14 January 2011

Coming thru the rye

The BBC reports - alas with few details - that Fredrik Colting's 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye (London: Windupbird 2009), the unauthorised sequel to Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, will not be published in the US or Canada and will be renamed.

Colting (aka John David California) has apparently reached a settlement with the Salinger estate, following decisions by the US federal court and appeals court during 2009 and 2010 in favour of Salinger. The latter described himself as "fiercely protective of his intellectual property" and as someone who "has never allowed any derivative works to be made using either The Catcher in the Rye or his Holden Caulfield character".

In the 2009 decision in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Deborah Batts granted a permanent injunction against Colting and his publisher [PDF]. Batts was unimpressed by the claim that 60 Years Later was a literary commentary rather than a sequel and went on to conclude that Colting's work infringed Salinger's copyright.

Batts held that 60 Years Later was not a commentary and not a parody. She drew attention to Colting's public description (consistent with promo on the novel's jacket) that 60 Years Later was a sequel. Somewhat tartly, she noted that the 'commentary' characterisation was only introducted after Salinger sought an injunction, dismissing Colting's claims as "post hoc rationalizations employed through vague generalizations about the alleged naivete of the original" and tagging the 'transformative' defence as "at most, a tool with which to criticize and comment upon the author, JD Salinger, and his supposed idiosyncracies".

Colting had claimed that his work was not -
designed to satisfy any interest the public might have in learning what happened next to Holden Caulfield or the other characters in Salinger's book. Rather, it is intended to stand on its own as a critical examination of the character Holden Caulfield, the relationship between author and his creation, and the life of a particular author as he grows old but seems imprisoned by the literary character he created.
That claim would seem problematical, particularly given the experience related by Ian Hamilton in In Search Of J D Salinger (London: Heinemann 1988).

Colting's publisher characterised his work as a "speculative psychological mystery"; the Salinger estate described it as "a rip-off, pure and simple".

Colting and publisher filed an appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, supported in an amicus brief by the New York Times, Associated Press, the Gannett Company and the Tribune Company. Publisher support reflected their traditional disquiet about prior restraint, ie the Court's willingness to issue a ban in anticipation of publication rather than providing remedies after publication.

The brief thus describes Salinger's injunction and Batt's decision as -
the most offensive and least tolerable prohibition on speech. ... [I]n this case, where the only harm appears to be to the pride of a reclusive author in not having his desires fulfilled barring commentary about his iconic book and character, without any actual financial harm, the lower court saw fit to ban publication of a new book. Such a result defies common sense, and is not — and cannot be — the law.
A separate amicus brief was filed by The Organization for Transformative Works (of interest to fanfic and slash enthusiasts), the Association of College & Research Libraries, the American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries [PDF].

Under the terms of the settlement Colting has reportedly agreed not to dedicate the book to Salinger, is prohibited from referring to The Catcher in the Rye or Salinger and is "prevented from using the copyright claim or Salinger's so-called 'ban' to promote the work". No details, alas: "We've come to an agreement with the Salinger trust but I'm afraid I can't go into any specifics".

Colting's novel apparently features an incontinent 76-year-old named "Mr C" escaping from a retirement home and heading to New York before stalking Salinger. My partner - having given up on Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone: A Novel (New York: Houghton Mifflin), dismissed as much much longer than the Civil War and more tasteless than Margaret Mitchell's Ashley-Wilkes-&-hominy-grits epic - commented tonight that he had hoped for something wildly postmodern, for example a fanfic parody in which Mr C watches American Psycho, buys a chainsaw, heads to NY in a limo and despatches the undead HLA Hart, Andy Warhol and a truckload of other zombies before being eaten by emo Catcher In The Rye kids.

A visit by Mr C, with chainsaw and flamethrower, to the Australian cricket team might be more useful.