September 22, 2009

"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."

From a list of 20 putrid sentences written by Dan Brown.

67 comments:

miller said...

Were these just 20 at random, or the top 20 on the first page, or what?

Dan Brown is a typist.

John Lynch said...

Well, he got paid pretty well for them. How bad can they be?

wv frappe

Chip Ahoy said...

Speaking of Edward Bulwer-Lytton -- we weren't? -- well anyway, my all-time favorite winner is:

"The one recurring thought that kept running through André's mind as he crawled across the desert was, "Crawl, André, crawl."

traditionalguy said...

So Brown ain't Shakespear. Give the story teller a break.I think I have met Capt Fache, or his twin brother, somewhere. But if you are an afficiando of Brown's tales from the occult disinfomation office, then you got what you paid for without bitching about his writing skills.

Freeman Hunt said...

I once had an otherwise seemingly very intelligent person spend hours trying to convince me that one of Brown's books was real. "Look! The painting is like this--it really does make that shape!" "But any painting of two people sitting will make that shape." "No! You're not seeing it!"

Freeman Hunt said...

I just watched Predator last night. Is Captain Fache a predator in the book?

Chip Ahoy said...

Reading that critique, caused my wearied eyes to glaze over like to cupcakes with vanilla icing and two blue M&Ms in the center of them on the top that got drenched in a layer of chocolate ganache so that they could no longer see clearly, and so were useless as eyes, and a pain developed in my brain as if it were being pinched by a giant clothes pin, the kind made out of two sticks held together with a tight, not the kind cut from a single peg, and that same brain being pinched left to dry on a clothesline that attracted crows that began pecking at it.

Big Mike said...

They're "staggeringly" bad, yet I enjoyed reading The DaVinci Code (Angels and Demons not so much). I'm not certain what that means, besides the strange notion that I read technical journals to learn new things and I read novels to enjoy myself. A novel with perfectly-crafted sentences that doesn't tell an enjoyable story is a failure at its most basic level.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think we should all try describing public figures in the style.

President Obama's manner of sitting was so elegant and relaxed that he appeared before them like a gazelle reclining on a Lazy Boy. As he sat, his broad ears seemed to embrace the room in a warm hug of listening.

Methadras said...

Care.

ricpic said...

Okay, we got it, Captain Bezu Fache is intense. But the peasants would be disappointed with that. They're only getting their money's worth when the author underlines with twenty adjectives. It's like the peasant love of detail in painting. The wildlife artist doesn't paint every individual hair on the cougar's head? What kinds of an artist is that?

But hell, if you're going to be a writer and not give the peasants what they want you're going to end up teaching creative writing at Ball State. And what could be worse than that? Nada.


wv is suffer. I kid you not.

Chip Ahoy said...

In other literature-related news, Harold Bloom has abandoned his personal crusade against J. K. Rowling.

Freeman Hunt said...

The description would work as a voice over in a movie if the bame were changed and it preceded the entrance of David Brent.

Freeman Hunt said...

bame = name

Hector Owen said...

I tried to read The Da Vinci Code after it was strongly recommended to me. I think I made it about 3 pages in before the clanky prose stopped me cold. I can put up with bad writing in non-fiction that's meant to be telling me about something, but fiction should be enjoyable to read, else what's the point?

wv = noelly. Need we begin thinking about Christmas already?

Tibore said...

I'm with Hector Owen. I tried reading Brown. All I got in return were dead brain cells.

I accept that he's a writer who appeals to some, but frankly, he's not one that appeals to me.

-----

Word Verification: lastsper. "Will the lastsper-son out please turn off the lights?" ;)

miller said...

Freeman:
"As he sat, his broad ears seemed to embrace the room in a warm hug of listening."

Is delicious!

WV: pectra, for Apples that experience sadness in the spring

David said...

Dan Brown is laughing, his dimpled cheeks framing grinning teeth, his eyes crinkled with mirth, his magnificent tumescent wallet about to burst his pants, all the way to the bank.

Freeman Hunt said...

In other literature-related news, Harold Bloom has abandoned his personal crusade against J. K. Rowling.

Is there an article?

bagoh20 said...

"Geoffrey Pullum says “Brown's writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad.”"

I'm shy criticizing someone about their craft when I could never make a living at it and they have gotten filthy rich from it.

If the work is bad, then the fans deserve the criticism. But do we really want to criticize people for liking mac and cheese rather than a cheese soufflé with a classic Béchamel sauce. If you can appreciate both you are the blessed one.

