"Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.""Yes, sir. I know it is. I know it." Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it's a game, all right—I'll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren't any hot-shots, what's a game about it? Nothing. No game.
- Exchange between Holden and history teacher Mr. Spencer, The Catcher in the Rye16
"You know that song 'If a body catch a body comin' through the rye'? I'd like—""It's 'If a body meet a body coming through the rye'!" old Phoebe said. "It's a poem. By Robert Burns.""I know it's a poem by Robert Burns." She was right, though. It is "If a body meet a body coming through the rye." I didn't know it then, though. "I thought it was 'If a body catch a body,'" I said. "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."
- Exchange between Holden and Phoebe, The Catcher in the Rye17
"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."
- J.D. Salinger18
"Certainly you'll look a long time before you'll meet another youngster like Holden Caulfield, as likable and, in spite of his failings, as sound. And though he's still not out of the woods entirely, there at the end, still we think he's going to turn out all right."
- The New York Times
"The emergence of J.D. Salinger's work 30 years ago was my first reading of a young contemporary master—a genius—and nothing quite like it has happened to me since. … Several American generations, beginning with mine, have loved Salinger because he's made us feel as funny and as wise as he is; we've repeatedly found out how wrong we were about that—and it's cost some of us plenty—but we could always go back and read him again, after a good rest, and possibly begin to understand."
- Richard Yates20