The Best J. D. Salinger Quotes

A collection of some of my favorite J. D. Salinger quotes.

The last time I finished rereading J.D. Salinger’s four published books, I wrote down my favorite (short) quotations. There were some longer passages and complete stories that I wasn’t going to type out here, but the following is a nice selection, I think.

The Catcher in the Rye

“It’s really too bad that so much crumby stuff is a lot of fun sometimes.”


“People always clap for the wrong things.”


“The Navy guy and I told each other we were glad to’ve met each other. Which always kills me. I’m always saying ‘Glad to’ve met you’ to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”


“Goddam money. It always ends up making you blue as hell.”


“If you do something too good, then, after a while, if you don’t watch it, you start showing off. And then you’re not as good anymore.”



Nine Stories


“I ignored the flashes of lightning all around me. They either had your number on them or they didn’t.”


“The worst thing that being an artist could do to you would be it would make you slightly unhappy constantly.”


Franny and Zooey


“Oh, no. No, no. Not wrong. I’ve never known you to be wrong, Bessie. Your facts are always either untrue or exaggerated, but you’re never wrong—no, no.”


“He had a theory, Walt, 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.”


“This Professor Tupper. And those other two goons you were telling me about . . . . I’ve had them by the dozens, and so has everybody else, and I agree they’re not harmless. They’re lethal as hell as a matter of fact. God almighty. They make everything they touch turn absolutely academic and useless. Or—worse—cultish. To my mind, they’re mostly to blame for the mob of ignorant oafs with diplomas that are turned loose on the country every June.”


“. . . at least I’ve never tried, consciously or otherwise, to turn Jesus into St. Francis of Assisi to make him more ‘lovable’—which is exactly what ninety-eight per cent of the Christian world has always insisted on doing.”


“I mean if you’re able to go into a collapse with all your might, why can’t you use the same energy to stay well and busy?”


“He’s split up into hobbies. He has at least three hobbies that I know of . . . . Nobody’s who’s really using his ego, his real ego, has any time for any goddam hobbies.”


Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction


“She worries over the way her love for me comes and goes, appears and disappears. She doubts its reality simply because it isn’t as steadily pleasurable as a kitten.”


“He said he even wished everybody in the world looked exactly alike. He said you’d keep thinking everybody you met was your wife or your mother or father, and people would always be throwing their arms around each other wherever they went, and it would look ‘very nice.’”


“I’m a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.”


“Marriage partners are to serve each other. Elevate, help, teach, strengthen each other, but above all, serve . . . . How wonderful, how sane, how beautifully difficult, and therefore true. The joy of responsibility for the first time in my life.”


“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.”


“In this mood, I don’t go anywhere the short-story form. It eats up fat little undetached writers like me whole.”


“The very mention of Issa’s name convinces me that the true poet has no choice of material. The material plainly chooses him, not he it.”


“. . . 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.”


“God have mercy on the lonely bastards.”


“Seymour once said, on the air, when he was eleven, that the thing he loved best in the Bible was the word WATCH!”


“Besides, a confessional passage has probably never been written that didn’t stink a little bit of the writer’s pride in having given up his pride.”


“. . . not all readers are skilled readers.”


“Nonetheless, I’m prepared to suggest . . . that a very considerable amount of sheer physical stamina, and not merely nervous energy or a cast-iron ego, is required to get through the final draft of a first-class poem.”


“If you’re glad when you hit somebody’s marble, then you sort of secretly didn’t expect too much to do it.”


“A place has been prepared for each of us in his own mind.”


“Seymour once said that all we do our whole lives is go from one little piece of Holy Ground to the next. Is he never wrong?”


What the World Needs Now is J. D. Salinger – a rambling, emotional essay I wrote in 2009

Five Rumored New Salinger Books Ranked – what are my most anticipated of the rumored new books?

J. D. Salinger is Dead – an original short story

New Salinger Covers – what I think of the new covers issued for Salinger’s 100th anniversary

Where to Start with J. D. Salinger – if you’ve never read the man’s work before and want to know where to begin

The Best J. D. Salinger Quotes – my favorite quotations from his four main books