By Jack Engelhard
Someone has come along with a “sequel” to JD Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.” Salinger is suing to stop publication and distribution. He calls it a “rip-off.” Don’t look at me to get into the legalities. But I do know how it feels.
I wrote nothing as popular as “The Catcher in the Rye” but popular enough to be translated into more than 22 languages and to be made into a movie starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore – “Indecent Proposal.” (The movie’s box office was about $260 million worldwide.) The novel’s concept (“what would you do for a million dollars?”) was mine and the title was mine. This was original and it was my baby.
My novel sold about 4 million copies worldwide and still sells (through Comteq Publishing) even after the movie has run dry.
Salinger’s novel is still going strong after sales of 70 million.
Around the house, following the publication of “Indecent Proposal,” we used to say, “No matter what happens, they can’t take that away from you.”
About a year ago a “writer” decided to rip-off my title. She calls her book “Indecent Proposal.” I haven’t read the rip-off (the “book” itself) and I cannot say if my theme was borrowed. I can only speak of the title. I am told, by lawyers, that titles are not protected. Okay, that’s the legality. But what about respect – the unspoken rules that govern the tenderness of literature?
When I found out about this rip-off of my title I was upset. Now I’m still upset. I felt mugged then and I feel mugged now. Comes to this, I guess, which is: “Why come up with your own title? Borrow the title from a novel already famous and you’re in business fast.” No, getting ripped off doesn’t get better with age.
Salinger is 90 years old now and he’s still zealous of his “intellectual property.” Good for him!
“Imitation,” we’re told, “is the highest form of flattery.” Speaking for Salinger and for myself, thanks anyway, but we can do without the flattery.
Maybe we should feel pity for “writers” who are so feeble that they have no choice but to go scavenging after other people’s books – in my case, true, only the title.
But the title has been my claim to fame – if fame is the word we want in the case of all writers whose dreams and struggles never end.
Salinger’s claim to fame is “The Catcher in the Rye.” Salinger is a recluse. He doesn’t want to be near people. (Who can blame him?) He wants his privacy but people keep pursuing him. All right, pursue the man if we must. That’s the lesser evil. But to pursue his novel, that is the greater evil. A true novel, like any true work of art, is as near to holiness as we’ll ever get.
Salinger did not make the novel. The novel made Salinger.
I can say the same as for me and for “Indecent Proposal.”
Novelists invest time and blood into the work of a book and after that we have to fend off publishers, editors, reviewers and even friends who wish us to go splat.
That ought to be enough. We don’t need copycats on top of it all.
I have since published other novels just waiting for the vultures.
Salinger is quoted as saying that there is a “marvelous peace in not publishing.”
That is so damned true. The pleasure is only in the writing. That’s the heaven. After that comes the hell.
Novelist Jack Engelhard wrote the international bestselling novel “Indecent Proposal” that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. His latest novels are “The Bathsheba Deadline” and “The Girls of Cincinnati.” He can be reached at www.jackengelhard.com