Literature as photoshop

On its first day of release, Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol sold over one million copies in e-book and hardcover, the fastest selling adult book in history.  Apparently, people are still reading.  Not really.  This bestseller, like the books of James Patterson or Clive Cussler, is the literary equivalent of all the photoshopped celebrities that you see in US Weekly or People.  A team of editors, agents, and spin masters in fact created the book.  The book, its words, do not mean anything at all.  It is all cut and paste and surface.  All image.  What matters is the movie version and the tie-in.  Reading the book is to prepare you for the viewing on screen. 

The Lost Symbol is and is not God.  It is and is not the Bible or the Koran or The Torah or the Vedas.  The Lost Symbol represents everything and nothing.  Full of meaning and empty.  Brown's book has been so carefully polished and buffed that it disappears in its own aura.  It could be argued that the book is aware of all this and comments on it, but the only sign that matters is the sign of currency in whatever denomination available.

My reading here is so obvious, so cliched, so vague, so like Brown's book in some ways, that it threatens to vanish itself.  So I think I will go home and pick up a copy of Bulletin from Nothing #1, published by Claude Pelieu and Mary Beach under the Beach Books imprint in 1965.  I will take it off the shelf, flip through its pages, take notice of its paper and print, think about its production and materiality, and read Burroughs contribution, Composite Text.  Little magazines like this are just one of many lost symbols in the media age of 21st Century.  Reading them is an act of faith.  So is creating them.   


Anonymous said...

"literary equivalent of all the photoshopped celebrities" -- great analogy. Ironically, the Bulletin from Nothing was really something, but the Lost Symbol is a great big nothing. (That's the sort of thing Warhol was wont to say...)

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