Yet Another Cycling Forum

Off Topic => The Pub => Arts and Entertainment => Topic started by: ian on June 18, 2013, 04:38:43 pm

Title: an apology
Post by: ian on June 18, 2013, 04:38:43 pm
Recently, I committed myself to the cause of those who fight for the right to read Dan Brown books without feeling the sunburn of shame, for their right to enjoy his books without the searing prejudice of their peers. I argued that they should be allowed to submerge themselves in the effervescent silliness of Dan Brown and all that he writes, all that mattered was that they enjoyed the sensation. In effect, I was – as the Beastie Boys would have it – fighting for their right to party, and their right to party however the hell they wanted.

It has come to pass that I was wrong and I wish now to apologise profoundly and profusely for this. I did have a copy of Inferno thrust into my hands at the weekend and I attempted to read a chapter. It was like rowing through a lake made of cheese. In the end, I just couldn't. I wanted to prove myself right and read the damn thing, to put those of you who munch through those Booker nominated tomes like you're tapeworm hungry and they're bowls of mental muesii (the horrid kind that looks and tastes like rabbit dropping and sawdust, not nice sugary Alpen) in your place. To deliver a big slap in the face for historical fiction and show the world that a bit of a gung-ho popularism was good old fashioned dirty fun, like mud-wrestling in your underpants while listening to seventies disco. Boy, what was I thinking. I was, in philosophical terms, talking giant horse bollocks.

I'll cling to a few tenuous elements of my thesis, like a man trying not to drown in his own self-created ocean of stupidity. All those reviews of the book where the reviewer oh-so-wittily parodied the man himself aren't funny, but that's because Dan selflessly puts himself beyond the bounds of parody. It's like he's discovered how to move faster than the speed of light. The critics and reviewers will never catch him. There's possibly nothing that can reach him. Reading Inferno is like someone has dropped a turd into the LHC, pushed all the dials to eleven to accelerate their brown bomb beyond the bounds of known physics, and they're using your brain as the collider target.

In short, I feel dirty and bad. Please accept my apologies and do not touch this book.

(I suppose what brought this in focus was that I'm re-reading John Connolly's series of Charlie Parker thrillers which really show you how a labyrinthine, dark and gothic plot should be managed, and despite the darkness are so luminously written.)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Kathy on June 18, 2013, 04:42:21 pm
 ;D

Have you tried reading Twilight?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Greenbank on June 18, 2013, 04:43:00 pm
On a related note I've read some shit books (fiction) concerning computers (I should know better) but nothing, nothing, comes close to how dire Digital Fortress is. At least I took the turd less trodden when it comes to Dan Brown books.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 18, 2013, 04:52:06 pm
;D
But WHY is it shit?
Is there no plot, or is it that there is a plot but it is just written in such a simplistic, cringeworthy, childlike writing style that it mars your appreciation of it?
Because that's what I like - I'm quite thick when it comes to novels, I don't understand 'reading between the lines', metaphors, subtlety, nuance, having to work out what's implicitly going on, etc. I need "he did this and then this happened and then the situation was like this". Stylistic writing just washes straight over my head.
I've not read the latest one but intend to when I get round to it: as yet, you've not yet managed to convince me why I should give it a miss.
Just in the same way an election campaign sounds perfectly reasonable, but you can't find any reason FOR voting for the party - your negative review of Dan Brown makes sense, but I can't find any reason why I wouldn't enjoy it. In fact, you seem like a fairly clever, literature-appreciating kind of guy - and you hate it, so I, being basically a mouth breather when it comes to literature appreciation, will probably love it.
Which could be what a lot of people think on reading the professional reviews - and then go on to buy it, which could explain why Dan Brown's so rich?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Eccentrica Gallumbits on June 18, 2013, 04:54:53 pm
Nothing would make me happier than ian and Mr Larrington reading the whole Twilight series and reviewing them here. In fact, if I win Euromillions this week I will pay each of them a million quid for every Twilight book they read and review.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: rogerzilla on June 18, 2013, 05:20:28 pm
I'm reading it.  The use of italics and the ellipsis is as pervasive as ever.  He makes a grammatical joke which indicates he doesn't understand grammar.  It is stunningly formulaic, if you've read the DVC and A&D.

Basically he's talentless but got very lucky.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: pcolbeck on June 18, 2013, 05:31:35 pm
;D
But WHY is it shit?
Is there no plot, or is it that there is a plot but it is just written in such a simplistic, cringeworthy, childlike writing style that it mars your appreciation of it?
Because that's what I like - I'm quite thick when it comes to novels, I don't understand 'reading between the lines', metaphors, subtlety, nuance, having to work out what's implicitly going on, etc. I need "he did this and then this happened and then the situation was like this". Stylistic writing just washes straight over my head.

No there is plot and if the writing was simplistic and childlike it would be a lot better. The point is he doesn't keep it lean, mean and simple it's positively baroque with superfluous descriptions of things that have no bearing on character or moving the story along.  He fills sentences with metaphors and similes that simply don't work. You could remove 50% of the words in any of his books and they would read better.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Julian on June 18, 2013, 05:36:54 pm
^ Yebbut I'd say the same about Dickens.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: pcolbeck on June 18, 2013, 05:39:59 pm
^ Yebbut I'd say the same about Dickens.

Dickens could certainly be edited but at least his prose works and I guess he was being paid by the word (his stuff was originally serialized in magazines) so at least he had an excuse :)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Jakob on June 18, 2013, 05:48:18 pm
Basically he's talentless but got very lucky.

I disagree with that. That's like claiming George Lucas was just lucky.  He has a talent for coming up with stories.

Also, my wife who barely reads any English language books, will read his books, as she finds them easy to read, so regardless of what we think of the quality of his writings, they clearly appeal to a market that wouldn't normally read that much....and that can't be a bad thing.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Mr Larrington on June 18, 2013, 07:04:06 pm
^ Yebbut I'd say the same about Dickens.

Dickens could certainly be edited but at least his prose works and I guess he was being paid by the word (his stuff was originally serialized in magazines) so at least he had an excuse :)

Some writer of Western pulp fiction1 - I forget who but he was paid by the word - used to draw out the final gunfight as long as possible.  Every time he wrote "BANG!" he got another cent, and back in the Thirties two "BANG!"s woul buy you a newspaper.

Nothing would make me happier than ian and Mr Larrington reading the whole Twilight series and reviewing them here. In fact, if I win Euromillions this week I will pay each of them a million quid for every Twilight book they read and review.

I suspect I'd rather eat a razor-blade casserole with fava beans and a fine Chianti than read the Twiglet series, but there is a distinct possibility I might shortly finding myself needing the money >:(

1 - No, cowboys and outlaws, you fools ;D
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: geraldc on June 18, 2013, 11:27:35 pm
I for one admit to being jealous of Dan Brown's success.

All I've learnt about Opus Dei, Free Masons and the Knights Templar, I've learnt from his novels. All of you knockers are in the pay of the illuminati

Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Wowbagger on June 18, 2013, 11:58:45 pm
You will not be surprised to learn that not only have I never read anything by Dan Brown but also that I have learned of his existence as a writer of poor fiction solely as a result of this thread.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: her_welshness on June 19, 2013, 10:24:06 am
The reasons that Dan Brown's books are so shit:

1. Because he likes to talk down to his audience. It is honestly like being in a room listening to your patronising tutor, going on and on.

2. His books turn people into gullible idiots. 'Well there is a lot of truth in what he is saying' opined one colleague. NOOOOOOOO!

3. His characters are extremely two-dimensional.

If you want to read some proper rumbunctious thrillers than the Bernie Gunter books by Philip Kerr will do you good.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 19, 2013, 10:48:09 am
The reasons that Dan Brown's books are so shit:

1. Because he likes to talk down to his audience. It is honestly like being in a room listening to your patronising tutor, going on and on.

2. His books turn people into gullible idiots. 'Well there is a lot of truth in what he is saying' opined one colleague. NOOOOOOOO!

3. His characters are extremely two-dimensional.

If you want to read some proper rumbunctious thrillers than the Bernie Gunter books by Philip Kerr will do you good.

Yeah but the problem with books like that is they use daft, long, incomprehensible words - lke 'rumbunctious'. ;)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 19, 2013, 11:20:59 am
Read Raymond Chandler then. Or Alastair Maclean, Dick Francis, Desmond Bagley etc. Nicholas Monsarrat can manage a hell of a story without making it difficult to read or being pretentious.

Plenty of decent writers out there.

*everyone* should read Raymond. He just about invented simple, clear storytelling



Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mattc on June 19, 2013, 11:42:08 am
Read Raymond Chandler then. Or Alastair Maclean, Dick Francis, Desmond Bagley etc. Nicholas Monsarrat can manage a hell of a story without making it difficult to read or being pretentious.

Plenty of decent writers out there.

*everyone* should read Raymond. He just about invented simple, clear storytelling
+1

But Ben should really just go and read the bloody things, if he cares so little for the opinions here. And give us a clear non-pretentious review.

Easy to find copies - the charity shops are stuffed with Dan Brown.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on June 19, 2013, 12:11:22 pm
;D
But WHY is it shit?
Is there no plot, or is it that there is a plot but it is just written in such a simplistic, cringeworthy, childlike writing style that it mars your appreciation of it?
Because that's what I like - I'm quite thick when it comes to novels, I don't understand 'reading between the lines', metaphors, subtlety, nuance, having to work out what's implicitly going on, etc. I need "he did this and then this happened and then the situation was like this". Stylistic writing just washes straight over my head.
I have read & enjoyed many books & stories written in a simple, straightforward,  metaphor-free, even childlike, style. There is nothing wrong with it. Indeed, I find simplicity in writing very attractive. See mrcharly's list for a few of the many writers who have done it well.

That is not Dan Brown. I've looked (until my brain hurt, which means very briefly) into one of Dan Brown's books. The style is crap.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 19, 2013, 02:14:49 pm
;D
But WHY is it shit?
Is there no plot, or is it that there is a plot but it is just written in such a simplistic, cringeworthy, childlike writing style that it mars your appreciation of it?
Because that's what I like - I'm quite thick when it comes to novels, I don't understand 'reading between the lines', metaphors, subtlety, nuance, having to work out what's implicitly going on, etc. I need "he did this and then this happened and then the situation was like this". Stylistic writing just washes straight over my head.
I have read & enjoyed many books & stories written in a simple, straightforward,  metaphor-free, even childlike, style. There is nothing wrong with it. Indeed, I find simplicity in writing very attractive. See mrcharly's list for a few of the many writers who have done it well.

That is not Dan Brown. I've looked (until my brain hurt, which means very briefly) into one of Dan Brown's books. The style is crap.

Excellent, thanks - that's made the decision very easy for me, I'm going to buy it for my kindle and read it over the weekend.
'Not liked by people who want "style"' usually == 'nice and easy to read'.

Question, is the latest Dan Brown book along the same lines as the others?
Better, worse?

Title: Re: an apology
Post by: barakta on June 19, 2013, 03:03:38 pm
^ Yebbut I'd say the same about Dickens.

Like eating a packet of dry crackers for years on end...
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: ian on June 19, 2013, 03:04:40 pm
;D
But WHY is it shit?

So, to shit, and why Inferno is so precisely brown and noisome.

I'm not the clever and erudite thing you believe. It's true, I once dabbled in the world of literature, until one fateful day – part way through the labour that is Finnegans Wake (it doesn't have an apostrophe you know, all clever people do) – I had a small epiphany. Not a big neon Jesus epiphany, well not unless Jesus was the small sparkly elf as portrayed in the apocryphal Book of Kevin, but enough of an epiphany to bring me to a literal halt and to contemplate just why the hell I was bothering with the slog. So, I put Finnegan in my wake and suddenly a weight lifted, like my very soul had taken a big draft of helium and was about to make one of those squeaky comedy pizza orders. At this point, some men – mostly those men destined to be caped crusaders (and despite the predilection towards tights, it generally is men, make of that what you will) – would have taken the life opportunity offered and maybe retreated to a monastery in highest Nepal to learn martial art skills and moody looks, but my calling was different, so instead I headed to Pizza Hut and spent a while wondering just how much processed cheese they could infect a small piece of bread with, and whether it would be better to just embed the bread inside a block of cheese and be done with it. Who wants bread when you can have cheese. That became my philosophy. That's what the stuffed crust taught me. There's cheese and there's death. Choose cheese.

