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Dan Brown's Lost Art

Dan Brown's new book, launched at midnight, has sold more books in its first seconds than all the poetry books in the world will sell this month. Or than all the Booker books will sell this year. This is a fact - combined with his relatively artless prose - used to demonise Mr. Brown in certain quarters. But as a film buff and creative writing teacher, I have thought about this. What Brown does is eventing. That's right, a new genre title: eventing. That is, it isn't just writing, or entertainment, but creating an event. It's not just event publishing - the event is the sort of book it is. The use of plot, the style, is pre-cinematic, or post-cinematic, or maybe supra-cinematic - the book-as-movie-as-shared-experience. The popular interest means there is no use in saying it shouldn't be popular - it is popular. We can analyse why and how. But perhaps it is not a bad thing that it happens. I don't think it adds to literacy - people are not reading but consuming these books. But this kind of format, this hyper-fact and complex sort of engaging thing, makes a book an informative game. Borges knew this a while back. Most poets make books that are thoughtful games too. But Brown seems on a different sort of track. Should he be emulated? I say, go ahead. It is harder to combine elements like he does than it looks. Otherwise, there would be more such books. But then again, he has a niche, and the brand name, now, too. How many code-breaking books does anyone need? At least one more, I suspect.

Comments

Poetry Pleases! said…
Dear Todd

I wasn't going to touch Dan Brown until I read somewhere that he had really upset the Catholic church. The following day I went out and bought everything that he had ever written on the grounds that someone who upsets the Catholic church can't be all bad. When I finally got around to reading them I kind of enjoyed them too although his prose style does leave an awful lot to be desired. Glad to hear that your prognosis wasn't too bad.

Best wishes from Simon
Thoth Harris said…
Why don't you have as open a mind to Rowling? Or is your mind opening to the possible usefulness of all such similar books as Brown and Rowling. Todd, I hope you can see the virtue in people going out to read Rowling, even if it isn't as sophisticated as we might idealize! Anything that makes people curious and reads more might be good. But it is better, of course, if the bar is raised a little, too.
Dan Mitchell said…
Don Brown's art is a tart. You nailed it Mr. Swift.
I especially liked when you suggested "people are not reading but consuming these books."

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