Friday, November 29, 2013

A Recluse In The Internet Age

Author J.D. Salinger was known for his withdrawal as much as his classic work of fiction, THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. His retreat from publicity has now met the age of the Internet and he can roll over in his grave all he likes, but there is no going back.
J. D. Salinger

By most accounts, Mr. Salinger did not enjoy fame once it came to him after his debut novel was published, and he essentially went into hiding. He kept writing, of course, but did not publish everything, perhaps in an effort to maintain control over the product, or perhaps due to psychological issues relating to self-confidence. For whatever reason, some of his stories were never put into print, but ended up in Princeton's library for examination by scholars. The stories were not to be published until 2060, when the author's children would be long dead and anyone resembling one of the characters would be equally deceased.

In 1999, a collection of stories was published without Salinger's permission, but back in 1999, it was possible to go to court and order publication halted. The few books that existed became collectibles, for the enjoyment of those who could get their hands on a physical copy, but that was largely the extent of it.

One such copy was auctioned on eBay, and was purchased by someone who did not want the words of J. D. Salinger to be hidden.

Books are regularly scanned these days in the age of Google, and at some point, the unauthorized story collection was scanned and then turned into a pdf. Three stories in that file were posted on the Internet, and it is not just scholars at Princeton Library who can read them.

Suddenly, the illegally published works could be seen by anyone with Internet access, and as we all know, once something is in the ether, it's there forever, no matter how many court decrees ban publication.

Before Mr. Salinger died, he stipulated that those stories were not to be published, but how can his estate control what is uncontrollable? Sue the Internet?

It's possible that the author's estate could go after whoever posted the stories, but there is no erasing things in the digital world. No matter that Mr. Salinger wanted to delay the release of his words. The three short stories are released, unofficially, but there for the reading by anyone who wants to read more Salinger.

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