So to Mr Brown. From past readings (and I did read the Da Vinci Code), I figured that he could hammer together enough plot to hold together a plausible story, it's admittedly the shonky shed of storytelling, the kind of thing that'll hold up for the spare hour or two in an airport lounge or the on beach. It's there, it should do the the job, and given enough pace, it should hold together. It's not going to be standing in a few weeks. Cheese is there to be eaten, not admired.

Oh, you're going to demand specifics. The writing is easy to pick on, it's the small kid with the peculiar odour and jam-jar thick glasses. The prose dies on the page, right in front of you. You want to call someone but you know it's too late. Defibrillation would be futile. It's like the words have turned up out of some vague sense of obligation, after all he gave them a job last time, but they would rather be somewhere else. You can almost sense them sneaking off, they've heard there's a better book over there. There undoubtedly is. He insists on simply telling you things. The lead character is in the hospital when a doctor walks in. She has the assertive gait of an athlete. She's just walked into a hospital room, not pole vaulted in. Her eyes, though a gentle brown, seemed unusually penetrating, as if they had witnessed a profundity of experience rarely encountered by a person her age. Seriously, someone wrote that sentence. Editors read it. Proofreaders skimmed over it. Someone printed it. At no point from the conception to the printing of that sentence did a single person utter the word 'uh?' That assertive gait of an athlete probably came in handy a few entire pages later when she was running from the leather clad, spiky haired, motorbike-riding assassin. If you can get past the recently deceased prose, it's like being beaten about the head with the cold, dead haddock of cliché.

And mostly because there is no pace. That was the one thing that might have carried it. It proceeds with all the dramatic tension of someone reciting the alphabet. The chapters are short and episodic, even if the writing could carry it, there's not even the space for tension to develop. No tension equals no pace. It has all the tension of the gusset of a ten-year-old pair of y-fronts. A book should grab you and carry you along. It doesn't have to be fantastic writing, and as someone who's trying to write a novel (well, two), I'm pretty impressed just by the act of holding a story together for a few hundred thousand words. It's a marathon. Sure, some people run a marathon like it's a race, others do it dressed as a giant chicken. They finish and that's the important thing. It's the achievement and the fact that you've been taken along for the ride. So what if that was on the back of a giant, sweating chicken.

I don't get on with proper literature these days, I can't abide the hothouse I've-done-a-creative-writing-course prose that's so beloved of the literati, but writing should have some fizz. It doesn't have to be a riot of adjectives, no one needs to kettle those restive adverbs, it just has to tell a story and make you interested in that story. And that failing is why Inferno is big, brown, and smelly. Flush it for your own good.

Did someone mention Twilight?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 19, 2013, 03:20:46 pm
Twiglight is a lot, lot better than anything by DB

It is perfect for the audience. It's teen-girl vampire romance fic, do you really expect something deep and meaningful? 
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 19, 2013, 03:31:46 pm
I'm not the clever and erudite thing you believe. It's true, I once dabbled in the world of literature, until one fateful day – part way through the labour that is Finnegans Wake (it doesn't have an apostrophe you know, all clever people do) – I had a small epiphany. Not a big neon Jesus epiphany, well not unless Jesus was the small sparkly elf as portrayed in the apocryphal Book of Kevin, but enough of an epiphany to bring me to a literal halt and to contemplate just why the hell I was bothering with the slog. So, I put Finnegan in my wake and suddenly a weight lifted, like my very soul had taken a big draft of helium and was about to make one of those squeaky comedy pizza orders. At this point, some men – mostly those men destined to be caped crusaders (and despite the predilection towards tights, it generally is men, make of that what you will) – would have taken the life opportunity offered and maybe retreated to a monastery in highest Nepal to learn martial art skills and moody looks, but my calling was different, so instead I headed to Pizza Hut and spent a while wondering just how much processed cheese they could infect a small piece of bread with, and whether it would be better to just embed the bread inside a block of cheese and be done with it. Who wants bread when you can have cheese. That became my philosophy. That's what the stuffed crust taught me. There's cheese and there's death. Choose cheese.

Don't understand this at all. This paragraph is a perfect example of what most 'good' books read like to me: completely incomprehensible due to being full of metaphors. What has cheese, Nepal, or men in tights got to do with anything? And who are Kevin and Finnegan - when were those characters introduced?

So to Mr Brown. From past readings (and I did read the Da Vinci Code), I figured that he could hammer together enough plot to hold together a plausible story, it's admittedly the shonky shed of storytelling, the kind of thing that'll hold up for the spare hour or two in an airport lounge or the on beach. It's there, it should do the the job, and given enough pace, it should hold together. It's not going to be standing in a few weeks. Cheese is there to be eaten, not admired.

OK... but still not sure what cheese has to do with anything.

Oh, you're going to demand specifics. The writing is easy to pick on, it's the small kid with the peculiar odour and jam-jar thick glasses. The prose dies on the page, right in front of you. You want to call someone but you know it's too late. Defibrillation would be futile. It's like the words have turned up out of some vague sense of obligation, after all he gave them a job last time, but they would rather be somewhere else. You can almost sense them sneaking off, they've heard there's a better book over there. There undoubtedly is. He insists on simply telling you things.

Great! That's what I want! I want a story, not a cryptic puzzle I have to figure out. If I want a cryptic puzzle I need to figure out, I'll buy a crossword, not a fiction book.


Quote
The lead character is in the hospital when a doctor walks in. She has the assertive gait of an athlete. She's just walked into a hospital room, not pole vaulted in.

What's wrong with that? I would take that to mean the gait that an athlete walks with when they're merely walking, not when they're actually doing athletics.

Quote
Her eyes, though a gentle brown, seemed unusually penetrating, as if they had witnessed a profundity of experience rarely encountered by a person her age.
I understand what that means - I'm not really sure what's wrong with that. It means what it says. It's not cryptic in the slightest.
How would you prefer her eyes to have been described?

THe thing about it is it forces an image into your mind of what it is like. So it's like watching a film. I guess you obviously don't like that and would rather it be left to your imagination, but it's not necessarily a bad style, just not to everyone's tastes.
Crypticness isn't to my tastes, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad style.

Quote
And mostly because there is no pace. That was the one thing that might have carried it. It proceeds with all the dramatic tension of someone reciting the alphabet. The chapters are short and episodic, even if the writing could carry it, there's not even the space for tension to develop. No tension equals no pace. It has all the tension of the gusset of a ten-year-old pair of y-fronts. A book should grab you and carry you along. It doesn't have to be fantastic writing, and as someone who's trying to write a novel (well, two), I'm pretty impressed just by the act of holding a story together for a few hundred thousand words. It's a marathon. Sure, some people run a marathon like it's a race, others do it dressed as a giant chicken. They finish and that's the important thing. It's the achievement and the fact that you've been taken along for the ride. So what if that was on the back of a giant, sweating chicken.
...
I don't get on with proper literature these days, I can't abide the hothouse I've-done-a-creative-writing-course prose that's so beloved of the literati, but writing should have some fizz. It doesn't have to be a riot of adjectives, no one needs to kettle those restive adverbs, it just has to tell a story and make you interested in that story. And that failing is why Inferno is big, brown, and smelly. Flush it for your own good.

But don't you want to know what happens next? Surely you must have wanted to know what happens next, otherwise you wouldn't have finished it.


Twiglight is a lot, lot better than anything by DB

It is perfect for the audience. It's teen-girl vampire romance fic, do you really expect something deep and meaningful? 

Can't speak for anybody else but personally I only really like books and films I can relate to - so that usually has to mean it has to be physically possible (which rules out most superhero/fantasy type stuff), takes place in the present day, and ideally in Britain.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: ian on June 19, 2013, 07:46:22 pm
No worries Ben T, you don't need to justify your reading preferences to me. Go on, dive right in. Just remember, like in the sea off an English seaside resort, you may find yourself head-butting a turd. I was merely taking the opportunity to correct my previous supportive comments, having now had the dubious benefit of reading the first few chapters. Hoist with my own petard, indeed. Of course, Inferno could possibly have roared into flame after I gave up. I'm content never to find out.

A few comments, if I may, because I may as well get something out of my lost fifteen minutes of Dan Brown.

The problem with his simply telling you things is that they have no context. It's stodgy, omnipresent narration. Rather than let characters develop, he drops facts on them like little bombs. It may as well be a shopping list of handy character facts. A man is fat. Pigs are pink. A woman is tall. Why at the point of a doctor appearing in the doorway do I need to know she has the assertive gait of a athlete? Not only is a pig ugly clanger of a phrase, what's relevance does it have at that point? At this stage, she's just a doctor, standing in the door. OK, DB lore will have it that she'll shortly be in tow of our hero, running breathlessly through the tour guide landscapes of Italy, chased by leather clad assassins or crazed monk assassins. Some flavour of assassin anyway. But that's leaping ahead. If it was occasional, this kind of fact might add colour, but he shovels them out like he's digging to reach buried treasure.

As for other things: what exactly is unusually penetrating. People can, I'm sure, have a penetrating stare. It's a bit of a cliché, but a reader will know that's intense. But unusually so? Is there a usual penetrating stare? Is this unusually penetrating stare a gift of the fact that she has brown eyes. Can blue-eyed people (burn em!) have equally penetrating stares? And, really, gaze into someone eyes (probably best to ask their permission first, especially if you're planning to try this out on the Tube) and let me know how you tell by gazing into those eyes if they [have] witnessed a profundity of experience rarely encountered by a person [their] age. What is the precise level of profundity of experience for a given age? Is there a profundity scale? An ISO standard of profundity calibrated by age? I'll give you a clue, you can't. It's a senseless phrase unless she's the sort of mad starer most usually found mumbling at the back of a night bus through Elephant & Castle. In which case it's the kind of profundity earned through the mixed media of psychotropic drugs and White Lightening cider. I don't think he meant that.

Horses for courses, I suppose. If he really wanted to demonstrate she had acquired had some kind of profundity of experience (oh what a phrase), perhaps he could have done so via some interaction, perhaps a hint of backstory, rather than merely divining it from the depths of her penetrating stare.

I'm not explaining cheese or men in tights to you. These are things best learned through experience.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mattc on June 19, 2013, 08:04:43 pm
After reading Ben's incisive review of Ian's latest work, I am keen to read more of his stuff.

[This might be a reckless way to select my bedtime reading, but Ian's stuff is all free, so what the hell.]
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Cudzoziemiec on June 19, 2013, 08:27:53 pm
I've never read anything by Dan Brown, but far from "submerged in the effervescent silliness", I thought people took him and his ideas rather seriously? Or was that only the Da Vinci Code (that was the one about secret codes in the Vatican or thereabouts?) ?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: rogerzilla on June 19, 2013, 08:35:16 pm
Ben, if you've read Angels and Demons - quite entertaining on its own, and the first of the series  - then Inferno is basically the same thing set in Florence.  If you want to try Dan Brown, then A&D and TDVC are the only two worth bothering with.  The Lost Symbol is a clone of them, like Inferno.

Amonmg the non-Langdon books, Deception Point is very mediocre, sub-Clive Cussler (and that's saying something).  Digital Fortress is incredibly shite.  I read these things so you don't have to.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Jaded on June 19, 2013, 08:43:40 pm
I'm not explaining cheese or men in tights to you. These are things best learned through experience.