William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

The critics that complain about Brown's style are as clueless as Juilliard students who complain that they can cover more octaves than Fats Domino. Melody and style are all very edifying, but the back beat and narrative drive make you rich. Dan Brown has a rare gift although not for stylish writing.

Freeman Hunt said...

What is this tyrannical populism?

Sells well is great, but it's not necessarily great art.

Der Hahn said...

In the spirt of 12 and 13, let's review the fate of CERN's X-33 space plane. In the book, it's used to whisk Langdon across the globe after Brown paints himself into a corner by establishing the 24-hour deadline after which the anti-matter bomb blows up before he figures out how to get his central character to Italy without losing at least half a day to the time difference and travel.

The movie just sidesteps the entire issue and hopes you won't notice.

On the bright side, at least he suggests it was made by Boeing, not Webley-Vickers and it didn't go pocketa-pocketa-queep-pocketa-queep while it's flying.

I'd say it's more likely that he got rich on the anti-Catholic hackery.

blake said...

His face was an unctuous mess of shiny oil, oddly endearing yet constantly on the verge melting into another layer that looked exactly the one before. He lied a smile that was a thousand-watt blacklight as he said, "I wrote The Da Vinci Code."

"Shut up, Joe," said the President.

Diamondhead said...

The problem is great writers now look down on writing novels that appeal to the wide audience and the wide audience has atrocious taste. In his day, Dicken was the best writer and extraordinarily popular. Now the best writer is someone 95% of people have never heard of, and the masses read Dan Brown.

Kev said...

(the other kev)

Good grief. It's as if Glenn Greenwald tried to write fiction.

Diamondhead said...

Der Hahn makes the point that DB is better than Thurber...?

traditionalguy said...

All literature lovers need to re-read all the John Steinbeck novels and short stories you can find. He is the pleasure of pleasures to read.

Andrea said...

Just because something made a lot of money doesn't mean it's any good. The world is full of expensive garbage. We can complain about huge tacky McHomes and bling-covered chavettes, but we aren't allowed to criticize bad writing because the author made a lot of money?

Quayle said...

As he sat, his broad ears seemed to embrace the room in a warm hug of listening.

That sounds a lot like Dowd.

We better check - Freeman Hunt may be plagiarizing.

Chip Ahoy said...

Politicians? OK.

As Biden stepped up to the rostrum, an Emix RQ-K2003 with fitted microphone and CD, and just as his droning but commanding and entertaining voice began to wander off the prepared text onto unrelated subjects, a characteristic habit to which his audience had become inured but nonetheless impatient, the room was suddenly filled with the sounds of overlapping unvoiced palatal fricatives, along with transecting alveolar and bilabial plosives, which turned out to be hundreds of individuals all saying in their own voice the words, "shut up."

Stephen Snell said...

With the warm hug of listening and the Davide Brent reference, the Freemanatrix wins the thread.

Freeman Hunt said...

I am Dowd.

Okay, no, I'm not, but wouldn't that be a trip?

Hector Owen said...

Freeman Hunt: You're not Dowd. But — it would be a great thing if you could take over her column. That might win enough readers back to the NYT to save it from bankruptcy. There's a lot of potential in that newspaper.

wv = essionsm. Monet and Cézanne fooled around with this before settling on impressionism. One more syllable made all the difference.

Ralph L said...

Not Dowdy at all.

rcocean said...

"Geoffrey Pullum says “Brown's writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad.”"

Next stop, the New York Times Op-Ed page.

Hector Owen said...

Like a soft yet sweet strain played on a lonely balalaika, echoing yet barely audible in a great and ancient amphitheatre, with no accordion to give it the solace of accompaniment, nor even a bassoon, a filament of thought drifted crossways of my mind, to wit:

I do wonder if any of the Brownianisms would stand a chance at winning the Bulwer-Lytton bad fiction prize. "Where www means wretched writing welcome."

What's with the wubble-yous? I'll watch the waxing moon, and wail for Wilhemina, who went to Walla-Walla, since when I haven't seen her.

wv = redoni. Is Blogger telling me that I should have redone it? What, then? My whole life? or just this post?

Beth said...

Brown is excruciating, but he spins a tale. There's something to be said for that. He's the new John Grisham, I guess. There are writers who just make my ears hurt when I read them, but they can plot the hell out of a story. Michael Crichton is (was) an awful writer, but a good story teller. Peter Benchley is another.

