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The Conspiracy Artist

Sam Anderson
"Sincerely, he wrote, signing off ..."
10/01/09 at 11:27

I was kind of hoping, when we started this discussion, that we would come up with a Grand Unified Theory of Dan Brown: some neat interpretive slug that would explain the whole phenomenon, conclusively, until the end of time.

In retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t.

I realize now that that was just my Dan Brown instinct kicking in: the urge to take one of the best-known things about our culture and by concocting a feel-good interpretive narrative about it make it instantly understandable to everyone in the world.

Instead, let’s conclude with this un-Brownian conclusion: Dan Brown is hard to understand. Yes: He uses too many adjectives, creates weirdly sexless villains, talks to us like a Teletubby, and scrambles world religions into a meaningless hash. But he also studied his craft with some of the era’s best writers, and he’s provided every last one of us if only unintentionally with real moments of narrative and intellectual joy. I hope you’ll at least agree that, even if he is one of the world’s worst writers, he’s also one of its most interesting writers, at least on a macro level. We could spend many more weeks trying to chart the aesthetic tides and riptides working in his books, and the way people either surf or get sucked under by them.

Regardless of how you ended up feeling about Dan Brown, let me just say that I’m extremely excited to have every last one of you back to do a Reading Room about every future book he publishes. (Don’t try to fight it: This was written into the contract you signed on the back of the sheet, in invisible ink, in Mayan rhyming code.)

With that, I would like to release you all from the occult sub-basement of the Dan Brown Reading Room. Thank you very much; you’ve been wonderful. You are now free to hurry to the nearest famous tourist monument and gaze out at the landscape with a dawning sense of hope. (I’m typing this, as the sun rises, from the viewing platform in the crown of the Statue of Liberty.)

As you know, all proceeds from this Reading Room will go to benefit children suffering from Turner Simkins Syndrome.

Sincerely, he wrote, signing off,

S