cannot vouch for the accuracy of these conversational tidbits about Dan Brown and his new blockbuster, The Lost Symbol—or, for that matter, the veracity of the references to The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. Why? Because we've never even cracked the spines on those books. If you too have chosen to take a pass on this cultural phenomenon, here's how to appear well-versed when talk turns to Brown or his latest best-seller: Just drop any of these entirely believable, pretty intelligent-sounding, and possibly even true statements into conversation.

The title: The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown
The buzz: Sold 1 million copies on Day One, 2 million in its first week.
The hero: It's the third book with Harvard professor Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks in the movies).
The plot: On a trip to Washington, D.C., Langdon must solve an ancient mystery to rescue his mentor from a tattooed villain.

1. "Instead of playing out over a 24-hour period, like the other books, The Lost Symbol spans only 12 hours, which makes sense—you can read it in half the time it takes to watch a season of 24."

2. "The Lost Symbol is to The Da Vinci Code what Washington D.C. is to Rome—more boring, slower paced, and equally bereft of intelligent commentary."

3. "Sure, Dan Brown's a history buff and not an academic authority. But think about it: The guy's first career was making pop music on a synthesizer. And what is he now if not a pop synthesizer."

4. "Finding errors in Dan Brown's work is like shooting fish in a barrel—with a bazooka. . . . But I think we're all looking forward to seeing Tom Hanks get Tasered in the movie."

5. "Forget the outrage—Freemasons will be the big winners here. I mean, the genius of Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons was that they sold religious fervor to the masses in the guise of blasphemy. I bet Masonic membership goes up."

6. "The truth is, as much as this is about Freemasons and the New World, the plot still hinges on biblical—Old Testament—themes. Brown couldn't bring himself to sacrifice that."

7. "The thing about Brown's stories is that they actually are original. Even the courts have said so. Repeatedly—three times the guy's been sued for plagiarism, and three times he's won."

8. "Why is everyone talking about the Freemasons? The most interesting beef with Brown dates back to the Silas character in The Da Vinci Code—albinos felt he vilified them to the point there'd be a backlash against the pigmentless. Talk about white-male paranoia."

9. "This book is very different. Instead of making the villain an albino monk, this guy, Mal'akh, is covered in tattoos. And instead of practicing self-flagellation, he commits self-castration."