The author starts talking to us. He is giving us a formal introduction, and he warns us this experience is going to be "excruciatingly personal" (Zooey.1.1)
The narrator tells us he's prepared a "prose home movie" rather than a short story, and that the actors in said home movie would prefer that no one see it (Zooey.1.2).
The people featured in this prose home movie are two females and one male. The leading lady, we learn, would like to be known as "a languid, sophisticated type" (Zooey.1.2).
The other lady is described as a "svelte twilight soubrette," which is otherwise known as a slender, lively young woman (Zooey.1.2). (But "twilight" refers to someone older, so we'll wait until we hear the story to understand the reference.)
We learn that the leading man has tried to call off the production. He thinks the plot relies on mysticism.
The narrator begs to differ. He says he knows the difference between a mystical story and a love story; he argues that his story is a multiple love story, told to him in various installments by his cast members.
We learn that the four of them – the writer/narrator, the two women, and the one man – are blood relatives.
We learn their last name is Glass.
Soon the youngest Glass boy will be reading a long letter from four years prior. The letter is from his older brother, Buddy, and will be reprinted in full.
The style of the letter is similar to the narrator's style. The narrator lets us know this is because the writer/narrator and Buddy are the same person. That is, the narrator confesses that he is, in fact, Buddy Glass.
He also tells us that he's going to keep referring to himself in the third person, because he sees no reason not to.
Enough of the introduction; the narrator launches into his third-person story.
It is 10:30am, Monday, in November of 1955. Zooey Glass sits in the bathtub reading an old letter (four years old, to be exact).
It is typewritten and several pages long.
He accompanies his bath with a cigarette.
The narrator comes back into things, letting us know that Zooey is complex and that he better give us some facts immediately.
Zooey is a small young man, but "surpassingly handsome" (Zooey.2.2). He is an actor. As a child, Zooey performed on a children's quiz show on a network radio program called "It's a Wise Child."
Here the narrator places a footnote, to give some back-story about this Glass family. This particular story features only the two youngest of the seven Glass children: Franny and her older brother Zooey. However the other Glass children will "stalk" in and out of the plot, and so you'd better know something about them (Zooey.2.3). The oldest Glass sibling is Seymour, who in 1955 has been dead for seven years. He killed himself with a pistol while vacationing in Florida with his wife. He would have been 38 if still alive. The next in order is Buddy, who is a writer-in-residence at an all girl's college. Next is Boo Boo, a married mother who currently vacationing in Europe with her family. Next are the twins, Walt and Waker. Walt was killed ten years ago in a freak explosion. Waker is a Roman Catholic Priest currently in Ecuador.
End the footnote, back to the story. All seven of the Glass children have been featured on the "It's a Wise Child" show and impressed listeners with their "freshness" and "aplomb" (Zooey.2.3).
Their listeners are divided into two camps: those who loved the Glass children and those who thought they were annoying know-it-alls.
Many former listeners who enjoyed "It's a Wise Child" remember the individual performances of each of the Glass children. In general, they rank Seymour first and Zooey second in appeal.
Although each of the Glass children has been subjected to tests from those professionals who take interest in precocious children, Zooey was by far the most focused.
One research group in particular, located in Boston, tested him multiple times and found that he had an impressive adult vocabulary when he was only a little kid.
So to recap. Zooey is sitting in the bathtub reading a four-year-old letter from his oldest living brother (Buddy, who is also the narrator).
The letter is long and affectionate, and the narrator presents it word for word:
The letter starts with a rant about their mother. Apparently she writes to Buddy frequently and asks if she can finally discontinue Buddy's private phone line, which remains in the old room in the Glass house that Buddy and Seymour used to share. Buddy is very emphatic about keeping it connected; he likes that Seymour, though dead, is still listed in the phonebook.
Buddy tells Zooey to be kind to their mother, whom he refers to as Bessie. Apparently Bessie's latest letter asked Buddy to write to Zooey and tell him to get his Ph.D. before pursuing an acting career, and preferably mathematics instead of Greek.
We learn that despite teaching English at a small college, Buddy doesn't even have his B.A. He wonders briefly whether he should have gotten a degree when he had the opportunity.
Buddy ends by telling his brother that he disagrees with their mother – he thinks Zooey will be fine with an M.A.
Buddy also confesses that he thinks Zooey would be a better actor if he hadn't had too much formal education. He expresses a desire to know what Zooey will be like as an actor – what kinds of projects he will undertake, etc.
