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The Dan Brown Code

2013 May 16

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?

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