Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Friday, September 18, 2009

Brown stains

Turning to the latest Dan Brown...
And overcoming the instant disappointment that he's changed the previously invariable pattern of his first sentences...
it's still just as gloriously crappy as it ever was.
Langdon sat up straight and slid his lecture notes back into his leather daybag. He’d been halfway through reviewing Masonic symbology when his mind had drifted. The daydream about his late father, Langdon suspected, had been stirred by this morning’s unexpected invitation from Langdon’s longtime mentor, Peter Solomon.
The other man I never want to disappoint.
The fifty-eight-year-old philanthropist, historian, and scientist had taken Langdon under his wing nearly thirty years ago, in many ways filling the void left by Langdon’s father’s death. Despite the man’s influential family dynasty and massive wealth, Langdon had found humility and warmth in Solomon’s soft gray eyes.
Outside the window the sun had set, but Langdon could still make out the slender silhouette of the world’s largest obelisk, rising on the horizon like the spire of an ancient gnomon. The 555-foot marble-faced obelisk marked this nation’s heart. All around the spire, the meticulous geometry of streets and monuments radiated outward.
Even from the air, Washington, D.C., exuded an almost mystical power.
Langdon loved this city, and as the jet touched down, he felt a rising excitement about what lay ahead. The jet taxied to a private terminal somewhere in the vast expanse of Dulles International Airport and came to a stop.
Langdon gathered his things, thanked the pilots, and stepped out of the jet’s luxurious interior onto the foldout staircase. The cold January air felt liberating.
Breathe, Robert, he thought, appreciating the wide-open spaces.

Dynasties are families unless otherwise specified; "academic dynasty", yes, but otherwise just dynasty.
What could one possibly step out of other than the interior?
I've never thought Robert Langton was all that bright, but having to remind oneself to breathe - by name - is surely diagnostic.
And so it goes, clunker after clunker, every thousand-dollar word flatter than the last.
The 'obelisk, rising on the horizon like the spire of an ancient gnomon...' A gnomon is the sticky-up bit on a sundial, so 'like a gnomon' or even 'like an ancient gnomon' are possible; but gnomons don't have spires, which are architectural; gnomons don't have parts at all, a gnomon can't be disassembled into 'spire' and, say, 'base'.

And the spire can't be rising on the horizon: he's still in the air, and the horizon is what, twenty miles away? Langdon can see the obelisk, perhaps, with its shadow, which is why Brown originally thought of the word 'gnomon', but not on the horizon. The horizon comes in because the word obelisk suggests something sticking up in the air like a spire, and the fact that Langdon can't be seeing that doesn't stop Brown typing it in. He doesn't shape, he accretes.

Brown has absolutely no facility for visualization; his observations are assembled from a kit of subroutines. He proceeds within a cloud of cliches vaguely linked in his mind with the memory of a meaning.


Adelaide Dupont said...

So in other words he writes like a computer?

Anonymous said...

I like your critiques, but I can't fault Brown for writing to his audience. He writes "spire" next to "gnomon" so those who don't know gnomon can read on without interruption, and those who do can feel smug. It touches both audiences in just the right place. I understand Shakespeare had a habit of doing the same thing.

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