Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Sir Leigh

It's a tough choice, but the low point of the Da Vinci Code just has to be the portrayal of Sir Leigh Teabing. At the outset Brown manages the quite difficult feat of finding a surname that has not only never existed in a thousand years of English surnames but appears unprecedented, even impossible, in any language. He then goes on, with the American tin ear for English status, to describe Teabing's home - "an exquisitely [well, that's just poor writing] adorned [ditto] drawing room, softly lit by tassel-draped Victorian lamps. The air inside smelt antediluvian [which Brown vaguely thinks means 'old' - Victorian, even], regal somehow, with traces of pipe tobacco, tea leaves, cooking sherry, and the earthen aroma of stone architecture. Against the far wall, flanked between two glistening suits of chain mail armour [incidentally, the preferred usage is 'chain mail'; mail armour' is redundant], was a rough-hewn fireplace large enough to roast an ox."

The crowning touch, though, has to be that 'cooking sherry'. Sir Leigh is a millionare, has pretensions to being an aristocrat, and he drinks COOKING SHERRY? There was once actually a kind of sherry that was labelled cooking sherry - it had salt in it, and the idea was to stop the servants glugging it down on the sly - but the term's now used to describe cheap sherry that's undrinkable except when masked by gravy. Not, on the whole, the preferred tipple of the upper crust.
It's all of a piece; Brown works on the basis of degraded memories of past stereotypes, conjuring a vague fog of associations that give a comforting background hum and the illusion of scenepainting.

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