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Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


Book News for Thursday, June 18, 2009

  • The Restraining Order In the Rye: Things are heating up in the legal battle against the novel 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye by "J D California."

    The author himself has acknowledged the book is an "unauthorized sequel" to J. D. Salinger's classic The Catcher in the Rye.

    (Memo to writers: If you call your work an unauthorized anything based on a still-in-copyright novel so popular that it's taught in every single school in the United States, make sure you're related to a really good lawyer who will work for free.)

    Now a New York judge has issued a temporary restraining order against the U.S. publication of the book.

    Salinger has sued to block the publication of 60 Years Later, by Swedish author Fredrik Colting, saying it is the equivalent of an unauthorized sequel; Colting's attorney did not dispute that the central character in 60 Years Later, called Mr. C, is meant to be an older Holden Caufield, the main character in Salinger's book. Colting's lawyer argued, however, that 60 Years Later provides meaningful criticism of Salinger and Caulfield, and therefore should be allowed to be published. But U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts said she had "difficulty" seeing that criticism.

    According to Publishers Weekly, "Batts's ruling is the first time that the Second Circuit has explicitly ruled that a single character from a single literary work is copyrightable."

    Of course, the real question is, will Salinger have to emerge from seclusion to testify on the stand if this case actually goes to trial? Stay tuned...

  • Wisconsin Book Death Trip: A Christian group in Wisconsin wants to set fire to copies of Francesca Lia Block's YA novel Baby Be-Bop.

    Since attempts to label the novel as "pornographic" have failed, the (somewhat shadowy) CCLU [Christian Civil Liberties Union] hopes to brand it as hate speech, in part because it contains the word "nigger." The complainants, described as "elderly" by the newspaper, claim that Block's novel is "explicitly vulgar, racial [sic] and anti-Christian." They want the library's copy not only removed but publicly burned.

    [...] "Baby Be-Bop," a title from the Weetzie Bat series that describes the youth of Weetzie's best friend, Dirk, is, in Block's words, "a very sweet, simple, coming-of-age story about a young man's discovery that he's gay." Dirk is beaten by gay bashers but steadfastly clings to the possibility of finding love. Block finds the disingenuous charges of racism particularly distressing. "Obviously I use those words, including 'faggot,' which is also in the book, to expose racism and homophobia, not promote it," she said. "It's a tiny little book," she added, "but they want to burn it like a witch."

    Here's my suggestion: let them have their burning. But charge tickets to come and burn a copy of the evil book full of juicy, gay evilness — then use the collected money to buy more copies of the book for the local libraries. The more copies purchased, the more money the publisher and Block make! We can just keep this fun, profitable cycle going forever.

Book News Round-up:

  • Entertainment Weekly has a gallery of five "leaked" posters from the forthcoming film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

    Last night I saw a poster at a movie theater and the usher pointed out that, the way certain letters of the title are obscured, it looks like the film is called "Try Pot." And you know what, he was right...

  • The New York Times tracks the 50 most frequently looked-up words on its website.

    Of course, dear readers, all of YOU already know the definitions of these words. It's the OTHER people who have to look them up.

  • The Penguin Publishing Group has just launched an online network that, according to Publishers Weekly, "will have three 'channels' — one each for video, audio and reading."
  • USA Today wrote the headline: "Book publishers make a move toward mobile to attract teens." Don't kill the messenger, people.
  • The Scarecrow author (and former newspaperman) Michael Connelly discusses his feelings on the current state of the newsprint industry: "Google doesn't kill newspapers. People kill newspapers."
  • Speaking of the devil... librarians aren't exactly thrilled about the Google settlement, and aren't using library voices when it comes to sharing their displeasure.
  • Proposals for not one, but two biographies of the late David Foster Wallace are making their way through publishing circles right now.

    One came from the journalist and critic D. T. Max, the other from Rolling Stone contributing editor David Lipsky. Both writers had published intimate, reported profiles of Wallace in the months following the author’s suicide, on Sept. 12, 2008, and both pieces had been enthusiastically received and widely discussed.

÷ ÷ ÷

Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.

The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Catcher in the Rye
    Sale Trade Paper $7.98
  2. 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye
    Used Trade Paper $8.95
  3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood...
    Used Hardcover $7.95

  4. Crime Beat: A Decade of Covering... Used Hardcover $3.95

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