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JD Salinger sues JD California for Phony Sequel to Catcher in the Rye


JD Salinger is suing pseudonymous John David California
for penning an unauthorized sequel to Catcher in the Rye.  The 90-year-old reclusive author, currently living in New Hampshire, objects to California’s projection in which Holden Caulfield, at 76 years old, escapes from his retirement home and wanders the streets of New York City.


Salinger insists that if he wanted to write a sequel he would have, and that his wish and right is for his boy Holden to remain in vague and angsty adolescence.  The lawsuit rests on whether the sequel is considered a parody – a criticism or comment on the work and therefore kosher – or whether California is stealing Salinger’s ideas for his own personal profit.

As Salinger is still living, I think he has a right to protect his work.  (And I also pretty much accord with the first line of this Gawker entry about a previous attempt at a CITR sequel).  I don’t necessarily agree with posthumous literary houses arguing against sequels or parodies, and I believe famously guarded estates like Flannery O’Connor’s or Samuel Beckett’s do favor to neither the world nor the writer.  (Wouldn’t it be nice to see a Beckett play in which the characters weren’t all dressed like Buster Keaton?) But as long as JD holds stake in the phenomenal earth, if he doesn’t want us to picture Holden as a crumpled geriatric, he doesn’t have to.  And when he dies we can have as many “what if Holden Caulfield grew up and became a cult leader of a Utopian community in Burkina Fasso” riffs as we want.

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posted June 2, 2009 at 1:11 pm

I generally think copyright law is way too broadly applied, but this is one case where I agree that it is appropriate. Write your own characters, California. Don’t be gankin someone else’s fictional world.

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Lodro Rinzler

posted June 2, 2009 at 1:47 pm

I second gza’s comment. And personally I think that Holden should stay a teen fo eva.

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Julia May

posted June 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Definitely as it pertains specifically to that novel I agree with Lodro that Holden should only and always stay young. That’s the fricking point! Also, one of the worst things I did when I was fourteen was read “Scarlett”, the sequel to “Gone With The Wind,” which was at the time (I was only fourteen) a much beloved book. It was a. terrible, as expected but also b. crowded my mind with dumb images of Scarlett O’Hara going to Ireland.

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Jerry Kolber

posted June 2, 2009 at 5:14 pm

I love this idea and hope that JD California wins. Copyright law is meant to protect the work created from an idea from being reprinted and profited by others. It was never meant to be used as a bludgeon like this (or like Disney et al use it) – it was meant to encourage creators to create, knowing they would profit from their actual work and knowing full well that all ideas are derivative and part of the cultural soup. If an artist wants to riff on your art, what the F is wrong with that? It’s too bad that the general public’s understanding of copyright law has been so twisted by decades of corporate misdeeds.
I always thought of Alex in Clockwork Orange as a sequel to the little boy by the sea at the end of The Four Hundred Blows. But that’s just me.

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Janus Zeewier

posted June 3, 2009 at 3:30 am

I don’t like the idea. It is a serious lack of imagination. Holden being 76 is not a derivate, it is the same character. That’s not all. He uses New York, the wandering around, the escape. And i bet that this Mister C will ask himself where the ducks go in wintertime.
This sequel is an uninspired psychosis.

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posted June 3, 2009 at 10:41 am

I don’t think this is a riff, this is the same fictional world, an unauthorized sequel using the same characters. He is definitely profiting off of Salinger’s work.

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posted June 3, 2009 at 11:16 am

In exactly which play—besides Beckett’s own “Film,” are characters dressed like Buster Keaton?

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Julia May

posted June 3, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Waiting for Godot.
Krapp’s Last Tape.
Every one of those plays describes a tattered, 1930-ish style of tramp clothing like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films.

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posted June 3, 2009 at 7:15 pm

I don’t think JD California exists. I think this whole book/lawsuit etc. is some sort of elaborate joke. The author himself (California) is very fishy; held prisoner in Cambodia etc. etc. weird very weird.

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posted June 4, 2009 at 1:03 pm

No way. It’s like hashing up another version of a Bach Prelude or a Rembrandt. Bad idea.

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posted June 11, 2009 at 6:28 pm

I really hope that old Salinger loses in this case. I’m a huge fan of his, but he’s not allowing anyone to do ANYTHING with Catcher in the Rye and his other works. I’ve written a screenplay based on Catcher and it’ll never see the light of day if he doesn’t let up. He even turned Speilberg down. He’s just taking things way too far. Relax, buddy! You’ve written one of the most widely read books of the last century!

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posted June 12, 2009 at 11:35 am

It’s his work. If he doesn’t want other people using it and profiting from it, that’s his prerogative.

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posted March 25, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Holden’s reminiscences as well as observations
are short as well as to the point. Holden is sometimes, yet not for long, a little bitter,
as well as it may be he has a tendency to generalize from as well little proof (in this case his camel’s-hair layer had been stolen out of his room), yet he has actually seen as
well as done a whole lot for a 16-year-old, and also a
whole lot has been done to him. There is a great chapter in which Holden calls to claim good-by to
an ancient teacher, an unlovable Mr. Chips without knowledge or creativity.

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