Selections from J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey

3: …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.

7: Lane spotted her immediately, and despite whatever it was he was trying to do with his face, his arm that shot up into the air was the whole truth.

14: Then, as though he had suddenly become exhausted — or, rather, depleted by the demands made on him by a world greedy for the fruit of his intellect — he began to massage the side of his face with the flat of his hand, removing, with unconscious crassness, a bit of sleep from one eye.

16: Quite probably, he resented and feared any signs of detachment in a girl he was seriously dating.

28: “And I used to hate myself so, when I was in a play, to be backstage after the play was over. All those egos running around feeling terribly charitable and warm. Kissing everybody and wearing their makeup all over the place, and then trying to be horribly natural and friendly when your friends came backstage to see you.”

29: “I’m just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everybody else’s. I’m sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere…”

30: “I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody. I’m sick of myself and everybody else that wants to make some kind of a splash.”

47: …what I’m about to offer isn’t really a short story at all but a sort of prose home movie…

62: Against my better judgement, I feel certain that somewhere very near here — the first house down the road, maybe — there’s a good poet dying, but also somewhere very near here somebody’s having a hilarious pint of pus taken from her lovely young body, and I can’t be running back and forth forever between grief and high delight.

63: I was standing at the meat counter, waiting for some spare rib lamb chops to be cut. A young mother and her little girl were waiting around, too. The little girl was about four, and, to pass the time, she leaned her back against the glass showcase and stared up at my unshaven face. I told her she was about the prettiest little girl I’d seen all day. Which made sense to her; she nodded. I said I’d bet she had a lot of boy friends. I got the same nod again. I asked her how many boy friends she had. She held up two fingers. “Two!” I said. “That’s a lot of boy friends. What are their names, sweetheart?” Said she, in a piercing voice, “Bobby and Dorothy.” I grabbed my lamb chops and ran.

65: …Seymour had already begun to believe (and I agreed with him, as far as I was able to see the point) that education by any name would smell as sweet, and maybe much sweeter, if it didn’t begin with a quest for knowledge at all but with a quest, as Zen would put it, for no-knowledge. Dr. Suzuki says somewhere that to be in a state of pure consciousness — satori — is to be with God before he said, Let there be light.

68: All I do know for certain is that I had something happy and exciting to tell you — and on just one side of the paper, double-spaced — and I knew when I got home that it was mostly gone, or all gone, and there was nothing left to do but go through the motions. Lecture you on Ph.D.s and the actor’s life. How messy, how funny, and how Seymour himself would have smiled and smiled — and probably assured me, and all of us, not to worry about it.

69: Years ago, in my earliest and pastiest days as a would-be writer, I once read a new story aloud to S. and Boo Boo. When I was finished, Boo Boo said flatly (but looking over at Seymour) that the story was “too clever.” S. shook his head, beaming away at me, and said cleverness was my permanent affliction, my wooden leg, and that it was in the worst possible taste to draw the group’s attention to it. As one limping man to another, old Zooey, let’s be courteous and kind to each other.

78: “…If he were twenty miles in the woods, with both legs broken and a goddam arrow sticking out of his back, he’d crawl back to his cave just to make certain nobody sneaked in to try on his galoshes while he was out… Take my word for it. He cares too much about his goddam privacy to die in any woods.”

85: “She said maybe she’d eat a cheeseburger later on. Just what is this cheeseburger business?”

96: Zooey rinsed his razor. “Who in the hell is Lane?” he asked. Unmistakably, it was the question of a still very young man who, now and then, is not inclined to admit that he knows the first names of certain people.

[Z. on other people] 97: “…I can just picture the little bastard getting her into a cab and putting her on a train and wondering if he can make it back to the game before the half ended.” [Bessie:] “You’re just like Buddy. You think everybody does something for some peculiar reason. You don’t think anybody calls anybody else up without having some nasty, selfish reason for it.” [Z.] “Exactly — in nine cases out of ten. And this Lane pill isn’t the exception, you can be sure. Listen, I talked with him for twenty deadly goddam minutes one night while Franny was getting ready to go out, and I say he’s a big nothing”

98: “You either take to somebody or you don’t. If you do, then you do all the talking and nobody can even get a word in edgewise. If you don’t like somebody — which is most of the time — then you just sit around like death itself and let the person talk themself into a hole. I’ve seen you do it… [99:] Neither you nor Buddy know how to talk to people you don’t like… If you don’t like somebody in two minutes, you’re done with them forever. [B:] You can’t live in the world with such strong likes and dislikes… Regardless of what you may think, young man.”

