Last night, I went to an event at Lincoln Center celebrating Dan Brown–you may have heard of him? He wrote that book, the one about the Mona Lisa, called The DaVinci Code? There are movies with Tom Hanks. You’ve probably seen them.
Anyway, so he’s got a new book out--Inferno. My brilliant and creative husband has been handling a great deal of the marketing for the book (he came up with the line in the ad above!), so I went to the event in support of all the great work he’s been doing.
A reporter approached me as I was standing in the plaza outside Avery Fisher Hall, waiting for friends to arrive, and asked if I was there to see Dan Brown. I cautiously said yes, but then quickly added “But only in a professional capacity.” “So then you’re not a fan?” she asked. “Nope, sorry!” I felt bad, almost like I was selling the author out or something, but truthfully, I am just not the person she was looking to interview.
I tried to read The DaVinci Code back in the day, and I hated it. I couldn’t even finish it. To be honest, I found the writing pedantic. But, to be fair, my literary taste is not always the most representative of what the American public enjoys. Plot? If the writing is good enough, I don’t need it. Sometimes I don’t even want it. I don’t need mystery or intrigue or explosions. What I do need is good writing. But, that’s me, and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me.
Dan Brown is basically to the literary community what Guy Fieri has become to the restaurant community–a laughing stock. But notice I say “literary community,” which is a very specialized, mostly snobby and elitist (I count myself in this category), subset of voracious readers and writers. But for countless others, those who don’t write book reviews for national publications or snarky blogs, Dan Brown represents a great writer–someone who tells stories that keep them captivated and wanting more. Most importantly, stories that keep them reading and buying books–by the millions.
So, who am I to completely discount him, or any other popular writer for that matter (ahem E.L. James…), just because I don’t put literary stock in their work? There’s literature, and then there’s popular fiction. Many times, these intersect, but more often than not, the best sellers list is home to more mass market thrillers and fluffy romance novels than books of beautiful prose. And yes, that can be incredibly frustrating to both struggling writers and even moderately successful writers whose work is critically acclaimed, but largely ignored by the American public. But, as someone involved in this business of book publishing, I have to respect anyone who bolsters the industry and makes people more interested in reading books at all.
I did find myself wondering last night, though, hearing the multi-millionaire author responding to a question about negative reviews–is it worth the ridicule, the jealousy, the jokes, to simultaneously be one of the most successful yet most hated American authors? I guess, in the end, yes. (have you seen the guys house??) He’s obviously proud of his work, and has many, many fans, so why not?
Will I read the book? Probably not. But it was pretty cool to see him speak and I think his impact on the publishing industry is ultimately a good one.
What do you think?
This week started off tired, after having celebrated Joe’s birthday on Sunday, and then just escalated from there. I attended a reading series Monday night where I saw Claire Vaye Watkins, Sam Lipsyte, Amelia Gray, Toure, and Ben Greenberg at a lovely bar in Crown Heights (maybe more on that another time?), went to a writing group meeting, and then celebrated my own birthday, with a special birthday lunch at ABC Kitchen and then a home-cooked dinner (steak!), complete with yummy homemade margaritas. And this weekend promises to be a full one as well–Gatsby! Joint birthday party! Hair appointment! Mother’s Day!
What are YOU up to this weekend? I hope you’re looking forward to it as much as I’m looking forward to mine!
Best of the Looks:
I’m a sucker for yellow, but I especially love E of District of Chic’s skirt paired with a classic button-up, an edgy necklace, and a lovely belt.
Blair’s skirt is bananas. Love it.
REALLY tempted to buy these TOM’S wedges–anyone have them?
I should probably never wear anything with the name “tap shorts” but these are so cute!
A handy guide to bras.
Best of the Books:
Finally, women can stop competing with male writers! Hilarious.
What happens when we pull a switcheroo on gendered book covers?
A few literary TED talks.
My friend Jill writes about why she supports the Orange Prize (Women in Fiction).
