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For “Zealot” Author Reza Aslan, Fox News Debacle is the Gift that Keeps on Giving

With enemies like this, who needs friends?

Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, is still riding the publicity high from last week’s hostile interview with Fox News correspondent Lauren Green.

Zealot remains the top seller on Amazon and even Aslan’s older titles seem to have gotten a boost. His 2011 book, No god But God has displaced Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus as the bestselling book in Amazon’s general history of religion category.

And Aslan, until this week a successful but by no means “celebrity” author of serious nonfiction, has been packing venues, including Portland’s Powell’s Books last night. The Daily Beast reported:

Many of those who attended Aslan’s reading Tuesday, including McLean, hadn’t heard of the author before Fox’s clip. By the time they stuffed into the room, though, it was clear that they had not only heard of him, they’d been reading his book. Powell’s was all sold out of copies, came another announcement over the PA.

In case you missed the interview, Green repeatedly questioned why Aslan, a Muslim, would write a book about Jesus. Aslan repeatedly explained that he was, in addition to a Muslim, a PhD. scholar of religious history and that writing about Jesus was actually in his job description.

The interview went viral after Buzzfeed posted it under the headline, “Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?”

Since then, the publisher has scrambled to keep the book in stores. In a piece calling Reza the “Publishing World’s Newest Star,” the Atlantic Wire reported:

“We had 20K [copies] already scheduled to come in today since the book was selling before the weekend,” London King, the Deputy Director of Publicity at Random House, explained in an email to The Atlantic Wire. “We just went back for another 50K today because of what happened over the weekend and that will arrive at the end of this week. That brings the total up to 150K in print (as of now).”

The same piece quoted Aslan:

“It’s not even about me anymore, or whatever benefit the book may have had,” he said. “What’s fascinating is we’re having a serious public conversation about these heavy topics, like journalistic integrity and the role of faith in the marketplace of ideas and issues of who does and who does not have a right to talk about religion and faith.”

No word on how many book publicists have spent the week trying to get their authors booked on Fox.