J. D. Salinger
American writer (1919–2010)
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- She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.
- A Girl I Knew (1948)
- I'm aware that many of my friends will be saddened and shocked, or shock-saddened, over some of the chapters in The Catcher in the Rye. Some of my best friends are children. In fact, all my best friends are children. It's almost unbearable for me to realize that my book will be kept on a shelf out of their reach.
- As quoted in The Twentieth Century (1972) by Caroline Farrar Ware, p. 429
- I love to write and I assure you I write regularly… But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it.
- Interview in The Baton Rouge Advocate (1980), as quoted in "J.D. Salinger, author of 'Catcher in the Rye,' dies" in The Washington Post (28 January 2010)
- There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. … It's peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I live to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure. … I don't necessarily intend to publish posthumously, but I do like to write for myself. … I pay for this kind of attitude. I'm known as a strange, aloof kind of man. But all I'm doing is trying to protect myself and my work.
- Statements to New York Times reporter Lacey Fosburgh, as quoted in Salinger : A Biography (2000) by Paul Alexander; also in If You Really Want to Hear About It : Writers on J.D. Salinger and His Work (2006) by Catherine Crawford.
- There's no more to Holden Caulfield. Read the book again. It’s all there. Holden Caulfield is only a frozen moment in time.
- On the main character in his novel The Catcher in the Rye, as quoted in "Salinger Asks Appeals Court to Uphold Ban on ‘Catcher’ Sequel" in The New York Times (14 August 2009)
The Catcher in the Rye (1951)Edit
- All quotes are statements of Holden Caulfield unless otherwise noted. This is just a sample, for more from this work see: The Catcher in the Rye
- Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye, and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy.
- If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
- Chapter 1, opening sentence
- Pencey was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway. The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has - I'm not kidding.
- Chapter 1
- Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules. - Mr. Spencer
- Chapter 2
- What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.
- Chapter 3
- I think if you don't really like a girl, you shouldn't horse around with her at all, and if you do like her, then you're supposed to like her face, and if you like her face, you ought to be careful about doing crumby stuff to it, like squirting water all over it. It's really too bad that so much crumby stuff is a lot of fun sometimes.
- Chapter 9
- I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That's the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they're not much to look at, or even if they're sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can.
- Chapter 10
- The thing is, it's really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs - if yours are really good ones and theirs aren't. You think if they're intelligent and all, the other person, and have a good sense of humor, that they don't give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do. They really do. It's one of the reasons why I roomed with a stupid bastard like Stradlater. At least his suitcases were as good as mine.
- Chapter 15
- Take most people, they're crazy about cars. They worry if they get a little scratch on them, and they're always talking about how many miles they get to a gallon, and if they get a brand-new car already they start thinking about trading it in for one that's even newer. I don't even like old cars. I mean they don't even interest me. I'd rather have a goddam horse. A horse is at least human, for God's sake.
- Chapter 17
- Anyway, I'm sort of glad they've got the atomic bomb invented. If there's ever another war, I'm going to sit right the hell on top of it. I'll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will.
- Chapter 18
- When I really worry about something, I don't just fool around. I even have to go to the bathroom when I worry about something. Only, I don't go. I'm too worried to go. I don't want to interrupt my worrying to go.
- It's funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they'll do practically anything you want them to.
Nine Stories (1953)Edit
A Perfect Day for Bananafish (1948)Edit
- "I never saw so many tigers."
- "I see you are looking at my feet," he said to her when car was in motion.
"I beg your pardon?" said the woman.
"I said I see you're looking at my feet".
"I beg your pardon. I happened to be looking at the floor," said the woman, and faced the doors of the car.
"If you want to look at my feet, say so," said the young man. "But don't be a God-damned sneak about it."
"Let me out here, please," the woman said quickly to the girl operating the car.
The car doors opened and the woman got out without looking back.
"I have two normal feet and I can't see the slightest God-damned reason why anybody should stare at them," said the young man.
Just Before the War with the Eskimos (1948)Edit
- Outside the building, she started to walk west to Lexington to catch the bus. Between Third and Lexington, she reached into her coat pocket for her purse and found the sandwich half. She took it out and started to bring her arm down, to drop the sandwich into the street, but instead she put it back into her pocket. A few years before, it had taken her three days to dispose of the Easter chick she had found dead on the sawdust in the bottom of her wastebasket.
For Esmé — with Love and Squalor (1950)Edit
- He said I was unequipped to meet life because I had no sense of humor.
- I remember wanting to do something about that enormous-faced wristwatch she was wearing — perhaps suggest that she try wearing it around her waist.
De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period (1952)Edit
- The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid.
- Everybody's a nun.
- I don't know. Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They're always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions.
- "You love God, don't you?" Nicholson asked, with a little excess of quietness. "Isn't that your forte, so to speak? From what I heard on that tape and from what Al Babcock —"
"Yes, sure, I love Him. But I don't love Him sentimentally. He never said anybody had to love Him sentimentally," Teddy said. "If I were God, I certainly wouldn't want people to love me sentimentally. It's too unreliable."
- "You know Adam?" Teddy asked him.
"Do I know who?"
"Adam. In the Bible."
Nicholson smiled. "Not personally," he said dryly.
Franny and Zooey (1961)Edit
- Lane was speaking now as someone does who has been monopolizing conversation for a good quarter of an hour or so and who believes he has just hit a stride where his voice can do absolutely no wrong.
- The rest were standing around in hatless, smoky little groups of twos and threes and fours inside the heated waiting room, talking in voices that, almost without exception, sounded collegiately dogmatic, as though each young man, in his strident, conversational turn, was clearing up, once and for all, some highly controversial issue, one that the outside, non-matriculating world had been bungling, provocatively or not, for centuries.
- p. 1
- It's everybody, I mean. Everything everybody does is so — I don't know — not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid necessarily. But just so tiny and meaningless and — sad-making. And the worst part is, if you go bohemian or something crazy like that, you're conforming just as much only in a different way.
- I'm just interested in finding out what the hell goes. I mean do you have to be a goddam bohemian type, or dead, for Chrissake, to be a real poet? What do you want — some bastard with wavy hair?
- p. 19
- Just because I'm so horribly conditioned to accept everybody else's values, and just because I like applause and people to rave about me, doesn't make it right. I'm ashamed of it. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.
- p. 30
- The facts at hand presumably speak for themselves, but a trifle more vulgarly, I suspect, than facts even usually do.
- Behind the shower curtain, Zooey closed his eyes for a few seconds, as though his own small craft were listing precariously in the wake. Then he pulled back the shower curtain and stared over at the closed door. It was a weighty stare, and relief was not really a great part of it. As much as anything else, it was the stare, not so paradoxically, of a privacy-lover who, once his privacy has been invaded, doesn't quite approve when the invader just gets up and leaves, one-two-three, like that.
- The religious life, and all the agony that goes with it, is just something God sics on people who have the gall to accuse Him of having created an ugly world.
- You still can't love a Jesus as much as you'd like to who did and said a couple of things he was at least reported to have said or done — and you know it. You're constitutionally unable to love or understand any son of God who throws tables around. And you're constitutionally unable to love or understand any son of God who says a human being, any human being — even a Professor Tupper — is more valuable to God than any soft, helpless Easter chick.
- Jesus 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.
- When you don't see Jesus for exactly what he was, you miss the whole point of the Jesus Prayer. If you don't understand Jesus, you can't understand his prayer — you don't get the prayer at all, you just get some kind of organized cant. Jesus was a supreme adept, by God, on a terribly important mission.
- I like to ride in trains too much. You never get to sit next to the window anymore when you're married.
- 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 a prayer to a Jesus 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 Jesus 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. Jesus realized there is no separation from God.
- I swear to you, you're missing the whole point of the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer has one aim, and one aim only. To endow the person who says it with Christ-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.
- Even if you went out and searched the whole world for a master — some guru, some holy man — to tell you how to say your Jesus Prayer properly, what good would it do you? How in hell are you going to recognize a legitimate holy man when you see one if you don't even know a cup of consecrated chicken soup when it's right in front of your nose? Can you tell me that?
- "You can say the Jesus Prayer from now till doomsday, but if you don't realize that the only thing that counts in the religious life is detachment, I don't see how you'll ever even move an inch. Detachment, buddy, and only detachment. Desirelessness. 'Cessation from all hankerings.' It's this business of desiring, if you want to know the goddam truth, that makes an actor in the first place. Why're you making me tell you things you already know? Somewhere along the line — in one damn incarnation or another, if you like — you not only had a hankering to be an actor or an actress but to be a good one. You're stuck with it now. You can't just walk out on the results of your own hankerings. Cause and effect, buddy, cause and effect. The only thing you can do now, the only religious thing you can do, is act. Act for God, if you want to — be God's actress, if you want to. What could be prettier? You can at least try to, if you want to — there's nothing wrong in trying." There was a slight pause. "You'd better get busy, though, buddy. The goddam sands run out on you every time you turn around. I know what I'm talking about. You're lucky if you get time to sneeze in this goddam phenomenal world."
- You raved and you bitched when you came home about the stupidity of audiences. The goddam 'unskilled laughter' coming from the fifth row. And that's right, that's right — God knows it's depressing. I'm not saying it isn't. But that's none of your business, really. That's none of your business, Franny. An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's.
