J.D. California is a Goddam Thief Who Ripped Me Off, Too

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is how some Swedish phony named Fredrik Colting wrote an unauthorized sequel to J.D. Salinger's famous bildungsroman, The Catcher in the Rye, under the pen name J.D. California, and how his lawyers, who are touchy as hell, had about two lawsuits apiece and are poised to ban it from publication in the U.S., and all that Holden Caulfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, because something similarly litigious happens every couple of years with Salinger, anyway, and in the second place, J.D. California also plagiarized me.

Where I want to start telling is the day I wrote a humor piece in April 2008 in McSweeney's called "The Catcher in the Retirement Home" to which California's novel is suspiciously similar. You probably heard of McSweeney's. You've probably seen their influence on 21st-century fiction, anyway. Their writers write in about a thousand literary magazines, always showing off some hotshot prose with an often twee sensibility that incorporates pastiche and balances sentimentality with irony and all.

Anyway, in both my and California's modern updates, Holden is a still-alienated septuagenarian who escapes from his retirement home. (In my version, he's quickly nabbed by a guard and forced to watch the Daytime Emmys with all the other lousy elderly bastards.)

But while Salinger's high-powered legal team is preventing California from plagiarizing him and the international press is covering the whole situation like it's the goddam Iranian elections and all, no one's protecting my intellectual property. Maybe it's because no one paid attention to it when it first appeared. People never notice anything online.

Not that I'd do much about it if I met Colting in person. I probably would say, "Okay. How 'bout crediting me with my humor piece that you blatantly copied?" Then he probably would say, his voice very innocent and Swedish and all, "What humor piece?" Then what I probably would do, I'd bring along a printout of my humor piece and show him and say, "I suppose this parodic narrative structure and setting is your goddam idea?" Then he'd say, "I never saw that humor piece before in my life. Are you calling me a plagiarist?" Then, instead of saying, "You're goddam right I am, you dirty crooked Kaavya Viswanathan!" all I probably would say is, "Nobody's calling anybody a plagiarist. All I know is my plot skeleton and character revision is in your goddam novel."

Now he's out in New Hampshire, J.D. Salinger, being a completely deaf recluse with age-related health problems, and he probably doesn't care about an 1,100-word parody on a Web site read by hipsters with retro glasses in San Francisco and Brooklyn. He's probably never even read anything by Dave Eggers and all, I mean.

That's all I'm going to tell about. About all I know is, I sort of miss everybody I told about. Even old Salinger and his lawyers, for instance. I think I even miss that bastard Colting. It's funny. Don't ever parody anybody famous. If you do, you start being plagiarized by every other hack.