NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawsuit blocking publication of a purported “sequel” to J.D. Salinger’s classic novel “The Catcher in the Rye” will be reconsidered in federal court, but Salinger’s trustees are likely to prevail, an appeals court ruled Friday.
The unauthorized spin-off, “60 Years Later: Coming through the Rye,” was barred from publication in the United States after Salinger — who died in January at age 91 — last year sued its Swedish author Fredrik Colting, who writes under the name J.D. California.
Colting’s book is already available in other countries including Britain, where it is labeled on its cover as a sequel to “The Catcher in the Rye.”
In July, a judge in Manhattan federal court blocked the publication of Colting’s book.
Friday, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the federal court to determine whether Salinger’s trust will suffer irreparable harm from the publication of Colting’s book.
But in its ruling, the appeals court made clear it expected Salinger’s trust to prevail.
“Most of the matters relevant to Salinger’s likelihood of success on the merits are either undisputed or readily established in his favor,” the court ruled.
Salinger, a famous recluse whose 1951 novel is considered one of the great works of American literature, never submitted any deposition in the case. The book is a first-person narrative that relates teen-ager Holden Caulfield’s experiences in New York City after being expelled from an elite school.
Colting’s book begins with a character called Mr. C leaving a retirement home 60 years later. Both books end near a carousel in Central Park. Colting’s lawyers argued the book was literary commentary or parody.
During oral arguments last September, Judge Guido Calabresi suggested Colting’s work did not compare favorably to Salinger’s. The spin-off is “rather dismal piece of work if I may say,” he said.
Salinger’s lawyer Marcia Paul said her client had turned down offers from Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and director Steven Spielberg for a sequel. “Salinger does not want to authorize a sequel or a derivative,” she said.
A lawyer for Colting did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Beyond Colting, the other defendants were Swedish publisher Nicotext, Windupbird Publishing and SCB distributors.
Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Michelle Nichols and Eric Beech