Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Dan Brown phenomenon continues to amaze. What is it that has made The Da Vinci Code so universally popular? Is it because it is based on the search for the Holy Grail? Or, have readers found the conspiracy theory angle so appealing? Maybe, Brown has managed to find his readers’ pulse and the formula to send it racing. But, how does it explain the fact that his earlier book Angels and Demons had to piggyback on the popularity of his latest offering? Of course, the danger here is that it may lead to another John Grisham-style assembly line. Another explanation may be that the average reader (the author of this blog included) is a sucker for such ‘A-Dummy’s-Guide-to-French-Art’ kind of writing. It’s kind of like getting a free ticket to a Royal Philharmonic Orchestra concert — a classy night out sans the effort of going through the academic rigour of telling a harpsichord from a Hawaiian guitar. It’s the same phenomenon that had made Stephen Hawking’s super-dense A Brief History of Time such a bestseller. (Compared to Hawking’s rocket science, Brown’s is a paper plane exercise). Despite or because of this, the book has managed to soar right up to the top of numerous bestsellers’ lists and stay there. Brown’s publishers Doubleday have already sold 12 million copies. In fact, during two recent visits to Connaught Place, I had noticed people buying the Code at the roadside bookstalls. In fact, I even heard one of the bookwallahs give a rough outline of the plot to this lady, who had heard of the book and wanted to find out what the big hoo-ha was all about. She ended up buying both Code and Demons.
Last Sunday, I think for the first time in many weeks I noticed Code pushed to second position by Patricia Cornwell’s Trace on the NYT bestsellers’ list. And today, the Hindustan Times informed me that Brown has been accused of plagiarism. “Authors Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, who wrote the The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail and Lewis Perdue, the author of The Da Vinci Legacy, say that Brown borrowed heavily from their works and instead of doing his own research he just copied the research that had already been done by them.”
All I can say is that this bit of controversy will not be too unwelcome for Brown and the Code may just go on, as my friend Jai has pointed out in his blog, to perhaps (God forbid!) rival the Bible in popularity.

P.S. The blog would like to note the passing away of one of India’s major English novelists Mulk Raj Anand.

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