- Seymour'd told me to shine my shoes just as I was going out the door with Waker. I was furious. The studio audience were all morons, the announcer was a moron, the sponsors were morons, and I just damn well wasn't going to shine my shoes for them, I told Seymour. I said they couldn't see them anyway, where we sat. He said to shine them anyway. He said to shine them for the Fat Lady. I didn't know what the hell he was talking about, but he had a very Seymour look on his face, and so I did it. He never did tell me who the Fat Lady was, but I shined my shoes for the Fat Lady every time I ever went on the air again — all the years you and I were on the program together, if you remember. I don't think I missed more than just a couple of times. This terribly clear, clear picture of the Fat Lady formed in my mind. I had her sitting on this porch all day, swatting flies, with her radio going full-blast from morning till night. I figured the heat was terrible, and she probably had cancer, and — I don't know. Anyway, it seemed goddam clear why Seymour wanted me to shine my shoes when I went on the air. It made sense.
- I don't care where an actor acts. It can be in summer stock, it can be over a radio, it can be over television, it can be in a goddam Broadway theatre, complete with the most fashionable, most well-fed, most sunburned-looking audience you can imagine. But I'll tell you a terrible secret — Are you listening to me? There isn't anyone out there who isn't Seymour's Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy. And all his goddam cousins by the dozens. There isn't anyone anywhere that isn't Seymour's Fat Lady. Don't you know that? Don't you know that goddam secret yet? And don't you know — listen to me, now — don't you know who that Fat Lady really is? . . . Ah, buddy. Ah, buddy. It's Christ Himself. Christ Himself, buddy.
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction (1963)Edit
- If there is an amateur reader still left in the world — or anybody who just reads and runs — I ask him or her, with untellable affection and gratitude, to split the dedication of this book four ways with my wife and children.
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters (1955)Edit
- Franny has the measles, for one thing. Incidentally, did you hear her last week? She went on at beautiful length about how she used to fly all around the apartment when she was four and no one was home. The new announcer is worse than Grant — if possible, even worse than Sullivan in the old days. He said she surely dreamt that she was able to fly. The baby stood her ground like an angel. She said she knew she was able to fly because when she came down she always had dust on her fingers from touching the lightbulbs.
- Charlotte once ran away from me, outside the studio, and I grabbed her dress to stop her, to keep her near me. A yellow cotton dress I loved because it was too long for her.
- I was not only twenty-three, but a conspicuously retarded twenty-three.
- How terrible it is when you say I love you and the person on the other end shouts back "What?"
- I'm a kind of a paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.
- The human voice conspires to desecrate everything on Earth.
- Marriage partners are to serve each other. Elevate, help, teach, strengthen each other, but above all, serve. Raise their children honorably, lovingly and with detachment. A child is a guest in the house, to be loved and respected — never possessed, since he belongs to God. How wonderful, how sane, how beautifully difficult, and therefore true. The joy of responsibility for the first time in my life.
- I have scars on my hands from touching certain people.
Seymour: An Introduction (1959)Edit
- Do you know what I was smiling at? You wrote down that you were a writer by profession. It sounded to me like the loveliest euphemism I had ever heard. When was writing ever your profession? It's never been anything but your religion.
- "Could you try not aiming so much?" he asked me, still standing there. "If you hit him when you aim, it'll just be luck." He was speaking, communicating, and yet not breaking the spell. I then broke it. Quite deliberately. "How can it be luck if I aim?" I said back to him, not loud (despite the italics) but with rather more irritation in my voice than I was actually feeling. He didn't say anything for a moment but simply stood balanced on the curb, looking at me, I knew imperfectly, with love. "Because it will be," he said. "You'll be glad if you hit his marble — Ira's marble — won't you? Won't you be glad? And if you're glad when you hit somebody's marble, then you sort of secretly didn't expect too much to do it. So there'd have to be some luck in it, there'd have to be slightly quite a lot of accident in it."
- Please accept from me this unpretentious bouquet of very early-blooming parentheses: (((()))).
- I don't really deeply feel that anyone needs an airtight reason for quoting from the works of writers he loves, but it's always nice, I'll grant you, if he has one.
- I say that the true artist-seer, the heavenly fool who can and does produce beauty, is mainly dazzled to death by his own scruples, the blinding shapes and colors of his own sacred human conscience.
- But where does by far the bulk, the whole ambulance load, of pain really come from? Where must it come from? Isn't the true poet or painter a seer? Isn't he, actually, the only seer we have on earth? Most apparently not the scientist, most emphatically not the psychiatrist.
