I’m pretty good at that “willing suspension of disbelief” thing, being able to fall down a rabbit hole into a world where the laws of physics (and physiology) don’t quite work right, cause and effect are capriciously violated, people miss the obvious and interact in ways that, in the real world, would have me slowly backing out of the room and looking for the resident psychiatrist.
I developed the habit of picking up what I call “grocery store” novels after I began shopping for my mother when she became house-bound. She’d always been an avid reader of light fiction, so it was convenient to grab a paperback or two for her whenever I was in the store. Since I’ll read just about anything, I’d read them first.
These McBooks are good for a few hours of mindless escape from reality, so I’m willing to overlook cardboard characterizations, awkward phrasing, and some errors of fact. Similar to the WSoD, I willing to, on the meta level, accept that as part of the in-world experience. Yet sometimes it is difficult to overlook, jarring you out of world, making you gnash your teeth.
I bring this up because Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol has been released. Brown has become a sort of poster child for really bad but popularly successful writing. Geoffrey Pullum is noted (and criticized) for his criticism — “Dan Brown’s new one: where’s Pullum?“, “The Dan Brown code” — and I eagerly await his commentary.
Meanwhile, you might enjoy Steven Poole’s “Cradled in his palms” or the Telegraph UK’s “The Lost Symbol and The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown’s 20 worst sentences“.
The Telegraph article seems too hurried, a quick knock with some errors of it’s own; what I really like are the comments. My own snarky comments on these (and other comments elsewhere) …
You have no right to criticize because you, yourself, have not produced a best seller, so just shut up! — Usually followed by one or more ad hominem attacks. This idiotic “argument” grew old long ago, and I get more and more tired of it each time I see it, along with the companion argument that you shouldn’t criticize anything until you can offer a better replacement. Whiners.
You’re just jealous because you haven’t sold a bazillion books and made gazillions of dollars! — This one’s kinda old too. Anytime someone criticizes their betters (arg pov), it’s jealousy.
You’re an elitist snob, calling his readers stupid! — Usually defensive, often accompanied by the “WOOSH” of the original point going over the commenter’s head. Don’t forget that half the population is below average intelligence. (Contra, half the population is above average.)
I herewith present my somber, studied reply to these scurrilous allegations! — Urm, you do realize that the post is just an Internet top-20 list, perhaps somewhat humor-impaired itself?
I concede his style is terrible, but he creates a good story! — This at least makes sense, for some value of “good story”.
So, you ask, have I read any Dan Brown? Well, I think I have a copy of TDVC somewhere, so I probably read it. But I don’t read this stuff to remember it.
If this post gets any comments at all, I suspect they’ll be along the lines of “pot. kettle. black.” I willingly admit that I’m not a good writer, and shudder at the thought of how easily my writing can be eviscerated with a dull butter knife. Still, I enjoy it, and will continue to do so. Slice away.