NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Wednesday temporarily halted publication of a novel using characters from J.D. Salinger’s classic “The Catcher in the Rye” written without the original author’s permission.
U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts issued a temporary restraining order against publication for 10 days at which time she would rule on whether to grant Salinger’s legal request to ban its publication in the United States.
The case involves a book entitled “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye” by a Swedish author, Fredrik Colting, written under the nom de plume John David California that was due to come out later this year.
The new work features a character named “Mr. C” based on Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of the 1951 classic.
Salinger, 90, who has lived for decades out of the public eye, sued this month to block its publication.
“This is a case where a sequel has been created without the author’s permission,” his lawyer, Marcia Paul, told the judge.
Paul said the case was about the right to keep Holden Caulfield “frozen” under Salinger’s copyright.
But a lawyer for Colting argued the book came under a fair use exception because it was literary commentary or parody.
“Over the past 60 years he may have become famous ... but that doesn’t make him a specially copyrighted character,” Edward Rosenthal said of Holden Caulfield.
“This book does comment on Catcher in the Rye and J.D. Salinger and Holden Caulfield,” Rosenthal said.
Colting’s book examined the fictional relationship between Salinger and Mr. C and was therefore not a sequel.
“The Catcher in the Rye” has been hailed as a classic coming-of-age novel and is commonly taught in American high schools. It begins with Caulfield leaving the boarding school he’s been kicked out of and spending a few days wandering around New York. Colting’s book begins with Mr. C leaving a retirement home 60 years later. Both end near a carousel in Central Park.
The judge called the books “substantially similar,” noting other characters contained in both books and similar sayings and settings including New York parks and museums.
But Rosenthal, who admitted that Mr. C was based on Caulfield, said Colting’s book was “not about what happened to Holden Caulfield but it is about J.D. Salinger trying to deal with this character.”
Salinger, who has health problems, was not present in court. Since publishing two novellas in 1963, the reclusive author has published little, although a former lover said he wrote every day and had completed two novels.
Apart from the author, other defendants are Swedish publisher Nicotext and Windupbird Publishing, which recently published the book in Britain.
Reporting by Christine Kearney; Editing by Alan Elsner and Daniel Trotta