Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Get Off It.

Christ - I am so over people bashing Dan Brown's books. Right, so he's not Nietzsche, but really, do we need another one of those?

He may not be the world's greatest writer, but damn, he can make you turn a page. He tells a good story. And the cherry on top is that he makes people engage in debate on important topics. Who wouldn't want to see the Vatican get blown up? I kid. But seriously, I think conspiracy theories serve as a means of puzzling over political and religious intricacies, engage us in speculative thinking, because sometimes you need a little torrid imagination to shovel your way through the shit and get to the proper answer. The reason why people roll their eyes when they meet someone who takes conspiracy theories just a little bit serious is because the theories go against institutional analysis. Formal rules and law. God forbid anyone should think that they might be wrong.

Mr Brown - you can write me another Langdon any time. I can't wait for The Lost Symbol and the inevitable controversy that will follow. But Blake was right - standing water breeds nothing but poison. Things need to move. And Dan Brown sure does that.


Victor J. Banis said...

Sorry, but I have a long standing rule - if I can't say something good about a writer, I say nothing.

So: nothing


Anonymous said...

An author can't claim to stimulate meaningful debate if at the end of his novel about the machinations of the RC Church to suppress the Grail and the staggering social changes the Grail might set in motion, he tries to put all the pieces back together again as if nothing ever really happened - as if the entire book was an exercise in meaninglessness. Which it was. A bunch of people died for nothing. There was a mysterious goal that once within grasp was left to remain secret so that the status quo could be preserved.

His ending to the Da Vinci Code was the most blatant act of literary cowardice I have encountered in a long time.

Lloyd Meeker

Lynne Jamneck said...

Victor: Ouch. But, ok.

Lloyd: What about this scenario: Five people find a map claiming that a mythical treasure is buried underneath Mount Flamingo. They decide to dig a tunnel through the mountain to find it; during the course of their adventure, one of them kills a member of the group, two of the remaining four find out they are twins separated at birth, and another experiences a spiritual crises which makes him realise what he is destined to do with his life. When they come to where X marks the spot, there is no treasure. The myth is still a myth, but the lives of five people have been irrevocably changed.

Would that be a bad, meaningless book?

I always got the feeling that Langdon and Co. didn't find an actual grail because it would be a serious challenge for any writer to pull that off convincingly. It's the grail! How do you tackle that without making it seem silly? With something like that it's likely better to leave it a mystery. For me, the grail was never the end result, but rather what the idea of the grail made everyone in the novel do.

Anonymous said...

Your scenario leaves out one important thing - it's not just any "X marks the spot" treasure. Brown enlists the archetypal power of the Grail. Then he shamelessly milks its spiritual and psychological power (without which his book would have precious little draw). Then when he's done playing with those massive energies, he just put it back in the closet. It's a manipulative and cheap bait-and-switch.

If an author's conclusion to a story about revealing the most powerful spiritual mystery in western European culture is that it's best to leave the mystery unrevealed, then there had better be some serious spiritual character development to support such a reversal. Did that happen? No. Arguably no character development at all. A reflective moment in Scotland does not constitute major character growth.

The success of the hero's journey brings life-giving change. Brown avoids change, while co-opting (and abusing) the power of a powerful transformational archetype. Bah.


Lynne Jamneck said...

Lloyd: Well, I did say it was a mythical treasure ;p And you're right, that's exactly what the grail is - archetypal. It's a prototype that stands in for that the typical search for the unattainable; but in that search, the one who searches have other things happen to him/her that means more. Then again, I don't think Brown set out to make Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons about character development. But surely, what happens to Langdon and the other characters create repercussions in the mind of the reader..?

I agree, the books do not follow the typical path of a novel. Neither do cult novels such as The House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, a book that some think is garbage and others claim to be masterfully postmodern.

Anonymous said...

I thought Angels and Demons was a hell of a fun read. When I'm sitting on a beach, I don't need Kierkegaard, Proust or the Brontes, I need to be entertained.

Angels and Demons and yes, the DaVinci Code were hugely entertaining.

Another dumb American dumbs down the world with his dumbness.

Drew in Denver

Lynne Jamneck said...

Hey there Drew :)

Proust on a beach will kill me.

Lisa said...

I neither love him nor loathe him. I enjoy his books. They're page turners. His books were written as entertainment; not "to stimulate meaningful debate". For crying out loud, the material that you're talking about was debated a generation ago, in Holy Blood, Holy Grail. All Brown did was write a thriller that revolved around some of the ideas in that book.

Just because people nowadays have the memory of a mayfly doesn't mean that Brown did anything special in terms of theology or history. He wrote a thriller, full stop.

When I sit down to read a novel, I want something engaging. Something that gives me good dialog, good action, good timing, etc. That's called fun. I own HBHG. If I want to delve into the issues, I can read that again.

I'm with Drew. Lloyd clearly had completely unreasonable expectations for the book.

Lynne Jamneck said...

Heya Lisa :)
Yep, HBHG did the debate years ago, but I reckon it's always good to give people a kick upside the rear every so often to remind them of things. Mayflies indeed. If nothing else, The Da Vinci Code made people go and read the original source pertaining to all the Grail hoopla. And that would be another good thing Dan Brown did, whether he meant to or not.

Anonymous said...

The "stimulate meaningful debate" originally comes from one of Lynne's comments, if I'm not mistaken. I was re-using it. I did not read Brown's book expecting to be stimulated into meaningful debate, but I did expect him to treat the archetype fairly.

And yes, for crying out loud, the issue has been debated - in every generation. That doesn't mean it's superfluous to raise it again - even in a novel. HB,HG did not end the debate, that's for sure.

I may have had unreasonable expectations for the book. I make no claim for reasonableness of expectation. No author meets the expectations of every reader, so I'm not convinced mine should be criticized for being different for those of others.

For someone who deeply believes that the Grail is attainable, I object to any novelist trading on its power without adding anything at all to the inevitable debate.


Jeanne said...

What ticked me off reading the DaVInci Code was the belief that his readers were not too bright. I guess because I have an interest in the much of the inspiration for the story and because DaVinci's "code" was so simple even a child would be able to decipher it...Should I not reveal the little trick he employed or would that be a spoiler?
There were so many moments when I wanted to throw the book against the wall, I just decided to make a list (which I have now lost) of the many things about the book, the story, info, the characters, etc. that were either erroneous, inept, unappealing, uninspired, etc. to me.
I was not entertained. I was insulted.

Lynne Jamneck said...

Hi Jeanne:I'd love to hear the trick :) I'm in the middle of researching mathematical patterns for the book I'm writing, and things like this are of real interest to me now.

Like Drew said, perhaps he was taking material that, at a philosophical level can be rather high-falutin', and bringing it down to a level that could be commercially appreciated. Sure, he could have written a richer, more literary novel, but to be a commercially successful author you need to appeal and connect to the general reading public.