Salinger Spin-off Blocked


I heard about this awhile back, and you know I’m never comfortable with people profiting from someone else’s efforts. (Full article available here:)
By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer Larry Neumeister, Associated Press Writer Wed Jul 1, 8:34 pm ET

NEW YORK – A Swedish author whose new book was promoted as a sequel to J.D. Salinger‘s “The Catcher in the Rye” cannot publish it in the United States because it too closely mirrors Salinger’s classic without adequate parody or critique, a judge ruled Wednesday.

How can this be called a “sequel”? J.D. Salinger did not pen it, nor endorse it, and while I’m sure he’s gratified that his book is known the world over, I can’t imagine any author being pleased that their book is being essentially copied for someone else’s gain:

She (U.S.  District Judge Deborah Batts) also rejected arguments that the depiction of a character in Colting’s book to represent Caulfield 60 years later was a parody. She said in a footnote that Colting and his publishers made no indication before the lawsuit was filed that the book was meant as a parody or critique of Salinger’s work.

“Quite to the contrary, the original jacket of ’60 Years’ states that it is ‘… a marvelous sequel to one of our most beloved classics,'” the judge said. “It is simply not credible for defendant Colting to assert now that this primary purpose was to critique Salinger and his persona.”

More derivative work, like the P&P&Z. I just think authors should have a say in who gets to profit from their work.

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7 thoughts on “Salinger Spin-off Blocked

  1. maryjblog says:

    You’re exactly right – “spin-off ” which calls to mind a cheap TV sitcom technique, is much more accurate in this case than “sequel.” That being said, you know I’m a big fan of Updike’s “Gertrude and Claudius,” which I usually describe as a prequel to “Hamlet,” even tho it is a highly original novel that is respectful of the source material, but makes you think about it in a whole new way. I guess that’s my balancing test, if the author is not around to claim his work: is it copying/mooching from the original, or adding to the way we think about it? Shakespeare, after all, bogarted most of his plots from Holinshed’s (sp?) Chronicles, but the way he told some fairly basic stories changed everything about the language, forever.

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  2. Digital Dame says:

    Updike didn’t take the same character and rehash what was written, though. He explored two characters in a whole new way. And Shakespeare’s work has been the inspiration for numerous movies, plays, books, and so on. It’s also been in the public domain for a long damn time. Salinger, on the other hand, is still with us, his work is still under copyright. We should respect that while the author still lives and breathes, at the very least.

    It’s one thing to borrow an idea, you can’t copyright ideas, but it sounds like this thing was outright plagiarism in parts. And I think the fact that Colting is being deceitful about whether his book is a “critique” or “parody” lends weight to the judge’s decision. Pick one, buddy, what was the intent? Parody/critique, or ‘sequel’?

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  3. Digital Dame says:

    It sounds like this thing would fall more into the category of fan-fiction anyway (and we all know how I feel about that), which unless I’m much mistaken is not legally publishable, at least not in this country.

    And now that it’s 90 degrees outside, I’m off to Powells to let my car cook in the sun while I pick up some books. Anybody need anything? 🙂

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  4. jennareynolds says:

    I had heard about this. Seems like this is becoming the de rigueur means for some writers to get an editor and/or agent’s attention. Take someone else’s characters and plot and write either a sequel or prequel for it.

    However, I have no problem with that if you’re working with something that is, as you noted, DD, in the public domain. But it’s crossing the line just a wee bit when said author you’re trying to spin off from is still alive! Unless said author gives you permission. I mean, really!

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  5. Digital Dame says:

    Seriously, it seems extreme hubris to think they’re going to turn out something of the same caliber, especially in this case. There have been plenty of attempts to write “sequels” to Pride & Prejudice, continuing on the story of Darcy and Lizzie, and to my knowledge they have all fallen flat. Even Jo Rowling, who has encouraged her fans in non-commercial attempts at HP fan fiction has moved to block the publication by one of an ‘encyclopedia’ of some kind about the world of her creations.

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