Hoarding the ‘Holden’ Character

I love Catcher in the Rye … it’s a book I’ve read again and again, like a compulsion. Sometimes I actually miss Holden and want to revisit his almost-unwitting rebellious angst. I identify well with him, which is probably making you think I’ve taken leave of my senses.

Nevertheless, imagine my chagrin when learning that Salinger actually sued the writer and publisher of a sequel to Catcher in the Rye (https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090602/0734325094.shtml). I first read this while considering writing a sequel myself. I feel that this action is hoarding the character known and loved by so many, and is grossly ironic.  Here’s what I think … it was stupid AND short-sighted of Salinger. It’s also ironic because he did the very thing he/his estate is kiboshing.

Let’s take the Star Trek franchise as an example. Could we quantify the interest generated by the countless books written both in and around Star Trek canon?  Roddenberry didn’t squash such efforts to grace his brilliant sci-fi creation. I should think he found it a high form of praise regardless of whether he actually liked each tale spun by another. I know I would. Hell … if someone took something I wrote and expanded on it, even posthumously, why would I ever mess with that?

It begs the question … why did Salinger? And … further … if we’re going to argue copyright infringement, then who’s arguing for Robert Burns? What if Burns had been alive to squash use of the poem Salinger jacked for HIS story?

Thoughts?  Please comment … at least in this context we can discuss the work without some formerly reclusive dead guy’s estate suing us into oblivion.

~Kathe

©2016 Kathe Messina

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4 thoughts on “Hoarding the ‘Holden’ Character

  1. Interesting post. Salinger was known for his super private ways. While I was very curious about the “sequel” myself, I wasn’t surprised at all that Salinger and/or his estate would have jumped all over it. I’m also quite curious about the many, many manuscripts and drafts he wrote during his reclusive years that have never been published.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for contributing!

      For me, the more ‘ipsy’ one is, the less I can respect them. Had I had an opportunity to face Salinger, I would surely have shaken him where he stood! Holden was a character to be developed, followed, and explored, IMHO.

      ~ Kathe

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  2. If Salinger/the estate own the rights to the character, they certainly have the right to sue. There’s a difference between a theme / sci-fi universe (where the sky is not the limit, and anything can be created), and basing an entire book on a specific character, and profiting off of that character. And it goes further than that.

    Infringement isn’t just a matter of money; in the creative world, misuse of a character can likely distort the vision of its author. Author Fredrik Colting even called himself J. D. California. …I would think such character distortion would be difficult, though, in this case because the Salinger original is the only book the public really knows about in terms of the Holden character, and the character in the ‘sequel’ is a senior citizen (difficult to relate to the 17-year-old original).

    …Fan fiction, if mentioning the original (I don’t know if it did)… sort of enters a legal gray area… But this is all old news. Ha, old. The case was settled in 2011, where the Swedish publisher agreed to not sell the nursing home ‘sequel’ in the U.S. or Canada, among other things…

    Nevertheless, I will say that this was an interesting and well-articulated post, Kathe. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Leave it to you to go all “legal” Adam LOL !! Salinger is dead and guess what? Allowing ‘Holden’ to live on in another’s creative efforts would grace Salinger’s memory far more than all this legal crap.

      Like I said, Salinger did EXACTLY what his estate has squashed. He jacked Burns’ poem as the entire theme of his novel and got rich off it. Was it ok because Burns was dead?

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