Read What You Damn Well Please

Okay, so while it may look as though this post is in defence of Dan Brown–an author who has sold a bazillion books and could probably buy a gold-plated helicopter–in fact it’s in defence of democratic principles. You may be aware that Brown’s new novel The Lost Symbol is out in the US today, about six years since he published The Da Vinci Code. This book is the very definition of “long-awaited”: both by readers and by snarky reviewers.

So it was with yawn-inducing predictability that this article warned readers not to be the kind of semi-literature lemmings who are “tempted” to buy it as there are so many books by “better writers” out there. The article then goes on to suggest a number of alternatives. Some of them look good; some of them, I’m certain, Dan Brown readers will have already found (Stieg Larsson’s for example). But some of them belong to the School of Wha…? Imagine this exchange in a book store:

CUSTOMER: Excuse me, I am looking for the new Dan Brown novel.
SALES ASSISTANT: I’m sorry, but we’re fresh out. However, I do have many copies of Paradise Lost still in stock.
CUSTOMER: Wonderful. I will take a copy as I am sure they will provide a similar reading experience.

Seriously: opinionated tosspots need to stop (a) bagging the common reader’s tastes, (b) assuming incorrectly that they know why the common reader reads the books they do, and (c) suggesting that the common reader read something a little less common as it would be Improving. I am reminded of the shoutline that appears on Umberto Eco’s official website regarding his book Foucualt’s Pendulum: it’s “a thinking man’s Da Vinci Code.” G’on admit it: you’re an unthinking woman aren’t you? You haven’t a clue what the Foucault a “Foucault” is and you quite like Dan Brown. For shame!

My point is this: read what you like and have your own opinions. And let’s take the guilt out of “guilty pleasures”.

15 responses to “Read What You Damn Well Please

  1. Nice to vent, Kim. I just left a rip-roaring vent on Facebook (see my swearing status post). Maybe not the most sensible thing to do, but heck, writers are expressive, right? God, I spend enough time online. I may as well tell it like it is. And yes, I’ll read what I bloody well want to also. Thanks for standing up for the common flower. See you at YON.
    Joanna, Dandelion Girl :))

  2. Huzzah!

    I’ve never read a Dan Brown, because I just don’t fancy the genre. However, if I wanted to read a Dan Brown, I sure as hell wouldn’t like to feel like I should be reading something ‘better’.

  3. I like the sort of thing Dan Brown writes about (blame it on the scars of a religious upbringing), I just don’t like the way he writes it.

    Millennium Season 2>>>> any other religious conspiracy/secret society story ever, but that’s just my opinion. Mr Brown’s clearly touched a nerve and done very well out of it, so good luck to him even if he can’t write for toffee🙂.

  4. Good on you, Kim! Tell it like it is I read whatever I damn well please and I don’t care a toss what people think You do write a lot better than Dan Brown, tho, you know that!
    Vicki

  5. Great rant! I agree with everything but one thing. I am a woman and I do know what (or rather who) the foucalt a Foucalt is… Furthermore – I’ve seen one of his pendulums (at the L.A Observatory) and I saw it because of Umberto Eco’s terrific novel. Carrying on from which “In The Name of the Rose” is another brilliant read – every bit as engaging transporting as ‘Da Vinci’ and ultimately more memorable. Now – Michel Foucalt – I can see how that might make for a disappointing read if you were expecting a little light D.B.

  6. Kim,
    I just finished reading your book Bloodlace. It was absolutely fantastic! It was the best novel that I have read in a long time. The book was well-structured and you put a lot of detail into it. It made me as the reader feel as if I was the main character (Gina). I really liked it because you could relate it to different parts of Australia. I think that you could turn the series into a fantastic set of films.😀

  7. It’s the age-old belief that the grass is greener on the other side. Except, maybe a bit more direct….

    In the dialogue that you used as an example above, I think there is more than one issue. Yes, the insult that there is something *better* than what you want is there. However, the practice of book recommendations in commercial environments is inevitable. Book shops want (strike that – NEED) a sale. I see nothing wrong in them recommending another book if it produces a sale and broadens the reader experience.

    That being said, I do agree that the presumption is insulting and derogatory. Unless they have developed acute extrasensory perception, the likelihood that any reviewer, critic or bookshop employee knowing you that intimately is slim to none.

  8. Absolutely agree, Kim! DB may not be a technically great writer, but clearly he’s a good read and he tells a ripping great story (esp for those of us who’ve had a heavenly-mindless upbringing).

    Meanwhile, many exceptionally written books remain on dusty shelves – because their story doesn’t grab the reader or keep them turning pages.

    Give me great writers who tell fabulous stories… It gives us struggling writers something to aspire to!

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