 ;D
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: pcolbeck on June 19, 2013, 08:53:17 pm
Ben T you claim to dislike and not understand metaphors. Dan Brown books have more metaphors per sentence than a magic realism novel and what's more they are crap and don't work !
If you want simple clear writing try Ernest Hemingway,
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Eccentrica Gallumbits on June 19, 2013, 09:00:56 pm
I've never read anything by Dan Brown, but far from "submerged in the effervescent silliness", I thought people took him and his ideas rather seriously? Or was that only the Da Vinci Code (that was the one about secret codes in the Vatican or thereabouts?) ?
It's a shame that in all the groaning over the terribleness of Dan Brown's writing, people often overlook the fundamental truths in his work, hidden like an apple in the middle of a pizza.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: spindrift on June 19, 2013, 09:12:37 pm
Quote
Clint Van Rental perused the ancient tome in front of him like a predator eyeing a potential foe. His greying countenance squinted at the ancient script. "What can it mean?" he pondered as he peered at the barely legible text like a short-sighted owl. A rush of air like a kitten on a moped made him look up. "Ah, Miss Frankenfurter" he exclaimed, as the willowy German scientist, brilliant in her field, swept into the room, her buttocks flared in annoyance. "I hope you are well, Van Rental" she purred, like a drugged Siamese. "Tolerably well, Miss Frankenfurter, my wife recently died but I'm over that now and ready to enter into meaningless sex anytime soon".  "Vot ist the meaning of this!?" she suddenly exclaimed, as she thrust a sheaf of papers on his desk. Van Rental lowered his head to his hands as he recognised the barely legible hand writing of his old foe, Count Timpani Von Autobahn. "Why?" He thought. "Why me? Why do I always get dragged into running with a willowy German woman to a church that has a big arrow on it pointing to another church?" He glanced at his barely legible notes and reluctantly drained his coffee and led his companion to the door like a barely legible groom dragging his arranged-marriage bride to the bridal suite for sex and that. He steeled himself against the inevitable fandango that always seemed to follow him around, like a barely legible albatross. 
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Mrs Pingu on June 19, 2013, 10:18:58 pm
I can't wait to read Ian's novels!
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 19, 2013, 11:19:06 pm
The problem with his simply telling you things is that they have no context. It's stodgy, omnipresent narration. Rather than let characters develop, he drops facts on them like little bombs. It may as well be a shopping list of handy character facts. A man is fat. Pigs are pink. A woman is tall. Why at the point of a doctor appearing in the doorway do I need to know she has the assertive gait of a athlete?

So you can picture the scene in your mind's eye.
That, and the fact that she has penetrating eyes, is just a way of getting across that she's a strong, assertive, strident, woman - not a mousey, dithering or gormless type of nurse.
It's probably so you can picture yourself as the bloke who's ill - to get across that he probably quickly thinks "ooh bloody hell, she looks like she means business" rather than "oh god, not 'er again."


and by
Quote
gazing into those eyes if they [have] witnessed a profundity of experience rarely encountered by a person [their] age

he's not literally describing how she looks. He's saying that, unbeknownst to the guy in bed, as a matter of fact, she actually HAS see things rarely seen by a person her age. In other words, he's in a hospital in probably a very rough area, where people come in in all sorts of states. By the fact that she looks ever so slightly aghast, but strident with it, he can't help wondering whether this is the case. It's describing it from his perspective again, remember.

See - I obviously understand Dan Brown books better than you - you obviously just don't understand it.
I see what you mean about it being metaphors, now - it still makes sense literally, but  the intended meaning is on a slightly different level, so I suppose that makes it a metaphor really.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 19, 2013, 11:31:44 pm
Ben, if you've read Angels and Demons - quite entertaining on its own, and the first of the series  - then Inferno is basically the same thing set in Florence.  If you want to try Dan Brown, then A&D and TDVC are the only two worth bothering with.  The Lost Symbol is a clone of them, like Inferno.

Amonmg the non-Langdon books, Deception Point is very mediocre, sub-Clive Cussler (and that's saying something).  Digital Fortress is incredibly shite.  I read these things so you don't have to.

I've read all the Dan Brown books apart from the latest one. I was just wondering whether it was radically different.
I'm assuming not - I assume that all the Dan Brown haters on this thread think all the others are shite as well, but i'm happy to stand corrected.
While ago but they basically seemed to be variations on a theme, guy gets caught up in an investigation that gets bigger and bigger the more he investigates and ends up basically drawn into being involved with the illuminati. But you always want to know what happens next.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: ian on June 20, 2013, 10:23:39 am
The problem with his simply telling you things is that they have no context. It's stodgy, omnipresent narration. Rather than let characters develop, he drops facts on them like little bombs. It may as well be a shopping list of handy character facts. A man is fat. Pigs are pink. A woman is tall. Why at the point of a doctor appearing in the doorway do I need to know she has the assertive gait of a athlete?

So you can picture the scene in your mind's eye.
That, and the fact that she has penetrating eyes, is just a way of getting across that she's a strong, assertive, strident, woman - not a mousey, dithering or gormless type of nurse.
It's probably so you can picture yourself as the bloke who's ill - to get across that he probably quickly thinks "ooh bloody hell, she looks like she means business" rather than "oh god, not 'er again."


and by
Quote
gazing into those eyes if they [have] witnessed a profundity of experience rarely encountered by a person [their] age

he's not literally describing how she looks. He's saying that, unbeknownst to the guy in bed, as a matter of fact, she actually HAS see things rarely seen by a person her age. In other words, he's in a hospital in probably a very rough area, where people come in in all sorts of states. By the fact that she looks ever so slightly aghast, but strident with it, he can't help wondering whether this is the case. It's describing it from his perspective again, remember.

See - I obviously understand Dan Brown books better than you - you obviously just don't understand it.
I see what you mean about it being metaphors, now - it still makes sense literally, but  the intended meaning is on a slightly different level, so I suppose that makes it a metaphor really.

You can get all that from a penetrating stare? I'm impressed. See, you are using your imagination. Admittedly, by that point I already knew that she was in serious danger of becoming the standard subservient female character, who is about to spend the remainder of books being dragged across page after page in the hero's wake, who will undoubtedly be placed in peril at some point, but fear not, she'll be united with the hero at the end, as he undoubtedly foils some nefarious plot laid by international terrorists / the Vatican / Illuminati / Knights Templar / clowns (delete as a appropriate, but if it's clowns I may have to re-start reading). That's why it's so unremittingly dull. OK, I'll eat my words if she takes a hollow-point in the back of the head a few pages after I gave up, and Langdon instead takes up with a team of dwarves on the run from their indenture on a evil travelling circus (see, I'm working that clown angle already, so pay attention Danny-boy, this is how it's done).

I can't bring myself to care. She's not actually a character. Langdon's not actually a character either, no matter how often DB tells us about his 'Harris Tweeds' (he's an academic, see?). Characters have substance. They have a history. They have aspirations. They have foibles, strengths, and weaknesses. Things we can understand because we have them too. Good characters create a strand of empathy between you and them. You might not like them, but you want to know what happens to them next. The author has made you care. It doesn't have to be fantastic, poetic writing to achieve this. It doesn't actually need acres of metaphor, endless similes, allusion, but they can help illuminate the story (they can also clutter). It does require some effort to create a character that someone can care about though. That, I suppose, is why I felt Inferno was such an enormous battleship of a turd. Had he perhaps tried to do something different, told a different story, he might have got away with the cardboard characters, and that tortured, clichéd prose. Perhaps it is a different story, but hey, I'm thinking not. If you want an assignment, go away and read it, and report back here once you are finished. I will humbly make yet another apology, nay, a plea for forgiveness from the YACF masses should I be wrong and there really is a clown-related adventure.

I'm still not going to forgive phrases like profundity of experience though. And it's full of them. I bet there's plenty of italics too, as he ladles out steaming plot mess. I didn't get that far.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 20, 2013, 11:23:13 am
The problem with his simply telling you things is that they have no context. It's stodgy, omnipresent narration. Rather than let characters develop, he drops facts on them like little bombs. It may as well be a shopping list of handy character facts. A man is fat. Pigs are pink. A woman is tall.

Yebbut, Dan Brown wouldn't just say "pigs are pink", he'd say something like "the four-legged porcine farmyard animals transported a delicately rosy hue about their bristled hide".

Quote
Horses for courses, I suppose. If he really wanted to demonstrate she had acquired had some kind of profundity of experience (oh what a phrase), perhaps he could have done so via some interaction, perhaps a hint of backstory, rather than merely divining it from the depths of her penetrating stare.

He spoonfeeds effects rather than causes, and gives no hint of what the causes might be, merely pigeonholes his characters with a list a series of superficial traits. This means you aren't allowed to draw your own conclusions about characters, so you can't engage with them. His characters are more like advertising tropes than anything resembling real people.

Some element of having to work it out for yourself is a fundamental requirement of being able to engage with characters in fiction. The best writers will feed lots of other stuff between the lines but it doesn't necessarily mean their writing is necessarily "difficult" - see Jane Austen, for example.

OK, so 19th century middle class relationships may not be your bag. If you fancy something more modern, try Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart - one of my favourite new books of the last few years, slightly unconventional in its narrative structure but in a very readable way. There are so many books that are actually worth reading out there, no one should need to resort to Dan Brown.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Julian on June 20, 2013, 12:48:16 pm
I have a degree in reading critically, and my hobby is reading uncritically.  I will read and enjoy popular writers from John Grisham to Enid Blyton.  I'm not a literature snob.  There's nothing wrong with a good story told in undemanding prose.

Dan Brown's repetitive style would make even Enid want to stab herself in the eyes with forks.  He's on the very short list of writers whose books I actually couldn't manage to finish, and I say that as someone who will read to the end of the back of a packet of cornflakes if there's nothing else available.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on June 20, 2013, 01:30:16 pm
;D
But WHY is it shit?
Is there no plot, or is it that there is a plot but it is just written in such a simplistic, cringeworthy, childlike writing style that it mars your appreciation of it?
Because that's what I like - I'm quite thick when it comes to novels, I don't understand 'reading between the lines', metaphors, subtlety, nuance, having to work out what's implicitly going on, etc. I need "he did this and then this happened and then the situation was like this". Stylistic writing just washes straight over my head.
I have read & enjoyed many books & stories written in a simple, straightforward,  metaphor-free, even childlike, style. There is nothing wrong with it. Indeed, I find simplicity in writing very attractive. See mrcharly's list for a few of the many writers who have done it well.

That is not Dan Brown. I've looked (until my brain hurt, which means very briefly) into one of Dan Brown's books. The style is crap.

Excellent, thanks - that's made the decision very easy for me, I'm going to buy it for my kindle and read it over the weekend.
'Not liked by people who want "style"' usually == 'nice and easy to read'.

Question, is the latest Dan Brown book along the same lines as the others?
Better, worse?
You have completely misunderstood me. I didn't say I liked 'style', nor that Dan Brown is nice & easy to read. Mrcharly gave you a partial list of writers who are nice & easy to read. You seem to think that I'm saying that an awful style is the same as no style. Not true. Some of the worst crap I've ever read has been by writers who were trying to show off their style. You seem to think that style must mean something fancy. Not so. Take a look at the Economist's style guide, for example. Basically, it says to keep it simple, clear, and unambiguous. That's a style - and as far as it goes, an excellent one.

BTW, not only have you misunderstood me, but it seems to me that your misunderstanding is wilful, & slightly offensive. You've lumped me in with people who think that the more mannered & elaborate writing is the better it is, despite me stating the opposite. I love clear, simple writing, the sort where there is no attempt at stylishness; writing where the story is the sole focus of attention, not the writer's skill with words. As I said, Dan Brown does not write like that. He rams his style in yer face.  He shows off (or tries to). And to make it even worse, he does it badly.                                                                                         

Julian says it very well. "A good story told in undemanding prose"  :thumbsup: Spot on.  I love 'em. But that ain't Dan Brown!

Like her, I'll read almost anything. I usually can't leave a book unfinished, even if I hate it. Dan Brown is one of a handful of writers I've encountered* who has managed to write something that I can start & not finish.

*For the sake of completeness, I must point out that there are entire genres I've avoided, such as Mills & Boon romances.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: GothonaBrompton on June 20, 2013, 01:37:53 pm
In terms of character development, I always enjoyed the Rebus books by Ian Rankin.  They are dragging out a bit, as 'Standing in Another Mans Grave' sees him working in a Cold Case Unit staffed with retirees - but may be testament to the popularity of the character that Ian Rankin wrote another one.  I can't seem to empathise with the Malcolm Fox character though.

The others I like are Harry Bosch by Michael Connelly (though the alcoholic, divorced detective that is disconnected from his kids is incredibly similar to the Rebus character) and the Hole boooks by Jo Nesbo. 

