Dan Brown seems to be taking a lot of abuse lately. I guess when you sell almost 100 million books, you make yourself a target.
After all, success breeds envy, jealousy, stupidity and downright cruelty. I have my own experience in such matters and can assure you that this sad fact of life is true.
With these thoughts in mind, I was prepared to come out in defense of Dan Brown, author extraordinaire and bestselling novelist, whose first two books I found to be entertaining, albeit farfetched, stories.
What do these critics know?
So what if his prose doesn’t crackle like that of Philip Roth or Toni Morrison?
How can millions of devoted readers be wrong?
Then I stumbled upon Tom Chiver’s list of Brown’s worst twenty sentences and Brian Davis’s proposed edits of Brown’s work (a fascinating read). While I might shudder over the prospect of a similar examination of every sentence in SOMETHING MISSING, these two critics advance a formidable position on the weakness of Brown's writing, and they base their opinions on irrefutable evidence.
I’m not great with physical description, but this example is probably one of Brown’s worst:
Captain Bezu Fache carried himself like an angry ox, with his wide shoulders thrown back and his chin tucked hard into his chest. His dark hair was slicked back with oil, accentuating an arrow-like widow's peak that divided his jutting brow and preceded him like the prow of a battleship. As he advanced, his dark eyes seemed to scorch the earth before him, radiating a fiery clarity that forecast his reputation for unblinking severity in all matters.
In the words of Chivers:
Do angry oxen throw their shoulders back and tuck their chins into their chest? What precisely is a fiery clarity and how does it forecast anything? Once again, it is not clear whether Brown knows what ‘forecast’ means.
And I might add that the whole damn paragraph is overdone, with one too many simile and metaphor.
Like I said, a sentence-by-sentence examination of SOMETHING MISSING might also yield a few clunkers, but the list of problems that Chivers and Davis assemble is daunting.
Of course, I must ask:
Can any of the blame be laid at the feet of his editor? I’d like to think that my editor would be wise enough to save me from a sentence like:
Although not overly handsome in a classical sense, the forty-year-old Langdon had what his female colleagues referred to as an ‘erudite’ appeal — wisp of gray in his thick brown hair, probing blue eyes, an arrestingly deep voice, and the strong, carefree smile of a collegiate athlete.