Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"In Sweden we don't sue people,"

In the first half of the twentieth century, artists and writers were testing the boundaries, desperate to find out how far they could go with their work. It's not suprising that somewhere along the way the inexcusable excuse "It's all been done before" came about-- and even less surprising that unauthorized sequels and revisionist fiction came about. To mixed results and with often questionable motive, classic stories have been touched by the unwashed hands of writers' seeking success. Unfortunately, not every work of this type has the merit, or respectability of work by Tom Stoppard or Gregory Maguire. The hateful rant begins here.

It appears that a Swedish author-- with the rather pretentious pen-name of J.D. California, pictured above-- has a first "serious" novel coming out in the U.S. soon entitled 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye. The book has already been released in the U.K. It focuses on two main characters; J.D. Salinger and a shamelessly undisguised Holden Caufield renamed Mr. C. In the book, Salinger-- actually intended to be the author-- is trying to kill his character before his own soon and inevitable death. In addition, the book begins with Mr. C leaving a retirement home (note the 60 years later in the title) and experiencing a series of events similar to those in Salinger's famous work.

Notable about Salinger, in addition to his literary accomplishments and reclusive nature, is that he has always kept a tight reign on his work. He has saw to it that none of his work has ever been adapted for stage or screen, despite that he has had whopping offers come in from everyone as high up as Steven Spielberg. In addition, Salinger has always keep a tight watch on his private life. Salinger tried to block publication of a biography featuring his letters, and expressed dissatisfaction about the publication of memoirs by both his ex-wife and daughter. In short-- Salinger comes out of his shell only when he or his work is threatened, and sues accordingly.

Apparently this well known fact escaped Mr. California (I refuse to call him by his real name. If he wants to look like a jackass, let him) because when asked for comment remarked that he was very surprised, issuing the rather imbecilic comic statement "In Sweden we don't sue people," California's surprise amounts to one of two things-- either he never researched Mr. Salinger for his book (in which, I repeat, he is a character) or he knew well what was going to happen and this entire court case is a stunt to sell copies-- which I frankly think is immediately evident upon hearing the synopsis for the novel. It would be difficult to conjure up a safer bet for a lawsuit, and publicity.

I have read all of Salinger's work in available print -- save those only available in the New Yorker's pricey digital fiction collection, and Slight Rebellion of Madison, included in an anthology entitled Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker -- and he is one of my favorite writers. Naturally I take offence to this development on a number of levels. First of all, Salinger is a frail ninety year old at this point, with a number of heath problems. His passing in not so far off that publication of such a work couldn't wait, and excitement and emotion surrounding the court cast is only going to expedite matters. As a fan of his work with the small hope that Salinger's unpublished fiction will see the light of day at the time of his passing, I'm in no rush to see him pass on should it mean the incompletion of a novel or story. Considering that Salinger's work focuses so on childhood, is there anyone with a respect for it that isn't interested in his insights into old age?

If that concern and hope weren't enough to hate this book from the onset there is also the simple fact that it reeks of a money grubbing scheme, desperate to take hold of Salinger's coat tales. J.D. California's name didn't given you enough indication of his character, this fiasco certainly does. The man undoubtably has no earnest respect for the book or the author whose back he's using to reach the first rungs on the latter of success. If he did, he wouldn't have written the work in Salinger's lifetime-- he certainly has time himself, being a writerly-young 33-- and he it wouldn't be such a slap in the face on top of things.

I thoroughly believe that Mr. J.D. California should be ashamed of himself, and his book being barred from publication isn't punishment enough. When one calls himself or herself an author by profession, I believe you are bound to respect the art form defining work that came before you. It doesn't have to be liked, but it must be appreciated. Those that have gumption to take such notable work for the basis as their own should only do so with the purist of artist interests in mind. Commercialism in fine in its own right, but not at the expense of slapping the great authors and writers in the face. On that note, kudos to Seth Gram-Smith for his success with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Maybe I'll read it when I've finally gotten around to the unrevised version.

Do you have any feelings about this court case? Do you think California is just doing this for publicity, or do you think he has a legitiment creative work?


Kiriska said...

Hahahaha, wow. Glorified fanfiction much? And for an author who's still alive, much less in the public domain. I'd call publicity stunt on this one, though there may still be the tiniest sliver of creative process buried in there somewhere. Behind the pretentious penname, maybe the guy actually really believes he's got something here.

I can tell how pissed you are by your number of spelling and word usage errors though. XD "Unsatisfaction"? Dissatisfaction. :)

Joe said...

I've been issuing malaprops and such all week long. It's been horrible.

CC44 said...

"Latter" of success ≠ "Ladder" of success

At any rate, based on the picture and the pen name, I'm inclined to call foul, but I don't find it to be an absolutely abhorrent idea, if only for the very reasons you stated, Joe, that Salinger focused so much on youth. Caufield is youth, it would be interesting to hear him as an old man, would it not? It would be more so if Salinger wrote it, certainly, but who knows? I'll not pass an absolute judgment, and I feel better about his name knowing he was born in California.