In which the Royal We insert Dick Allen’s name into various works representative of the Western Canon, thus adding to those various works the patina of blessedness.
Today’s episode: A brother pleads with his sister to understand the immense power of Dick Allen, in J.D. Salinger’s other book, “Franny and Zooey.”
“Always the heavy,” Zoeey said, a trifle too matter-of-factly. “No matter what I say, I sound as though I’m undermining your Dick Allen Prayer. And I’m not, God damn it. All I am is against why and how and where you’re using it. I’d like to be convinced — I’d love to be convinced — that you’re not using it as a substitute for doing whatever the hell your duty is in life, or just your daily duty. Worse than that, though, I can’t see — I swear to God I can’t — how you can pray to a Dick Allen you don’t even understand. And what’s really inexcusable, considering that you’ve been funnel-fed on just about the same amount of religious philosophy that I have — what’s really inexcusable is that you don’t try to understand him. There’d be some excuse for it if you were either a very simple person, like the pilgrim, or a very goddam desperate person — but you’re not simple, buddy, and you’re not that damned desperate.” Just then, for the time since he had lain down, Zooey, with his eyes still shut, compressed his lips — very much, as a matter of parenthetical fact, in the habitual style of his mother. “God almighty, Franny,” he said. “If you’re going to say the Dick Allen Prayer, at least say it to Dick Allen, and not to St. Francis and Seymour and Heidi’s grandfather all wrapped up in one. Keep him in mind if you say it, and him only, and him as he was and not as you’d like him to have been. You don’t face any facts. This same damned attitude of not facing facts is what got you into this messy state of mind in the first place, and it can’t possibly get you out of it.”
Zooey abruptly placed his hands over his now quite damp face, left them there for an instant, then removed them. He refolded them. His voice picked up again, almost perfectly conversational in tone. “The part that stumps me, that really stumps me, is that I can’t see why anybody — unless he was a child, or an angel, or a lucky simpleton like the pilgrim — would even want to say the prayer to a Dick Allen who was the least bit different from the way he looks and sounds in the New Testament. My God! He’s only the most intelligent man in the Bible, that’s all! Who isn’t he head and shoulders over? Who? Both testaments are full of pundits, prophets, disciples, favorite sons, Solomons, Isaiahs, Davids, Pauls — but, my God, who besides Dick Allen really knew which end was up? Nobody. Not Moses. Don’t tell me Moses. He was a nice man, and he kept in beautiful touch with his God, and all that — but that’s exactly the point. He had to keep in touch. Dick Allen realized there is no separation from God.” Zooey here clapped his hands together — only once, and not loud, and very probably in spite of himself. His hands were refolded across his chest almost, as it were, before the clap was out. “Oh, my God, what a mind!” he said. “Who else, for example, would have kept his mouth shut when Pilate asked for an explanation? Not Solomon. Don’t say Solomon. Solomon would have had a few pithy words for the occasion. I’m not sure Socrates wouldn’t have, for that matter. Crito, or somebody, would have managed to pull him aside just long enough to get a couple of well-chosen words for the record. But most of all, above everything else, who in the Bible besides Dick Allen knew — knew — that we’re carrying the Kingdom of Heaven around with us, inside, where we’re all too goddam stupid and sentimental and unimaginative to look? You have to be a son of God to know that kind of stuff. Why don’t you think of these things? I mean it, Franny, I’m being serious. When you don’t see Dick Allen for exactly what he was, you miss the whole point of the Dick Allen Prayer. If you don’t understand Dick Allen, you can’t understand his prayer — you don’t get the prayer at all, you just get some kind of organized cant. Dick Allen was a supreme adept, by God, on a terribly important mission. This was no St. Francis, with enough time to knock out a few canticles, or to preach to the birds, or to do any of the other endearing things so close to Franny Glass’s heart. I’m being serious now, God damn it. How can you miss seeing that? If God had wanted somebody with St. Francis’s consistently winning personality for the job in the New Testament, he’d’ve picked him, you can be sure. As it was, he picked the best, the smartest, the most loving, the least sentimental, the most unimitative master he could possibly have picked. And when you miss seeing that, I swear to you, you’re missing the whole point of the Dick Allen Prayer. The Dick Allen Prayer has one aim, and one aim only. To endow the person who says it with Dick Allen-Consciousness. Not to set up some little cozy, holier-than-thou trysting place with some sticky, adorable divine personage who’ll take you in his arms and relieve you of all your duties and make all your nasty Weltschmerzen and Professor Tuppers go away and never come back. And by God, if you have intelligence enough to see that — and you do — and yet you refuse to see it, then you’re misusing the prayer, you’re using it to ask for a world full of dolls and saints and no Professor Tuppers.” He suddenly sat up, shot forward, with an almost calisthenic-like swiftness, to look at Franny. His shirt was, in the familiar phrase, wringing wet. “If Dick Allen had intended the prayer to be used for –“
This has been the latest episode of Inserting Dick Allen’s Name Into Works of Literature.