PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Though he’s been hit with lawsuits and rebuffed by The Vatican, author Dan Brown says it’s not up to him to address the controversies stirred up by his book “The Da Vinci Code.”
He’s happy his best-selling novel about hidden religious history, secret societies and code-breaking has captured popular interest. The rest is not his responsibility.
“Let the biblical scholars and historians battle it out,” he said Sunday during a writers talk presented by New Hampshire Public Radio and The Music Hall of Portsmouth.
“It’s a book about big ideas, you can love them or you can hate them,” Brown said. “But we’re all talking about them, and that’s really the point.”
Whether debating religious theories expounded in “The Da Vinci Code,” or defending his work in a London courtroom, controversy is familiar territory for Brown, who even received harsh words from The Vatican for a plot line that suggests Jesus and Mary Magdalene married and had a child whose bloodline survives to this day.
Though media shy, Brown, of Rye, spoke Sunday during the sold-out talk, which was billed as his only public appearance before next month’s release of the movie version of “The Da Vinci Code,” starring Tom Hanks.
Without giving away any plot details, he did his best to sell the film to Sunday’s audience of 850.
“The movie version of “The Da Vinci Code is mesmerizing,” said Brown, who is listed as an executive producer in the credits. Watching the shoot for the author was like standing in the pages of the book.
“You just have to see it,” Brown said. “There are some wonderful additions, subtle, but you’ll know them.”
Audience members who hoped to catch a personal glimpse of the private author learned that when he’s struggling with a difficult plot point, Brown dangles from a pair of gravity boots to think it out – a habit adopted while figuring out anagrams for his book “Angels and Demons.”
The audience learned that the former prep school English teacher hopes one day to return to the classroom, and that he rarely reads his work when it’s done. “The Da Vinci Code” was an exception.
“When the galleys came back, I sat down and I read the novel start to finish in one sitting, and I was really happy, really proud of it,” Brown said.
The book sold more than 40 million hardcover copies in three years in print. The paperback edition sold half a million copies during its first week, prompting publisher Anchor Books to bump its initial printing from 5 million to 6 million.
Fans may have to wait a while for the sequel to “The Da Vinci Code,” which again features Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon as protagonist.
“I’m in no hurry,” Brown said. “I just have to write a great follow up and it’ll be done when it’s done.”
Brown also spoke about the absurd reality of sudden fame.
“I built a fence and it was headline news,” he said, referring to the six-foot high fence constructed recently around his Rye property.
“It was incredible.”
Earlier this month, a British court rejected a copyright infringement case brought against his publisher that claimed that “The Da Vinci Code” stole from an earlier, nonfiction work, “Holy Blood, Holy Grail.” For Brown, the controversy has become fodder for jokes.
“By the way if anybody in the audience would like to sue me, we have forms out back,” Brown said. “Just pick