Ruth Rendell also has an amazing way of getting inside the head of serial killers who look normal, or people who are paranoid (sometimes the same character) - 13 Steps Down, Live Flesh, The Rottweiler spring to mind.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 20, 2013, 01:42:34 pm

You have completely misunderstood me. I didn't say I liked 'style', nor that Dan Brown is nice & easy to read. Mrcharly gave you a partial list of writers who are nice & easy to read. You seem to think that I'm saying that an awful style is the same as no style. Not true! Some of the worst crap I've ever read has been by writers who were trying to show off their style. You seem to think that style must mean something fancy. Not so! Take a look at the Economist's style guide, for example. Basically, it says to keep it simple, clear, an unambiguous. That's a style - and as far as it goes, an excellent one.
ok then, for "likes style", read "is bothered about style".

Quote
BTW, not only have you misunderstood me, but it seems to me that your misunderstanding is wilful, & slightly offensive. You've lumped me in with people who think that the more mannered & elaborate writing is the better it is, despite me stating the opposite. I love clear, simple writing, the sort where there is no attempt at stylishness; writing where the story is the sole focus of attention, not the writer's skill with words. As I said, Dan Brown does not write like that. He rams his style in yer face.  He shows off (or tries to). And to make it even worse, he does it badly.                                                                                         
But you care about it. You can't abide by reading Dan Brown purely because you don't like the style - I read it purely for the substance, I don't care what the style is.
Whatever the style is, the genre that Dan Brown writes in - conspiracy - is one I find fairly entertaining and as such stories written about I find the substance of fairly intriguing (no matter how unrealistic it might be) - I read it for that purpose solely alone, I don't find the style puts me off.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 20, 2013, 01:45:57 pm
BTW, not only have you misunderstood me, but it seems to me that your misunderstanding is wilful, & slightly offensive.

Agreed. Given the fact that Ben T asked the same question and got pretty much the same answers last time Dan Brown came up for discussion (https://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=23746.0), I suspect him of trolling.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: David Martin on June 20, 2013, 01:47:08 pm
;D

Have you tried reading Twilight?
Yes. I did read it. But despite the ready availability (as my better half likes such trash) I have never brought myself to read any of the sequels.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 20, 2013, 01:52:36 pm
But you care about it. You can't abide by reading Dan Brown purely because you don't like the style - I read it purely for the substance, I don't care what the style is.

Dan Brown is a hack. He's a hard-working hack but a hack none the less. His writing has no merit at all qua "writing", its only merit is as a commercial enterprise.

If you find it entertaining, that's fine. It's no worse than reading the Sun or watching EastEnders in that respect.

If that's the limit of your cultural aspirations, that's also fine, but I feel sorry for you.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: David Martin on June 20, 2013, 02:09:22 pm
I get the feeling that a Dan Brown novel is a decorated trope. It is somewhat akin to a cupcake. How ever fantastically (or pornographically) decorated it may be on the outside, you know that as soon as you bite into it there will be an overly thick sickly sweet icing on the top and some sort of slightly artificial tasting bland sponge underneath. It doesn't matter. Every cupcake is the same. You eat it because either you like cupcakes and don't want anything more substantial, or you are being polite, or in some cases you realise that yes, it is really just another essentially identical cupcake than can be reduced to the style guide of RDA for fat, sugar, starch and burnt crispy bits.

Dan Brown is to storytelling what a BOGOF pack of Tesco value cupcakes is to the great british bakeoff. Easily digestible, not terribly pleasant but passes the time and adds calories.

I find Dan Brown books to be ideal airline fodder. Turn the critical filter to zero, accept it as a story that is internally mostly consistent as long as you don't bring logic or science into it and eat the cupcake. Preferably with a strong cup of tea.

On the other hand I ma not very good at reading strongly characterised literature. Austen bores me. Gabriel Garcia Marquez has yet to produce a book I can finish. And Tweelight was a book that I wished I hadn't bothered to get to the end of.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 20, 2013, 02:11:38 pm
Turn the critical filter to zero

I have a problem. I can't do this.

I can do it while watching TV, and to some extent while watching films and listening to music, but I can't do it while reading books. I'm sure this says more about me than it says about Dan Brown.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 20, 2013, 02:21:51 pm
If a Dan Brown book was a bicycle, it would be one of those full-suspension things with massive knobbly tyres that cost £40 from Asda. At first glance it looks really good value, with all those gears, the disc brakes, the front and rear suspension.

Contrast it to, Hemmingway, say (erm, lets pick 'For whom the bell tolls'). This is an ancient Raleigh made with 531C, down tube shifters, a few spots of rust on the frame.

When you try riding the Dan Brown bicycle, very soon bits start to fall apart. It's as heavy as an anchor and you really can't get very far on it. Most of the parts are superfluous.

The Hemmingway bicycle seems basic, stripped down, not much to it. Once you get the feel of the bike, you realise that riding this bike is a journey in itself, that the ride is the meaning and purpose. It will outlast you.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 20, 2013, 02:53:46 pm
Confusing us with your fancy highbrow metaphors isn't helpful, mrcharly. Who do you think you are, Will Self?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Mrs Pingu on June 20, 2013, 02:55:07 pm
I'm glad someone else feels the same way as me about cupcakes!
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 20, 2013, 03:10:52 pm
Confusing us with your fancy highbrow metaphors isn't helpful, mrcharly. Who do you think you are, Will Self?

Nah, you're getting confused mate. I haven't said anything about murder, masturbation with sprockets or compared the journey of an individual chain link round sprockets and jockey wheels to the tortured manipulation of my neurons by society.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Eccentrica Gallumbits on June 20, 2013, 03:21:39 pm
I'm glad someone else feels the same way as me about cupcakes!
Pretentious sickly American nonsense. What's wrong with a good old-fashioned British fairycake?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: ian on June 20, 2013, 03:36:11 pm
My original thesis, for the record, wasn't really that Dan Brown's books were bad. I wasn't making a judgement call, it's not like I'm going to be winning any literary prizes any time soon, so I probably shouldn't criticise.

I had previously made the point that I felt that he could pull off a reasonable non-demanding read. On attempting to read it, I discovered that I was wrong, and for that error, I was asking forgiveness. I'm not really a highbrow chap, in fact much of what I do is guided by the mantra "what would Chuck Norris do" and as mentioned I find deep philosophical meaning in stuffed crust pizza. I'd read Dan Brown with a kind of demented pride.

Except it went wrong. I discovered that I had pushed myself too far. It was dire. I figure a decent – even lowbrow read – needs the following things, and not all of them:

1. Good plot. It needs a hook. It needs a story. It's got to flow. Given this, you can get away will all manner of sins.

2. Good characterisation. This helps with (1), of course, but it gets you involved. Even if the plot is flapping about in the wind, you'll still care enough to keep reading.

3. Good writing. This is nice, but oddly optional. Even a workaday assemblage of words will take to the air if there's a decent plot under the wings. In the absence of a good plot however, even fantastic writing just becomes a slog (this is the problem I have with a lot of literary stuff, to be honest).

All said, I'm happy for anyone to read, watch, or do what they want. I just reserve the right to take the piss out of them.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 20, 2013, 03:48:43 pm
BTW, not only have you misunderstood me, but it seems to me that your misunderstanding is wilful, & slightly offensive.

Agreed. Given the fact that Ben T asked the same question and got pretty much the same answers last time Dan Brown came up for discussion (https://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=23746.0), I suspect him of trolling.
...
Dan Brown is a hack. He's a hard-working hack but a hack none the less. His writing has no merit at all qua "writing", its only merit is as a commercial enterprise.

If you find it entertaining, that's fine. It's no worse than reading the Sun or watching EastEnders in that respect.

If that's the limit of your cultural aspirations, that's also fine, but I feel sorry for you.

Well, I responded to this thread in an attempt to find out whether the latest Dan Brown book was along the similar lines of the others, or worse.
In other words, I'm asking is it merely bad in the same way that the others are, or is it bad on a whole new level. In other words, is it likely that even me, a cultural prole, will find it  bad.

But given that it's obviously far too unfashionable on here to admit to coming remotely close to finding any merit in any of the books whatsoever - and more specifically, the fact that the whole thread started off as, and appears to be continuing as, a competition for who can find the most elaborate metaphor or the most descriptive analogy to describe how dire they are ("I find it worse than you", "no I find it worst!"), it seems I'm unlikely to get an answer, because that would involve someone admitting to having read the others, so I'll just read it and make my own mind up.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: HTFB on June 20, 2013, 04:45:15 pm
Easy to find copies - the charity shops are stuffed with Dan Brown.
They're not, you know. Second-hand paperbacks are a low density store of value at the best of times, and you have to be ruthless. An economist knows she'll never find a £20 note lying on the pavement, because if one were there somebody would have picked it up already. Similarly, there is no point holding copies of Dan Brown because anybody who would possibly buy it off you has already read the stuff. Nobody ever reads it twice. Almost all of the millions of people who will ever want to read it bought it new, or waited to get it from the library, or inherited it from a friend. The few remaining possible customers have got it from the charity shop next door already. Or they paid 10p at a car boot sale, or they rooted it out for free from your bins when you threw out three other copies yesterday.

You can't rely on the great online marketplace to expand the base of the pyramid, either. It goes for a penny on Amazon -- plus £2.80 postage, but it's too fat a book to go letter-rate and so costs £2.60 to post as a second class parcel. Envelopes are 6p each in bulk, so that leaves 15p for you and your overheads.

Assume you stack your Da Vinci Codes four foot deep across half your storage---the rest of the space being needed for your gnomelike army of volunteers to fish the books out. Each of them has a volume of 48.4 cubic inches. So, stacked, that's 14 square feet the thousand. Doubling £3/sq ft /an, which is the very cheapest commercial space I can find on Rightmove, to account for your other bills, your 15p will pay for its shelfspace for a mere 21 months.

There are 2500 other sellers on Amazon optimistic enough to be offering a DVC ahead of you, so you can break even on a donated Dan Brown if the national demand for second-hand DVCs bought online averages four copies a day, including Sundays. It doesn't.

And you're going to be given two more copies tomorrow, and two the day after that, until the end of time.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: clarion on June 20, 2013, 04:52:40 pm
Interesting theory, but, as a regular in charity shops, and browser of the bookshelves, I can confirm that I have seen Dan Browns and 50 Shades... in almost every one of the shops I've been in the last few weeks, in Rose Hill, Carshalton, West Hampstead, Croydon, Sutton, Emsworth, and probably other places as well.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Eccentrica Gallumbits on June 20, 2013, 04:58:56 pm

Well, I responded to this thread in an attempt to find out whether the latest Dan Brown book was along the similar lines of the others, or worse.
In other words, I'm asking is it merely bad in the same way that the others are, or is it bad on a whole new level. In other words, is it likely that even me, a cultural prole, will find it  bad.

But given that it's obviously far too unfashionable on here to admit to coming remotely close to finding any merit in any of the books whatsoever - and more specifically, the fact that the whole thread started off as, and appears to be continuing as, a competition for who can find the most elaborate metaphor or the most descriptive analogy to describe how dire they are ("I find it worse than you", "no I find it worst!"), it seems I'm unlikely to get an answer, because that would involve someone admitting to having read the others, so I'll just read it and make my own mind up.
I've read several and thought they were almost exactly the same. The Da Vinci Code is slightly more interesting than Angels and Demons, and if you can ignore the fact it's terrible, it's a good page turner. Digital Fortress and the one about the ice are both terrible and boring. I'd read Inferno if I was trapped in a Greek holiday apartment in torrential rain for two weeks and there were no handy spoons to remove my eyes with, but not in any other circumstances.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 20, 2013, 05:25:49 pm
In other words, I'm asking is it merely bad in the same way that the others are, or is it bad on a whole new level. In other words, is it likely that even me, a cultural prole, will find it  bad.

You don't need to read it to answer that - it will be exactly the same as everything else he has written. If you like his previous books, you'll probably like this one. If you don't like his previous books, you probably won't like this one. Dan Brown is not the kind of writer who suddenly develops a hitherto hidden taste for modernist stream-of-consciousness or Elizabethan blank verse.

Quote
I'll just read it and make my own mind up.

