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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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Sep. 26th, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
I don't think even Dan Brown would claim his work as art. I, personally, believe his books do so well because they have a wider spectrum of possible readers. It's accessible, readable. They are the sorts of books that become cliches of themselves rather quickly--but cliches are catchy, which is why they're cliches to begin with. :) And there's something of truth to them that resounds in a universal way. Robert Langdon is the king of the dweebs. He's a prof. An egghead (to borrow from Nixon.)A symbols expert! Everyone's known a Robert Langdon at some point in their lives. He lends to the accessibility.
The flaws are easy to overlook because of the pacing. And, like a good lawyer, Brown talks a good game. His pacing and detail (whether real or made up) come barrelling at you so that it just gets absorbed as story--to make the story work. And the stories do work. Their details mesh to come to a satisfying conclusion. And, honestly, the pacing actually succeeded in turning off my internal editor (not an easy feat.)
Literary Art stands the test of time. Will Dan Brown? Doubtful. But as I recently read, his books get not-so-avid-readers to read. Like Stephanie Meyers' books do in the teen market. If 1/8 of those buying either of their books says, "Hey, reading's pretty fun. Maybe I'll go buy another book," we literary types score. :)

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



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