Da Vinci DaBS/MisFortunes of Writing/New Reading Places/Where’s the Fiction?/Kunitz Dead/Espada Talks/Caine Prize

May 16, 2006

Da Vinci DaBS
In little less than three years, The Da Vinci Code has sold more than 40 million copies, a book supposedly based on “meticulous research.” Yet the book owes more to fantasy than reality, a point that has me boycotting anything to do with the book. (I even took offense when Arthur Spiegelman for Reuters wrote: “To hear some people tell it, author Dan Brown stumbled on the literary equivalent of turning lead into gold.” The word literary in the same sentence with Dan Brown should be used only in jest. While the Code is a novel, it ain't literary. As Salman Rushdie said: It's typewriting.) The disclaimer is Million Little Pieces in reverse. The disclaimer rides on the more of hundreds of historical novelists who do carefully research their work and who never lead their readers to think of the work as anything but fiction. With the coming out of the movie, more individuals are talking up the fallacy represented as historical fiction even though individuals such as Mark Strauss (Truth & Error in the Da Vinci Code), Martin Lunn (Da Vinci Code Decoded), and Dan Burstein (Secrets of the Code) have written books debase the claims of the novel—the novel. Famed authors—long before The Da Vinci Code—was written, such as Umberto Eco, have voided anything remarkable about the Templar theory, it continues. Why does such baloney still fascinate us? J. Peder Zane with The News & Observer has a great observation—based more on fact than the novel. There is one major drawback to the Da Vinci Code's success and it has nothing to do with Dan Brown's literary abilities: It has spiked interest in the theological conservative (I prefer closed-minded) Opus Dei, according to Monsignor Javier Echevarria. The group has 85,000 members worldwide—about 84,000 too many.

The Fortunes and MisFortunes of Writing—The Potter Factor
When I was studying for my MFA at Goddard College, in Plainfield, VT (great place), a graduating student said that she was looking forward to seeing her book published. I congratulated on landing a publisher. “No. I don't have a publisher.” Great that you have an agent. “No. I don't have an agent.” I was puzzled. She explained that because she had the MFA, she would get published—making me wonder if graduate programs should put disclaimers on all “terminal” degrees—MFAs and MBAs included. In the case of writing, the problem seems universal. The success of that drivel called Harry Potter has spawned a new wave of writers of children's books—all thinking they will strike it rich. Mark Ravenhill has different thoughts.

Reading in New Places
In an effort to provide more to their employees, corporations, such as Microsoft, Boeing, Google, and Altria, are asking authors of fiction and non-fiction alike to readings during company lunch-hours. Authors are taking them up. Read about it in Motoko Rich's essay for the New York Times.

Where's the Fiction, NYTBR?
The blog Literary Salon is complaining again about the lack of fiction in the New York Times Book Review. While I would like to see more fiction in the review, I have a larger complaint about the lack of fiction in the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books, each covering such a slim amount of fiction one would think it was vanishing and that only political and economic polemics mattered.

Stanley Kunitz Dead
Former poet laureate of the United States and Pulitzer Prize winner, Stanley Kunitz died this past Sunday in Manhattan at the age of 100. He was 95 when he was named poet laureate.

Poet Martin Espada Answers Six Questions
The Jamaica Observer has posed six questions to Martin Espada, “the Pablo Neruda of North American authors.” The Brooklyn-born poet (now wonder I like him, being a Brooklynite myself) has published 13 books as a poet, editor, or translator. W.W. Norton is publishing his either book of poetry, The Republic of Poetry.

Shortlist for the Caine Prize
The prize committee of the Caine, also called the African Booker, has shortened the number of entries from 110 from 21 countries to five. They include Moorishgirl.com blogger Laila Lalami for The Fanatic, Darrel Birstow-Bovey for A Joburg Story, Mary Watson for her collection of short stories Moss, Sefi Atta for The Last Trip, and Muthoni Garland for Tracking the Scent of My Mother.


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