Copying the catcher

Posted in at 17:16 by RjZ

JD Salinger is unhappy. Apparently some hack has taken his Holden Caulfield character from the iconic book Catcher in the Rye and written a sequel, 60 Years Later: Coming through the Rye. Mr. Salinger apparently doesn’t believe that should be allowed and is suing.

I can’t say I think he’s got a case. Granted, Catcher isn’t the public domain yet, even though it was first published in 1951. The United States law is protected for the author’s lifetime plus another 70 years. That seems a bit generous to me, but it’s beside the point here. Obviously I haven’t read the book; it’s not published, but it seems that existing case law may already cover riffing on someone else’s idea. It’s called hip-hop music. If Coming through the Rye’s author used the idea of Holden Caulfield and explored that in a unique book, or sequel, how would that be seen as different from sampling in music? And should it be? Do we want to restrict creativity so far.

Mr. Salinger believes that all that Holden Caulfield is, is contained in his book. He’s entitled to that belief and need not read the sequel if it makes it out. Most anyone who reads Catcher, or nearly any other book, supplies their own epilogue. If this idea is creative enough to encourage others to buy it and read it, how is that harming Mr. Salinger? Protecting his brand and intellectual property is important. Authors need to be confident that their work will be protected and that their creations not devalued by others, but even, and if you follow the link above you will certainly get the implication that this is likely, if the author of the sequel creates a terrible book, it’s hard to see how this would significantly effect the status as part of American culture that Catcher enjoys. It might be even more fun to read if it’s bad!

What do you think?

1 Comment »

  1. Traveling Hypothesis » No sixty years later for Mr. C. said,

    July 1, 2009 at 17:01

    [...] a follow up to my previous post, it seems that, in the United States at least, there will be no sequel to Catcher in the Rye. Many [...]

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