The literary (de)merits of Dan Brown

The literary (de)merits of Dan Brown

Yes, Dan Brown is now officially passé almost a year after the execrable movie adapted from his execrable book came out. And all of his silly conspiracy theories about Jesus and the Catholic Church have been fully debunked by such luminaries like Amy Welborn, Carl Olson, Sandra Miesel, and Mark Shea.

“It is truly strange that Dan Brown began his first novel with exactly the same construction that made the opening of his better-known The Da Vinci Code so weird.”

But clearly not enough has been said about the literary merits—or lack thereof—expressed in the works of what is clearly a hack author. How much of a hack? Well, nobody explains it better than Geoffrey K. Pullum, a professor of linguistics at University of California at Santa Cruz.

It all starts at his blog entry called “The Dan Brown code” where he called out Brown for the first time in 2004:

The writing goes on in similar vein, committing style and word choice blunders in almost every paragraph (sometimes every line). … Brown’s writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad. In some passages scarcely a word or phrase seems to have been carefully selected or compared with alternatives. I slogged through 454 pages of this syntactic swill, and it never gets much better. Why did I keep reading? Because London Heathrow is a long way from San Francisco International, and airline magazines are thin, and two-month-old Hollywood drivel on a small screen hanging two seats in front of my row did not appeal, that’s why. And why did I keep the book instead of dropping it into a Heathrow trash bin? Because it seemed to me to be such a fund of lessons in how not to write.

Oh and what a fund it is. In a November entry entitled “Renowned author Dan Brown staggered through his formulaic opening sentence,” Pullum notes that in his first novel Brown apparently found an opening formula that worked and stuck with it (or found a book on how to write a novel that gave this as a rule):

So what did Sauniere do for a living?

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1 comment
  • I first read DVC out of sheer curiosity because everyone was talking about it, and was dumbfounded by the sheer awfulness of the writing.  Years ago, I taught high-school English, and I wrote Amy Welborn back then that if Dan Brown submitted anything to me, I’d give him an “F”.  Add to that the sheer implausibility of the time frame (24 hours!) and the one-dimensional characters, and it’s a continuing mystery to me why this “novel” was such a hit. Never mind the “Opus Dei albino monk”, and other howlers—it just proved H.L. Mencken’s words when he said that “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public”—and the intelligence of the public world-wide!