Always the best policy.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Jaded on June 20, 2013, 06:13:11 pm
I don't fear metamorphs, even after I read a book that was supposed to be about the fear of them.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on June 21, 2013, 12:05:57 pm
BTW, not only have you misunderstood me, but it seems to me that your misunderstanding is wilful, & slightly offensive. You've lumped me in with people who think that the more mannered & elaborate writing is the better it is, despite me stating the opposite. I love clear, simple writing, the sort where there is no attempt at stylishness; writing where the story is the sole focus of attention, not the writer's skill with words. As I said, Dan Brown does not write like that. He rams his style in yer face.  He shows off (or tries to). And to make it even worse, he does it badly.                                                                                         
But you care about it. You can't abide by reading Dan Brown purely because you don't like the style - I read it purely for the substance, I don't care what the style is.
Whatever the style is, the genre that Dan Brown writes in - conspiracy - is one I find fairly entertaining and as such stories written about I find the substance of fairly intriguing (no matter how unrealistic it might be) - I read it for that purpose solely alone, I don't find the style puts me off.
If that's how you feel, then fine - for you. To me, it's like music, or song. If I can choose between two performances of the same song, one by someone who just sings it straight, in a good, clear, strong voice, or a poor singer who is often out of tune, but still insists on attempting fancy flourishes in every line, then obviously I prefer the first to the one who sings like Dan Brown writes.

From what you've said,  you'd prefer the second performance, because I've said I prefer the other one & you reject the opinions of those who think that there's any merit in doing things well. Will you also buy a lead BSO burdened with bling, because I prefer a nice light good quality bike kept as simple as possible?

I think Citoyen may have sussed you.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: asterix on June 21, 2013, 01:37:15 pm
..
Like her, I'll read almost anything. I usually can't leave a book unfinished, even if I hate it. Dan Brown is one of a handful of writers I've encountered* who has managed to write something that I can start & not finish.



Me too.  And I have even read entire 'works' by Jeffrey Archer (not something I feel I need to do again, tho').  A far better writer*, if not person, than Dan Brown.

*that's not actually saying much, as praise goes.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Vince on June 21, 2013, 02:56:09 pm
I was given a pre-read copy of DVC. I stopped reading it at the point I ran out of pre-turned pages. It was carp. Never looked at another Dan Brown since.

Looking forward to reading something by Ian though.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Steph on June 21, 2013, 11:15:06 pm
I gave up on a book recently. The author can actually weite decent prose, but has decided to abandon that in favour of pretentious willy- and thesaurus-waving. Goodbye, Mr Donaldson.

Now, I write fiction. I have written a lot of it, by some standards, it has been well-received, and I have certain values that I hold to.
My first-person or 'point of view' narratives are not omniscient. The world is an iceberg, mostly hidden from our view, and a first-person narrative should reflect that fact. A PoV narrative, which is written in the third person but told from the viewpoint of a central character, should be the same.Brown ignores this.

Character is the thing. Unless reading for the 'fun' of watching cars crash, most readers engage better if they can find some sort of feeling for a character. That is what makes soap operas so addictive for many people. A good author has a huge back story for every character, which helps ensure said 'person' acts consistently, or at least in keeping with their origins.

"Show, don't tell" is a maxim worth obeying. Let the events, let the plot carry the reader along--don't stop to have the villain or hero declaim.


And as for George Lucas and his ability to come up with stories, they were generally someone else's, a fact which was noted by the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) when Lucas threatened to sue the Battlestar people for plagiarism. And his dialogue is SHITE.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on June 22, 2013, 01:07:54 am
3. Good writing. This is nice, but oddly optional. Even a workaday assemblage of words will take to the air if there's a decent plot under the wings. In the absence of a good plot however, even fantastic writing just becomes a slog (this is the problem I have with a lot of literary stuff, to be honest).
I used to read a lot of SF which wasn't exactly well-written, but carried one along because the author had a good imagination & established characters. I have the same problem as you with some literary stuff, where writers imagine that style is an adequate substitute for substance. Sorry, but no, unless you're writing a very short piece, e.g a poem, where you can engage the reader with the imagery your words generate & end it before they get bored.

And Steph is dead right about point of view, character, & 'show, not tell'. Re. the last, characterisation does not require any introspection on the page (though it can be OK, in the right context). 'Show, not tell', works well.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 24, 2013, 10:17:14 pm
BTW, not only have you misunderstood me, but it seems to me that your misunderstanding is wilful, & slightly offensive. You've lumped me in with people who think that the more mannered & elaborate writing is the better it is, despite me stating the opposite. I love clear, simple writing, the sort where there is no attempt at stylishness; writing where the story is the sole focus of attention, not the writer's skill with words. As I said, Dan Brown does not write like that. He rams his style in yer face.  He shows off (or tries to). And to make it even worse, he does it badly.                                                                                         
But you care about it. You can't abide by reading Dan Brown purely because you don't like the style - I read it purely for the substance, I don't care what the style is.
Whatever the style is, the genre that Dan Brown writes in - conspiracy - is one I find fairly entertaining and as such stories written about I find the substance of fairly intriguing (no matter how unrealistic it might be) - I read it for that purpose solely alone, I don't find the style puts me off.
If that's how you feel, then fine - for you. To me, it's like music, or song. If I can choose between two performances of the same song, one by someone who just sings it straight, in a good, clear, strong voice, or a poor singer who is often out of tune, but still insists on attempting fancy flourishes in every line, then obviously I prefer the first to the one who sings like Dan Brown writes.

From what you've said,  you'd prefer the second performance, because I've said I prefer the other one & you reject the opinions of those who think that there's any merit in doing things well. Will you also buy a lead BSO burdened with bling, because I prefer a nice light good quality bike kept as simple as possible?

I think Citoyen may have sussed you.


What you like has no bearing on what I like, don't flatter yourself!

If there is a writer that writes about the same substance as what Dan Brown does but in a better style then I'd love to hear it because I probably would like it.  I have started inferno and like it.
I can't explain why other than its just the atmosphere that is conjured up, nothing to do with the characters or the prose.
 You either get it or you don't.  Maybe I would like it to be written in a better style and I like it despite the style, not because of it.
In terms of the characters, it's like it's written from each character's point of view, so you empathize with being them, rather than knowing them.


I tried one of the books ("the little sister") by an author that mrcharly recommended as "simple story telling" and find it impossibly cryptic.  I'll post a concrete example when I'm not on mobile.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: jsabine on June 25, 2013, 02:49:38 am
I tried one of the books ("the little sister") by an author that mrcharly recommended as "simple story telling" and find it impossibly cryptic.  I'll post a concrete example when I'm not on mobile.

I'm curious as to why. Curious enough that when I read this I googled it, and found a clearly dodgy (imperfectly OCRd) PDF, and started reading. Sure, I've only got through the first 25 pages or so, but so far I haven't come across anything that's especially cryptic.

Fair enough, Chandler has a fairly economic style, and doesn't spell everything out, so there are some blanks you have to fill in, but surely that's what gets the imagination working. True, he sometimes goes off on flights of fancy - a bluebottle that likes Pagliacci? - but they last about a line and a half. Me, I find it atmospheric, I like the style, and I guess I'll keep reading until I've finished it.

As for Dan Brown, I've got through several of his books. I'm happy enough to suspend disbelief sufficiently to find them reasonably fluent, reasonably pacy plots, and ignore the inconsistencies and the unconvincing bits. But I do have a problem with the writing. I read fast enough that bad writing doesn't normally bother me too much, but I find that DB's stuff actually gets in the way of the story-telling. He throws in fancy stuff for the sake of it, and it doesn't add anything; instead, it just complicates what ought to be a fast-paced conspiracy thriller.

Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 25, 2013, 07:36:56 am
Okay an example quote.
"... He used to wear a Moustache but mother made him cut it off. She said ..."
"Don't tell me.  The minister needed it to stuff a cushion".

Ok, a) who's "the minister", that character hasn't been introduced, he's just implied,
More importantly, what's Marlowe trying to say? That her brother's got a massive Moustache? That her mother's got a cushion-stuffing addiction? (by the fact that she takes it as an insult against her? ) If either of those,  why is he making such a pop - why is that relevant to the story about her trying to get him to help her find her brother?
If something else, what? Cos it's too cryptic for me to figure out.
I feel like I need to know in order to understand the book.
I got onto the bit where he tries to start finding him but got completely lost and switched it off. Maybe not helped by the fact that it was an audio book in the car but if it is "nice simple story telling" it shouldn't matter.
You could tell me the answer to that one but it would be a single fish rather than a fishing rod.

In contrast Dan Brown's description of a moustache: "he had a big bushy moustache".
Fine.  It's obvious what that means,  I can proceed.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 25, 2013, 07:56:15 am
Okay an example quote.
"... He used to wear a Moustache but mother made him cut it off. She said ..."
"Don't tell me.  The minister needed it to stuff a cushion".

Aw, what a great line. Reminds me exactly why I love Chandler. How can gems like that not make you instantly break out into a broad grin?

Quote
Ok, a) who's "the minister", that character hasn't been introduced, he's just implied,

There is no minister. You're over-thinking it. The key phrase here is "mother made him cut it off". That's a pretty damning judgment of his character, whoever he is. And it tells you a lot about the attitude of the people speaking about him too. Dan Brown would say half as much in twice as many words.

Quote
If either of those,  why is he making such a pop - why is that relevant to the story about her trying to get him to help her find her brother?

It's verbal sparring. Each character is trying to demonstrate that they're smarter than the other with their wisecracks, show how tough and sassy they are. It's a form of foreplay. Can you not smell the sexual tension?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 25, 2013, 08:42:47 am
the thing that is *great* about chandler is that you can read the story on so many levels.

Just enjoy a good detective story. Breeze through it, listen to the wisecracking detectives.

Read a bit deeper. "Stuff a cushion"? You normally stuff a cushion with horsehair, so maybe the character is horselike. They are obviously dominated by their mother who is devoutly religious and would do anything the minister says.

I like a writer who leaves it up to me to build a mental picture of the characters. DB describes *everything* about the characters, forcing you to have his picture. Fine if you like that. Not my cup of tea.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: spindrift on June 25, 2013, 09:34:38 am
Marlowe is very hard, very funny and very tired. That line sums him up, he's irreverent, has a problem with authority, and wisecracks under stress. he's also (rightly)  deeply suspicious of Orfamy Quest and anticipates what she's going to say because he can tell she's spinning a tale. Marlowe is seeing the world for what it is and hating it. Would Dan Brown ever write:

Quote
"The room was full of silence like a fallen cake."
?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mattc on June 25, 2013, 09:52:40 am
If this thread turns into a Marlowe love-in, it will have served some purpose  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 25, 2013, 09:58:55 am
Well, it's made me want to go out and buy The Little Sister right now - it's one of the few Chandler novels I haven't read.

The Long Goodbye is my favourite. And Terry Lennox stumbling drunk out of a nightclub and into his car is probably my favourite opening paragraph in all fiction. The pathos of his whole life summed up in a brief moment.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 25, 2013, 11:04:43 pm
the thing that is *great* about chandler is that you can read the story on so many levels.

Just enjoy a good detective story. Breeze through it, listen to the wisecracking detectives.

Read a bit deeper. "Stuff a cushion"? You normally stuff a cushion with horsehair, so maybe the character is horselike. They are obviously dominated by their mother who is devoutly religious and would do anything the minister says.

I like a writer who leaves it up to me to build a mental picture of the characters. DB describes *everything* about the characters, forcing you to have his picture. Fine if you like that. Not my cup of tea.

Well I think it's the writer's job to tell ME what the characters are like, not mine to imagine it. I could just imagine the whole thing and not even bother with the book in the first place.
I think the "wise crack" as you call it might well be that but if it was it's unrealistic imho. There's no way someone would come out with that to someone they've just met, to both have a pop at her brother's horselike-ness, her mother's  religiousness all wrapped up in an attempt at flirting. I think if you are supposed to read that into it then it's a fantasy novel basically.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 25, 2013, 11:07:03 pm
the thing that is *great* about chandler is that you can read the story on so many levels.

Just enjoy a good detective story. Breeze through it, listen to the wisecracking detectives.

Read a bit deeper. "Stuff a cushion"? You normally stuff a cushion with horsehair, so maybe the character is horselike. They are obviously dominated by their mother who is devoutly religious and would do anything the minister says.

I like a writer who leaves it up to me to build a mental picture of the characters. DB describes *everything* about the characters, forcing you to have his picture. Fine if you like that. Not my cup of tea.

Well I think it's the writer's job to tell ME what the characters are like, not mine to imagine it. I could just imagine the whole thing and not even bother with the book in the first place.
I think the "wise crack" as you call it might well be that but if it was it's unrealistic imho. There's no way someone would come out with that to someone they've just met, to both have a pop at her brother's horselike-ness, her mother's  religiousness all wrapped up in an attempt at flirting. I think if you are supposed to read that into it then it's a fantasy novel basically.

"Fine if you like that. Not my cup of tea."
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 25, 2013, 11:09:09 pm
... You normally stuff a cushion with horsehair, so maybe the character is horselike. They are obviously dominated by their mother who is devoutly religious and would do anything the minister says....

This, what you've done above,  is the working out that you have to do in order to solve what I feel is basically a riddle. This solving of a riddle is what I don't want to have to bother doing, I want a story not a riddle ore a cryptic crossword.
 Just as long as you understand what I mean we can agree to disagree.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 25, 2013, 11:27:11 pm
Well I think it's the writer's job to tell ME what the characters are like, not mine to imagine it.

The Big Sleep: 177 pages.
Inferno: 480 pages.

No wonder Dan Brown's books are so long if he fills them with interminable descriptions of what people look like. Sounds pretty dull to me.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 25, 2013, 11:39:18 pm
Well I think it's the writer's job to tell ME what the characters are like, not mine to imagine it.

The Big Sleep: 177 pages.
Inferno: 480 pages.

No wonder Dan Brown's books are so long if he fills them with interminable descriptions of what people look like. Sounds pretty dull to me.

Guardian crossword, probably about 10cm by 10cm of ONE page.  Makes about as much sense.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: jsabine on June 26, 2013, 02:55:00 am
the thing that is *great* about chandler is that you can read the story on so many levels.

Just enjoy a good detective story. Breeze through it, listen to the wisecracking detectives.

Read a bit deeper. "Stuff a cushion"? You normally stuff a cushion with horsehair, so maybe the character is horselike. They are obviously dominated by their mother who is devoutly religious and would do anything the minister says.

I like a writer who leaves it up to me to build a mental picture of the characters. DB describes *everything* about the characters, forcing you to have his picture. Fine if you like that. Not my cup of tea.

Well I think it's the writer's job to tell ME what the characters are like, not mine to imagine it. I could just imagine the whole thing and not even bother with the book in the first place.

I'm not quite sure how much 'telling you what the characters are like' you think you need.

Fair enough, I'm looking at the text while you were listening to an audio book, but you picked a couple of lines that come at the end of three and a half A4 pages that have been creating a picture of Orfamay Quest, of her mother, of her brother Orrin and of Marlowe himself.

Sure, all the bits of description are mixed up together, allowing the picture to appear bit by bit, Rolf Harris style - can you see what it is yet? - but you've already had a huge number of elements.

Marlowe - detective, hard-bitten, untrusting, likes a drink, cynical about Orfamay, disbelieving of her story, and showing it by cracking cynical joke after cynical joke, yet flirting with Orfamay, calling her a 'cute little trick' and talking about the glasses she wears.

Orfamay - small-town girl trying to be brave in the big city, works for a doctor, deeply distrustful of anything city folk tell her, especially detectives, protective of her brother but afraid of his temper, a bit afraid of her mother, a bit afraid of Marlowe, small, brown hair, glasses, awkward-looking bag that betrays some of her country naivete, worried sick about what might have happened to her brother but not wanting to be told explicitly that he might be dead.

Mother - domineering, religious, very judgmental about anything that doesn't conform to her small-town morality.

Orrin - 28, six foot and skinny, bad-tempered at times, a small-town boy with a good job deciding to try his hand in the city, dominated by his mother until he moved away, used to be reliable at writing home but the letters stopped coming, now gone missing, was living somewhere that seems out of character.

To me, those are pretty good word-pictures of the characters. Not handed to me on a plate, sure, but I can make a pretty good meal out of a succession of tapas, rather than needing an enormous portion on a silver salver - and the smaller mouthfuls are easier to digest.

What's more, pretty much everything I've said about the characters above is given to us explicitly by Chandler - there's no riddle-solving needed.

Quote
I think the "wise crack" as you call it might well be that but if it was it's unrealistic imho. There's no way someone would come out with that to someone they've just met, to both have a pop at her brother's horselike-ness, her mother's  religiousness all wrapped up in an attempt at flirting. I think if you are supposed to read that into it then it's a fantasy novel basically.

But the point is that Marlowe *does* come out with wisecracks like that to someone he's just met. The fact that he does that is part of his character.

I didn't read the horsish-ness into the crack, but having a go at the mother's religious fervour, and flirting, sure - both of these have been set up in the previous dialogue.

Still, if you don't like it, you don't like it. No problem with that: there's plenty of stuff I don't like.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: jsabine on June 26, 2013, 03:55:13 am
I've kept reading. Doesn't this just conjure up such an image that you know exactly, exactly what he means?

Quote
You go in through double swing doors. Inside the double doors there is a combination PBX and
information desk at which sits one of those ageless women you see around municipal offices
everywhere in the world. They were never young and will never be old. They have no beauty, no
charm, no style. They don't have to please anybody. They are safe. They are civil without ever
quite being polite and intelligent and knowledgeable without any real interest in anything. They
are what human beings turn into when they trade life for existence and ambition for security.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 26, 2013, 10:04:00 am
I've kept reading. Doesn't this just conjure up such an image that you know exactly, exactly what he means?

Quote
You go in through double swing doors. Inside the double doors there is a combination PBX and
information desk at which sits one of those ageless women you see around municipal offices
everywhere in the world. They were never young and will never be old. They have no beauty, no
charm, no style. They don't have to please anybody. They are safe. They are civil without ever
quite being polite and intelligent and knowledgeable without any real interest in anything. They
are what human beings turn into when they trade life for existence and ambition for security.

*

I suppose so but instead of describing what she is like, he is describing what my opinion of her should be if I was the one going in through the double swing doors. He is forcibly bypassing a step, the step of letting me make the judgment about her. Instead, he's telling me the judgment.
He isn't actually describing what she looks like, he is telling me what reaction to have to what she looks like.
I don't know what hair she's got, what she's wearing - I don't know WHY she looks ageless. I just know that that's what my opinion should be.
Why not just tell me what she looks like and let me make my own mind up?
The experience of the character is a two step process: he goes in through double swing doors and sees the woman, and then, forms an opinion of her based on what he sees. The writer of the above passage is forcibly jumping straight to the second step, and completing it for me. I then have to reverse engineer the first step. I'd rather the writer did the first step, but then left the second to me - which might be based on my own prior experiences and prejudices.
In fact based on my prior experiences and prejudices I might not be able to form the opinion that someone (or at least a caucasian woman) is "ageless" - but I'm being told that that's what I am to do. Consequently there is no empathy.

In a sense, therefore, that is guilty of exactly what you've been accusing DB of - not leaving anything to the imagination. Hence, the asterisk...

*(Is that a passage from Dan Brown, or Chandler? I'm assuming it's Chandler but leaving open the possibility that it's actually Dan Brown and you're posting it to make me realise what's wrong with it - if so, you've succeeded.)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 26, 2013, 10:09:01 am
I've kept reading. Doesn't this just conjure up such an image that you know exactly, exactly what he means?

Quote
You go in through double swing doors. Inside the double doors there is a combination PBX and
information desk at which sits one of those ageless women you see around municipal offices
everywhere in the world. They were never young and will never be old. They have no beauty, no
charm, no style. They don't have to please anybody. They are safe. They are civil without ever
quite being polite and intelligent and knowledgeable without any real interest in anything. They
are what human beings turn into when they trade life for existence and ambition for security.

I was going to respond: "BUT WHAT COLOUR IS HER HAIR?" but Ben T, if you want to parody yourself, that saves me the effort.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Vince on June 26, 2013, 10:25:37 am
This is like the difference between a television play and a radio play. With TV you are passively absorbing the production. But with the radio play you have to fill in the visual side with your imagination, you become more actively involved in it and that is the reward.
I will be looking to read some Chandler books when I've finished the American Assasin and Barring Mechanicals, recommended here.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 26, 2013, 10:27:13 am

I was going to respond: "BUT WHAT COLOUR IS HER HAIR?" but Ben T, if you want to parody yourself, that saves me the effort.

All you achieve by sneering is perpetuating the aggressive pomposity typical of the more fashionable wing of the literati that this thread was set up to cheerlead.
It pleases me that some have engaged in sensible debate about different types of writing, just a shame you're not one of them.

You might do well to remember that in preferring this highbrow convoluted in-depth descriptive style, you're the odd one out - the fact Dan Brown is so rich proves that simple accessible descriptions that anyone no matter what their background, opinions, prejudices, or limitations are can relate to, are what most people would prefer.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 26, 2013, 10:35:37 am
I tried engaging in this discussion (and the previous one) on sensible terms but you've basically ignored my perfectly serious answers to your questions, hence I suspect you of trolling. Plus I'm bored of it now.

"Aggressive pomposity typical of the more fashionable wing of the literati" is a good line. I might use that myself some time.  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 26, 2013, 11:13:04 am
Ben, *everyone* whom you are accusing of sneering has said the equivalent of "If DB what you like, fine, just not my cup of tea".

None of us will object to someone making fun on Finnegans Wake or similar literary bricks.

DB doesn't do simple descriptions, btw. He does the opposite. 'accessible' might be a good way to describe them.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 26, 2013, 11:52:38 am
Ben, *everyone* whom you are accusing of sneering has said the equivalent of "If DB what you like, fine, just not my cup of tea".

None of us will object to someone making fun on Finnegans Wake or similar literary bricks.

DB doesn't do simple descriptions, btw. He does the opposite. 'accessible' might be a good way to describe them.

Right, fair enough. (But for the record I'm only accusing citoyen at the moment of sneering, you and jsabine seem to be communicating your views properly)
But you compared Dan Brown books to "one of those full-suspension things with massive knobbly tyres that cost £40 from Asda"
I would instead compare it to a basic, £300, alloy hybrid with marathon plusses. Nothing spectacular, doesn't really impress the purist, but accessible to the majority of the population. You can just get on it and go to the shops without really thinking about it too much.
I would compare books like Chandler to, say, a penny farthing, or one of those very low recumbents. Looks good - and very satisfying for the one person in 100 that understands how to handle it, but inaccessible - it will either scare people off or they will try it and just give up.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: spindrift on June 26, 2013, 11:59:07 am
Only one person in a hundred understands Chandler?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 26, 2013, 12:00:16 pm
Steady on there Ben, you are on very dangerous waters, criticizing pennies.

Can I just point out to you that this thread started out poking fun at DB; you've joined in and complained that people are poking fun at DB. That's a little like hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer and complaining about it.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mattc on June 26, 2013, 12:04:47 pm
But you compared Dan Brown books to "one of those full-suspension things with massive knobbly tyres that cost £40 from Asda"
I would instead compare it to a basic, £300, alloy hybrid with marathon plusses. Nothing spectacular, doesn't really impress the purist, but accessible to the majority of the population. You can just get on it and go to the shops without really thinking about it too much.
I'd be thinking how slow it was, and how there must be a better option. Of course if there were a better option at the same price ...
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 26, 2013, 12:10:21 pm
I reject any accusations that my dislike of Dan Brown is down to some kind of snobbery. (https://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=23746.msg1483443#msg1483443)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 26, 2013, 12:17:15 pm
Steady on there Ben, you are on very dangerous waters, criticizing pennies.

Can I just point out to you that this thread started out poking fun at DB; you've joined in and complained that people are poking fun at DB. That's a little like hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer and complaining about it.
Fair enough. All I was originally doing was trying to find out exactly why, by example, people do poke fun at Dan Brown, because I was genuinely curious to know as I find it very readable, but since then however I've switched to poking fun at those poking fun at Dan Brown by arguing, probably fairly unsuccessfully, that it's the work of pompous, highbrow "literati".
The explanation of the former did (does) interest me as it seems there does simply exist different descriptive styles, but I'm not sure anyone's explained why they prefer the style of setting out the first-person's intended reaction to a scene (as per 'the ageless woman' quote), rather than simply describing the scene, any further than to simply assert that the latter is "not my cup of tea"; or, indeed, whether I'm even right in my interpretation that describing the opinion to be formed instead of the scene itself is what's going on.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 26, 2013, 12:21:11 pm
I'd be thinking how slow it was, and how there must be a better option. Of course if there were a better option at the same price ...

