Holden Caulfield Weighs In


In June of last year, the reclusive J. D. Salinger, author of Catcher In the Rye, sued in federal court to prevent the sale of  60 Years Later – Coming Through the Rye,  by Swedish author Fredrik Colting. The novel’s main character, “Mr. C,” is  a 76 year-old version of Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, and its theme is the retrospective examination of his young life. The court issued an injunction prohibiting Colting from publishing, distributing, promoting or selling his novel in the United States, pending a trial on the merits.

Zick Rubin, a lawyer who specializes in publishing, copyright and trademark law here in the Boston area, thought that Holden Caulfield would have an opinion on the efforts of his creator to stop him from growing up. On his website, Rubin convinced Caulfield to write a guest editorial expressing that opinion. I am pleased to reproduce it below:

[copyright, Zick Rubin, Esquire]

That J.D. Salinger is strictly a pain in the ass. He makes me want to puke, if you want to know the truth.

Old J.D. never wanted me to grow up in the first place. The whole book is full of all that crap about my getting kicked out of Pencey Prep and getting drunk as a bastard and telling lies about having a tiny tumor on my brain and all. It’s probably the only Coming of Age book where the kid never comes of age. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to grow up. I’ve been 16 years old for about 60 lousy years. If you really want to know, I feel some concern for my future. I really do.

So this guy in Sweden wrote a book about what happened to me when I was about 75 years old. I would really like to read it. I’ll admit that the guy in Sweden is a total phony. He called himself “J.D. California,” for crying out loud. Big deal. I’d just like to see what it would be like to get older. That’s all I’m saying.

But old J.D. Salinger won’t let it happen. He’s 90 years old, for Chrissake, and he is so screwed-up about his crumby “Catcher in the Rye” that he won’t let anybody change a goddam word. I think he’s nervous as hell that people will think J.D. California is a better writer than he is.

So old J.D. went ahead and got some moron lawyer to sue J.D. California, and the judge said that J.D. California can’t publish his book about me because I’m copyrighted. I’m not kidding. If I want to read it, I need to go to goddam Sweden.

What really drove me crazy is that J.D. Salinger wouldn’t even let Steven Spielberg make a movie about me, even though Steven Spielberg really wanted to. It’s a funny thing, I hate movies like poison, but I would get a big bang out of it if Steven Spielberg made a movie about me – I admit it. That kid who played Harry Potter would be a terrific Holden Caulfield, if he could just get rid of that phony British accent.

But that sonuvabitch J.D. Salinger thinks he owns me and all. It’s making me so depressed and lonesome that I’ve got to do something about it. I really do.

If you really want to know, I’m going to testify for that phony from Sweden and I’m going to sue for custody of my sister Phoebe and I. My father, who is a corporation lawyer and used to haul it in before he got downsized last month, says that is crazy. But I’m going to do it because I would like to read that book before I am goddam 90 years old.


I think Zick nailed it.

Zick Rubin’s website has all sorts of helpful and interesting information on it, and he’s a fine gentleman who I look forward to getting to know better. Check it out!


12 Responses to “Holden Caulfield Weighs In”

  1. 1 Phillipa

    Strangely I’ve been thinking about sequels written after the original author has died lately, in particular the sequels to Gone With The Wind and Pride and Prejudice. I lean toward grumpy old Salinger’s position, I hate to say. The sequel to GWTW never captured the essence of Scarlett’s character and I don’t want to read the plethora of Austenese that keeps spewing out from somewhere. I would not like one of my characters to be taken over by another writer. It’s a very intense and personal relationship you build with your characters and you KNOW who they are – others can only speculate, and they won’t get it right. That’s from a creative point of view, but from an intellectual property point of view I’m on shakier ground. Holden Caulfield lives as a significant figure in Western culture, he does in a sense belong to us all, as Scarlett and Mickey Mouse do – but surely the creator has the right to say no to use of his creation?

    I’m off to look at Rubin’s site and have a bit more of a think.

  2. I agree with you, Phillipa — It’s pretty dry reading for non-lawyers, but the court’s decision provides an excellent review of the legal issues that control this type of dispute.

  3. 3 Marrakesh Bill

    Very insightful. Thought provoking and educational. Finally a blog with a purpose. Job well done!

  4. “Finally a blog with a purpose.”

    LOL, WTF?!?!?!?

  5. I would be protective of my characters too if I ever had the chance to actually see them in print and would want control over what happens with them but I think I would be a little more flexible than J.D but if I truly didn’t believe in a project than I would hope that I’d have the right to say “yeah, I don’t think so but thanks for asking.”

  6. I’ve not yet read the dry legalese much less the book that stars a Swedish Caulfield impersonator and I don’t play a lawyer in my dreams to say nothing of TV, but I can’t help but wonder what leg Salinger has to stand on. This other writer isn’t claiming to have created the character, right? Does every bit of fan-fiction have to be authorized by the creators of characters? At what point does something stop being fan fiction? When the writer gets an agent?

    I’m probably way off base, but I think old J.D. has done nothing but drive up sales for the other guy.

  7. Well Matt, it seems he does have a leg to stand on, because the court enjoined the book from being distributed or sold in the USA, which means the sales in the US are ZERO.

  8. LOL! It makes me want to reread Catcher. Salinger should be happy for the interest.

  9. 9 Phillipa

    I’ve plodded through the court decision and now I’m convinced. Salinger is right. In order to make the book work, the Swedish guy would have to re-present too much of the Catcher in the Rye. He would also presumably make money from the sales of the book and this – according to my possibly muddled reading of the decision – does not constitute fair use.

  10. 10 jmartinlibrarian

    Holy Guacamole. I did not know you had a blog. I’m glad I spied it on Cat’s blogroll.

    As for the brilliant guest editorial, I’m still smiling.

    I think it’s downright crumby that Holden is stuck playing Peter Pan forever. I’d love to see him meet a sticky end.

  11. Still operating somewhat on the stealth – call it a “soft opening.”

    I love how yo snuck in the “crumby” in your comment, if you want to know the truth.

  12. I guess it’s good that I decided not to go to law school. Thanks for the always informative posts, Peter.

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