The duo takes on Christian publishing — a veritable subject, though, in light of the various discussions on the Left Behind books and the upcoming Easter one, a slightly dated one. Unfortunately, the Book Babes come across as quite ignorant on the subject they’re writing about. Ellen declares that “The market for books with Christian themes has been a continuing motif in publishing for the past 10 years.” Well, that’s the understatement of the century. I could make a crack here about The Pilgrim’s Progress or the Gutenberg Bible, but instead I’ll just openly wonder about Ellen’s long-term memory. Has she not heard of Lloyd Douglas?
I also have grave doubts about The Da Vinci Code selling solely on its religious content (which Ellen herself even confesses). This was, after all, a book that Laura Bush deigned to read, published outside the Christian book industry. Likely, it was the dumbed down Umberto Eco style that captured reader interest. But did The Da Vinci Code generate the kind of born again fervor that The Passion did? Did pastors and preachers demand that their congregation buy and read The Da Vinci Code the same way that they played into Mel’s hands? Absolutely not. So why bother to include it? And beyond this, what do movies have to do with the “religious book market?”
Beyond this, there’s no mention of Jesus Christ Superstar or The Life of Brian or Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ or Jim Crace’s Quarantine. And that deserves a Special Badge of Honor for Cultural Blindness alone. If Jesus is appearing everywhere in art, it might also be helpful to mention the more subversive examples.
Ellen comes across as equally obtuse: “The millennium, 9/11, and the war in Iraq have all fueled people’s interest in books about prophecy and the afterlife.” Hey, Ellen, have you been paying attention to the raving fundamentalism going down this year? The gay marriage debate and the partial birth abortion bans? The National Park Service thing? Wake up, sister! They may have a teensy bit to do with this as well. And what’s with the “divide between liberal Christians and conservative Christians” horseshit? Next time you’re in San Francisco, I’ll be happy to sing “Ebony and Ivory” with you at The Mint. Are you coming out as a Christian or something? If so, these personal revelations have nothing to do with the state of the religious book market.
But it’s Margo who offers sui generis in the reading miscomprehension department: “Often, people who are bothered with the idea of faith — like Christopher Hitchens, they think themselves too smart to be hooked on the opiate of the masses — are fascinated by its citified cousins, philosophy and ethics.” Perhaps because they’re trying to understand it? Even so, if the Hitchens reference is meant as a disapproving flourish towards his takedown of The Passion, then Margo has missed the point of Hitchens’ essay completely. Not once in his essay did Hitchens call religion the “opiate of the masses.” He was referring to the film’s anti-Semitism.
Having failed to establish The Da Vinci Code as a centerpiece in the publishing industry, Margo then returns to it, offering an oblique reference to it as a thematic token of our culture, without offering a single example for her argument.
So what we get, as usual, is false rhetoric, empty unfocused arguments, and an inability to tie the article into previous takes on the subject.
Poynter, why are you encouraging this tautological thinking? The Book Babes have to go.