I don't think the analogy stretches that far because books aren't priced according to how good they are. ::-)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mattc on June 26, 2013, 12:24:34 pm
That was kinda my point!

I dont want a book that is heavier and slower than it needs to be, especially if it's not saving me any money.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: red marley on June 26, 2013, 12:27:30 pm
[...] but I'm not sure anyone's explained why they prefer the style of setting out the first-person's intended reaction to a scene (as per 'the ageless woman' quote), rather than simply describing the scene, any further than to simply assert that the latter is "not my cup of tea";

I would say because part of the objective is to draw you into the mind or context of the characters involved. In other words to give a picture through their eyes rather than only yours.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 26, 2013, 12:45:19 pm
the objective is to draw you into the mind or context of the characters involved. In other words to give the a picture through their eyes rather than only yours.

I've recently read Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End. I thought it was utterly brilliant, but it certainly won't be to everyone's taste. The four novels in total run to over a thousand pages, most of it rambling introspection - the last novel is mostly told from the point of view of a mute, paraplegic man lying in bed one summer morning, musing on his brother's complicated love life. There's certainly not much in the way of a plot.

Anyway, the reason I mention it is that one of the things Ford does that I particularly like is to describe a character or scene from one person's perspective and then a few pages later describe the same scene from another person's perspective, and a lot of the details are conflicting and contradictory. You're left to decide for yourself what's the truth, and what are the different motivations and prejudices that lead the characters to see things the particular way they do.

As I say, I like* that kind of thing. YMMV.

*I mean, I actually enjoy reading it. I certainly don't read it to prove how clever or highbrow I am - I already know how clever and highbrow I am and don't feel the need to prove it to other people. I've got some Gillian Flynn and John Grisham on my to-read pile, if anyone cares to judge me.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: red marley on June 26, 2013, 01:08:49 pm
I too enjoy that kind of thing, although I did fail to get through Parade's End after losing momentum part way though. I am a slow reader, so that's my problem, not FMF's.

Related to the idea of seeing things through others' eyes is that of the unreliable narrator, which I particularly like. A couple of accessible examples spring to mind that I would recommend to anyone who thinks this type of thing is only the preserve of "difficult" literature:

(spoilers lurk within both links below)

A_Confederacy_of_Dunces (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Confederacy_of_Dunces) by John Kennedy Toole

Notes on a Scandal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notes_on_a_Scandal) by Zoe Heller
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 26, 2013, 01:58:40 pm
the objective is to draw you into the mind or context of the characters involved. In other words to give the a picture through their eyes rather than only yours.

I've recently read Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End. I thought it was utterly brilliant, but it certainly won't be to everyone's taste. The four novels in total run to over a thousand pages, most of it rambling introspection - the last novel mostly takes place from the point of view of a mute, paraplegic man lying in bed one summer morning, musing on his brother's complicated love life. There's certainly not much in the way of a plot.

Anyway, the reason I mention it is that one of the things Ford does that I particularly like is to describe a character or scene from one person's perspective and then a few pages later describe the same scene from another person's perspective, and a lot of the details are conflicting and contradictory. You're left to decide for yourself what's the truth, and what are the different motivations and prejudices that lead the characters to see things the particular way they do.

As I say, I like* that kind of thing. YMMV.

*I mean, I actually enjoy reading it. I certainly don't read it to prove how clever or highbrow I am - I already know how clever and highbrow I am and don't feel the need to prove it to other people. I've got some Gillian Flynn and John Grisham on my to-read pile, if anyone cares to judge me.

Well that sounds quite interesting, and different again to describing it from an example perspective, which is different again from describing simply what is there and inviting the reader to see it from their perspective. All just different ways of describing things. No - one's yet shown the eloquence to describe exactly why the former two are a higher form of fiction, and the latter is a lower form to be ridiculed, but still.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on June 26, 2013, 02:21:29 pm
the thing that is *great* about chandler is that you can read the story on so many levels.

Just enjoy a good detective story. Breeze through it, listen to the wisecracking detectives.

Read a bit deeper. "Stuff a cushion"? You normally stuff a cushion with horsehair, so maybe the character is horselike. They are obviously dominated by their mother who is devoutly religious and would do anything the minister says.

I like a writer who leaves it up to me to build a mental picture of the characters. DB describes *everything* about the characters, forcing you to have his picture. Fine if you like that. Not my cup of tea.

Well I think it's the writer's job to tell ME what the characters are like, not mine to imagine it. I could just imagine the whole thing and not even bother with the book in the first place.
I think the "wise crack" as you call it might well be that but if it was it's unrealistic imho. There's no way someone would come out with that to someone they've just met, to both have a pop at her brother's horselike-ness, her mother's  religiousness all wrapped up in an attempt at flirting. I think if you are supposed to read that into it then it's a fantasy novel basically.
The writer's job is to write whatever he or she likes. If you don't like it, fine - don't read it. If you want to be spoon-fed, again that's fine - your choice. But what you're doing now is analogous to complaining that a comedian is no good because he didn't explain all his jokes. Can't you see that?

You keep insisting that anyone who dislikes Dan Brown is a pompous literary snob who only likes convoluted styles, despite most of us here beating you over the head with examples of writing we like that doesn't fit your prejudices. Again, can't you see what you're doing, & why Citoyen suspects you of trolling?

I think everybody here has said that they like a variety of styles - except you. You've even tried to claim that you don't like 'style', despite liking one of the most self-consciously stylist writers I've encountered, i.e. Dan Brown. You've also contradicted yourself, saying that you think a recommendation from me is a reason not to read something, & later said that you don't care what I think. Still can't see what you're doing?

And you think that Dan Brown does "simple accessible descriptions". Can't you read? As mattc says, they may be accessible, but they certainly aren't simple. One of my reasons for loathing DB is exactly that his descriptions are NOT simple. Too many bloody words. You contrast his descriptive style with the "highbrow convoluted in-depth descriptive style" of the authors others like, which is standing it on its head. Dan Brown's descriptive style is convoluted & in-depth. A lot of people like that, & are attracted to his writing (& that of many other writers with similar styles) by it - and fine - for them. But to call it 'simple' is nonsensical.

I think I'll read some Terry Pratchett to clear my mind.

Jo: ah, yes - A Confederacy of Dunces.  :thumbsup: Not read the other one - yet.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on June 26, 2013, 02:23:42 pm
Well that sounds quite interesting, and different again to describing it from an example perspective, which is different again from describing simply what is there and inviting the reader to see it from their perspective. All just different ways of describing things. No - one's yet shown the eloquence to describe exactly why the former two are a higher form of fiction, and the latter is a lower form to be ridiculed, but still.
But has anyone shown that these descriptive methods are lower forms, to be ridiculed as "highbrow convoluted in-depth" descriptions?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 26, 2013, 02:44:45 pm
The writer's job is to write whatever he or she likes. If you don't like it, fine - don't read it. If you want to be spoon-fed, again that's fine - your choice. But what you're doing now is analogous to complaining that a comedian is no good because he didn't explain all his jokes. Can't you see that?
Not really - I've illustrated why Dan Brown's writing is not simply more verbose than other writing, as you would have me believe. I've explained how it's simply a different style and asked why that's necessarily worse - see my previous post (few posts).

Quote
You keep insisting that anyone who dislikes Dan Brown is a pompous literary snob who only likes convoluted styles, despite most of us here beating you over the head with examples of writing we like that doesn't fit your prejudices. Again, can't you see what you're doing, & why Citoyen suspects you of trolling?
Well the thread started off as, and has been bandwangon-jumped by, a competition to find the most elaborate flowery way of ridiculing Dan Brown's writing and when I asked why it deserves that, and criticized other writing for being cryptic, I was given examples of supposedly "better" fiction, which I was assured wasn't cryptic, I downloaded one, tried it, and came back with an example of why it's cryptic. Given that I've engaged in this way I can't really see how merely liking Dan Brown makes me a 'troll'.

Quote
I think everybody here has said that they like a variety of styles - except you. You've even tried to claim that you don't like 'style', despite liking one of the most self-consciously stylist writers I've encountered, i.e. Dan Brown. You've also contradicted yourself, saying that you think a recommendation from me is a reason not to read something, & later said that you don't care what I think. Still can't see what you're doing?
Well, ok - (a) if Dan Brown is a stylist then why is it a 'lower' form of fiction worthy of ridicule (refer to previous post and if possible answer it), and (b) ok, i take your point, what I mean is I wouldn't dislike something simply because you do, but the mere fact that you do is an indication that I probably won't.

Quote
And you think that Dan Brown does "simple accessible descriptions". Can't you read? As mattc says, they may be accessible, but they certainly aren't simple. One of my reasons for loathing DB is exactly that his descriptions are NOT simple. Too many bloody words. You contrast his descriptive style with the "highbrow convoluted in-depth descriptive style" of the authors others like, which is standing it on its head. Dan Brown's descriptive style is convoluted & in-depth. A lot of people like that, & are attracted to his writing (& that of many other writers with similar styles) by it - and fine - for them. But to call it 'simple' is nonsensical.
It doesn't matter how many words there are, it's not like calories in food (not my analogy, btw) - you don't have to keep an eye on how fat you're getting in relation to how much nutrition you're getting - you can read Dan Brown much faster because you don't have to stop and puzzle over what the deeper meaning on the 'multiple levels' of it are - it flows quickly. If you can read 100 words of Dan Brown's words quicker than you can read 20 of one of your authors then the story flows better. Well I can, anyway. It just makes it more of a page turner, whereas with a lot of books I spend more time flicking back than i do turning pages forward.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: her_welshness on June 26, 2013, 04:08:18 pm
At best, Dan Brown's novels are good nonsense. Fair play to him he does his research, has done very well from his books and the tourist industry in what city or place he has written about has benefitted.

Putting on my Librarian hat, I would not recommend his books. They are populist shit. I know and love my library users and steer them to other books that they would infinitely prefer.

One of my colleagues is reading 'Inferno' and he loves it! Mind you, he also thinks 'Fingerprints of the Gods' by Graham Hancock is a work of genius.

Am loving this thread, outstanding contributions!
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: ian on June 26, 2013, 04:13:36 pm
Oddly, my reason for starting this thread wasn't really to poke fun at DB, it's been done by plenty, and I'm sure he has enough money to insulate him from being too concerned. I doubt he much fears the barbs of his critics. They'd pretty much have to use an howitzer to get through to him. I suppose we could fling angry reviewers over the battlements of his cash castle with a trebuchet. He'd probably beat them to death with a sack of fresh currency.

I don't have any problem with reading DB. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you enjoy, enjoy. I am determinedly low-brow and as I pointed out, I don't get much out of formal literature. It's all a bit of a labour. I like what I like. I can explain that, but I really don't need to defend it.

I don't have a problem with DB being successful. The Da Vinci Code was a reasonable pacy thriller, one that effectively lassoed the old bloodline of Christ conspiracy and let itself be dragged along. He hitched himself up on a meme that's always fascinated and managed to hold together a novel on the back of it. Hey, novels are hard to write, even the bad ones. Believe me, if you think DB is bad, download a few of the self-published freebies from Amazon and be educated. It's like having your brain taken out back and worked over by thugs. I believe they say that everyone has a novel in them and most of them should be persuaded to leave it in there.

But, I found Inferno to be, and let's not be flowery about this, crap. That's my opinion. I've not been appointed the universal arbiter of such things. Not yet, anyway, I expect the letter is in the post.

Interesting though, the debate on what makes a book good? What makes a story worthwhile? What makes writing good? It is a stylistic choice on many levels. Part of the reason I struggle with some of the more formal literature is that – to my taste – it overlabours without necessarily getting anywhere. It's like driving a Lamborghini around the local NCP. At the other end of the spectrum, there's the Dan Browns, there's a interesting journey involved, but the car's a ten-year-old Renault that splutters like a chain-smoking Frenchman. There are many different writing styles, some work for some people, others don't. Some people like to roll through fields of endless metaphor and simile, other's like the slice of the lean and mean. Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm doing it on purpose now.