Last week I heard our English department graduate director walking down the hall, calling out, "There's a Polish journalist on the phone who wants a quote about Dan Brown's new book" - no one responded.

Revenant said...

Brown is excruciating, but he spins a tale. There's something to be said for that. He's the new John Grisham, I guess.

Well said. :)

Chris said...

The DaVinci Code was a pretty great story until about 2/3 of the way in when it became boilerplate.

Hector Owen said...

Captain Bezu Fache will lead you on tour of most scenic Indian places. Please to return to the bus on schedule, lest his unblinking severity scorch your jacket or hair.

Pogo said...

Are there any fine storytellers that can also write?

B. R. Myers wrote in A Reader's Manifesto that is not the case, at least not recently.

Literature has declined in the same way art has, degradation by the modernists and deconstructionists. Tom Wolfe described art's failure best in "The Painted Word".

It's as if our best-trained musicians could not write songs or tunes that appealed, but on purpose, for the approval of the lumpenproletariat is a thing of disdain.

As a result, critics and fine artists are no longer trusted as the arbiters of artistic excellence.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"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."

His hair was slicked back, but it also preceded him? What, did he walk backwards?

JAL said...

Calling a grammatician, or whatever you are, which is correct?

"I could care less."

or

"I couldn't care less."

?

Because whichever it is -- that's where I am.

wv untingea -- something the Professor will feel around her toe on Wednesday.

prairie wind said...

Dickens was the best writer? That's just sad.

JAL: I could care less...but I won't.

Andrea said...

if there is a possibility that you could care even less about something, then the first one is right. If you're at the very nadir of your caring, below which is the cold stony floor, then the second one is correct.

Most people mean to use the second one.

bagoh20 said...

I have no doubts whatsoever that Freeman could do Dowd's column and make her sound smarter without giving it away. We all know the liberal narrative forward and back. However, Dowd could never do Freeman without making her sound like Coulter without wit.

Paddy O. said...

When I read Da Vinci Code I was studying writing. I also have a strong background in Church history.

Needless to say, that was one of the most difficult books for me to get through.

If you know anything about any of the subjects he writes about, or about writing itself, Dan Brown is awful. In that first chapter he broke just about every good practice of good writers in the list.

However, and there is a however. There's a lot to writing and Dan Brown is atrocious at just about every aspect except a few. The few he does well, he has mastered. These few can probably be summed up by saying he is a master of manipulating the audience.

He is a master of pacing. Particularly, the master of pacing in this era and culture. Dan Brown knows how to push an audience through a book, along botched and absurd sentences, streaming by ludicrous plots and shallow characters. No one cares. All because he is extremely adept at moving the story along, breaking the chapters at key moments, adding in just enough new complications while solving old complications, and otherwise propelling a reader through the tale.

Well, unless they know anything about anything he's writing about.

Another skill Brown has is that he's pretty courageous. That sounds misplaced attached to him but it's true. Dan Brown is not ever afraid to latch onto and exploit a cliche, and he is not embarrassed to craft his tales according to hot cultural responses.

This sounds like an insult, only it's not. He's brilliant at exploiting what taps into a basic audience emotional reactions. There's a trend of strong, open anger at the church combined with a pervasive interest in spirituality? Dan Brown exploits just that. Exploits that to the point he's utterly shameless in calling fiction fact and twisting around history. This latter bit is an interesting one too.

He knows his primary audience is not only historically ignorant but historically not-interested. Most authors respect the craft of writing and the research of their topics. Dan Brown researches just enough to get the buzz words that will help exploit the dual fact of audience disinterest in history and audience strong interest in scandal/gossip.

Again and again he uses a semblance of history to drive home an utterly absurd (even in fiction) plot. And the audience loves him for it. Because they don't care.

So, he's certainly not a master of the craft of slinging together words. But, he's a story-teller who is a perfect expression of our era and culture.

I respect him a lot for that.

raf said...

Personally, I could care less, but don't care enough to try.

WV: inisto. That should read inerto, and what's with all the toe words? Why does WV resonate with AA?

Kylos said...

On Dickens (never read Brown), he's certainly not the best author — plot perhaps being his weakest point (though a consequence of the serial format, so perhaps its not as bad as commonly claimed) — but he is the master at turning descriptive phrases in linguistically elegant ways. In other words, his prose is excellent. I'm sure there are examples of atrocious Dickensian constructions, but they are far outweighed by the rest of his body of work.