Buddy then explains that he's a bit off today. Seymour committed suicide three years ago to the day. Buddy recalls going down to Florida to pick up the body and weeping on the plane for the entire five hour ride before overhearing something funny behind him and ultimately arriving at the funeral home with a smile on his face.
Buddy tells Zooey that he has been lecturing on campus five days a week and is busy with his own work. As a result, he has not been able to devote as much time to Zooey and Franny as he would like.
Buddy then confesses that his letter has nothing to do with urging from Bessie. Instead, something happened to him which inspired him to write.
What happened in this: he was standing at the meat counter and saw a little girl in front of him. He asked her if she had lots of boyfriends, and when she says yes, he wanted to know what their names are.
In a state of gender confusion, the girl tells him that her boyfriends are named Bobby and Dorothy.
Buddy is ecstatic and immediately reminded of a haiku poem found in the hotel room where Seymour shot himself: "The little girl on the plane/ Who turned her doll's head around/ To look at me" (Zooey.3.7).
He rushes home from the supermarket intent on composing this letter to Zooey as quickly as possible. He feels he can finally explain why he and Seymour took over Franny and Zooey's education the way that they did when the youngest siblings were kids.
Buddy begins by explaining that age differences within the family have added to their problems – by the time Seymour and Buddy were adults, Franny and Zooey were only just starting to read.
So Seymour and Buddy together resolved to begin teaching Franny and Zooey. Both the older brothers were extremely well-read in pretty much every field, but they felt that before the kids were taught about knowledge like history or math or science, they should first be taught about the Zen quest for no-knowledge.
In other words, the older brothers wanted Franny and Zooey to get religion and philosophy before they get all that other school stuff.
So the brothers conducted home seminars in Eastern metaphysics. Buddy regrets not realizing that Zooey was going to be an actor; he realizes this education was not particularly helpful for his acting.
Buddy tells Zooey that he meant to check up on him and Franny after Seymour's death, but that he was a bit paralyzed. He admits to being afraid of real questions.
Returning to the little girl in the supermarket, Buddy explains that he had "a perfectly communicable little vision of truth" at the meat counter that afternoon (Zooey.3.8).
He remembers Seymour telling him that "all religious study must lead to unlearning the differences, the illusory differences, between boys and girls, animals and stones, day and night, heat and cold" (Zooey.3.8). That's exactly what Buddy saw the little girl doing, and that's why he drove straight home to write this letter to Zooey.
Now he enters into a brief discussion of how Seymour's death affected the family. One of their other brothers noted that Zooey was the only one bitter about Seymour's death and consequently the only one who had forgiven Seymour for the suicide.
Buddy feels as though he lost the real heart of what occurred to him at the supermarket while he was driving home, so this letter isn't turning out to be everything he thought it would.
Buddy ends the letter by urging Zooey (whose full name we learn is Zachary Martin Glass) to act with all his might. He tells Zooey to always count on him, and that they should be kind to each other in the future.
The letter ends. Back to present time.
Zooey finishes reading the letter. He puts it back into its envelope and then plays with it on the edge of the tub.
He uses his dry left hand to place the letter within a typewritten manuscript.
He picks the manuscript up and begins reading. The role of "Rick" has been underlined.
There's a dialogue between Rick and his lover Tina.
Zooey's reading is interrupted by his mother, who wants to come in to the bathroom. She urges him to pull the shower curtain shut.
He does so, and Mrs. Glass enters. She is described as having a "fiercely indeterminate" age, and with a tendency to enter rooms both verbally and physically (Zooey.4.15).
She starts lambasting Zooey for spending a long time in the tub.
Zooey argues back.
Mrs. Glass is wearing her usual outfit for a day at home. Buddy has dubbed it her "pre-notification-of-death uniform" (Zooey.4.20). It consists mostly of a midnight-blue Japanese kimono filled with various paraphernalia – cigarettes, handyman tools.
The Glasses live in an old but not unfashionable apartment in the East Seventies In New York City.
Zooey asks his mother what she's doing.
She opens up the medicine cabinet (which is a mess) and puts in a tube of toothpaste. She suggests that toothpaste is easier on the enameling than tooth powder.
Mrs. Glass (a.k.a. Bessie) asks if Zooey has gone to see his little sister yet.
Zooey, exasperated, replies that he just woke up and he talked to her for two hours last night.
He orders her out of the bathroom.