102-103: “Buddy, Buddy, Buddy… Seymour, Seymour, Seymour… I’m so sick of their names I could cut my throat… This whole goddam house stinks of ghosts. I don’t mind so much being haunted by a dead ghost, but I resent like hell being haunted by a half-dead one. I wish to God Buddy’d make up his mind. He does everything else Seymour ever did — or tries to. Why the hell doesn’t he kill himself and be done with it?… I’m a twenty-five-year-old freak and she’s a twenty-year-old freak, and both those bastards are responsible… I swear to you, I could murder them both without even batting an eyelash. The great teachers. The great emancipators. My God. I can’t even sit down to lunch with a man any more and hold up my end of a decent conversation. I either get so bored or so goddam preachy that if the son of a bitch had any sense, he’d break his chair over my head.”

133: She was still stroking Bloomberg, still succoring him, forcibly, into the subtle and difficult world outside warm afghans.

136: “Why do I go?” Zooey said, without looking around. “I go mostly because I’m tired as hell of getting up furious in the morning and going to bed furious at night. I go because I sit in judgment on every poor, ulcerous bastard I know. Which in itself doesn’t bother me too much. At least, I judge straight from the colon when I judge, and I know that I’ll pay like hell for any judgment I mete out, sooner or later, one way or another. That doesn’t bother me so much. But there’s something I do to people’s morale downtown that I can’t stand to watch much longer. I can tell you exactly what I do. I make everybody feel that he doesn’t really want to do any good work but that he just wants to get work done that will be thought good by everyone he knows — the critics, the sponsors, the public, even his children’s schoolteacher. That’s what I do. That’s the worst I do.”

138: “In the first place, you’re way off when you start railing at things and people instead of at yourself. We both are. I do the same goddam thing about television — I’m aware of that. But it’s wrong. It’s us. I keep telling you that. Why are you so damned dense about it?”

139: “On top of everything else,” he said immediately, “we’ve got ‘Wise Child’ complexes. We’ve never really got off the goddam air. Not one of us. We don’t talk, we hold forth. We don’t converse, we expound. At least I do. The minute I’m in a room with somebody who has the usual number of ears, I either turn into a goddam seer or a human hatpin.”

140: “Yes, I have an ulcer, for Chrissake. This is Kaliyuga, buddy, the Iron Age. Anybody over sixteen without an ulcer’s a goddam spy.”

145-146: “I don’t think it would have all got me quite so down if just once in a while — just once in a while — there was at least some polite little perfunctory implication that knowledge should lead to wisdom, and that if it doesn’t, it’s just a disgusting waste of time! But there never is! You never even hear any hints dropped on a campus that wisdom is supposed to be the goal of knowledge. You hardly ever even hear the word ‘wisdom’ mentioned!”

148: “I know all you’re saying. You’re not telling me one thing I haven’t thought of by myself. You’re saying I want something from the Jesus Prayer — which makes me just as acquisitive, in your word, really, as somebody who wants a sable coat, or to be famous, or to be dripping with some kind of crazy prestige. I know all that! My gosh, what kind of an imbecile do you think I am? […] That’s exactly what’s bothering me so. Just because I’m choosy about what I want — in this case, enlightenment, or peace, instead of money or prestige or fame or any of those things — doesn’t mean I’m not as egotistical and self-seeking as everybody else.”

152: “Buddy once said something reasonably sensible to me a couple of years ago,” he said. “If I can remember what it was.” He hesitated. And Franny, though still busy with her Kleenex, looked over at him. When Zooey appeared to have difficulty in remembering something, his hesitation invariably interested all his brothers and sisters, and even held some entertainment value for them. His hesitations were almost always specious. Most of the time, they were direct carry-overs from the five undoubtedly formative years he had spent as a regular panelist on “It’s a Wise Child,” when, rather than seem to flaunt his somewhat preposterous ability to quote, instantaneously and, usually, verbatim, almost anything he had ever read, or even listened to, with genuine interest, he cultivated a habit of furrowing his brow and appearing to stall for time, the way the other children on the program did. His brow was furrowed now, but he spoke up rather more quickly than was customary under the circumstances, as though he sensed that Franny, his old co-panelist, had caught him at it. “He said that a man should be able to lie at the bottom of a hill with his throat cut, slowly bleeding to death, and if a pretty girl or an old woman should pass by with a beautiful jug balanced perfectly on the top of her head, he should be able to raise himself up one one arm and see the jug safely over the top of the hill.”

159-161: “The next thing that bothers me,” he said, “isn’t pretty either. But I’m almost finished, so hang on a second if you can. What I don’t like at all is this little hair-shirty private life of a martyr you’re living back at college — this little snotty crusade you think you’re leading against everybody. And I don’t meant what you may think I mean, so try not to interrupt for a second. I take it that mostly you’re gunning against the system of higher education. Don’t spring at me, now — for the most part, I agree with you. But I hate the kind of blanket attack you’re making on it. I agree with you about ninety-eight per cent on the issue. But the other two per cent scares me half to death. I had one professor when I was in college — just one, I’ll grant you, but he was a big, big one — who just doesn’t fit in with anything you’ve been talking about. He wasn’t Epictetus. But he was no egomaniac, he was no faculty charm boy. He was a great and modest scholar. And what’s more, I don’t think I ever heard him say anything, either in or out of a classroom, that didn’t seem to me to have a little bit of real wisdom in it — and sometimes a lot of it. What’ll happen to him when you start your revolution? I can’t bear to think about it — let’s change the goddam subject. These other people you’ve been ranting about are something else again. This Professor Tupper. And those other two goons you were telling me about last night — Manlius, and the other one. 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.” Here Zooey, still looking at the ceiling, simultaneously grimaced and shook his head. “But what I don’t like — and what I don’t think either Seymour or Buddy would like, either, as a matter of fact — is the way you talk about all these people. I mean you don’t just despise what they represent — you despise them. It’s too damn personal, Franny. I mean it. You get a real little homicidal glint in your eye when you talk about this Tupper, for instance. All this business about his going into the men’s room to muss his hair before he comes in to class. All that. He probably does — it goes with everything else you’ve told me about him. I’m not saying it doesn’t. But it’s none of your business, buddy, what he does with his hair. It would be all right, in a way, if you thought his personal affectations were sort of funny. Or if you felt a tiny bit sorry for him for being insecure enough to give himself a little pathetic goddam glamour. But when you tell me about it — and I’m not fooling, now — you tell me about it as though his hair was a goddamn personal enemy of yours. That is not right — and you know it. If you’re going to to war against the System, just do your shooting like a nice, intelligent girl — because the enemy’s there, and not because you don’t like his hairdo or his goddam necktie.”

162: “I don’t know if you remember, but I remember a time around here, buddy, when you were going through a little apostasy from the New Testament that could be heard for miles around. […] I’m bringing this up for a good reason. I’m bringing it up because I don’t think you understood Jesus when you were a child and I don’t think you understand him now. I think you’ve got him confused in your mind with about five or ten other religious personages, and I don’t see how you can go ahead with the Jesus Prayer till you know who’s who and what’s what. Do you remember at all what started off that little apostasy?… Franny? Do you remember, or don’t you? […] Well, I do, it happens. Matthew, Chapter Six. I remember it very clearly, buddy. I even remember where I was. I was back in my room putting some friction tape on my goddam hockey stick, and you banged in — all in an uproar, with the Bible wide open. You didn’t like Jesus any more, and you wanted to know if you could call Seymour at his Army camp and tell him all about it. And you know why you didn’t like Jesus any more? I’ll tell you. Because, one, you didn’t approve of his going into the synagogue and throwing all the tables and idols all over the place. That was very rude, very Unnecessary. You were sure that Solomon or somebody wouldn’t have done anything like that. And the other thing you disapproved of — the thing you had the Bible open to — was the lines ‘Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.’ That was all right. That was lovely. That you approved of. But, when Jesus says in the same breath, ‘Are ye not much better than they?’ — ah, that’s where little Franny gets off. That’s where little Franny quits the Bible cold and goes straight to Buddha, who doesn’t discriminate against all those nice fowls of the air.”

*166-167: “You take a look around your college campus, and the world, and politics, and one season of summer stock, and you listen to the conversation of a bunch of nitwit college students, and you decide that everything’s ego, ego, ego, and the only intelligent thing for a girl to do is to lie around and shave her head and say the Jesus Prayer and beg God for a little mystical experience that’ll make her nice and happy. […] You keep talking about ego. My God, it would take Christ himself to decide what’s ego and what isn’t. This is God’s universe, buddy, not yours, and he has the final say about what’s ego and what isn’t. About your beloved Epictetus? Or your beloved Emily Dickinson? You want your Emily, every time she has an urge to write a poem, to just sit down and say a prayer till her nasty, egotistical urge goes away? No, of course you don’t! But you’d like your friend Professor Tupper’s go taken away from him. That’s different. And maybe it is. Maybe it is. But don’t go screaming about egos in general. In my opinion, if you really want to know, half the nastiness in the world is stirred up by people who aren’t using their true egos. Take your Professor Tupper. From what you say about him, anyway, I'd lay almost any odds that this thing he’s using, the thing you think is his ego, isn’t his ego at all but some other, much dirtier, much less basic faculty. My God, you’ve been around schools long enough to know the score. Scratch an incompetent schoolteacher — or, for that matter, college professor — and half the time you find a displaced first-class automobile mechanic or a goddam stonemason. Take LeSage, for instance — my friend, my employer, my Rose of Madison Avenue. You think it was his ego that got him into television? Like hell it was! He has no ego any more — if ever he had one. He’s split it up into hobbbies. He has at least three hobbies that I know of — and they all have to do with a big, ten-thousand-dollar workroom in his basement, full of power tools an vises and God knows what else. Nobody who’s really using his ego, his real ego, has any time for any goddam hobbies.”

