Like with The Catcher in the Rye, I think this book depends a lot on when and who and what you are when you come across it. I am 37 (almost 38) and like a lot of men my age, I had my Coming to Mercury in Retrograde moment in my late twenties and starting to taper off into a real kind of adulthood into early 30s. Saddled with way too much college and grad school debt, I focused on how to get a real job, with real credentials, and real stability….and this has led me to a respectable career, married (for the first and only time) with a sense of things be settled at the time of marriage rather than through marriage, and bought a house.
I only sometimes look fondly back at my 20s. It was chaotic, but because I spent most of it alone or in short-term relationships it was mostly one that was peppered with hurt feelings and occasional broken hearts (mine or some one else’s depending on the circumstances) and while I occasionally wasted someone’s (prime) time, I can say those times could be measured in months and never years.
So a book like this can be quite revealing, and I do remember it being very hard, but I am still trying to figure out how best to process, forgive, and understand my own lost years, so I don’t really have much time or energy to spend on others. So I like Franny a lot, and feel for her. And in other books like this, say The Bell Jar, I am more able and willing to read about how these lost times affect young women, people of color, or Queer characters….I don’t generally feel the need to read the struggles of white 25 year olds (for some time yet), since I lived it. There’s a lot of pathos, but not enough irony in this one for me.