Henry said...

Captain Bezu Fache? Let me introduce you to Javier Bardem.

Kirk Parker said...

Andrea,

Actually, it's much simpler: people who understand irony use the first; those who don't are stuck with the second.

Kirk Parker said...

bagoh20,

"I have no doubts whatsoever that Freeman could do Dowd's column and make her sound smarter without giving it away."

Well I certainly have doubts about that! No disrespect intended for Freeman--far from it--but it's just that "making Dowd sound smarter" and "not giving it away" seem like fairly contradictory requirements.

wv: defectle (n): what Brown's writing is full of.

Der Hahn said...

Diamondhead said...
Der Hahn makes the point that DB is better than Thurber...?


Dan Brown is Walter Mitty writing a biography.

Diamondhead said...

"Dickens was the best writer? That's just sad."

There's a difference between saying someone is the best writer and saying someone is the best writer of his time. Granted, to say even that much one would have to bypass Hardy, Tolstoy, and Twain. But rankings are purely subjective anyway. The point was merely that Dickens was a great writer who was very popular.

Shanna said...

I'd rather read the davinci code than great expectations.

Shanna said...

I once had an otherwise seemingly very intelligent person spend hours trying to convince me that one of Brown's books was real.

Freeman, I remember on the Daily Show (many years ago when I was still watching it) they did a rif about the Christian groups complaining about Dan Brown’s book. Stewart finished the story showing the book and saying it can be found in the fiction section of your local library.
Yeah. There were some people who sued because they said he took his ideas from their non-fiction book, though.

knox said...

I tried twice to read the Da Vinci Code and just couldn't get past the horrendous writing. Same with Clan of the Cave Bear.

I've read a couple Dan Simmons books lately. He's my new go-to guy for good genre fiction.

Shanna said...

Same with Clan of the Cave Bear.

I made it through Clan of the Cave Bear, but it was rough.

I can pretty much tune out the writing to get to the story, although good writing is certainly nice. But as mentioned before, pretty sentences are not the only aspect to writing. I can forgive a fair bit if the story draws me in. Now Angels and Demons...I read it but it was way worse than DaVinci Code to me.

Will have to check out Dan Simmons.

dbp said...

Shanna,

Every single person who loved TDC and wanted me to read it also believed that St. John in the last supper is actually Mary Magdeline.

John Stewart notwithstanding, Dan Brown is either misleading or his readers are all morons. Or maybe some combination of the two.

wv distru --st the judgment of TDC fans.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I've read a couple Dan Simmons books lately. He's my new go-to guy for good genre fiction.

I picked up The Terror in an airport bookstore on my way out of town. It has joined the other excellent books I've acquired in the same way.

Joe said...

I like to be entertained. A good story and characters can go a long way toward hiding bad writing. I've never bothered with Dan Brown--the subject simply never interested me. Plus unless your tongue is firmly planted in cheek, I can only take so much of stupid plots.

At least with bad movies and TV, there is an interactive quality to heckling, but even that can take you only so far.

On the other hand, I can only wish I sucked as bad at writing as Dan Brown.

Revenant said...

Yeah. There were some people who sued because they said he took his ideas from their non-fiction book, though.

Until it was pointed out to them that you can't sue somebody for taking supposedly historical facts from a non-fiction book. :)

Freeman Hunt said...

A bad movie is generally, with a few exceptions, a ninety minute commitment. A bad book is more. Plus, with a bad movie, you can watch it with other people, and with the camaraderie it becomes good entertainment.

If you want bad book entertainment, you get a bad book and just skim through, reading the worst parts out loud to others. Look no further than David Icke for this sort of book.

I will admit to watching many, many hours of raw footage from what may be the worst movie ever filmed, but again, that was with other people and the footage was humorous enough to make everyone weep with laughter.

Revenant said...

A bad movie is generally, with a few exceptions, a ninety minute commitment. A bad book is more. Plus, with a bad movie, you can watch it with other people, and with the camaraderie it becomes good entertainment.

That's more a curse than a blessing. With friends you're usually stuck watching the movie until it is over. With a bad book you can easily quit reading any time.

traditionalguy said...

Shanna...Great expectations is for students in high school because it is short enough for them to read, but the real classic Dickens novels are four times longer. Try Bleak House or Dombey and Son and report back a few weeks later.