Friday 21 August 2009

Dan Brown, Oxfam Star

Frank Wilson has a few telling thoughts about Dan Brown and links to an interesting longer piece. I rather doubt if Dan Brown's books (if that is what they are) will be on many people's shelves too far into the future. He might prove to be one of those megasellers whose success baffles future generations - like, say, Marie Corelli or Hall Caine - because their works too precisely reflect the preoccupations of their time (in Brown's case a post-9/11 need to decode some simple deeper meaning below the surface of events). There's perhaps some evidence that Brown's books aren't for keeping in the fact that they are the most commonly donated to Oxfam shops. Does anyone reread Brown, I wonder? It's interesting that Ian Rankin still outsells him in Oxfam shops - and odd that so few of the authors on the most donated list are also among the top sellers. Presumably their books are quietly disposed of...


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  2. Hmnn, the article in the Telegraph says that Oxfam's annual sales of second-hand books raise "around £1.6 million each month" or "enough to buy ... 64,000 goats". That's about 750,000 a year and, however you cut it, a lot of goats. A strange, even frightening idea since books depend on paper but my understanding is that goats are responsible for massive deforestation so presumably make paper scarcer.

  3. Someone in the Oxfam back office must have a thing about goats cheese and 375000 of 'em could produce a tidy pile.

    And Frank, the law of unintended consequences applies most definitely to Brown's head scratcher. The town of Penicuik was, how can it be described without giving offence, populated by blowing tumbleweed and best driven through in convoy, plod certainly did.
    In parachutes Hanksy and that ephemeral French broad, out comes the movie, in come the tourists, hoards of them, the incoming cash emptied the local pawnbrokers in short order.
    One of the most boring movies ever, goodness knows how bad the book is.

  4. I would feed Dan Brown direct to the goats. They'll eat anything.

  5. Does anyone reread Brown, I wonder?

    Oh yes. The first read-through is such a rapid thrill ride that you're bound to miss some of the nuances of the rich, sumptuous prose, and will have to go back a second time to properly luxuriate in it.

    "The famous man looked at the red book".

  6. The tricky part about Brown-trashing is figuring out how to do it without the friends you assumed would agree declaiming defensively and angrily that they find him very profound and "realisitc" and suggesting you are a pompous toff. Broken friendships and family feuds just aren't worth it, so it is better to act like you are criticizing Joyce and just say that you've tried his novels several times, but gave up after fifty pages because he was just too damn deep and inscrutable for you.

  7. Catherine Cookson used to be the champion of library loans in the North East, along with Agatha Christie. I suspect if a survey was conducted into which books are most often given to charity shops Richard Adams "Shardik" would be near the top of the list, I see it in practically every second hand/charity shop I visit.

  8. wouldn't it be the most satisfyingly great postmodern magical realism ever to wake up in the morning and find that you were the Kathy Bates character in Misery, and Dan Brown was in the spare room, strapped to the bed?

  9. "... a post-9/11 need to decode some simple deeper meaning below the surface of events." Probably, Nige, best explanations yet for the book's popularity (apart from a very carefully planned and executed publicity campaign by the publishers). And you are quite right, Malty. I had to attend a screening of the film - I was still a book editor at the time - and was astounded that it was even more boring than the book (though Ian McKellen's camping it up made it somewhat entertaining).

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