Mrs. Glass has already moved on to a new topic. She complains about the impossibility of reaching her son, Buddy, as he refuses to own a phone.
Zooey defends his brother, then calls his mother stupid. (He seems to be teasing, not genuinely insulting her. At least she takes it that way.)
Bessie has been trying to reach Buddy via his neighbors, who do own a phone. She has also tried calling the college where Buddy works.
Mrs. Glass asks if Zooey needs a washrag.
Zooey corrects her: it is "washcloth," not "washrag." He tells her to leave.
Mrs. Glass asks again if he wants the washrag.
Grumbling, Zooey agrees and his mother hands it to him.
Bessie spots the manuscript on the floor and picks it up.
She reads the title – "The Heart is an Autumn Wanderer" – and comments that it is an unusual title.
Zooey's response is "delayed but delighted" (Zooey.4.43). He follows it up by extreme confrontation.
Bessie's face betrays some joy in her son's bullying style.
Zooey insists to his mother, against her objections, that he is sensitive to beauty above all else.
Bessie tells Zooey she has no idea what to do with "that child" (i.e., Franny). She complains that her husband is no help.
She tells Zooey that his father lives in the past; it is obvious he would like nothing better than to hear his children on the radio again.
Zooey tells Bessie to keep pouring her heart out, because clearly their problem as a family is that they like to bottle up their emotions. (Sarcasm!)
But Bessie keeps talking about Franny. The girl refuses to tell anyone when she will finish college, and since she came home with this crisis, she hasn't even eaten anything. Bessie goes on a rant regarding poor dietary habits.
Zooey mocks his mother.
His mother argues that he should know his sister better.
The bathroom goes quiet.
Bessie has been holding her cigarette ashes in her hand. She leans over and deposits them in the wastebasket.
She voices concern about the painters, who have almost finished in Franny's room and want to move into the living room after lunch. Unfortunately, that's where Franny is, on the couch, having a meltdown.
Zooey sarcastically asks her to invite the painters over to the bathroom.
His mother tells him to be quiet. He obliges and washes himself.
Mrs. Glass sits and stares at the blue bathmat. We learn that she is rather attractive and has great legs.
She gets up and extinguishes her cigarette.
Zooey warns her that she is wearing out her welcome.
(The narrator explains that, if Zooey had made eye contact with her in that moment, he might have reconsidered his behavior in the face of his mother's blue eyes.)
Bessie gets up and leaves, promising to be back in a minute.
Zooey pulls back the shower curtain and stares at the door, irritated at her abrupt departure.
Shortly thereafter Zooey stands in front of the wash basin in preparation to shave.
He shaves in a funny way because he avoids looking at his face. (Remember, he has a beautiful face.) We learn he has been "in a private war with narcissism […] since he was seven or eight years old" (Zooey.5.1).
Zooey's mother appears at the door. She seats herself and asks Zooey if it's a good idea to call Waker for advice. (Waker is the priest in Ecuador, one of Zooey's brothers.)
Zooey's responds with sarcasm.
Franny apparently does not want to talk to anyone.
Zooey assures his mother that Franny's problem is "strictly non-sectarian" (Zooey.5.17).
Bessie tells him she realizes the root of Franny's problem is the small green book she has been carrying everywhere.
Zooey asks how she figured it out.
Apparently Lane Coutell, Franny's boyfriend, has been calling and inquiring after her.
Zooey calls Lane a "charm boy and a fake" (Zooey.5.27). Zooey tells Bessie the only reason Lane has been calling is because he is worried Franny noticed that he cared more about the football game than her well-being.
Bessie claims that Buddy and Zooey are the same – they always think people have ulterior motives.
Bessie informs Zooey that whenever he likes someone, he talks away at a mile a minute, but when he doesn't like someone, which is most of the time, he sits there like a stone and lets them talk their way into a hole.
Zooey looks at her with "admiration, affection, and, not in the least, gratitude" (Zooey.5.33). Each of the Glass children pay this tribute to their mother at some point or another.
Bessie tells Zooey he is incapable of talking to people that he doesn't love, and that he's growing more like Buddy at that age. She tells Zooey he cannot live in the world with such strong likes and dislikes.
Bessie lights a fresh cigarette. Lane told her the problem with Franny is centered on the small green book she took out of the library.
Zooey scoffs as he puts a new blade on his razor.
Bessie demands an explanation.
