Thursday, July 02, 2009

Holden Caulfield Stays in Retirement

We've seen before that some authors chose to write a sequel based on an older classic, picking up the characters and taking them off on a new journey.

A Swedish author, Fredrik Colting (writing under the pen name John David California) has written a sequel to J.D. Salinger's 1951 classic The Catcher in the Rye. But it isn't going to be seeing light of day after a judge ruled in favour of Salinger who sued to block publication of 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye. Judge Deborah Batts ruled that the main character in was "an infringement" on Salinger's main character, Holden Caulfield.

According to Jennifer Schuessler in The New York Times the book features:
... the ultimate alienated teenager, as a lonely old codger who escapes from a retirement home and his beloved younger sister, Phoebe, as a drug addict sinking into dementia.
The Catcher in the Rye has been a staple of the American high school curriculum over the decades although now it seems the younger generation are finding it harder to relate to Caulfield:
What once seemed like courageous truth-telling now strikes many of them as “weird,” “whiny” and “immature.”
I remember reading it decades back and liking it very much, but can't recall much else about it. I am though at the moment reading Salinger's Nine Stories (a copy of which I inherited from Dina Zaman) and am enjoying it thoroughly. (You can read A Perfect Day for Bananafish here - and lazier so and so's can watch the video here. The story blew me away. )

Salinger is now one of the world's more famous recluses, although he is reportedly still writing every day. Maybe one day ...

14 comments:

glenda larke said...

Hurray for this decision. As an author, I find the idea that someone would take my characters and ideas and treat them as their own creation is akin to waking up one morning and finding squatters sleeping in my spare bedroom or cooking in my kitchen.

Oddly enough I just blogged about this very thing. If someone wants to play in my sandpit, go ahead, but don't expect to make money out of it. That's stealing.

Janet said...

I love Salinger's books, but am curious about the arguments in favour of Salinger's case as ideas can't be copyrighted... maybe will look it up. Perhaps it's the character's name that's infringed the copyright.

Chet said...

Fredrik Colting aka John David California should get his own character instead of stealing someone else's.

And the only person who can write about Holden Caulfield is his creator, J D Salinger.

Anonymous said...

Janet- if i'm not mistaken, copyright attaches to a character that has been clearly created by the author, but not the idea behind the character. For example, Luke Skywalker from Star Wars would be a copyrighted character (with his name, history, mannerisms etc); the idea/concept of a young boy who grows up to become a great warrior is not copyrighted. That's my understanding of it anyway... and it sure leaves room for argument in court as to whether a character has been formed clearly enough by an author to merit being copyrighted...

Whitearrow

bibliobibuli said...

but what about jean rhys taking mr rochester and bertha for 'the wide sargasso sea' for e.g.? out of copyright sure because of the time lapse.

Amir Muhammad said...

God has been stiffed out of trillions in royalties; there are so many films and books with His prophets in them!

Anonymous said...

There's also the Moral Right of the Author has well, which I believe prevents things likes these happening.

- Poppadumdum

Anonymous said...

yeah, once copyright has expired on the story, the characters are usually in the public domain, so anyone can write stories using characters like mr rochester, sherlock holmes, mr darcy, beauty and the beast etc... (but there are other things to think about too, like whether a character has been trademarked or belongs to a publishing house/company).

Poppadumdum, u are right! moral rights are the way to go in this kind of situation ... i cannot believe i forgot about that...

Whitearrow

BorneoExpatWriter said...

You can also, inadvertently, sign away your rights to a character, which Gary Patterson once wrote about in The Writer, during a movie deal, which means, the movie company is now free to take one of his characters and make a movie not based on any of his books! They can create their own story involving his character. They have yet to do so, but now they have that right, and he was quite upset for falling into that trap, so he was warning other writers to be careful what you sign away on your contracts -- you may live to regret it!

First time writers, novelists, screenwriters are prone to this --
they're so eager to finally get a deal that they end up giving far too much away! Learn from Harry Potter -- Rowling did a brilliant job holding onto those rights and made a billion. Learn from her! Learn from everyone who has walked down that path before us, lest we repeat their mistakes.

YTSL said...

"The Catcher in the Rye" made a big impact on me when I read it during the difficult teenage phase of my life -- as it did for many others. But I, for one, wouldn't want to read about "the ultimate alienated teenager... as a lonely old codger" and wonder who -- if anyone -- would have wanted to!

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Correction, James Patterson!

Chet said...

Actually, there are lots of people who take characters and write new stories about them and even have them published. It's called fan fiction. There are websites devoted to fan fiction. Star Trek comes to mind. Various other popular (or cult) TV series, too.

bibliobibuli said...

fanfiction is a whole genre in its own right, but most of it is on the internet and tolerated by the orig creators

Sheila DeChantal said...

I have never read the original.... I should.

I kind of like that they leave the classics alone. It is what makes them... classic.