Will "The Lost Symbol" juggernaut revive the Freemasons?

One thing for sure: There is nothing subtle about the launch of a book by Dan Brown. Today, six years after "The Da Vinci Code" sold 80 million copies in 44 languages, Brown's latest, "The Lost Symbol" goes on sale.

The question is not: Will this book sell? Expectations are far larger than that. This time around what everyone's wondering is: Will Dan Brown save book publishing? (In other words, will Brown readers, after rushing to their local bookstores to snap up "The Lost Symbol," simultaneously pick up enough other books to make this a positive selling season?)

But there's another question floating around the blogosphere today as well and that is: Will Dan Brown revive the Freemasons?

In "The Lost Symbol," Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (star of "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons" as well) is recruited to find a legendary Masonic treasure.

The international, fraternal organization of the Freemasons – who have been around since the 1600s and once boasted celebrity members like George Washington and Mozart – have seen their numbers decline since the 1960s.  Today there are estimated to be about 3 million Freemasons worldwide.

Interest in them is not intense enough to turn "The Lost Symbol" into a book with the popularity of "The Da Vinci Code," predicts Los Angeles Times book editor Nick Owchar.  "It's hard to imagine anyone, after reading 'The Lost Symbol,' debating about Freemasonry in Washington, D.C., the way people did Brown's radical vision of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in 'Code,' " writes Owchar. "That book hit a deep cultural nerve for obvious reasons; 'The Lost Symbol' is more like the experience on any roller coaster – thrilling, entertaining and then it's over."

But Brown himself expects otherwise. "I have enormous respect for the Masons," he told the Associated Press during a recent interview. "In the most fundamental terms, with different cultures killing each other over whose version of God is correct, here is a worldwide organization that essentially says, `We don't care what you call God, or what you think about God, only that you believe in a god and let's all stand together as brothers and look in the same direction.' "

Brown's own prediction: "I think there will be an enormous number of people who will be interested in the Masons after this book [comes out]," he says.

Brown is not a Mason, although he says – given his admiration of their principles – that he was tempted to join. But "If you join the Masons you take a vow of secrecy," he told the AP. "I could not have written this book if I were a Mason."

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