Zooey tells her that the book Franny is carrying is called The Pilgrim Continues His Way, which is a sequel to The Way of the Pilgrim. Franny got both books from Seymour and Buddy's library.
Zooey gives his mother a hard time for not recognizing the two books; they have been sitting on Seymour's desk since his death.
Bessie defends herself, saying that she doesn't look at Seymour's things unless she can't help it.
Zooey apologizes. Bessie pushes her advantage.
Zooey crashes his left hand down on the wash basin, sending his razor flying into the waste basket. He blames his mother for constantly talking about Seymour and Buddy, saying he is haunted by ghosts. He calls Buddy a half-dead ghost, and says he might as well already copy Seymour and commit suicide.
Zooey claims that he and Franny are complete freaks and it's Buddy and Seymour's fault, on account of the education they gave Franny and Zooey when they were kids. He tells his mother he cannot eat a meal unless he first says the Four Great Vows. (This seems to be one of the religious doctrines he was taught as a child.)
He asks his mother to get out of the bathroom.
Mrs. Glass responds by wishing he'd get married. (Apparently this is a common non sequitur from Mrs. Glass.)
She asks why he doesn't want to marry.
Zooey tells her it would mean giving up the window seat on trains, and he likes the window seat too much to do that. He tells her again to get leave.
Before Bessie leaves, Zooey begs her not to call a psychoanalyst for Franny. He asks her to remember what calling a psychoanalyst did for Seymour. He swears that if his mother calls a psychoanalyst for Franny, Franny will be guaranteed a spot in an insane asylum.
Bessie tells him to calm down.
Zooey tries to light a cigarette and fails. He tells his mother he thought about what kind of psychoanalyst would be good for Franny. It would have to be the kind of therapist who, rather than feel proud of himself for his intellect, would thank God every day for providing his intellect, would even thank God for making sure he didn't get run over by a truck before he got his license.
Then he tells her that if she promises to be quiet, he'll tell her about the two books Franny has been carrying.
Zooey starts describing the books. Both are about a Russian peasant who wanted to know the meaning of the Biblical line "pray without ceasing." The peasant finds a priest who tells him that the one prayer acceptable to God always is the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me."
Zooey takes a drag on his cigarette. He tells his mother that the first of the two books has to do with the adventures of the pilgrim as he wanders around talking to people. The second is a discussion of the Jesus Prayer.
Zooey tells his mother that the whole point of the two books is to show everyone the benefits of saying the Jesus prayer. Enlightenment is supposed to come with prayer, not before it.
The idea is that saying the prayer incessantly moves it down from the lips to the heart so it becomes part of a person's automatic functioning. Then you don't have to say it with your mouth anymore because it's become part of you.
The idea is that a person can then enter into the "reality of things" and receive a response to the prayer, a response from God (Zooey.5.78).
Zooey starts using an orange stick for his cuticles.
Mrs. Glass asks if Franny is trying to copy the peasant.
Zooey tells her to ask Franny.
Mrs. Glass asks how long you have to do it before it becomes effective.
Zooey gives her sass.
There's a pause as Zooey works on his cuticles and Mrs. Glass stares at a bathmat.
In time, Bessie starts admiring Zooey's back.
He adamantly refuses to be admired He tells his mother he would appreciate some solitude. He needs to be at LeSage's by 2:30pm.
She asks if he wants some lunch.
He says no, he'll get some downtown. He hunts for his other shoe. Bessie asks if he will talk to Franny before leaving.
He's not sure. He puts on his shoes.
Bessie wonders aloud what happened to her children, saying they all used to be so smart and lovely back when they participated on the quiz show. She tells him it used to be a joy to watch her children, and then she leaves.
Zooey offers a mean retort he is sure she won't hear.
We get a description of the Glass living room, which is in no state to be painted. Basically, it is very cluttered. The room is decorated around the show "It's a Wise Child" from 1927 to 1943, when it almost always featured a Glass child.
Mr. Glass is the most enthusiastic proponent of the "It's a Wise Child" motif. He is responsible for creating the seven scrapbooks featuring his children that sit waiting for guests to read.
The living room has a single southern exposure overlooking a private school for girls. The school is four stories high and the Glass apartment is on the fifth floor.
At this particular hour sunshine is streaming into the room and illuminating all its shabby messiness.
Franny is sleeping on the couch; the sun looks great on her.
Zooey comes in with a lighted cigar. He has been smoking them regularly since he was eighteen.
He looks at Franny and wakes her up. She is a "first-class beauty" (Zooey.6.15).
