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Why writers should leave Dan Brown alone

As you may or may not know, there’s a link to an article called ‘Dan Brown’s worst 20 sentences’ doing the rounds. Elsewhere, someone’s posted a Reader’s Guide (as in sarcastic commentary) to his latest book, The Lost Symbol, on their journal. I checked them both out, but you won’t get a link to either of those web pages from here.  


Honest criticism is one thing, but these two pieces aren’t looking to be helpful, they’re designed to encourage other people to make snide remarks and join in the laughter at Dan Brown’s expense. The ‘worst twenty sentences’ article tries to dress itself up as a serious critique, but one look at the title tells you the writer’s real intention.


According to the list, Dan Brown’s most heinous crime was choosing to call his novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’, because, as every smart person knows, Leonardo Da Vinci, actually means ‘Leonardo of Vinci’. 


So what? Before the book came out, if you’d asked just about anybody in the western world if they knew who ‘Da Vinci’ was, I guarantee you the vast majority would NOT have said, “Oh, hah, hah! You poor, cretinous fool, there’s no such person as OF Vinci.”    


I don’t understand why some people feel the need to play this ‘Bash the successful author, because we’re so clever and he’s so stupid’ game. If you don’t like a book, by all means say so, but the moment you invite others to join in with the public mockery, you’ve crossed the line as far as I’m concerned.


“Yeah, but he’s a famous author,” they, and a big chunk of their followers say. “He’s not supposed to write crappy sentences.”


Really?   Can any of us, with hand on heart, claim that we’ve never submitted something to an agent/editor/publisher that, when we look back on it later, didn’t contain a single ill-turned phrase? I know I can’t. 


Along with millions of others, I read The Da Vinci Code and enjoyed it. I also read Angels & Demons (which I preferred). I’m about sixty pages into The Lost Symbol, and so far, I like that too. 


If the people who try to pull other writers down spent more time trying to improve their own work, and less time demonstrating their complete lack of class to the rest of the world, maybe they’d have a better chance of ending up as successful as Dan Brown one day. Of course, before that can happen, they’d need to grow up. I hope they do.


What do you guys think?


Am I being unfair? Are famous authors fair game for ridicule, or should we focus on improving our own work?


As for me, I continue to pursue my dream of becoming a successful writer, derided for my lack of talent.  I'm already halfway there, now all I need is a best-seller.

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( 90 comments — Leave a comment )
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Sep. 27th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
Ditto on the "sour grapes" remarks. I wonder (rhetorically, natch) just how many of these sour grapes writers actually would make it into print if the market for fiction became as discerning of imperfections as they seem to want, when what they so clearly want is for someone to take a chance on their writing.

And don't get me started on the art versus mediocrity question.
For Pete's sake, what is this obsession anyway? I'm not going to be around for too much longer than the allotted "three score and ten," so what do I care for how much longer what I read (or write) is going to outlast me?

Successful writers like Rowling and King may not be literary giants on the order of James Joyce, but then, I'd rather read fiction I don't need to decipher. (I'm not down on Joyce, by the way: Dubliners=great, but for me Finnegan's Wake=The Emperor's New Clothes--I guess I'm just low brow!)

But if you are talking about producing art versus mediocrity, but are devouring pulp fiction, Good God! Aren't you just aiming for pop fiction publication also? So...STOP KIDDING YOURSELF!

Sep. 27th, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
'...how many of these sour grapes writers actually would make it into print if the market for fiction became as discerning of imperfections as they seem to want...'

Excellent point! Thanks for sharing, Andrew :)
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 27th, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
I don't know about condemning him, I just wish I'd thought of it first :)
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 27th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
Sure, but I don't think I'd enjoy writing it :)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Sep. 28th, 2009 02:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 27th, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)
The phrase that springs to mind is "sour grapes."

Sep. 28th, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
That Mr. Aesop was a smart guy, though I like to think that most of the criticism is misguided, rather than malicious.
Sep. 28th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
Well, I suppose a lot of it is sheer frustration. If you spend years honing a craft, and then someone comes along and succeeds at it without worrying about details like passive voice and sentence construction, it can rankle. I think Dan Brown illustrates that story trumps style. You could think of it in terms of chairs. If a chair is really comfy, people will want to sit in it, even if it's not especially stylish. A museum-quality chair might look great but not be much fun to sit in. The best is a chair that does both, but that's hard to do. I see Dan Brown as a Barcalounger-- a comfy ride, but no one's going to put him in a museum.
Sep. 28th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
I, for one, don't think you are being unfair. Which is not to say that Dan Brown is the most brilliant writer ever. But he does a good job of what he does and I'm not going to sneer at that. I was honestly disappointed by the Da Vinci Code, but that's because so many people with widely varying readings tastes told me they thought it was wonderful. I figured out "who done it" the minute the two main characters began to walk up the drive (so did HH), and I also happened to take exactly the right class in college so that the whole "Jesus and Mary Magdalene" element was not news. But I can certainly see where it was a good story and a revelation for some people.
Sep. 28th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the input :)

I too came late to the Da Vinci Code. It has its faults, to be sure, but few books don't.
Sep. 28th, 2009 04:11 am (UTC)
Authors - best or worst
Dan Brown?
Is it a good story? Does it show some imagination? Does it require some imagination? Is it easy to read? Is it entertaining? Is it fiction? Yes, yes,yes,yes,yes, yes and yes.
Is sentence structure a problem? Who cares if the above are all handled?
Condemn the work due the lack of proper structure? Be my guest! However, that has nothing to do with how the work will be accepted by the reader and they're the one's buyin.
Shania Twain was 'that cute little girl from Norther Ontario' untill several million people bought her work. Suddenly she's a terrible example ... as millions still buy her work.
Louis L'Amour was a quaint man who told a good story. After he has several million fans he suddenly can't write.
What is this need to idolize poets that can't write poetry and condemn those who entertain as 'simple rhymers'?
This is getting very old!
Sep. 28th, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Authors - best or worst
I like Shania Twain too. I guess I'm just one of those with no taste :)
Sep. 28th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC)
I agree with you 100%.

Yes, his writing isn't aimed at structural linguists, but who cares? His audience has voted with their checkbooks, and I for one enjoyed the Da Vinci Code...

People who bash successful authors are generally no talent wannabes...
Sep. 28th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
'... People who bash successful authors are generally no talent wannabes...'

I don't know if I'd agree with that, but I do wish they wouldn't do it.

Thanks for sharing :)
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