Catcher in the Rye – again

More developments in the lawsuit brought by JD Salinger against “John David California” and publisher in respect of “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye”, the allegedly unauthorised sequel to Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”. It has now emerged that “John David California” is indeed a pseudonym (as the plaintiffs originally claimed) — the author of the “sequel” is Fredrik Colting, the publisher is Windupbird Publishing Ltd and the US distributor is SCB Distributors, Inc. The defendants have now filed a 26-page brief [available here] arguing against the claim for a preliminary injunction to restrain publication of the “sequel” in the US. In fact, the defendants argue that “60 Years Later” is not a sequel at all, but is, instead, “a critical examination of the character Holden Caulfield and the way he is portrayed in Catcher, the relationship between Salinger and his iconic creation, and the life of a particular author as he grows old but seems imprisoned by the literary character he created”. They say that the Holden Caulfield character is not copyrightable as such, and that even if he is, then the character of Mr C in “60 Years Later” is not substantially similar to the protectable aspects of Holden Caulfield. They also go on to say that “60 Years Later” is a parody that directly comments upon and criticises “Catcher in the Rye” and Salinger, its author — thereby entitling the defendants to a defence of Fair Use.

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2 Responses to Catcher in the Rye – again

  1. msbaroque says:

    Another storm in a teacup! And these particular – that is, Salinger-related – storms in teacups flare up with almost monotonous regularity…

    But of course, we can’t judge whether we think it is parody, since we can’t read the book. It certainly doesn’t sound like a great idea, at any rate.

    I just think the guys would have known better in the first place, given Salinger’s formidable reputation? As it happens, I’m just reading the Collected Poems of Ian Hamilton – whose biography of Salinger was famously scrapped at proof stage, when he was ordered to remove I think two quotes from letters – even though the letters were freely available to read in a library, I forget which one. One of the bookselling regrets of my life is that I had a proof copy of that book, and at some point felt skint enough to sell it. And poor Hamilton was apparently very depressed about the whole thing.

    I also think the name “John David California” should have possibly rung a few alarm bells at the off? (The author’s previous titles are The Porn Star Name Book, The Macho Man’s Bad Joke Book, and The Macho Man’s Drink Book.) As should the author pic. It’s an actor friend of the author.

    By the way, a question. The author is Swedish; the book was first published here in the UK; Salinger is suing in the USA. Will US law apply in the other countries and around the world? (I’m assuming yes but wondering what the grounds are.)

  2. Bernie Nyman says:

    Well, it is a while since the last Salinger storm-in-a-teacup.

    I’m not sure whether the books that you mention (The Porn Star Name Book, The Macho Man’s Bad Joke Book, and The Macho Man’s Drink Book) were actually written by Fredrik Colting — they are published by his publisher Nicotext, of which he appears to be co-owner, and the Nicotext website doesn’t actually say who wrote the books in question.

    Interesting question about whether US law would apply in relation to publication elsewhere — but I really don’t see how it can. Copyright laws vary from one country to another in terms of the detail, even though most claim to implement the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Even within the European Union, where copyright laws have to some extent been “harmonised”, there remain differences. An author’s work is protected in any particular country according to the laws of that country — and international conventions provide for reciprocal treatment of the works of nationals of all the signatory countries. In this way, the works of a British citizen are protected by copyright in all those countries to whose citizens Britain grants copyright protection, and so on. But the nature and extent of the protection is determined by the laws of each individual country. Of course this can lead to some anomalies, e.g. where a work is in copyright in one country and not in another, and there used to be differences amongst European countries as to the duration of copyright protection. That changed in 1996 when the duration of protection for literary works, for example, was harmonised throughout the European Union at life of author plus 70 years from the end of the year in which the author dies. This had the interesting effect of bringing back into copyright some works that had gone out of copyright in the UK (and elsewhere).

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