Friday, June 02, 2006

The Price of Publicity

By W. L. Elliott


It’s certainly the dream of every writer to become a household name. Most of those who do hit the big time work hard to gain such recognition. Once in a while, however, one of us lucks out and gets way more than they bargained for.

Anyone listening to the news lately will have seen a prime example of what I mean. I try very hard not to watch the news, but occasionally I end up hearing it anyway. The tip of the headline iceberg in the last week has been a rampant outcry about a certain book and its author. Of course, hearing the words “book” and “author”, my ears perked right up and listened hard.

It seems “The DaVinci Code” by Dan Brown has been causing quite a stir among religious intellectuals the world over.

I was not remotely interested in this particular book until this ruckus started. Just as I did with Harry Potter, I went looking to see for myself what all the fuss was about. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Mr. Brown’s book – this heathenistic propaganda - was, in fact, a work of fiction!

That’s right, fiction. Though there are elements in it that are borrowed from reality, the characters and plot are completely made up. The author tells you in a note at the beginning what is actual fact and that the rest is a figment of his imagination.

Yet here are religious leaders condemning this book for leading us all to hell. According to BBC news:

The Roman Catholic Church in Italy has spoken out against what it says are "shameful and unfounded lies" in the best-selling novel The DaVinci Code.

Even BYU professors have joined in the debate. BYU News said:

Three religious scholars from BYU, Richard Holzapfel, Thomas A. Wayment and Andrew Skinner, published a response to Brown's book at the end of April titled "What DaVinci Didn't Know: An LDS Perspective."

Uh, yeah. Maybe someone should explain the meaning of the word “fiction” to these people?

Meanwhile, Leonardo DaVinci is taking a veritable verbal beating. The poor man’s been dead for almost 500 years! He can’t quite speak up for himself. Frankly he shouldn’t have to—neither should Mr. Brown, but that’s another topic altogether.

I wonder how many people, like myself, heard the fuss and went to find out what it was really about. How many people had never heard of the book but ran out and bought it because of the news? It would be interesting to see the sales figures in direct relationship to the caustic media coverage.

As a Christian and a writer, I have only one thought:

You can’t buy publicity like that!

1 comment:

John Ferguson said...

I think the public outcry over a work of fiction is completely justified. There have been many times throughout history when a writer has turned to fiction to present ideas that would otherwise be untenable to the masses. Or when a work of fiction has changed the perspective of a people.

Just a few weeks ago there was a big stink in LDS cirles over the prime-time show "Big Love" which happens to portray a polygamist "family" that happens to live near SLC and happens to know a lot about the LDS church. LDS members were rightfully frustrated with the plot of the show because of what it portrays to the masses. Or, the movie a few years ago that featured homosexual missionaries.

I happen to believe that a good work of fiction can do more to convince people than some non-fiction because people aren't looking for a message, but they are absorbing it.

Now, I don't know what Dan Brown's motivations were. For all I know, he just wanted to tell a good story. I think he did a good job. And he did get an unbelievable amount of free publicity.