167: “No matter what I say, I sound as though I’m undermining your Jesus 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, I can’t see — I swear to God I can’t — how you can pray to a Jesus you don’t even understand.”

169-171: “…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 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? […] 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. […] Oh, my God, what a mind!” he said. “Who else, for example, would have kept his mouth shut when Pilate asked for an explanation? […] Jesus 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. […] 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.”

171: It was very like the standard bloodlessness in the face of a small boy who loves animals to distraction, all animals, and who has just seen his favorite, bunny-loving sister’s expression as she opened the box containing his birthday present to her — a freshly caught young cobra, with a red ribbon tied in an awkward bow around its neck.

175: Every inch of visible surface of the board had been decorated, with four somewhat gorgeous-looking columns of quotations from a variety of the world’s literatures. The lettering was minute, but jet-black and passionately legible, if just a trifle fancy in spots, and without blots or erasures. The workmanship was no less fastidious even at the bottom of the board, near the doorsill, where the two penmen, each in his turn, had obviously lain on their stomachs. No attempt whatever had been made to assign quotations or authors to categories or groups of any kind. So that to read the quotations from top to bottom, column by column, was rather like walking through an emergency station set up in a flood area, where for example, Pascal had been unribaldly bedded down with Emily Dickinson, and where, so to speak, Baudelaire’s and Thomas a Kempis’s toothbrushes were hanging side by side.

192: “So if there’s anything special you have to say to me, please hurry up and say it and leave me alone.” This last, emphasized word was oddly veered away from, as if the stress on it hadn’t been fully intended.

*194: “I’ll tell you one thing, Franny. One thing I know. And don’t get upset. It isn’t anything bad. But if it’s the religious life you want, you ought to know right now that you’re missing out on every single goddam religious action that’s going on around this house. You don’t even have sense enough to drink when somebody brings you a cup of consecrated chicken soup — which is the only kind of chicken soup Bessie ever brings to anybody around this madhouse.”

*196-197: “And I’ll tell you, buddy. You were good. And when I say good, I mean good. You held that goddam mess up. Even all those sunburned lobsters in the audience knew it. And now I hear you’re finished with the theatre forever — I hear things, I hear things. And I remember the spiel you came back with when the season was over. Oh, you irritate me, Franny! I’m sorry, you do. You’ve made the great startling goddam discovery that the acting profession’s loaded with mercenaries and butchers. As I remember, you even looked like somebody who’d just been shattered because all the ushers hadn’t been geniuses. What’s the matter with you, buddy? Where are your brains? If you’ve had a freakish education, at least use it, use it. 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 hankeringes. 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.” There was another, slighter pause. “I used to worry about that. I don’t worry about it very much any more. At least I’m still in love with Yorick’s skull. At least I always have time enough to stay in love with Yorick’s skull. I want an honorable goddam skull when I’m dead, buddy. I hanker after an honorable goddam skull like Yorick’s. And so do you, Franny Glass. So do you, so do you. … Ah, God, what’s the use of talking? You had the exact same goddam freakish upbringing I did, and if you don’t know by this time what kind of skull you want when you’re dead, and what you have to do to earn it — I mean if you don’t at least know by this time that if you’re an actress you’re supposed to act, then what’s the use of talking?”

198: “One other thing. And that’s all. I promise you. But the thing is, you raved and you bitched when you came home about the stupidity of audiences. The goddamn ‘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. You have no right to think about those things, I swear to you. Not in any real sense, anyway. You know what I mean?”

198: “I remember about the fifth time I ever went on ‘Wise Child.’ I subbed for Walt a few times when he was in a cast — remember when he was in that cast? Anyway, I started bitching one night before the broadcast. 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.”

200: “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.”