Tuesday, April 11, 2006

One of those big questions.

Today on Publishers Weekly's Talkback Tuesday they ask, "With The Da Vinci Code racking up big paperback sales and with the book sure to receive another boost in May with the release of the film, this week’s question is... Why has The Da Vinci Code become the bestselling novel of the century?"

In my opinion there are a number of reasons:

  • It's a fast, easy read with short sentences and chapters that make the plot feel like it moves quickly.
  • It combined just enough fact with its fiction to make people feel like they were learning something but not in a preachy setting.
  • It was freakin' everywhere, man! I remember reading that a ton of ARCs were sent out, papering most bookstores (that's how I got my copy).
  • It came at a time where there was a crisis of faith in organized religion, what with all the scandal surrounding the Catholic Church.
  • It, like Harry Potter, came at a time where people wanted to retreat into a fantasy, wanted to have something they could disappear into.

What are your theories?


lady t said...

Timing is a key element here-some things just come out at the right moment and strike gold,while others flounder.

A good example is The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks. Last summer,the publishers tried every trick in the book to build up some hype for that sucker(still have an ARC buried in one of my massive book piles)and it did as good as Catwoman did at the box office.

On the other hand,The Historian was well promoted around the same time but did a heck of a lot better. One adavantage was having the author available for publicity gigs(that whole"off the grid" nonsense really sunk JTH) and another was damn good writing on a classic subject.

That brings me back to DVC,since the whole "hidden mystery" of Jesus and Mary Magdelene seems to be the selling point here. Folks like to learn something new but not in a dull,dry schoolroom way. It's one of the reasons historical fiction does so well.

jmc said...

Haven't read DVC yet (I think I've mentioned that before, haven't I?) and am resisting it. Friends are now pawning copies off on me because they are shocked. Jen, the reader of the circle, you haven't read this masterpiece? But you must! The harder they urge, the more I resist. It's the contrarian in me. Saw the trailer for the movie yesterday. Bleh.

Now that I've spewed that all out, back to your question. I think you and LadyT hit all the high points here. It was a matter of timing, a huge marketing push, a crisis of faith in the Catholic Church, and the "readability." To me, it is the publishing equivalent of Mel Gibson's Jesus movie: a mass market product that validates religion in popular culture and makes it cool, cloaked in the buffer of fiction.

Eileen said...

DVC was an interesting book. I read it over a weekend and really enjoyed it. Then re-read it to try and figure out how Brown did it- and didn't like it. I think he pulled people in and got them on a thriller treadmill- they couldn't stop and look to close at character motivation or dialogue because the story kept galloping onward. The inclusion of the "puzzles" allowed the reader to feel clever and engaged. My hat is off to the guy. He built a book that worked.

rosina said...

I agree that Brown built a book that worked -- the story has great rhythm and forward movement.

And it has a scandal of the first order. Jesus Christ and Mary Magadalene. Wowee.

And the issue of timing -- right place, right moment in the country's awareness.

But by dog, is it badly put together. Embarrassingly bad. Not just the dialogue and the prose, but simple logic. Why would a French scholar living in Europe write to his granddaughter in English? That first crucial note... he's in fear of his life... wait! Where's my French-English dictionary?!

Also, the plot was manipulative and the ending a cheat.

And of course he's laughing all the way to th bank.