Franny tells him about her bad dream – being forced to continually dive to the bottom of a swimming pool.
She tells him the only person in the dream whose presence made sense was a Professor Tupper, whom she despises, and who knows she despises him.
She explains why she detests him – it goes back to ego. She mocks him for having wild and wooly white hair; she is convinced he purposely musses it up before each class.
Zooey tells her she looks horrible. He suggests chicken soup. She gets angry.
Zooey notices a lump under the covers. It is Bloomberg, their old tomcat.
Franny kisses him and asks Zooey to pet him. Zooey does so, twice.
Franny asks about Zooey's scripts.
Zooey discovers a sheaf of sheet music and asks who took it out. It is "You Needn't Be So Mean, Baby" and it features a sepia photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Glass on the cover. Both are wearing a top hat and tails.
Apparently Les (Mr. Glass) was reminiscing last night and thought it would help Franny.
Franny again asks about Zooey's scripts. He says he doesn't want to talk about it then launches into a discussion of Dick Hess's irritating nature while banging on the piano keys. He tells her that he hates people in New York who are originally from out of town. Dick Hess would be one of those people.
Zooey heads over to the tropical fish tank and bemoans the fact that his black mollies are dying.
Franny points out that Zooey now has two scripts to consider because LeSage also dropped one off.
Zooey tells her that in the LeSage script, he would be playing a man named Rick Chalmers in a drawing room comedy that deals with complexes and neuroses.
In the Dick Hess script, he would be playing a sensitive subway guard. Zooey calls the script courageous.
Zooey stands up abruptly. He is sweating. He looks down at Franny. Her lips are moving in prayer again.
Zooey reveals he may be going to France to make a picture this summer. He hates the idea of leaving New York and going to Europe.
Zooey tells Franny that he is tired of judging everyone he meets. He tells her that he makes "everybody feel that he doesn't really want to do any good work but that he just wants to get work done that will be thought good by everyone he knows" (Zooey.6.57).
Franny brings up last Saturday. She tells Zooey that she ruined Lane's entire day. She was incapable of keeping any opinion to herself.
Zooey tells her he's already heard this – he wants only fresh complaints this morning.
Then he explains that the two of them are freaks created by Buddy and Seymour. He tells her that he also has a "Wise Child" complex, whereby he always has to "hold forth" instead of converse because that's what was expected on air (Zooey.6.63).
Zooey rails for a bit against Dick Hess. He relights his cigar and sits down at his mother's desk.
Franny asks if it's true he has an ulcer, as their mother told her.
Zooey confirms, then goes back to talking about Dick Hess. He admits to actually somewhat liking both Hess and LeSage. He admits that both men look happy talking about new shows until he (Zooey himself) shows up and ruins it with his judgment.
Franny tells him that his comments bring back what she was trying to express to Lane on Saturday. She feels as though she and Zooey have similar problems. She judges and picks at everyone at school the same way he does in his career.
She explains to her brother that she finally resolved to keep quiet and leave everyone alone. This lasted for about a month at college before she broke down and started criticizing everything again. Even though she knew she was being a bore and hurting everyone's feelings, she couldn't help it.
What bothers Franny so much about college is that it seems to her as though it's just about accumulating knowledge, about piling up as much of it as anyone can, for its own sake. To her, this seems as shameful as trying to amass wealth or fame or anything else.
Franny argues that there should be some hint in college that all the knowledge they are absorbing ought to lead to wisdom. In reality, the word "wisdom" is never mentioned. This turns knowledge into something trivial.
Zooey asks her what she's doing with the Jesus Prayer. He wants to know her motives for saying it.
He turns Franny's argument back at her; she criticizes those who hoard knowledge on the grounds that it's no different than hoarding money. But isn't she just trying to hoard spiritual treasure? Isn't that just as bad?
Franny gets emotional. Of course she's considered this – this is precisely the reason she's having her breakdown. She confesses that she doesn't understand her motives for saying the Jesus Prayer.
Zooey plays with the blotting paper on the desk and then takes a deep drag of his cigar. He asks if Franny would like to talk to Buddy.
Franny is crying soundlessly. She shakes her head, then tells Zooey she wants to talk to Seymour.
Zooey does not reply. He stands by the window seat.
He lets his gaze wander down to the school. A little girl is hiding and waiting for her dachshund to find her. When both reunite they are incredibly happy. The two walk towards Fifth Avenue.
