J.D. Salinger Files To Block Publication of Sequel to Catcher in the Rye

200px-Rye_catcherThe reclusive author J.D. Salinger (a personal favorite) was seen this week — at least in court papers. Salinger broke from his self-imposed seclusion to file an interesting lawsuit to block a novel based on Holden Caulfield, the hero from “The Catcher in the Rye.” The book, entitled “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye,” is written by an author calling himself J.D. California and published by a Swedish company. It features Caulfield as an old man. The defendants include Swedish publisher Nicotext; its offshoot, Windupbird Publishing Ltd.; and California-based SCB Distributors as defendants.

For those of you that have not read the novel since high school (in cities where it was not banned by extremists), Caulfield is the narrator of the novel who relives the days following his’s expulsion from Pencey Prep. He is described in the novel as:

The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it.

Salinger wants to stop publication and sale of the book, stating “The Sequel infringes Salinger’s copyright rights in both his novel and the character Holden Caulfield, who is the narrator and essence of that novel.”

Salinger has previously insisted that Caulfield’s character must remain as he left it in the novel: “There’s no more to Holden Caulfield. Read the book again. It’s all there. Holden Caulfield is only a frozen moment in time.”

Nicotext hardly rivals Salinger as a literary source, producing such works as “The Macho Man’s (Bad) Joke Book” and “Give It To Me Baby” (an erotic “flick book”). This hardly looks like the outfit suited for this particular job. However, it is not the quality of the publication but the right to publish that is at the heart of the lawsuit. (“All morons hate it when you call them a moron.” ~J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye).

The book is already available in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Despite my love for Salinger’s work, I view such claims as overreaching by authors. Salinger produced iconic figures and should not, in my view, be able to freeze the use of such character so long as someone is not plagiarizing or passing themselves off as Salinger.

The obvious comparison being drawn is to the litigation over the sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind.” The effort to stop the novel “The Wind Done Gone,” by novelist Alice Randall, was unsuccessful. In that case, a district court in the Northern District Court in Atlanta granted the Mitchell Trusts a preliminary injunction but the Eleventh Circuit found that it was not an infringement of copyright and lifted the injunction. In SunTrust Bank v. Houghton Mifflin Co., the court found that the publisher had made a convincing case of fair use. In a view clearly relevant to the instant case, the court emphasized that the book was materially different and would not be confused with the original: holding that any effect on the original author was “strongly overshadowed and outweighed in view of its highly transformative use” of the work. The same can clearly be said in this case.

Of course, he might not want his lawyers to follow the advice of his protagonist: “It’s funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they’ll do practically anything you want them to. ”

For the full story, click here.

12 thoughts on “J.D. Salinger Files To Block Publication of Sequel to Catcher in the Rye”

  1. Per NY Times, 6PM July 1, In a victory for the reclusive writer J. D. Salinger, a federal judge on Tuesday indefinitely banned publication in the United States of a new book by a Swedish author that contains a 76-year-old version of Holden Caulfield….

  2. Mike,

    Lotta brings up a good point. IP law is without a doubt convoluted and inefficient, but the largest abusers are not “small” holders. Corporations playing games is the problem. Look into the whole set of SCO law suits. These clowns have some tangential software patents that they have tried to milk every dime out of, specifically see In re Bilski. And IP isn’t just an American problem. The EU has issues too. We need a global standardized IP system than protects artists and creators but isn’t susceptible to corporate abuses. In addition, there are some things that shouldn’t be “patentable” as a matter of policy – mathematical formulas, naturally formed genetic sequences (including persons), work flow processes, etc. IP protections should be firm, but narrow, and if you think it’s a problem now, wait until genetic modification of existing humans becomes a technological issue (and it isn’t that far off).

  3. Hi Mike,

    I see a big difference between “…intellectual property rights is being pushed macrocosmically by large corporations intent on control.” and Mr. Salinger having control over his whole cloth creation including the character of HC.

    I also see the danger you do in companies like Monsanto using the Intellectual property laws to dominate the means and methods of the world production of corn and soybeans. That’s dangerous and short sighted. The law in these regards is being applied incorrectly. Or corruptly. As I understand the current application of the law regarding Monsanto’s GE corn, if a farmer using traditional methods, selectively breeds a generation of corn that has the same characteristics as Monsanto’s, that farmer can be prosecuted. That’s nuts.

  4. This all becomes “slippery slope” stuff and the desire for intellectual property rights is being pushed macrocosmically by large corporations intent on control. “Catcher” was an iconic book of my youth and Salinger a favorite author. While I deplore the thought of a hack putting out such a book, I feel it is fair game to do so, with the proviso that J.D. Salinger’s name can not be anywhere in the book or its’ hypothetical blurbs.

