GOOD

The Dan Brown Diversion

Some say 2009 will be the novel's best year ever-no thanks to The Lost Symbol. What makes literary news? A new Dan Brown...



Some say 2009 will be the novel's best year ever-no thanks to The Lost Symbol.


What makes literary news? A new Dan Brown novel! Brown, the ginormous bestseller, published his long-awaited follow-up to that most-cited book on "what did you last read?" online profiles, The Da Vinci Code. I do not have the heart to search for numbers of copies of The Lost Symbol sold, so let's just leave it at "more than one million." Even better, the book was going cheap. Against any logic I can muster in my musty artsy brain, The Lost Symbol was offered for 50 percent off the day it was released.

The mega-book series Harry Potter announced another blockbuster, too. A new ride, "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey," will be unveiled at Universal's Island of Adventure in Orlando next spring. It will cost $200 million dollars to create Hogsmeade station, Zonko's, and Honeyduke, "where you can purchase an array of jokes and gags and sweets." Hogwarts will be the "Parthenon of Orlando," said the art director. The castle will not be a Disney castle, he continues, but "very real, based in fact" (huh?). A literary themepark is not a new idea-you can already jump on the "Great Expectations Boat Ride" at Dickens World in Kent.

Everyone covers these literary spectacles: CNN, New York Times Book Review, US Magazine. Brown and Potterworld may be middlebrow forms of conspicuous consumption, or they may be release valves that siphon off the pressures of cultural elitism. They both probably deliver on their promises of a good ride.

What I dislike about the press surrounding these events is the sanctimony that often accompanies what is, at root, an exercise in money-making. Somehow, because The Lost Symbol and Harry Potter are books, they are seen as somehow better, purer even, than, say, a network sitcom or unsponsored roller coaster. And news of their release eclipses other new books.

You wouldn't know it watching the news, but a glut of incredible novels have been hitting the shelves all fall. This embarrassment of riches has led some, such as the Vroman's Bookstore blog, to claim 2009 as the "best book year ever." Better, even, than 1953 when Invisible Man beat out The Old Man and The Sea and East of Eden for the National Book Award.


Here is a partial list of excellent 2009 titles that aren't by Dan Brown:

Lorrie Moore's A Gate At The Stairs

Dan Chaon's Await Your Reply

E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley

Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice

There are more to be published later this month and in October (just wait until Richard Powers' Generosity comes out). The literary world is not lying down and giving in to easy reading. The contrary-the fall heavyweights seem to be lined up and ready to defend their corner. Bring on the Dan Brown. The American literary novel is alive and well-if not on CNN.

Articles
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
test
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics