Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

From The Guardian in London-

This is the first sentence of Angels and Demons (2000), the novel that launched "Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon" on an unsuspecting world: "Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own." Its sequel, 2003's The Da Vinci Code, begins as follows: "Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery." I expected Langdon's third outing to begin with something along the lines of: "Internationally admired administrator Jacobus von Pelzer felt the stiletto penetrate a spleen, which he knew was his, as he lurched through the Folger Shakespeare Library." But no. Restrained by the best editing that money can buy, Dan Brown opens The Lost Symbol with italics instead: "House of the Temple. 8:33 PM. The secret is how to die."

Brown, a former English teacher, became the face of American commercial fiction when he unexpectedly hit the jackpot with The Da Vinci Code. His formula - twist-filled treasure hunts in upmarket tourist locations, plus creepy villains and hefty dollops of pseudo-learning - was pretty slick. Yet his lack of writing skills soon made him perhaps the only novelist around whose work regularly gets picked apart in stand-up routines. Sample Brown sentences: "The room was dark. Medieval. Stone." "The eerie phone conversation had left him feeling turgid ... distended somehow. Not himself." Then there's his imaginative geography and history and use of exploded conspiracy theories, many of them labelled "FACT" in his opening pages. The authors of the 1980s conspiracy bestseller that provided The Da Vinci Code's key revelation took Brown to court, without success, in 2006.

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