A federal judge in New York City has issued a ten-day restraining order blocking the U.S. publication of Fredrik Colting’s 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye. In her Wednesday ruling, judge Deborah Batts said she needed more time to determine whether the unauthorized sequel to The Catcher in the Rye was allowable under “fair use” provisions.
At issue is whether the new work—which Colting published in Sweden and the UK under the pseudonym J. D. California—departs from the 1951 original enough to be considered commentary or parody. Batts expressed skepticism toward the defense’s argument that 60 Years had been intended as a bit of wry literary criticism, saying that if any commentary was present in the book it was “not perceptible at all.” In a potentially precedent-setting decision, she ruled that the character of Holden Caulfield—whose voice Colting appropriates for the bulk of his narrative—was sufficiently well-delineated for Salinger to expect copyright protection. The Catcher in the Rye is “a portrait by words,” Batts said. “It is difficult in fact to separate Holden Caulfield from the book.”
Salinger was not present at the hearing. According to documents filed with the court by his attorneys, the ninety-year-old author—who is now completely deaf—is recovering from a broken hip sustained in May.
Wednesday’s restraining order, which Batts can renew for a further ten days if necessary, extends an earlier arrangement between the parties to delay the American release of 60 Years. Under the terms of a June 5 agreement, Colting and his publishers (Windupbird in the UK and Nicotext in Sweden) pledged to instruct their distributors—as well as online retailers Amazon and Waterstones—not to ship the book to the United States.