Tag Archives: Dan Brown

The Dan Brown Paradox

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Dan Brown has a new book out, Origin, which means it’s time for The Dan Brown Paradox (DBP) once again. You know the DBP, that part of the Olympic Read-a-thon (he seems to publish once every four years or so) calendar to debate whether you will join in the chorus of groans and sighs, or whether you’ll remain a casual observer off to the side, knowing deep down you want to read it because it’s a win-win situation: if it completely stinks, you have much to gossip about at your next book club meeting (after revealing you didn’t read the club’s book o’ the month ’cause you were too “crazy super busy”); if you do like it, you get to trash it and feel somehow more cultured than the rest of society because you found the clues Langdon missed, and you can dissecting the grammer, Spelling and lexical diction of his writing gooder than any any other hacker.

I’ve read two of his “opi,” The Da Vinci Code and Inferno, and have to admit that he knows how to pen a page-turner. The history is questionable at times, the characters are coarsely wooden to the point of being full-time stiffies, and the dialogues are, umm…Surreptitious? Clandestine? Furtive? Sexy yet mild?

Still – and for reasons nobody can really explain – we want more, more, and more! of Mr. Brown’s trunk-filled junk. (Plus, in all the interviews I’ve seen of him, he seems like a genuinely nice guy, so whoever the hell said nice guys finish last can go and suck it because his net worth is now somewhere around $200 million.)

Whatever the case, I’m still an ardent believer that if someone can get you to read, there is, at the very least, value in that.

But there’s also value in poking fun at the super-rich guy because he’s, well, uber rich. That got me to thinking of what others were writing online about Mr. Browndon, and here are the three best reviews of Mr. Langrown I came across:

“Renowned author Dan Brown gazed admiringly at the pulchritudinous brunette’s blonde tresses, flowing from her head like a stream but made from hair instead of water and without any fish in them.”

“It made his insect eyes flash like a rocket. The voice at the other end of the line gave a sigh, like a mighty oak toppling into a great river, or something else that didn’t sound like a sigh if you gave it a moment’s thought.”

“The critics said his writing was clumsy, ungrammatical, repetitive and repetitive. However, they added, it was also repetitive in some places, yet repetitive in others.”

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Quote of the Day

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“For I have promised to do the battle to the uttermost, by faith of my body, while me lasteth the life, and therefore I had liefer to die with honour than to live with shame; and if it were possible for me to die an hundred times, I had liefer to die oft than yield me to thee; for though I lack weapon, I shall lack no worship, and if thou slay me weaponless that shall be thy shame.”  

Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur

Sometimes you’ve got to go back to the classics. You just coulda/shoulda/woulda have to!In today’s tech-heavy, beep beep beep world where more people actually die from texting while behind the wheel of a car than from drunk driving, it’s sobering and grounding and refreshing to know that there was a time when people put pen (or quill) to paper (or papyrus) and wrote ¡legends!

Le Morte d’Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table is one of those books you should put on your literary bucket list. Sir Thomas Malory wrote this sweeping epic in the 15th century, but it wasn’t actually published until 14 years after his death, in 1485. (Sucks that they didn’t have print-on-demand available back then…or cell phones.)

I mean, haven’t you ever wondered what really happened between King Arthur and Guinevere-don’t-call-me-Stefani? Or was Sir Launcelot the world’s first real studmuffin and how much heat did he really pack in that jousting lance of his? How about learning why Merlin turned down an audition at the original Hogwarts?

So the next time you’re oscillating between Sophie Kinsella and Dan Brown (or From Rocket Fuel to Rocket Fun!: Blow Your Friends and Their Minds at the Same Time and Cats Don’t Have Opposable Thumbs, Dumbass: But They Sure Can Drive Good!) as to what you will read next, do yourself a favour and consider a classic, maybe not Tommy M.’s contribution to world literature, but something you’ve told yourself a million times that you totally, absolutely have to read before you die.

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Monkey Hunting (novel)

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When you hear the words “monkey” and “hunting,” what comes to mind? Searching through forests, rifle in hand, as you keep an eye  out for primates swinging from tree to tree so that you can kill them with one decisive pull on the trigger of your 12-gauge pump shotgun, blowing said Curious George to smithereens?

No, no, no. Obviously you are not a monkey hunter. That is your bad.

In her 2003 novel Monkey Hunting, author Cristina Garcia tells the story of four generations of a Chinese family, the patriarch being Chen Pan, a 19th-century immigrant to Cuba. In case you didn’t know, Cuba had a sizeable ethnic Chinese population until Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and said, “Thanks for your years of service (i.e. slavery), but your mother country is beckoning (i.e. get the hell out of our country, you dirty slaves).” Today, there are still remnants of a Chinatown in Havana, I’m told, minus the ethnic Chinese people themselves.

Although the novel starts on a page-turning note – we follow the struggle of Chinese immigrants to Cuba on their horrific journey across the world in much the same conditions as slaves brought to the Americas from Africa – the author soon loses the plot, literally and figuratively, and we start bouncing around the world at different periods in history, which in and of itself is always cool, but ends up being disjointed, fragmented and at times hard to follow in this particular case.

More specifically, the reader is not given the opportunity to form any real bond with the characters, as they fail to evoke even the slightest amount of empathy. The general rule to a decent novel is that it’s either highly plot-driven and the characters are one-dimensional (think Dan Brown or Lee Child, for example) or very much character-driven and the plot is almost secondary (think of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Eleanor & Park or The Goldfinch). Rarely do the two combine to form a work of art (think of anything from Anna Karenina to Freedom).

Unfortunately, when you’re not invested in the characters and don’t really care what’s happening all around them, it’s a recipe for disaster. And this, sadly, is the case with Monkey Hunting. It’s an interesting premise with some well-researched information, but for that kind of story I generally turn to non-fiction. Or perhaps Time magazine, where – ironically enough – Ms. Garcia used to work.

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Multiple Choice (novel)

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I’ve read books where I had to keep a dictionary close at hand (The Name of the Rose) or a notebook to jot down lyrical prose (The Prophet, The English Patient), but with Alejandro Zambra‘s Multiple Choice, you do actually need a pencil and eraser to get through this:

(A) Novel
(B) Nonfiction
(C) Poetry
(D) All of the above
(E) None of the above

 

I’m going to go with (F) Gimmicky. Now, I should point out that “gimmicky” does not necessarily mean bad, boring or trite. On the contrary, I think of the Choose Your Own Adventure series and how – gimmicky though they are in their format – each book is actually fresh, vibrant and engaging. (Someone actually referred to Multiple Choice as an “existential Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel,” which I could not find more egregiously misleading.)

Even if you enjoy taking tests, do you really want to be going back and forth constantly between the answer index in the back of the book and the page you’re reading? Doubly so while you’re taking the subway to work in the morning or getting sleepy at night and lying in bed?

Perhaps it’s more pertinent to ask where any semblance of tension is throughout the prose-poetry novella (option (G)?). Or the lack of any empathy evoked by a wholly absent protagonist.

In short, a book should not be judged on its “newness” alone, but also by its literary merits, even if it’s simply because it’s a page-turner. For example, through their respective Jack Reacher and Robert Langdon series, Lee Child and Dan Brown manage to capture our imagination, as puerile (or gimmicky) as the writing may seem at times.

While I’m always happy to have formed an independent opinion after reading a book for myself, I can safely say that if you’ve already got another book on your shelf waiting to be read, you can skip passing Go on this one and not collect the $3 I received for reselling Multiple Choice to a used bookstore last week.

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