Meanwhile, here I slog…

So, Brian Saint-Paul directs our attention to a fun dissection of the execrable prose of Dan Brown. Or, should I say, the “precarious” prose. Writes Brian:

Here are three personal favorites:

17. Deception Point, chapter 8: Overhanging her precarious body was a jaundiced face whose skin resembled a sheet of parchment paper punctured by two emotionless eyes. [The Telegraph's comment: "It’s not clear what Brown thinks 'precarious' means here."]

14. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 5: Only those with a keen eye would notice his 14-karat gold bishop’s ring with purple amethyst, large diamonds, and hand-tooled mitre-crozier appliqué. [And it took a downright Holmesian observer to catch his polished-platinum codpiece, with "Heartbreaker" spelled out in rubies.]

3. Angels and Demons, opening sentence: Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own. [See, that's why he's the physicist.]

Oh, for crying out loud, just send me the money you’d spend on this garbage, and I’ll put it to better use.

In fact, that’s a really good idea. Call it a political act (or a protest against egregious the literary injustice that millions read Brown and so few read O’ Connor) and donate the money you’d spend on any and all Dan Brown products to something worthwhile – a favorite charity, a parish outreach, or these beautiful sisters of the poor.

That’s truly constructive criticism and you get a blessing to boot!

I have pounded my head on this desk before.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Andy

    You’re right, that writing is atrocious.

  • Balthazar

    I found a copy of Digital Fortress on the ground in an airport garage…was bored, read it, then learned Dan was author of ‘dcode’…since have no desire to read it, or see movie…what a hack!

  • Bobfan

    This stuff is much funnier than any Bulwer-Lytton contest entries I’ve read.

  • John

    It was a dark and stormy night and the hero could tell because his pupils were dilated to adjust to the lack of any light, his fleshy skin was dampened by the torrents of wet watery rain that also flowed across the face of his gold oyster shell Rolex watch with laser beam bezel whose luxuriously crafted hands indicated the time was 1 in the morning, hence night.

  • MJ

    And, to think, some people thought the DaVinci Code was so wonderful. My dog could write better than Dan Brown!

  • DaveW

    I read the DaVinci code several years ago, before I converted, and I think it may be the last novel I read.

    I thought it was horribly written, sort of like the car chase movie meets the written word. It lurches from one unbelievably implausible scene to the next so quickly that I couldn’t get over the first before being confronted with the second (or 50th).

    I have no idea why it became a best seller. It is mind candy of the worst sort.

  • Miss Marple

    Anchoress, yesterday I read an article on the new book about the Queen Mother. So I toddled over to Amazon to pre-order it.

    Imagine my surprise when Amazon informed me that “Readers who ordered this book” also ordered Ted Kennedy’s autobiography and Dan Brown’s new novel!

    And “readers thought that if I liked” the Queen Mum’s book, I would like Seymour Hersh’s book on Abu Ghraib!

    I am tempted to order from Barnes and Noble.

  • JuliB

    They say that writing simply and in a concise manner is the most difficult of all. I am reminded of Isaac Asimov who was sparse but powerful in his prose.

    I find I cannot read most popular stuff, but my tastes run toi non-fiction anyway.

  • Myssi

    Dan Brown …. my least favorite author evah! I only read Digital Fortress and I kept trying to convince myself that it would get better. I was wrong and wasted 8 hours reading that book that I’ll never get back. But, at least I’m a fast reader.

  • Rich Fader

    They really do need to do a bad Dan Brown writing contest.

  • Eric

    Last month, I went on a business trip and took a used copy of “Angels and Demons” as (what I call) “idiot fiction.” As in you don’t need to think too hard.

    No kidding. The prose is awful and the plot is outlandish, well beyond the suspension of disbelief.

    I shant be reading “The Lost Symbol.”

  • Bobfan

    John, that was great!

  • Francesca

    Amen to all the comments. I received a copy of “The DaVinci Code” and promptly threw it in the garbage. I had already read what it was about. Just yuck.

  • cathyf

    Dave Barry had a pretty savage send-up of ole Danny boy from back when the DVC first came out. I can’t seem to find it right now, though — anybody else remember it who has better google-foo than me?

  • Gina

    I heard that he’s writing a book about the Orthodox next. Oh goodie, our turn.

