Glass

Buddy is the second-oldest of the Glass children, he teaches at a women’s college.

Seymour Glass

Seymour has been dead 13 years during the course of events that composes “Zooey.”  Franny says she wants to talk to Seymour and that doing so is the only thing that will make her feel better.

Plot Synopsis

“Zooey” continues the story of Franny’s “spiritual awakening” on Monday, two days after Franny’s trip to Princeton. The novella also gives the reader additional information about the unusual upbringing of the Glass children, whose radio appearances as child geniuses, has created a unique bond among them. Salinger indicates even more in “Zooey” than in other Glass family stories that the Glass siblings have a unique understanding of one another based on this shared experience.

The narrative opens with Zooey, smoking and soaking in a hot bathtub, reading a four-year old letter from his brother, Buddy. The letter encourages Zooey to continue pursuing his acting career. Zooey’s mother, Bessie, enters the bathroom, and the two have a long discussion, wherein Bessie expresses her worries about Franny, whose existential anxiety seen in “Franny” has progressed to a state of emotional collapse. During the conversation, Zooey vacillates between a sort of tit-for-tat banter with his mother and a downright rude dismissal of her and repeatedly asks that she leave. Bessie accepts Zooey’s behavior, and quips that he’s becoming more and more like his brother Buddy.

After Bessie leaves, Zooey gets dressed and moves into the living room, where he finds Franny on the sofa with her cat Bloomberg, and begins speaking with her. After upsetting Franny by questioning her motives for reciting the “Jesus Prayer,” Zooey goes into Seymour and Buddy’s former bedroom and reads the back of their door, which is covered in philosophical and literary quotations. After contemplation, Zooey telephones Franny, pretending to be their brother Buddy. Franny eventually acknowledges the ruse, but she and Zooey continue to talk. Knowing that Franny reveres their oldest brother, Seymour – the spiritual leader of the family, who committed suicide years earlier – Zooey shares with her some words of wisdom that Seymour once gave him. At the end of the call, as the fundamental “secret” of Seymour’s advice is revealed, Franny seems, in a moment reminiscent of a mystical satori, to find profound existential illumination in what Zooey has told her.

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