Mid-Week Prompt: A Novel Speech, Derailed (plus Dan Brown)

You’re supposed to be giving a speech, but your mind seizes. You look up at the massive crowd, frantic, and start reciting the contents of an alarming letter you received last week, instead.  

(In 500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring, feel free to post your stories in the Comments section of the blog.)

Hey writers,

Imagine: “Symbols from the book’s cover were projected high on the walls. Catering staff wore bright white George Washington-style wigs. Lost Symbol cocktails were offered in oversized martini glasses, followed by champagne for toasting. Delicious finger snacks came by. A White House cake was on display, then sliced up for dessert.”

Oddly, this wasn’t a Gatsby party, but rather Dan Brown’s book release soiree for The Lost Symbol, as documented by Los Angeles Times writer Carolyn Kellogg. (And for the record, Kellogg also said Brown was pretty great behind the mic, contrasting the fictive non-Brown based prompt above, which would be more likely to happen if it were, say, me up there.)

For many in the publishing industry, there’s a lot banking on Brown’s new book, which was released this week. Some see it as the book world’s potential savior, and its colossal output is undeniable—according to Bloomberg, it broke the preorder and Day 1 sales records for adult fiction, and the first U.S. print run was a hulking 5 million copies.

Reviews are in the positive–mixed range, with some citing Brown’s ability to weave a killer plot, and others bashing a lack of style. What do you think: What’s the secret to his success? Will it be what’s needed to pull the book biz out of a slump?

No matter what happens, I’m pumped to see the mainstream book world partying again, or at the very least, smiling, finger snacks in hand.

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5 thoughts on “Mid-Week Prompt: A Novel Speech, Derailed (plus Dan Brown)

  1. J. Alvey

    I have read Dan Brown and was frankly captivated by The Da Vinci Code. Why? I am sure that ‘style’ has something to do with it, although while reading it I paid no attention to ‘style’. No, I was fixated on the plot and the characters.

    I would say that Brown does a great job in developing his characters sufficiently that there are still questions about them, including the protagonist, although I suspect that will no longer be the case in this latest one. I do expect it to hold for other characters.

    Plot development is an even greater strength. The admixture of Brown’s imagination with history AND what some purport to be history makes for an intoxicating drink. While it is a simple task to provide a rather large list of authors who have succeeded in mixing history with fiction, the added element, the one that seems to intrigue us most, is the one having to do with the unknown, that which may or may not be history depending on whose history you are reading or believing.

    I frankly do not believe that Brown’s work to date will stand the test of time although, seguing to your second question, who is to say what will survive with respect and admiration in the digital age?

    In that regard, I would venture that the publishing companies are suffering now from the same hubris that has brought down a number of major financial institutions. The very parties you describe cry out as confirmation of this: institutional failure be damned! We are going to party tonight!

    In my view, what has brought down the publishing world has been a hubris that goes beyond the simple overdoing of it at a release party. What the internet has proven too many times to be ignored, even though it has been ignored, is that writers dismissed by the houses because they do not have cache or proper breeding or proper schooling or proper contacts can still appeal to a large population of interested readers if their work is up to it.

    The public will not read tripe, whether it is published by Random House or Fred the Writer. It has to be good, wherever it is published. But, if it is, it doesn’t matter where it is published or what the credentials of the writer are. It is a brave new world.

    It is apt not to be egalitarian, if you will, for long, as the media are already figuring out ways to regroup and to charge for what was originally intended as freely accessible content on the net. The publishing houses and the established authors are already figuring out how to lure people in with free chapters before requiring payment for additonal chapters, middles and ends.

    I predict that the publishing industry will survive, but within a new venue completely. Printed copies of books will soon be limited to the very rich, while most of us will accept that this is a ‘green’ thing and that it is good for the world. We, the readers, will acquiesce. We, the writers, will acquiesce.

    That said, there have always been rebels, self-published artists/authors, and that will continue unabated, even if it is forced, eventually, to become clandestine.

    Just some rambling. I AM looking forward to the new Brown book, just as soon as my son-in-law buys it, reads it, and then offers it to me.

    Take care,


  2. J. Alvey


    I am the baddest man on the planet. Ever’body know that and if they don’t know that I ain’t got no probs tellin’ ’em, I gots no probs remindin’ ’em. I am the baddest mu’fugger on de planet and don’t you ever forget it mu’fugger.

    Ain’t nobody else up here acceptin’ dis award, now is dere? No. It’s me, the baddest summabitch on this little fuggin’ planet.

    Boo yo damn ass off. I don’t care. I apologized, I done apologized for that minor what you call it, that indiscretion on my part, and that’s enough o’ that shit. I’m a genius mu’fugger, look at the body o’ de work, you know? You know what I’m sayin’?

    And, aw shit, I uh, listen up, hear? All I got, all I want, now listen uh, listen up, I just wanna say now, Boy, you due for a mighy ass whuppin’ time you get home I don’t mean maybe you ain’t too old for a good ol’ fashion ass whuppin’ and I’ll give it your sorry ass, I will, if you don’t go an’ say you sorry to that skinny little white girl, law’ knows she needs that award more than you or any little swallowtail you been tryin’ to impress, hell, that girl ain’t eat in a month of Sundays, as God’s my witness, she could use the damned ‘ward and the money so she could buy some damned food and it’s clear to anyone you don’t need no damn money nor damn food, boy, ain’t like you ain’t been eatin’, nosiree, and I tell you, you done mess up with your granma and you gonna pay for that with a good ass whuppin’ and I’m thinking I might even break that got-damned Michael Jackson nightlight make your ass sleep in the dark boy see how you like that for about a week I don’t care who you think you are you was raised better’n that gotdammit you hear me boy? You hear me boy? You jump up there in your own personal glory and embarrass that little white girl and embarrass your granma and your mamma, rest her soul, and your daddy whereever the hell he at, and all of us ‘at been supportin’ you in so many ways including the Lord, my savior, Jesus Christ, and gotdammit, I ain’t puttin’ up with that and you knows that you little peckerwood, and you best apologize ‘fore I

    Um, yo, folks, sorry, I’m, I’m, um, I’m sorry, my time is up. That’s my new rap. Just wrote it. Be on the next disc. Check it out. Love on ya all.