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How to party like Dan Brown

September 15, 2009 | 10:48 am


That's a blurry iPhone picture of Dan Brown standing at the mic, right, with longtime editor Jason Kaufman at Gotham Hall in New York on Monday night. The two men -- plus a few hundred friends and colleagues -- were celebrating the release of Brown's "The Lost Symbol" (read our review), which hits stores today.

As an L.A.-based journalist, I don't make it to a lot of New York book parties, but it's fair to say that this one was a bit on the fancy side. Brown's last novel, "The Da Vinci Code," was, they say, the biggest-selling novel ever, and the book party for its follow-up was commensurately fabulous.

Symbols from the book's cover were projected high on the walls. Catering staff wore bright white George Washington-style wigs. "Lost Symbol" cocktails were offered in oversized martini glasses, followed by champagne for toasting. Delicious finger snacks came by. A White House cake was on display, then sliced up for dessert.

If there are plenty of parties that have snacks and cake, such perks aren't always found in the book world, and the fleets of bewigged staffers made it all a bit surreal.

More important, Random House's biggest bigwigs -- Knopf-Doubleday Publisher Sonny Mehta and Random House CEO Markus Dohle -- were there, getting thanked by Brown from the stage.

And that perhaps was the most intriguing -- Brown seemed entirely comfortable behind the mic, speaking in front of this large crowd. Although he called himself "a guy who hates publicity," his onstage persona came across as someone who's got this publicity thing down. He cracked easy jokes, stood comfortably  and received round after round of appreciative applause.

What he said, mostly, was thank you. He thanked everyone in the food chain of his book, from his wife, Blythe, to his agent to the audiobook crew and the production staff. 

Sure, many of those people were in the room -- the higher-ups, at least -- and they all want this book to do well. There's a lot riding on "The Lost Symbol" -- 5 million copies were printed in its first publication run, a huge number -- and Doubleday and Random House could use the boost. Other publishing houses are eager for a kind of overflow enthusiasm for book-buying; the industry has been caught in a three-way crunch of new technologies, increasingly outmoded institutional structures and the lousy economy.

But if Brown's speech felt a little like one at the Oscars -- heartfelt but going on just a little too long -- the concern is that he's the only guy who's in the running. The movie industry couldn't survive on Meryl Streep alone; the publishing industry might benefit from nurturing more of its own demi-stars to fill out the program. 

As for Brown, I don't know what fabulous restaurant he might have gone to or which fabulous city he might have jetted off for after the event was over. When I left, he was still busy shaking hands.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo credit: Carolyn Kellogg