Waiting for Mehta to Exhale at Dan Brown’s Big Book Party

A little after 8 o’clock on Monday, Sept. 14, Knopf Doubleday chairman Sonny Mehta walked outside Gotham Hall, where he was hosting a book party for Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, for a smoke.

The Transom asked Mr. Mehta, who was wearing an expertly tailored dark blue suit and carrying his thin wooden cane, what was the longest wait he’d ever had for something in his life. Mr. Brown took forever to finish The Lost Symbol, and it was not until after Mr. Mehta was put in charge of seeing the book through last winter that its reclusive author submitted a manuscript. “What have I had to wait for?” Mr. Mehta said. “I’ve actually been very lucky,” he said after 10 very long seconds. Then: “I’ve always done things in a rush, myself.”

Inside the hall, waiters brought around the kind of hors d’oeuvre that have not been served at a book party in a long time: mini-lobster BLTs, grilled shrimp, gazpacho shooters, etc.

Publicity honcho Suzanne Herz had gone big and cheeky with the decorations. Because The Lost Symbol is set in Washington, D.C., waiters were asked to endure the indignity of wearing white wigs. A towering cherry blossom decorated the open bar, and there was a cake in the shape of a White House. Etched on the walls was a set of phrases that might have struck some Doubleday staffers as meaningful. “There is no gain so sure as that which results from economizing what you have,” read one. “Having little you cannot risk loss; having much you should the more carefully protect it,” read another.