  5. From article, quoting Salinger: “There’s no more to Holden Caulfield. Read the book again. It’s all there. Holden Caulfield is only a frozen moment in time.”

    Amen to that. That moment in time and the apparatus by which it is distilled for us, Holden Caulfield belongs to Mr. Salinger.

    A great book is a work of art that doesn’t need elaboration. From a purely emotional point of view I am as amazed by this as I would be if a museum curator put glitter on a Calder or a mustache on the Mona Lisa; what’s the point?

    I’m not a lawyer so knowledge of intellectual property rights and the state of the law regarding them are unknown to me but IMO to appropriate the fruit of someone elses creative labor and use it as your own without permission is just wrong. I’ll defer to Stel Pavlou on this one.

    If the law can’t protect Holden, the law needs fixing.

  6. “Despite my love for Salinger’s work, I view such claims as overreaching by authors. Salinger produced iconic figures and should not, in my view, be able to freeze the use of such character so long as someone is not plagiarizing or passing themselves off as Salinger.”

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. As a professional writer of fiction, it’s about intellectual property.

    It’s one thing to write a sequel or prequel to a work of fiction by a dead author. It is quite another to infringe on the property of a living author.

    Salinger is still alive and created those characters. They are his to do with as he pleases, and if he wants them sitting on a shelf doing nothing, that is his right, until his work moves into the public domain. Or unless he specifically invites their use. I’m thinking here of H.P. Lovecraft, for example. Rye’s copyright was renewed in 1979 by the way.

    By your reasoning, Superman and Batman are such iconic characters that there’s no need at all to pay the poor souls who invented them. Others should be free to exploit those properties without a thought for the authors, let alone compensating them.

    Stan Lee doesn’t deserve any control or revenue from Spiderman, or the Hulk. Stan can go live in a box. They’re iconic characters!

    Good grief.

  7. AP

    June 3, 2009

    Suspect in deadly shooting at Arkansas military recruiting center joins growing list of Muslim converts accused of planning or launching violent attacks against civlians & soldiers in the U.S. homeland.

  8. June 03, 2009
    Obama: ‘US one of the largest Muslim Countries in the World’
    Rick Moran

    Maybe he means if we added all Muslims in all 57 states…

    Before you laugh at the stupidity of our President, Obama is absolutely correct – if you take away the 27 countries in front of us who have a larger Muslim population than we do.

    Yes, Obama is on another foreign trip….to Muslim countries.


  9. Mapping the “climate of hate”

    June 3, 2009 09:45 AM

    Compare the White House and media responses to the Tiller murder with their silence on the deadly military recruiter attack on our own soil. In the latest developments on the recruiter case, more targets were reportedly found on Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad’s computer. Yesterday, investigators said he told them “he would have killed more soldiers had they been in the parking lot.”

    When a right-wing Christian vigilante kills, the liberal media says millions of fingers pull the trigger. When a left-wing Muslim vigilante kills, the liberal media ignores him or says he kills alone. These are the instantly ossifying narratives in the Sunday shooting death of Kansas late-term abortionist George Tiller versus the Monday shootings of two Arkansas military recruiters on American soil.

    Tiller’s suspected murderer, Scott Roeder, was white, Christian, anti-government, and anti-abortion. The gunman in the military recruiting center attack, Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad, was black, a Muslim convert, anti-military, and anti-American. The disparate treatment of the two brutal cases by both the White House and the media is striking.

    President Obama issued a statement condemning “heinous acts of violence” within hours of Tiller’s death. The Justice Department issued its own statement and sent federal marshals to protect abortion clinics. News anchors and headline writers abandoned all qualms about labeling the gunman a terrorist.

    By contrast, President Obama was silent about the military recruiter attacks that left 24-year-old Private William Long dead and 18-year old Private Quinton Ezeagwula gravely wounded. On Tuesday afternoon – more than 24 hours after the attack on the military recruiting center in Little Rock – President Obama held a press conference to announce his pick for Army Secretary. It would have been exactly the right moment to express condolences for the families of the targeted Army recruiters and to condemn heinous acts of violence against our troops.

    But President Obama said nothing. The Justice Department was mum. And so were the legions of finger-pointing pundits happily convicting the pro-life movement and every right-leaning writer on the planet of contributing to the murder of George Tiller.

  10. ‘The Wind Done Gone’ was an obvious parody retelling of the story of ‘Gone with the Wind’ from the perspective of a slave and was sited as such in the ruling where the lawsuit was (correctly) dismissed. Here ‘J.D. California’ has usurped the character for his own novel, this is neither a retelling nor a parody of the original and as such is a violation of the copywrite.

  11. My favorite quote from Salinger which I find apropos to our blog:

    “Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them – if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”

    ~J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (Mr. Antolini speaking)

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