  • Popcorn

    Here is Dave Barry’s parody of Dan Brown’s writing:

    `The Da Vinci Code,’ cracked
    by Dave Barry

    I have written a blockbuster novel. My inspiration was The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, which has sold 253 trillion copies in hardcover because it’s such a compelling page-turner. NOBODY can put this book down:

    MOTHER ON BEACH: Help! My child is being attacked by a shark!

    LIFEGUARD (looking up from The DaVinci Code: Not now! I just got to page 243, where it turns out that one of the men depicted in ”The Last Supper” is actually a woman!

    MOTHER: I know! Isn’t that incredible? And it turns out that she’s . . .

    SHARK (spitting out the child): Don’t give it away! I’m only on page 187!

    The key to The DaVinci Code is that it’s filled with startling plot twists, and almost every chapter ends with a ”cliffhanger,” so you have to keep reading to see what will happen. Using this formula, I wrote the following blockbuster novel, titled The Constitution Conundrum. It’s fairly short now, but when I get a huge publishing contract, I’ll flesh it out to 100,000 words by adding sentences.

    CHAPTER ONE: Handsome yet unmarried historian Hugh Heckman stood in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., squinting through the bulletproof glass at the U.S. Constitution. Suddenly, he made an amazing discovery.

    ”My God!” he said, out loud. “This is incredible! Soon I will say what it is.”

    CHAPTER TWO: ”What is it?” said a woman Heckman had never seen before who happened to be standing next to him. She was extremely beautiful, but wore glasses as a sign of intelligence.

    ”My name is Desiree Legume,” she said.

    Heckman felt he could trust her.

    ”Look at this!” he said, pointing to the Constitution.

    ”My God, that’s incredible!” said Desiree. “It’s going to be very surprising when we finally reveal what we’re talking about!”

    CHAPTER THREE: ”Yes,” said Hugh, “incredible as it seems, there are extra words written in the margin of the U.S. Constitution, and nobody ever noticed them until now! They appear to be in some kind of code.”

    ”Let me look,” said Desiree. “In addition to being gorgeous, I am a trained codebreaker. Oh my God!”

    ”What is it?” asked Hugh in an excited yet concerned tone of voice. ”The message,” said Desiree, “is . . . ”

    But just then, the chapter ended.

    CHAPTER FOUR: ”It’s a fiendishly clever code,” explained Desiree. ‘As you can see, the words say: `White House White House Bo Bite House, Banana Fana Fo Fite House, Fe Fi Mo Mite House, White House.’ ”

    ”Yes,” said Hugh, frowning in bafflement. “But what can it possibly mean?”

    ”If I am correct,” said Desiree, “it is referring to . . . the White House!”

    ”My God!” said Hugh. “That’s where the president lives! Do you think . . . ”

    ”Do I think what?” said Desiree.

    ”I don’t know,” said Hugh. “But we’re about to find out.”

    CHAPTER FIVE: Hugh and Desiree crouched in some bushes next to the Oval Office.

    ”We’d better hurry up and solve this mystery,” remarked Desiree anxiously. ”It’s only a matter of time before somebody notices that the Constitution is missing.” She had slipped it into her purse at the National Archives while the guard wasn’t looking.

    ”The answer must be here somewhere,” said Hugh, studying the ancient document, which was brown from age and the fact that he had spilled Diet Peach Snapple on it.

    ”Wait a minute!” he said. “I’ve got it!”

    ”What?” said Desiree, her breasts heaving into view.

    ”The answer!” said Hugh. “It’s . . .

    But just then, shots rang out.

    CHAPTER SIX: ”That was close!” remarked Desiree. “Fortunately, those shots had nothing to do with the plot of this book.”

    ”Yes,” said Hugh. “Anyway, as I was saying, the answer is to hold the Constitution up so that it is aligned with the White House and the Washington Monument. . . . There, do you see what I mean?”

    ”My God!” said Desiree, seeing what he meant. “It’s . . . ”

    ”Hold it right there,” said the president of the United States.

    CHAPTER SEVEN: ” . . . and so you see,” concluded the president, “you two uncovered a shocking and fascinating secret that, if it should ever get out, could change the course of history.”

    ”Mr. President,” said Desiree, “thank you for that riveting and satisfying explanation, which will be fleshed out into much greater detail once there is a publishing contract.”

