Allow me to present a hypothesis: Dan Brown is the Anne Hathaway of authors. Hard-working, serious about his craft (even if others aren't), with lots and lots of money to show for it. People eagerly devour his books, of course, partaking — happily, in most cases — of what he has to offer in terms of entertainment for the planet, regardless of what the reviewers have to say. He gets a lot of media attention. His agent and his publisher are probably quite thrilled. He throws himself into what he does in a no-holds barred fashion without fear of being thought a nerd or "uncool" (see turtlenecks and Tweed jackets). And along with his fame and the positive responses he gets, there are leagues of haters.
It is, in truth, fun to hate Dan Brown, for multitudinous reasons — he's so earnest. He takes himself so seriously! He can be judged superiorly as not a very "good" (like, MFA good, like intellectual good, like using metaphors properly good) writer. He makes so much money, sells ever so many books (in jealousy there is easy hate). He dresses his characters in his own clothes. He finds being a writer ever so hard; "brutal," in fact, much like Anne Hathaway's "lettuce diet" in preparation for her role in Le Mis. If Hathaway is "affected and actressy," Brown is "affected and writerly." He's an overachiever who doesn't mind people knowing about it. Not only does he work hard, he will plainly tell you how hard he works. Did you know he gets up every day to write at 4 a.m.?
Brown is also plagued with paparazzi whom he must forever try to outwit. (Hathaway is a pro at this!) For example, from The Wall Street Journal: When researching his latest book, Inferno, Dan Brown spent hours at various historical spots in Florence, Italy, where the book is set, just to throw people off the trail as they, he suspected, traced his footsteps and hung onto his every move hoping to find out what the book was going to be about ahead of time. All those trips to the Uffizi and to see Michelangelo's David were nothing but a ruse, hahahhahahahah. Yes, in his mind, Dan Brown has as many people chasing after him as does his main character. They will stop at nothing to figure out his plots, and to reveal them to the world. And maybe he's right! As Alexandra Alter writes in The Journal, Brown says, "If I'm trying to keep things secret, it's impossible to talk to these specialists without them saying, 'Oh, my God, you wouldn't believe who was here today and what he was asking.' These trips usually take longer than they should, because out of 10 things I see, five of them have nothing to do with the book. I'm constantly trying to keep people guessing as to what I'm doing."
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By setting his career in mysteries, the man becomes something of a mystery himself, or at least, he must think that way. Everyone who's anyone in secondary Dan Brown sub-publishing is trying to put out their guide to his next book, and to make theirs sell better than anyone else's. What's a guy to do? Act like you're your main character, practice subterfuge, and make sure that the translators of your international editions are kept in a bunker as they work so none of your secrets get out.
O.K., yes, Anne Hathaway doesn't practice subterfuge — or, actually, maybe she does. There was that secret sunset wedding, and her suddenly blonde hair, and what about her ex, Raffaello Follieri, "A smooth-talking Italian businessman who ... claimed to have friends in high places at the Vatican" (cough) and in 2008 went to prison after pleading guilty in a real estate fraud case in Manhattan? Hmmmm. The strange connections are such that I was inspired to google "Anne Hathaway" and "Dan Brown" for clues, and indeed, I found them in Internet cahoots, or at least sharing headline space. Curious.
But of course, the greatest similarity of all between the author and the actress is that their adoring public is divided so intensely, and maybe equally, between those who enjoy them outright and those who love to hate them. And further, that the haters really mean very little in terms of the success of these two; hating is just something people do, because people have to cope somehow. As for the hair, the clandestine missions, and the paparazzi evasions, those coincidences are merely clues. Does Hathaway have her own gravity table, from which she hangs upside down when she's artistically blocked? Only Robert Langdon, one would speculate, has the power to find out.
Inset Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP