June 21, 2013
Nation shocked to learn that Dan Brown has bland taste in books
by Dustin Kurtz
Fires from the tumult of Thursday night are still raging across the hills of this shaken nation. The mobs of a disaffected and grieving public that swarmed through every city street have grown weary and hoarse. There’s no telling whether the relative peace of this morning will last, whether so much outrage can have faded so quickly, but for now, things are quiet.
It’s impossible to know after protest of this magnitude who was the first to abandon their car on the freeway, for instance, or the first of the many thousands who simply lay down where they were and wept. One thing we can know: it all began with a Dan Brown interview for the New York Times Book Review. The furor took hold slowly on Thursday, with only a few websites like Gawker picking up the news at first. Soon twitter began to react, with hashtags like #DanBrownisaFraud, #WhyBrownWhy, #DanBrownBarelyKnowsWhatABookIs and #ITriedIReallyDid. That last was a reference to the now-infamous portion of the interview in which Brown talks about being unable to finish William Faulkner‘s The Sound and the Fury.
What might be a minor point with anyone else—I’m sure many people, even many authors, prefer the Hardy Boys to William Faulkner—quickly became a firestorm. Brown is so widely read and has established such a spotless reputation as the most intelligent, creative, and difficult of authors, that to hear him celebrate Robert Ludlum and mention Malcolm Gladwell five times in a breath was for many people a deep and harrowing shock.
“My god who could have seen this coming?” one commenter said, as he walked past me, tears streaming down his face, on the sidewalk early this morning. “The man wore and talked about tweed so incessantly and in such baffling detail. I just assumed he was brilliant and read obscure amazing books.”
Some of the worst violence is reported to have erupted in university libraries where former students rushed in with flaming brands to destroy all physical evidence of their thousands upon thousands of dissertations on the allusive wealth to be found in Brown’s work. “I’m so ashamed,” Harold Bloom is reported to have said to a circle of fellow professors, his shirt rent into tatters. “How many years have I wasted on this man, teaching his work, singing his praise, kneeling before his dark shrine. And what do I get? The man’s favorite books are audio books while he jogs! That is not even reading!”
“Gladwell? one pithy commenter wrote in what looks like blood on an exterior wall of our offices. “Gladwell? Gladwell? Gladwell?”
The books Dan Brown cited as his favorites—among them the work of Madeline L’Engle, Tom Clancy, J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss—are not bad books. Some of them, particularly Dracula, are even quite good. But they are certainly not esoteric.
Dan Brown—a man looked up to as the most sophisticated and beloved writer of a generation, a man whose own idiom is so complex as to seem almost laughably bad and incoherent at times, known in the press simply as The Author, the man single-handedly responsible for Daniel being the most popular name for children of all genders around the world for the past two decades, that Dan Brown—has desperately bland taste in literature. It is almost as if he has not been playing a career-long complex game with his prose, as if his books were not coruscating gems of genius well hidden within thriller nonsense. It’s almost as if Dan Brown is, in fact, the writer he appears to be, and our marvel at his craft all these years, the proliferation of all these universities and avenues with his name, that card I sent him with the lock of my hair enclosed, have all been one huge mistake. It’s as if Dan Brown can’t help writing like that, and whatever the truth behind Brown’s boring book picks I think everyone in this mourning nation can agree: that is just too far-fetched
Dustin Kurtz is former marketing manager of Melville House.