    ”Also,” noted Hugh, “we may use some beverage other than Snapple, depending on what kind of product-placement deals can be worked out.”

    ”Good,” said the president. “Now can I have the Constitution back?”

    They all enjoyed a hearty laugh, for they knew that the movie rights were also available.

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  • Gail F

    It’s amazing how many people at the Telegraph site think that pointing out how bad the writing is, is elitism.

    It’s fine if you LIKE that kind of writing! But don’t pretend it’s good…

  • Todd

    It’s not a surprise that editors lay off the work of Famous Writers. It happens with other writers, usually the most popular ones. The thing with Dan Brown is that he’s everyone’s favorite whipping boy. If the problem is with poorly-written fiction, surely you can offer up other examples and call out a publisher or two. If the problem is with the content of the man’s books, then that argument deserves to be made, too. Otherwise, when you stir in the name-calling you get a munch of Catholic bloggers and commentators who just have a Dan Brown thing.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    It’s really amazing that someone who writes this poorly has made it to the best seller lists, and is considered, by some, to be the best author since Mark Twain.

    It kinda makes hay out of all those self-help books for writers! You know, the ones that tell you to create well-rounded characters, credible plots, goot dialogue. Naaah, you don’t need that! Cobble up a plot with lots of mysterious stuff about centuries-spanning conspiracies, the Pope, a famous historical figure or two (like Leonardo Da Vinci), and be sure to work in some mumbo-jumbo about the Knights Templars. Throw in a little action, a romance, and some urple-prose—and, voila, you’ve got your bestseller!

    Where’s Mark Twain, when you need him? (Probably up in Heaven, laughing himself silly right now!)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    The Dave Barry parody is hilarious.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Gail F., in these sad times, there are some who think we should pretend this stuff is good—so we don’t come off as too elitist, or whatever, and so we don’t bruise the author’s fragile self-esteem. (I’m sure Dan Brown sobs with grief over the fact people make fun of his prose—all the way to the bank!) Really, who are we, anyway, to say what’s good writing, and what isn’t? Are we elitist, colonialist effete snobs?

    Seriously,in some parts of our society today there’s suspicion, even resentment, of anyone who reads something other than the latest Gossip Girl clone, or politically correct biography of some icon, such as Che Guevara, or who dares point out this or that reigning emperor of the literary world is, well—buck naked!

  • Paul_In_Houston


    The key to The DaVinci Code is that it’s filled with startling plot twists, and almost every chapter ends with a ”cliffhanger,” so you have to keep reading to see what will happen.
    ~ Dave Barry (or SHARK?)

    Right there is what made me read it to the end (and actually enjoyed it a bit (JUST A BIT) while reading it).

    But, I had no interest whatever in re-reading it (and I am a passionate re-reader of books I like), and also had no interest in sampling any of his other works (also something I do when I really like a book).

    As they say about Chinese food, afterwards I was still hungry.


  • newton

    And then, there’s the “Angels and Demons” special on the History Channel… AAARRRGGHHH!

  • MissJean

    “Otherwise, when you stir in the name-calling you get a munch of Catholic bloggers and commentators who just have a Dan Brown thing.”

    I always wondered what a group of bloggers was called. A “munch”, eh?

    Hee hee.

    Seriously, I agree that the problem is the content, specifically the distortion of history. Last summer (as some here may recall), I took a history class in which the professor – yes, a real PhD – say that he never knew how to look at Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” until he read Dan Brown’s book.

    For me, it’s not just the prose. It’s the formula, which is direct from a Writer’s Digest book called (as I recall) “How to Write a Blockbuster Novel”. Frankly, it’s given me a lot of hope about my own writing project, since I’m using a formula myself.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    A “Munch” of bloggers? I like that.

    Seriously, you don’t have to be Catholic not to like Dan Brown. His historical distortions, and mangling of the English language can, and do, set lots of people off!

    The whole success of the “blockbuster” novel depresses me, rather than gives me hope. As I said in an earlier post, Da Vinci Code’s success kinda puts the lie to all those writerly self-help books, which urge writers to caft likeable characters, believable plots and brush up on their dialogue. Naw, just write blockbusterly! That’s what readers, and editors, really want! And Dan Brown, alas, shows no sign of ceasing to churn this stuff out!