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”.

Vampires in Volvos

One thing I love about being on holidays is catching up on my reading, and I’m finally doing Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, which I’m enjoying very much. The things that I’m liking most are (a) the atmosphere of the rainy peninsula town, (b) the clumsy lead character, and (c) the fact that the sexy vampire love interest drives a Volvo. I don’t know if this is some kind of mad irony–what with Volvo being widely considered as the safest car in the world–but I get a giggle every time that silver Volvo shows up because I used to drive one.

Not a vampire... honest

Not a vampire... honest

I have a feeling Bella is going to need more than SRS, ABS, and SIPS to save her (edited to add: I was right, and thank God she finally showed some spine and savvy in the last few chapters: saved the book). Sadly I sold the Volvo (or the Wolvo as we fondly called it) to my brother-in-law earlier this year and bought a distinctly undead-inappropriate Subaru Outback. Getting rid of the Volvo did, however, alleviate some of the problems we were having teaching my daughter the right word for a certain part of her anatomy.

I can certainly see why these books have been so popular, though they are not without their problems–both in execution and in ideology. But it is so very rare to just open a book, start reading, and not be tempted to put it down. That is an enormous skill in itself. Despite the glorious view over Queenstown that we have from our apartment, I have barely looked up all evening.