- The hallmark, then, of the advanced religious, nonsectarian or any other (and I graciously include in the definition of an "advanced religious," odious though the phrase is, all Christians on the great Vivekananda's terms; i.e, "See Christ, then you are a Christian; all else is talk") — the hallmark most commonly identifying this person is that he very frequently behaves like a fool, even an imbecile.
- It naturally follows that the creature you love next best is the person — the God-lover or God-hater (almost never, apparently, anything in between), the saint or profligate, moralist or complete immoralist — who can write a poem that is a poem.
- Extremes, though, are always risky and ordinarily downright baneful, and the dangers of prolonged contact with any poetry that seems to exceed what we most familiarly know of the first-class are formidable.
- The true poet has no choice of material. The material plainly chooses him, not he it.
- For the faithful, the patient, the hermetically pure, all the important things in this world — not life and death, perhaps, which are merely words, but the important things — work out rather beautifully.
- He wanted to tell me that he thought he finally knew why Christ said to call no man Fool. Christ had said it, Seymour thought I'd want to know, because there are no fools. Dopes, yes — fools, no.
- What is it but a low form of prayer when he or Les or anybody else God-damns everything? I can't believe God recognizes any form of blasphemy. It's a prissy word invented by the clergy.
- I asked him what, if anything, got him down about teaching. He said he didn't think that anything about it got him exactly down, but there was one thing, he thought, that frightened him: reading the pencilled notations in the margins of books in the college library.
- If sentiment doesn't ultimately make fibbers of some people, their natural abominable memories almost certainly will.
- I don't suppose a writing man ever really gets rid of his old crocus-yellow neckties. Sooner or later, I think, they show up in his prose, and there isn't a hell of a lot he can do about it.
- Seymour once said that all we do our whole lives is go from one little piece of Holy Ground to the next.
Quotes about SalingerEdit
- Jesus, he has a helluva talent.
- I don't like Salinger, not at all. That last thing isn't a novel anyway, whatever it is. I don't like it. Not at all. It suffers from this terrible sort of metropolitan sentimentality and it's so narcissistic. And to me, also, it seemed so false, so calculated. Combining the plain man with an absolutely megalomaniac egotism. I simply can't stand it.
- Mary McCarthy, commenting on Salinger and Franny and Zooey, interviewed by Elisabeth Sifton: "Mary McCarthy, The Art of Fiction" in The Paris Review, No. 27 (Winter-Spring 1962).
- The refusal to rest content, the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one's obsessions, is what distinguishes artists from entertainers, and what makes some artists adventurers on behalf of us all.
- John Updike, about Salinger, in a review of Franny and Zooey, published in Studies in J. D. Salinger : Reviews, Essays, and Critiques of The Catcher in the Rye and other Fiction (1963) edited by Marvin Laser and Norman Fruman, p. 231; also quoted in The Christian Science Monitor (August 26, 1965) and Updike's Assorted Prose (1965).
- Here Mr. Salinger was just Jerry, a quiet man who arrived early to church suppers, nodded hello while buying a newspaper at the general store and wrote a thank-you note to the fire department after it extinguished a blaze and helped save his papers and writings.
Despite his reputation, Mr. Salinger “was not a recluse,” said Nancy Norwalk, a librarian at the Philip Read Memorial Library in Plainfield, which Mr. Salinger would frequent. “He was a towns-person.”
And last week, after his death, his neighbors would not talk about him, reflecting what one called “the code of the hills.”
“Nobody conspired to keep his privacy, but everyone kept his privacy — otherwise he wouldn’t have stayed here all these years,” said Sherry Boudro of nearby Windsor, Vt., who said her father, Paul Sayah, befriended Mr. Salinger in the 1970s. “This community saw him as a person, not just the author of ‘The Catcher in the Rye.’ They respect him. He was an individual who just wanted to live his life.”
The curious constantly descended on Cornish and the surrounding area, asking residents for directions to Mr. Salinger’s house. Instead of finding the home, interlopers would end up on a wild goose chase.
How far afield the directions went “depended on how arrogant they were,” said Mike Ackerman, owner of the Cornish General Store. Mr. Salinger, he said, “was like the Batman icon. Everyone knew Batman existed, and everyone knows there’s a Batcave, but no one will tell you where it is.”
- Remembering Two Great American Authors (PMH, February 1, 2010)
- The J. D. Salinger "Bananafish" discussion list.
- The Letters to J. D. Salinger book
- "Implied Meanings in J. D. Salinger Stories and Inverting" in Hermeneutics In Russia Vol. 2 (1998) · PDF
- Salinger.org - A Fan site
- Dead Caulfields. The early life and work of J.D. Salinger
- 1988 Audio Interview with Ian Hamilton, author of In Search of J. D. Salinger - RealAudio