Saturday, March 18, 2006

Oh dear, this is very funny....

Hillel Italie at Yahoo News, "Dan Brown Court Papers Fascinate" (a short piece with telling excerpts from the witness statement in the lawsuit):

Brown had been raised on the Great Books, from Faulkner to Dostoevsky, but it was literature of a very different kind that inspired him to try fiction himself. On a fateful 1993 vacation to Tahiti, Brown brought along a copy of Sidney Sheldon's 'The Doomsday Conspiracy.'

'It held my attention, kept me turning pages, and reminded me how much fun it could be to read,' Brown writes. 'The simplicity of the prose and the efficiency of the story line was less cumbersome than the dense novels of my schooldays, and I began to suspect that maybe I could write a `thriller' of this type one day.'

He debuted in 1998 with 'The Digital Fortress,' an intelligence thriller, and followed with 'Deception Point' (a novel he found boring to write) and 'Angels & Demons,' the latter featuring Harvard University symbolist Robert Langdon, the protagonist of 'Da Vinci Code' and, Brown hopes, many more novels.

'I intend to make Robert Langdon my primary character for years to come,' Brown writes. 'His expertise in symbology and iconography affords him the luxury of potentially limitless adventures in exotic locales.'

"The dense novels of my schooldays"! If Dan Brown did not exist, we would have to invent him. Digital Fortress is the only book of his I've read (they are not so much my kind of thing); I did not think it a good book, but on the other hand I very much admired its pacing & indeed took back to my own novel in progress the idea that the chapters should be much shorter. He's not good on character and voice, but there's some strong storytelling stuff going on (does that sound impossibly condescending? the man's a bestseller after all!) that we might all learn something from.

(Link via ArtsJournal Publishing.)


  1. Where do you stand on DVC...? (Or maybe you've posted about it somewhere previously — probably...!)


  2. Never read it, actually--I think I had both DVC and DF from my dad who'd bought them out of curiosity in the airport in England before you could get them in PB here. They sat around for a while, I read DF because it's DEFINITELY more my kind of book than the other (technothriller > ageless religious conspiracy theory novel; I didn't even like "Foucault's Pendulum" much), and somehow there was always something more appealing even for the lightest of light reading.

    Dan Brown is definitely cut from the same cloth as John Grisham; they are both writing books with a strong narrative drive with a simplicity (non-elegant simplicity) of prose style and imagining that makes their books accessible to people reading, say, seventh- or eighth-grade level. Very undemanding. My own kind of undemanding fiction, the kind I read by preference, is stronger on character in particular and preferably on voice as well: and it is nice if it has a sense of humor too. The whole Charlaine Harris-Laurell K. Hamilton-Kelley Armstrong-Kim Harrison constellation of vampire fiction, for instance, is much more what I want to be reading on a plane.

    I don't think our time has a good equivalent for the best male-authored popular fiction of the 1970s. The best of Robert Ludlum is superb, and I would say the same for Dick Francis, although there's a quality differential between best and worst in both cases. I read really smart writers who I want to have be the equivalents (Peter Temple, Kevin Wignall), but it's really (this isn't just a golden-age argument!) as if there is not a place for the stuff. For the most part, I find the best stuff on the bestseller lists to be the fantasy-SF books by a long shot; Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson are just far, far superior (this doesn't even need saying) even to the better end of the crime stuff, with a few exceptions, and certainly than most of the other stuff...

    I feel there's a deep distortion around all these questions,though. Witness the way the NYTBR has taken to reviewing the most undemanding mass-market bestseller-type books that everyone is going to buy anyway, when what they surely really want is to be singling out the interesting but lesser-known stuff that is also commercial (i.e. non-'literary,' genre, less prestigious) but is as rich and rewarding to read as decent 'literary' fiction....

  3. I find John Grisham (in small doses) to be heaps more readable than Dan Brown, who has an absolute tin ear for dialogue and many irritating habits of sentence construction.

    Then again, you probably shouldn't listen to me, since I read & finished several Tom Clancy novels...