Well, I started reading Origin by Dan Brown and suddenly I have realized again, why Brown is such a polarizing novelist. There are blogposts describing why he is complete shit and then there are diehard fans of his who swarm the bookstores as soon as his novels are launched. He literally started a whole new genre of nerdy professors solving mysteries in antique shops and museums.
I think I can agree with the literary critics who trash Dan Brown for who he is – an outsider to the craft of writing. He is certainly not the author of brilliant prose. But this post is not about that. I am here to tell you why we need Dan Brown. I feel reading as a hobby has taken some beatdowns over the past two decades or so. And now, the proud, bespectacled reader who finds his peers and discusses literature with them – is essentially lost. I am not saying he has gone extinct but we don’t hear about that sort of reader anymore. Now we have readers in the shape of book bloggers and instapoets. They write and read for demonstrative purposes alone. So, for these pretend readers, we have developed an army of pretend writers (hint: Chetan Bhagat). These “writers” when asked about favourite authors begin by saying, “Well, I don’t read much but…” and it is nauseating to the genuine audience.
Now, since we have a community developing on the sidelines of these book blogs and literature festivals, we need an author who can bridge the knowledge gap. This is where Dan Brown comes in. He doesn’t assume that the reader would be able to infer or research facts in his novel. He doesn’t rely on the reader’s mental prowess because he knows there is a good case it doesn’t exist. So, he spoonfeeds you with information. He takes breaks in his story and describes things and places in an encyclopedia-like manner. This is not essentially a disservice to literature. It is quite the opposite. It is like herding the sheep back to the fold. He is an accident messiah of all those who want to read but can’t read too much.
As an uninformed person in historical matters, I read Dan Brown for the fascinating nuggets of knowledge he wraps in the garb of storytelling. Maybe, we will see the readers of yore rise again. Maybe there will be people who read for the joy of it and read extensively. When that happens on a mass scale, trust me, the Dan Browns of the world will disappear but until then…