Friday, October 2, 2009

Dowd Call Kettle Brown

Maureen Dowd has decided enter the national writer sweepstakes to see who can eviscerate the latest Dan Brown thriller the worst. Her thesis is that rather than being a mind-blowing expose, The Lost Symbol pulls punches and doesn't go far enough.

His book is a desperate attempt to ingratiate himself with the Masons, rather than to interpret the bizarre Masonic rites and symbols that illuminate — as in Illuminati! — how the ultimate elite private boys’ club has conspired to shape the nation’s capital and Western civilization ever since George Washington laid the cornerstone for the Capitol building in a Masonic ritual wearing full Masonic regalia, including a darling little fringed satin apron. If the Masons are more intimidating than the Vatican, if Brown has now become part of their semiotic smoke screen, then all I can say is, God help us all.
Maureen does catalog the more salient features of Dan Brown's writing style, such as it is.
  • Over-reliance on italics.
Or as Brown, who is more addicted to italics than that other breathless Brown, Cosmo Girl Helen Gurley, might put it: What the hell?
  • Crappy romantic subplots.
Emotions are the one thing Dan Brown can’t seem to decipher. His sex scenes are encrypted. Even though Katherine seems like Langdon’s soul mate — she even knows how to weigh souls — their most torrid sex scenes consist of Robert winking at her or flashing her a lopsided grin.
  • Over-written metaphors
His metaphors and similes thud onto the page. ­Inoue Sato, an intelligence official investigating a disembodied hand bearing a Masonic ring and iconic tattoos that shows up in the Capitol Rotunda, “cruised the deep waters of the C.I.A. like a leviathan who surfaced only to devour its prey.” Insights don’t simply come to characters: “Then, like an oncoming truck, it hit her,” or “The revelation crashed over Langdon like a wave.” And just when our hero thinks it’s safe to go back in the water, another bad metaphor washes over him: “His head ached now, a roiling torrent of inter­connected thoughts.”
  • Adjectivitis.
The author has gotten rich and famous without attaining a speck of subtlety. A character never just stumbles into blackness. It must be inky blackness. A character never just listens in shock. He listens in utter shock.
  • Anti-climactic non-endings.
In the end, as with “The Da Vinci Code,” there’s no payoff. Brown should stop worrying about unfinished pyramids and worry about unfinished novels.
More curious is how Maureen Dowd drew the short straw on reviewing this review-proof turd. My guess is that no self-respecting critic would touch it. Besides, who knows more about bad overwrought writing than the style mistress of the Op/Ed page.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

suppressed my annoyance that the Harvard symbologist was still wearing his Mickey Mouse watch, hand-grinding his Sumatra coffee beans and refusing to entangle with the latest brainy babe who materializes to help untangle ancient secrets.

Hmm. Could Dowd be projecting some of her recent dating frustrations here?

Full disclosure: I didn't read The DaVinci Code but I did see the movie. The movie was fine by me: Paris settings, twisty thrills, a deranged albino monk, and Jean Reno, whom I lust after. I got my money's worth, especially since I saw it for free on the TeeVee.

Grace Nearing