An article in today's Washington Post talks about the impending Dan Brown Effect on Washington D.C., and especially on the Masonic sites of the House of the Temple and the George Washington Masonic Memorial. Comments by friends Heather Calloway, Brent Morris and Mark Tabbert.
"I'm expecting [tourism] to skyrocket," says Heather Calloway, director of special programs for the Masonic House of the Temple on 16th Street NW, which receives about 10,000 visitors a year. She will double the staff of part-time tour guides, if necessary, to handle the crush.
"We might have to spend the next 25 years responding to Dan Brown's fiction," says Mark Tabbert, director of collections at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria. "That's what I dread." (Think he's overstating? Wait until you hear from his European counterparts, who are still drowning in their own Brown invasions.)
Brown might be one of the best-sellingest authors of recent times (81 million copies for "Da Vinci"), but almost everyone agrees that, literarily, he stinks. The linguist Geoffrey Pullum once described his writing as "not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad," which might explain why in some circles, people brag about not having read "The Da Vinci Code."
Still, there is something exuberant about that preposterous prose. Brown's books contain everything the human brain thrives on: breakneck pacing, bite-size didja-knows, looming conspiracies, Scooby-Doo plot twists. His books are literary crack, or, in PG terms, they are Harry Potter for grown-ups . . . But his greatest achievement, arguably, is the outsize impact his fictitious novels have had on the cities in which they're set.
When Dan Brown comes to town, things get a little bit nutty.
Already, Old Town Trolley Tours is considering a Secret Symbols tour of Washington. Already, the Masonic Service Association in Silver Spring is readying a special truth-squad Web site to fact-check "The Lost Symbol."
"We're in the cross hairs," says S. Brent Morris, editor of the Scottish Rite Journal. "It could be good; it could be bad. We've decided to take a deep breath, take a chill pill and see what happens."