Zooey is upset; he sees that there are such nice, beautiful things in the world, and feels that "we're all such morons to get sidetracked" (Zooey.6.83) and miss it all the time.
Franny blows her nose.
Zooey tells her Buddy once told him something, then pauses.
Franny looks at him. She knows the pause is just a trick from the radio show, when Zooey would pretend not to know the answer to something. Zooey always remembers everything.
Buddy once said that a man should be able to lie at the bottom of a hill with his throat cut, bleeding to death, and sit up to watch a pretty girl or old woman walk to the top of the hill while balancing a jug on her head.
Zooey starts talking about his siblings' religious life. He muses that all seven of them got their religion in a different package. He makes Franny laugh. He says he needs to get going to his lunch date, then examines the fish tank again and complains about his black mollies.
Zooey lies down on the carpet. He calls the space a sacred ground, as it's where he kept his rabbits.
Franny calls her brother tactless.
Zooey admits he once thought about saying the prayer himself.
He tells her he disagrees with the blanket attack on college that she's made. He agrees with her arguments ninety-eight percent, he says, but there is another two percent.
Zooey brings up one of the professors he had in college who he considered a genuine scholar.
Zooey cautions Franny against making her anger too personal. He dislikes that she railed against her professor who possibly musses up his hair before class. He tells her not to be angry about her professors, but about what her professors represent.
Zooey admits that his ulcer has been caused by letting everything get too personal.
Zooey tells her he has one last thing to say. He reminds Franny about her apostasy (read: desertion from religion) when she was ten years old. She was reading Matthew in the Bible and got very angry that Jesus threw tables all over the place in the synagogue. Little ten-year old Franny got angrier, moreover, when she realized that Jesus prizes any human being over any fowl. Franny, who loves chicken and geese and other sorts of birds, cannot accept this discrimination on Jesus' part.
Zooey's ultimate point, it appears, is that Franny doesn't properly love or understand Jesus. She wants him to be someone that he's not.
Zooey then points out that Franny chose to have her nervous breakdown at home. She came here, and so she can't reject the spiritual counseling she's getting.
He really starts getting tough on her here; he tells her that he's seen people have real breakdowns, and that they never get the luxury of choosing where to have them, as Franny has done. She's having a low-grade crisis, he says.
In Zooey's opinion, Franny's rejection of ego is an incorrect way of viewing the world. He argues that trouble is caused by people who refuse to use their true ego. He tells her that perhaps her professor would really make a first-rate mechanic. He argues that people who use their true ego subsume their entire beings in the work they do.
Franny is sobbing. Throughout this whole lecture, Zooey has been sweating to the point where he's dripping wet, even though he's still lying still on the floor.
Zooey tells her he just wants to be convinced that she hasn't decided to use the Jesus Prayer as a substitute for true ego.
Again he questions whether Franny truly understands Jesus, or whether the idea she has of Jesus is really a compilation of one part Christ, one part Seymour, one part St. Francis of Assisi or anyone else whose qualities she admires.
Zooey continues his rant until he realizes that Franny is lying facedown on the couch sobbing. He turns pale, stares at her for a minute, then goes over to his mother's desk. He stares at her some more, apologizes – which amplifies her sobbing – then leaves.
Zooey walks back out into the hall and almost collides with his mother. She notices immediately that he is perspiring and tells him to change his shirt.
He tells her he is late for lunch.
She asks where he's been, and he tells her he was in the living room.
Zooey goes into his room for two minutes. When he comes out, he has not changed his shirt. He goes into Seymour and Buddy's old room. He has not been in there for seven years.
Zooey stares for a moment at a large beaverboard covered with columns and columns of disorganized quotations. He reads them. There are quotes from Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Bhagavad-Gita, Kafka, Anna Karenina, and more.
Zooey turns around and sits at Seymour's desk.
We get a description of the room. Basically, it is a boys' room. Everything that was "adult" was taken out when Buddy and Seymour moved to an apartment of their own. Mostly, however, it is full of books, books, and more books.
Zooey sits at Seymour's desk for twenty minutes, then takes out a stack of cardboard. He finds one dated February 1938, written by Seymour.
It is a diary entry of sorts, a brief description of Seymour's twenty-first birthday.
Zooey replaces the cardboard. He picks up Buddy's private phone and dials a local number, "a very local number indeed" (Zooey.7.49).
Now we cut to a few minutes before, Franny sobbing on the couch after Zooey left the room. She is busy refusing some chicken soup from her mother when the phone rings.
Bessie goes to answer it. She comes back and tells Franny that Buddy is on the phone for her.
Franny gets up and walks down the hall, ignoring the telephone in the hall in favor of the phone in her parents' bedroom.
The narrator tells us that she becomes younger with each step she takes, and that by the time she reaches her parents' bedroom she's like a little girl again.
The bedroom is in the midst of being painted. All furniture is in the middle of the room and covered with canvas. Franny reaches under the canvas and takes out a box of cigarettes and an ashtray.
The narrator lets us know that with the exception of Seymour, all of Franny's brothers have the same "overly vibrant" voice on the telephone (Zooey.8.15).
Zooey is calling her on the separate line in Seymour's room and pretending to be Buddy, and Franny won't be able to tell the difference since their voices are so similar.
She picks up the phone. "Buddy" (a.k.a. Zooey) asks her how she's doing. He tells her Bessie has been giving him regular updates.
Franny says it sounds like he has a cold. "Buddy" says he is fine.
Franny stays silent, then admits she is a bit talked out as Zooey has been talking to her all morning.
Franny starts ranting about Zooey and what she perceives as his destructiveness. She tells him that Zooey is bitter about everything, and repeats Zooey's theory that he and she are both freaks. Then she tells Buddy that Zooey once claimed to have had a glass of ginger ale with Jesus in the kitchen when he was a kid. And she hates the cigars that he smokes.
"Buddy" responds that Zooey needs them to weigh him down, otherwise he'd just float away.
This line makes Franny suddenly realizes it is Zooey, not Buddy, on the other end of the phone line. She tells him to stop messing around.
Zooey tries to turn it into a joke; Franny asks to be left alone.
Silence on the telephone.
Franny is disturbed. She asks if Zooey had any particular reason for calling. Zooey at first tells her there is no reason, but then says he wants to let her know she should go on with the Jesus Prayer if she wants. Zooey apologizes for trying to be a seer all the time.
Franny sits up straighter in her chair.
Zooey points out that when Franny felt the urge to say the prayer, she came home instead of going anywhere else in the world. So she must have wanted spiritual counsel from the people at home. At least she knows her family doesn't have any ulterior motives.
Franny tries to light her cigarette but ends up dropping everything.
Zooey tells her that if it's religious life she wants, she better start paying attention to the religion being expressed all around the house. He calls Bessie's chicken soup consecrated and asks how Franny is supposed to recognize holiness in a religious teacher if she can't even recognize holiness in a cup of chicken soup.
Franny asks where he's calling from. Zooey dodges the question.
Zooey tells his sister that he and Buddy drove up last summer to see her act in "Playboy of the Western World." He asks her if she knew they were there.
Franny stands up, sits down, and then tells her brother that she didn't know.
Zooey tells her she was really good in the play, that she was the one actor who held it all together.
Zooey tells her that she irritates him with her supposed discovery that the theater is full of unsavory types. He tells her that desire is what makes a good actor, but that the only thing that counts in religious life is complete detachment – desirelessness.
He tells her the only thing she can do now is act.
Zooey reminds her that she once raved and complained about the stupidity of audiences. He tells her that audience doesn't matter, that the only thing an actor should aim for is perfection on his or her own terms.
There is silence for a bit, then Zooey starts reminiscing about subbing for Walter on "It's a Wise Child." Seymour told him to shine his shoes before going into the studio. Zooey tells Franny that he was furious, that he considered everyone to do with the production a "moron" and he certainly wasn't going to shine his shoes for them. (Zooey.8.73).
Seymour told him to shine his shoes for the "Fat Lady." This made sense to Zooey and he shined his shoes before almost every performance after that.
Franny stands up and holds the phone with both hands. She tells Zooey that she remembers. Seymour once told her to be funny for the "Fat Lady."
Zooey asks if he can tell her something.
Zooey says he doesn't care where an actor acts, but that the audience will always be Seymour's Fat Lady. He tells her that everyone is the Fat Lady. The Fat Lady, he says to her, is really Jesus Christ Himself.
Franny holds the phone with both hands in joy.
They sit there for a half minute or so, then Zooey says he can't talk any more and replaces the phone.
Franny continues to hold the phone to her ear as if she finds the dial tone extraordinarily beautiful.
After a time, she clears away the smoking things and gets into bed. She lies quiet and smiling until she falls into a peaceful sleep.