Some great vintage New Yorker ads that echo the sentiments of Gatsby.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Gala is known as the party for fashion. Stars descend on the Museum like cicadas in summer, trying to outdo each other with the most stylish gowns, shoes, and jewelry. This year’s theme was Punk (ostensibly to highlight the new Punk exhibit opening this week–would definitely like to see!) and the guests ran with it for the most part, though some just didn’t seem to get the memo. Admittedly, the ladies who played it straight ended up being some of my favorite looks, but I also think it’s a very fine line between punk chic and punk heroin addict.
After clicking through multiple slide shows of the event, I wanted to highlight my favorites of the night, traditional as they may be. Which looks were your favorites?
I love the color combo on Ivanka Trump
Jennifer Lawrence’s birdcage veil and dark lip are just a shade of punk
I like the contrast of the simple top and the ornate bottom of Blake Lively’s gown
Normally, I’m not a fan of Gwyneth at all, but I do really like this dress, even if it’s the opposite of punk. (Maybe she thought the theme was pink?)
Kerry Washington’s gown is just the right balance of pretty and punk
I’m a sucker for deep green, and I love the pattern and the feathers of Kirsten Dunst’s gown
Michelle Williams’ look is a little basic, but I’m obsessed with how good her hair looks
The sun is out and it’s Friday, which means I’ve got an iced coffee and treated myself to a bagel (with peanut butter!) for breakfast. Life is good, and I’ve got a fun weekend ahead–it’s Joe’s birthday on Sunday! And now, links!
Best of the Looks:
I love Kayley of Sidewalk Ready’s flowy white dress with tan accents and wedges–perfect summer neutrals.
This style manual for employees of Abercrombie & Fitch makes my head hurt.
Some truly amazing prom photos of celebrities.
I loved reading this BookRiot post about Daisy’s diamonds in the Great Gatsby movie–I’m getting SO EXCITED for this movie!
Choosing the right sunglasses with the Effortless Chic.
Best of the Books:
A tale of one year without the Internet. It’s not what you think.
A round-up of NYC’s best bookstores.
The case of the American Women Novelists category at Wikipedia.
Beautiful bookplates by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
At Ploughshares, a call for new punctuation.
Happy weekend, all!
As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I’m currently re-reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler . It’s a childhood favorite that still holds up, many years later. Much has been written in the past week since the passing of E.L. Konigsburg, the book’s author. Simply summed up, if you read the book as a child, chances are very good that you treasure it, and if you didn’t–there’s still time.
To a kid, the book is magical. Claudia and Jamie Kincaid, in an act of rebellion from their staid lives in suburban Connecticut, plan an elaborate escape–to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A favorite passage:
Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not just be running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place.
They sleep in a giant antique bed and slip into school groups during the day. They pack their clothes in instrument cases and hide them in ancient funereal urns and behind ornate tapestries. They hide in bathroom stalls and under beds to escape museum guards and staff. They do laundry at laundromats and eat at automats, counting their pennies and always budgeting. They take baths in a giant fountain, where they also steal coins. In this scenario, Konigsburg manages to tap into the fantasies of almost every kid out there–to live a secret life by cover of night somewhere elegant and fascinating.
One year, in Girl Scouts, we took a bus to the Boston Museum of Science and slept there with a bunch of other Girl Scout troops. We brought sleeping bags and money to buy astronaut ice cream in the gift shop. Our group slept underneath a giant reproduction of the moon and I remember thinking how appropriate it was. We brushed our teeth in the men’s restroom because there were no men there–it was perhaps the first time I ever saw a urinal. This experience is seared into my memory unlike any other of my childhood, the rest of which is fairly fuzzy. The Museum of Science was one of my very favorite places, so full of fun exhibits and crazy things. I loved going there, and to sleep there, while no one else was around, to have the run of the museum after dark, was a special kind of magic. Konigsburg understood that feeling perfectly.
Claudia Kincaid is a fantastic character. She is smart, opinionated, and practical. She knows what she wants and how to get it. At the same time, she is generous with her little brother and becomes completely enamored by a mysterious new sculpture of unknown origin–a two-foot tall marble statue she calls Angel. It’s posited that it could be a creation of Michelangelo–Claudia and Jamie set out to find the truth.
Claudia’s style is put together, refined, and preppy. Here’s the look I picture her wearing:
Have you read this classic? What do you think of it?