A Serving of Brown Bryce

on Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I never thought I would say this. Indeed, my fingers quiver as I type. Here goes:

Thank God for Dan Brown and Bryce Courtenay.

There, I said it! Proudly. Yes, I am glad to say that fiction won out over D-Grade celebrity fauxmoirs and mass cultural reality TV dross in the battle for Christmas book sales in both the UK and Australia. While I would have preferred the new Orhan Pamuk to have topped the charts, I have had a small glint of faith rekindled in the future of literature.

Reports from the UK have heralded the triumph of Dan Brown's latest Robert Langdon (he of the Indiana Jones like propensities, but without anything remotely cool to help him along his way) pulp mill decimator The Lost Symbol over ghostwritten celebrity memoirs. It is difficult to fathom the importance of this news unless you pay attention to sales trends of Christmases past. These celebrity books have dominated for several years. But this year, neither Ant and Dec nor Delia Smith could find their ways into the Poms' stockings at anywhere near the rate of Mr. Brown. In fact, it was that old well-roasted chestnut The Guiness Book of Records that snatched second spot. Turns out that while people in England still love a pile of useless trivia, they prefer it of a general nature and not pertaining to any particular flash in the pan celebrity. Combined with the protest movement that saw Rage Against the Machine reclaim the number one music spot above X-factor's latest West End bit part player of the future, Joe McEldry, I'm starting to have second thoughts about advocating for a republic.

Here in Australia, reality TV's brightest star took a snuffing when Bryce Courtenay's latest tear-jerker, The Story of Danny Dunn edged out Masterchef Australia: The Cookbook Vol. 1 for the top spot. Actually, according to Nielsen Bookscan data, the collection of recipes from those culinary nobodies dropped to number 3 in the Christmas week thanks to (oh I can't believe I have to be thankful for this, but here I go again) Stephanie Meyer's Eclipse. Even if they aren't books that I would choose to read, I'm glad that Australians gave the gift of fiction above the many other Cash-In-For-Christmas options.


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