Rereading Old Favourites: an Interlude (with Paper Dolls)

Literary paper dolls. Has anyone had a better idea, ever? I’m a little bit late to this party, but starting in May 2019, The Paris Review writer Julia Berick partnered with illustrator Jenny Kroik to create: “what us bookworm-clotheshorse child-adults have always wanted: literary paper dolls.”

The first one in the series was my very own 1940s gal-in-an-existential-crisis, Franny Glass. I can’t even tell you how happy this discovery has made me. J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey has long been counted as my number one all-time favourite book. The year I first read it (I was 17 or 18), I bought a stack of copies and gave them to everyone I knew (whether they wanted them or not).

Now, having said that, I have to admit that I have not re-read the book recently. Actually, I have been a little afraid to. I didn’t want to find that it didn’t hold up. And, Harriett Gilbert—one of my favourite readers—is of the opinion that when re-reading Franny and Zooey as an adult, one finds that it is on the pretentious and self-indulgent side.

I have been known to disagree with Harriett from time to time. Still, I have put off revisiting this old fave, because the fear lingered. Having to critically reassess a cherished book that has lived in your heart for many years is not always a fun thing to do (readers of Harry Potter, I know you feel me).

However, heartened and emboldened by my new paper doll, and by Julia Berick’s introduction that insists that Franny and Zooey holds up very well indeed, thank you very much, I have embarked at long last on a re-read. And I still love it. Phew. As you might expect, it resonates differently with me these days, but resonate it does. As Virginia Woolf wrote about enduring books, “At each fresh reading one notices some change in them, as if the sap of life ran in their leaves….” I am happy to report that Franny and Zooey is, for me, one such enduring book. And I am still in love with the Glass family.

My Franny paper doll in use on my corkboard. Note the “tie-silk dressing gown, beige, with a pretty pattern of minute pink tea roses,” the “small, pea-green clothbound book,” and the double appearance of Bloomberg, the “very large mottled-grey ‘altered’ tomcat.”

If you are reading this, Julia Berick and Jenny Kroik, I would like to humbly request a Zooey paper doll. One feels somewhat incomplete without both of these characters.

However, I would also like to express my admiration for the other literary characters who have been selected to be immortalized in paper doll form, including Clarissa Dalloway, Sula Peace, Cassandra Edwards, and Rebecca de Winter. All very worthy ladies. But none capture my heart the way that Franny Glass does, and so it is she that adorns my wall.

Here’s to enduring fiction, the courage to re-read, and the pleasure of paper dolls.

There were half circles under her eyes, and other, subtler signs that mark an acutely troubled young girl, but nonetheless no one could have missed seeing that she was a first-class beauty. Her skin was lovely, and her features were delicate and most distinctive. Her eyes were very nearly the same quite astonishing shade of blue as Zooey’s, but were set farther apart, as a sister’s eyes no doubt should be—and they were not, so to speak, a day’s work to look into, as Zooey’s were. Some four years earlier, at her graduation from boarding school, her brother Buddy had morbidly prophesied to himself, as she grinned at him from the graduates’ platform, that she would in all probability one day marry a man with a hacking cough. So there was that in her face, too.”

Franny and Zooey

3 thoughts on “Rereading Old Favourites: an Interlude (with Paper Dolls)

  1. I need to reread this. I have read it several times but perhaps not in the last twenty years, and recall finding it compellingly cool but also I didn’t understand what was going on at all.


    1. Lol, it’s a little bit strange, that’s for sure! I love the dialogue and the family dynamics in it. I would love to hear your thoughts if you reread it!


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