The ruling came in yesterday: the judge in the case of Fredrik Colting, aka J.D. California, has extended her temporary injunction against the publication of 60 Years Later indefinitely. Pending the results of an appeal by Colting's lawyer, the book may never be published in America.
This is a defeat, perhaps, perhaps a victory, for artists and writers in this country. The book, according to the judge's reading, was nothing more than an unauthorized sequel to Catcher in the Rye. Colting claimed that it was a parody: Colting's "invention" of the "Salinger character" was, apparently, not enough of a marker of originality of intent for the judge. And perhaps it wasn't original (been done before, no?). Perhaps Salinger intended to write himself in to his own sequel to Catcher, or has in a discarded project. Maybe Colting's book really is a cynical ploy to make some money (given the other books in his list, it would come as, perhaps, no surprise). But the character of Holden Caulfield is not the property of Salinger or Colting, or anyone else for that matter, and the sooner we acknowledge that, the better.
"Caulfield" is an idea. If ideas are the fruit of human labor, then like fruit, they need first sun and nutrient and water to prosper. Their consumption is meant to provide the seed within them an avenue to ensure its reproduction. Birds come and eat the berries, the seeds in the berries are evacuated some distance away (having undergone a thorough fertilizing/incubation/germination process), from the seed sprouts a new vine, a year passes, more berries. Ideas are the same. Kept like treasures, they never sprout, are never fertilized, never reproduce. It is against nature. And yet, those seeds still hold the possibility of the process in them. Even as we try to hold back that process, its possibility is only eradicated with the passage of a great deal of time.
Update, 7/4/2009: Steven Gillis, over at the Emerging Writers Network blog, has had some impassioned things to say against Chris Anderson and his book Free of late. Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, lifted whole sections of his text from Wikipedia, without citation or attribution. This, of course, is plagiarism, and no matter how excited I might get about appropriation, this is never what I have in mind. Germination is vital to making the seed sprout, and the repurposing of appropriated material is important for the same reason-- without it, the seed is in the same position as it had been under lock and key: in danger of rotting and losing its potential to bring forth vines. To simply lift someone else's idea does the idea no good-- one has merely transferred "ownership." We activate new ideas by collating the old, appropriating them and repurposing them, not parroting them and calling them our own. That is called research. Without the giants, we're just dwarfs.
Further Update, 7/9/2009: Here's a link to a (poorly quoted or reproduced) piece (interview?) that Alejandro Jodorowsky wrote about "his" version of Frank Herbert's Dune, which did, actually, turn into Dino DeLaurentiis's version of Dune, directed by David Lynch. Particularly the first couple of paragraphs struck close to home, though maybe without all of Jodorowsky's trademark Rasputin-meets-Barnum hype.