Death of an Author

In January JD Salinger died, and there's a lot of talk about what kind of literary legacy he might have left. He was reclusive and reluctant to publish, so there's speculation about piles of undiscovered manuscripts being brought to light now that his wishes need no longer be considered. This raises interesting questions about ownership, intellectual copyright, publicity. Should the work of deceased authors always be found and published? What about their letters? Their diaries? Do we have a right to read them? Do they have a right to prevent us?

There's also talk about film rights now that the stories are fair game. The Sydney Morning Herald this week published a kind of literary wrap-up that read like the New Yorker's Book Bench blog; it contained this gem:

If you really want to know the goddam truth, the news that Hollywood is trying to get its hands on the film rights to Catcher in the Rye just about kills me. It really does. Just on account of how some hotshot author died, and all, some crummy actor like ol' Jake Gyllenhaal is gonna end up playing me, Holden goddam Caulfield. Actors. Boy they irritate me. They really do. They're as phoney as hell. If I had a goddam gun to my head I would have to say that phoney ol' Tobey Maguire, or that goddam Harry Potter guy probably would be OK and all. At acting like crazy ol' me that is. It's crazy. But they'd do a good job. They really would. Wizards kill me. That Dumbledore. I'd like to meet him. Hey ol' Dumbledore. How ya doin', ol' Dumbledore? We'd just horse around and shoot the crap, me and ol' Dumbledore. What also kills me is that people forget that I turned 59 this year. So I don't wanna be played by any crummy ol' Leo DiCaprio who in my opinion is a very conceited character, or by that crazy Justin Bieber, either. I wanna be played by George goddam Clooney. Or that Cate Blanchett. She's terrific, she really is.