Susan Sontag’s “The Way We Live Now” is one of most famous short stories from the pages of The New Yorker.
And like other famous New Yorker stories, from J.D. Salinger’s Zooey to Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” Sontag’s “The Way We Live Now” is unique, idiosyncratic, and looks beyond false smiles and disingenuous facades to reveal the deeper truths in humanity.
Both Franny and Zooey are excellent chapters in the story of the Glass Family, with a meaning and an influence far greater than such short stories usually possess.
Franny is a fairly straightforward short story of a brilliant young woman, who unable to tolerate any longer the conceit of being around dumb and ordinary people devoid of spirituality, has an existential breakdown. Zooey, meanwhile, is a more challenging story of Franny’s cathartic recovery.
After reading Zooey, J.D. Salinger’s meandering 1957 novella, and then looking at the history of its publication in Kenneth Slawenski’s excellent biography, J.D. Salinger: A Life, I wasn’t that surprised to know that this unusual story was unanimously and viciously rejected by the fiction department of The New Yorker. However, since this was a work by J.D. Salinger, a most unusual and most gifted writer, the ordinary rules of what made good writing could be nudged aside.