Before I was a tomboy or a clotheshorse or a loser or a teenager, I was a bookworm. In that happy valley before puberty, my greatest bliss was to be given both a book and the permission to play dress-up all at once. I had a plain white trunk for my robes and silks, my wings (several kinds), my swords and my purses. Dressing up as my favorite characters was a bit of magic, and, even today, I still read novels like a costume designer. I can tell you that the best part of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is Edna Pontellier’s peignoir. I think a lot about Moriah’s underwear in Play It As It Lays (blue silk from a hotel shop) and Hana’s sneakers in The English Patient (slightly too big). How could I not? They are the only shoes she wears. Clothing means something about our destination, our origins, our field, our desires. Everyone in a novel is dressed with intention by their author.
I’ve paired with the illustrator Jenny Kroik to bring you what us bookworm-clotheshorse child-adults have always wanted: literary paper dolls. We’ve begun with J.D. Salinger’s Franny, but stay tuned for more. Print them, share them, dress them, and please, please play with them. There’s a link to your own printable paper doll at the bottom of this post. You, too, can take Franny from one edge of her breakdown to the other by taking off her smart traveling outfit and fitting her with a pale blue cashmere afghan. We who shop late nights in marketplaces online might find satisfaction in printing out a robe and pinning it literally onto not just a figurine but to a character, an author, a time period. At the very least, this will look great on your desk.
Reopening Franny and Zooey in your thirties is just like opening the diary your mother thoughtfully mailed to you after she found it in the box she’s been trying to get out of the basement. You almost can’t bear to look, but you can’t bear not to look, either. My most love-worn of J.D. Salinger’s novels, Franny and Zooey, is a story in two chapters. The first chronicles Franny’s emotional breakdown as she visits her boyfriend, Lane Coutell, during the “big Yale game.” The second follows the efforts of one of Franny’s older brothers to bring her out of her depression, which, he believes, was brought on by the overly precious environment of the Glass household: seven children of two vaudeville actors who have spent their lives winning fame on a radio show and pursuing enlightenment. As fables for the twenty-first century go, Franny and Zooey has aged just fine. All over New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and L.A., children are downing turmeric milk and meditation apps, buying salt lamps by the cave-full. But the difference is that Franny and Zooey was written in a moment when questioning the pursuit of the American dream was still novel and risqué, and there was no Buddhist mantra emanating from every set of AirPods. Salinger’s characters have died for their want of salvation and everyone’s apartment is prewar. Franny exists in the painful, beautiful first blush of adolescence. Read More