Without sufficient plot to carry it along, I did find myself focusing on the writing in Inferno and I can only echo some of the criticisms. He does fling descriptions at his characters seemingly in the hope that they'll stick and I often think why, what relevance does it have? Handy character facts ahoy. He may as well tell me that a character has freckles (probably multitudinous amber facemarks). Why? What purpose does that fact have. Lots of people have freckles. Now, in the hands of another writer, perhaps our faithless narrator finds himself caught looking at those freckles, tracing lines between them, plotting new fantastic constellations. See, there's a story in there, we're being told that the narrator is infatuated. It's not just a woman with freckles. Or perhaps she has green eyes and she's looking away, her face dappled with those freckles. And we're thinking of the calm of a forest. We've all been there, shaded and cool, we're being invited to infuse the story with a bit of our own experience. This tells us that perhaps she's distracted, daydreaming, her attention wandering elsewhere, and suddenly we have to ask why, what's the story there? A door has been opened. More is being brought to the surface, ironically by writing less. Again, she's not just a woman with freckles, she's on her way to becoming a character. There's a story growing out of this. You can have at the choice of a character having a long wait or time stretching out for them like a cat on a lazy Sunday afternoon. If you've seen a cat take a long, languid stretch, this speaks volumes more.

(I nicked that last line from somewhere, buggered if I can remember where, but I like it…)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: spindrift on June 26, 2013, 04:29:12 pm
 Rosslyn Chapel benefited immensely from its appearance in The DVC to the extent it's had restoration work and a new visitor centre built because of the increase in tourist numbers. The film was total rubbish though, I only watched half of it because the future Mrs Spindrift Audrey Tatou is in it, running about with someone who looked like Bono from one church that had a big arrow on it pointing to another church.  Anyhoo, here's the top twenty countdown of Brown's very worst sentences:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/6194031/The-Lost-Symbol-and-The-Da-Vinci-Code-author-Dan-Browns-20-worst-sentences.html

Quote
The Da Vinci Code: Title. The Da Vinci Code.
Leonardo’s surname was not Da Vinci. He was from Vinci, or of Vinci. As many critics have pointed out, calling it The Da Vinci Code is like saying Mr Of Arabia or asking What Would Of Nazareth Do?

The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: As a boy, Langdon had fallen down an abandoned well shaft and almost died treading water in the narrow space for hours before being rescued. Since then, he'd suffered a haunting phobia of enclosed spaces - elevators, subways, squash courts.



Other enclosed spaces include toilet cubicles, phone boxes and dog kennels.

The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: A voice spoke, chillingly close. "Do not move." On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly. Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.

A silhouette with white hair and pink irises stood chillingly close but 15 feet away. What’s wrong with this picture?

Deception Point, chapter 8: Overhanging her precarious body was a jaundiced face whose skin resembled a sheet of parchment paper punctured by two emotionless eyes.

It’s not clear what Brown thinks ‘precarious’ means here.

The Da Vinci Code, chapter 5: Only those with a keen eye would notice his 14-karat gold bishop's ring with purple amethyst, large diamonds, and hand-tooled mitre-crozier appliqué.

A keen eye indeed.


Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Kathy on June 26, 2013, 04:36:48 pm
At best, Dan Brown's novels are good nonsense. Fair play to him he does his research [snip]

Are you sure?

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/DanBrowned/DanBrown
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: spindrift on June 26, 2013, 04:39:18 pm
At best, Dan Brown's novels are good nonsense. Fair play to him he does his research [snip]

Are you sure?

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/DanBrowned/DanBrown

Quote
Louvre Pyramid is composed of 673 panes of glass, not 666 panes of glass as in the book

I hurled the book across the room when I read that. Does he take us for fools?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 26, 2013, 04:41:30 pm
Without sufficient plot to carry it along, I did find myself focusing on the writing in Inferno and I can only echo some of the criticisms. He does fling descriptions at his characters seemingly in the hope that they'll stick and I often think why, what relevance does it have? Handy character facts ahoy. He may as well tell me that a character has freckles (probably multitudinous amber facemarks). Why? What purpose does that fact have. Lots of people have freckles. Now, in the hands of another writer, perhaps our faithless narrator finds himself caught looking at those freckles, tracing lines between them, plotting new fantastic constellations. See, there's a story in there, we're being told that the narrator is infatuated.
Right - well, fine - that's great. Like another poster said, I'd buy your novel. When's it out?
But some of the other shit that's been recommended is not like that, as I've proved. And that isn't baseless accusation, I have downloaded and tried it.


Quote
You can have at the choice of a character having a long wait or time stretching out for them like a cat on a lazy Sunday afternoon. If you've seen a cat take a long, languid stretch, this speaks volumes more.
It doesn't really work for me unless the cat can stretch itself to the point that it's 10 foot long, but I like it anyway.



Let me guess, I suppose all you who think Dan Brown is a bad author also think Lowry isn't "real art" as well, right?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: spindrift on June 26, 2013, 04:43:40 pm
Well, that's a lazy stereotype, you may as well say people who like Dan Brown usually holiday in Spain, think "You've Been Framed" is the funniest thing on telly and have a niece called Chardonnay.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 26, 2013, 04:43:57 pm

Quote
Louvre Pyramid is composed of 673 panes of glass, not 666 panes of glass as in the book

I hurled the book across the room when I read that. Does he take us for fools?

... and ended up with 5 panes of glass in your window, not 6 panes of glass as you did previously. ;D
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: her_welshness on June 26, 2013, 04:53:17 pm
At best, Dan Brown's novels are good nonsense. Fair play to him he does his research [snip]

Are you sure?

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/DanBrowned/DanBrown

Fair dues  :) I mean its not Victoria Hislop level of research, maybe I should have said a thorough search of the different theories?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Kathy on June 26, 2013, 04:55:27 pm
My main gripe with Dan Brown was the stereotyping. It was exactly like watching some generic Hollywood schlock where he's in his fifties and balding; she's the only named female character and is played by a nubile twenty-something so clearly they'll end up in the sack together (having Good Sex, because they're Good People); This Guy is the obvious baddie (until the main character is inevitably double-crossed by that nice old guy he's trusted all along) so let's give him a deformity of some form, maybe make him a member of some ethnic minority like Islam*, and let's make him a sadomasochist because Bad People Have Bad Sex. Oh, and let's throw in a few patronising puzzles to make the audience feel good about themselves: "Woe is us! We are standing on Newton's tomb, trying to solve a puzzle about "something round that fell on Newton's head". The answer is a five-letter word, and rhymes with "Bapple"! We shall never solve this and the mystery shall go un-solved! Woe!".

After all that, the writing style is a minor gripe with me. But then, there are people who like that sort of story, because Hollywood and Dan Brown keep churning 'em out for a profit, and so be it. Just please don't make me read any more.

 :)

*Irony
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: her_welshness on June 26, 2013, 04:59:00 pm
Without sufficient plot to carry it along, I did find myself focusing on the writing in Inferno and I can only echo some of the criticisms. He does fling descriptions at his characters seemingly in the hope that they'll stick and I often think why, what relevance does it have? Handy character facts ahoy. He may as well tell me that a character has freckles (probably multitudinous amber facemarks). Why? What purpose does that fact have. Lots of people have freckles. Now, in the hands of another writer, perhaps our faithless narrator finds himself caught looking at those freckles, tracing lines between them, plotting new fantastic constellations. See, there's a story in there, we're being told that the narrator is infatuated.
Right - well, fine - that's great. Like another poster said, I'd buy your novel. When's it out?
But some of the other shit that's been recommended is not like that, as I've proved. And that isn't baseless accusation, I have downloaded and tried it.


Quote
You can have at the choice of a character having a long wait or time stretching out for them like a cat on a lazy Sunday afternoon. If you've seen a cat take a long, languid stretch, this speaks volumes more.
It doesn't really work for me unless the cat can stretch itself to the point that it's 10 foot long, but I like it anyway.



Let me guess, I suppose all you who think Dan Brown is a bad author also think Lowry isn't "real art" as well, right?

Lowry was a wonderful artist, what I loved about his artwork is that he is so diverse - his portraits of people are fantastic, as well as his landscapes.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: spindrift on June 26, 2013, 05:00:37 pm
My main gripe with Dan Brown was the stereotyping. It was exactly like watching some generic Hollywood schlock where he's in his fifties and balding; she's the only named female character and is played by a nubile twenty-something so clearly they'll end up in the sack together


Angels and Demons, chapter 1:

Quote
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.

I first read that as "Colgate athlete".



Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 26, 2013, 05:09:43 pm
Without sufficient plot to carry it along, I did find myself focusing on the writing in Inferno and I can only echo some of the criticisms. He does fling descriptions at his characters seemingly in the hope that they'll stick and I often think why, what relevance does it have? Handy character facts ahoy. He may as well tell me that a character has freckles (probably multitudinous amber facemarks). Why? What purpose does that fact have. Lots of people have freckles. Now, in the hands of another writer, perhaps our faithless narrator finds himself caught looking at those freckles, tracing lines between them, plotting new fantastic constellations. See, there's a story in there...

I'm reminded of Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes. An academic is writing a biography of Flaubert and muses on the fact that in Madame Bovary, Flaubert refers three times to the colour of Emma Bovary's eyes, and each time they're a different colour. This, he argues, is not a mistake on Flaubert's part but a function of the significance of eye colour in the respective scenes. The point being that it doesn't matter what colour Emma Bovary's eyes really are. Sure, it might help you conjure up a mental picture of her - one that would be utterly meaningless. We can learn so many more interesting things from Emma Bovary's eyes.

I'm also reminded of The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman - for me, the best new book of 2012. Late on, there's an inaccurate reference to something that happened years earlier. The thing is, even though it's not presented directly as such, the event is being described as it is remembered by the protagonist. It's the character's memory that's faulty, not the editing of the manuscript. A neat trick that conveys a lot of information (mainly about the state of mind of the protagonist) elegantly and concisely. That for me is the hallmark of "good" writing.

Ned Beauman also has a way with metaphor that fans of Chandler will appreciate. For example: "There was enough ice in her voice for a serviceable daiquiri." Or: "The sort of moustache that could beat you in an arm-wrestling contest." In fact, the whole bonkers plot is very Chandleresque in many respects.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mattc on June 26, 2013, 05:43:26 pm
[I'm in danger of spending all evening googling Chandler quotes]

“She lowered her lashes until they almost cuddled her cheeks and slowly raised them again, like a theatre curtain. I was to get to know that trick. That was supposed to make me roll over on my back with all four paws in the air.”
― Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: her_welshness on June 26, 2013, 05:54:06 pm
Without sufficient plot to carry it along, I did find myself focusing on the writing in Inferno and I can only echo some of the criticisms. He does fling descriptions at his characters seemingly in the hope that they'll stick and I often think why, what relevance does it have? Handy character facts ahoy. He may as well tell me that a character has freckles (probably multitudinous amber facemarks). Why? What purpose does that fact have. Lots of people have freckles. Now, in the hands of another writer, perhaps our faithless narrator finds himself caught looking at those freckles, tracing lines between them, plotting new fantastic constellations. See, there's a story in there...

I'm reminded of Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes. An academic is writing a biography of Flaubert and muses on the fact that in Madame Bovary, Flaubert refers three times to the colour of Emma Bovary's eyes, and each time they're a different colour. This, he argues, is not a mistake on Flaubert's part but a function of the significance of eye colour in the respective scenes. The point being that it doesn't matter what colour Emma Bovary's eyes really are. Sure, it might help you conjure up a mental picture of her - one that would be utterly meaningless. We can learn so many more interesting things from Emma Bovary's eyes.

I'm also reminded of The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman - for me, the best new book of 2012. Late on, there's an inaccurate reference to something that happened years earlier. The thing is, even though it's not presented directly as such, the event is being described as it is remembered by the protagonist. It's the character's memory that's faulty, not the editing of the manuscript. A neat trick that conveys a lot of information (mainly about the state of mind of the protagonist) elegantly and concisely. That for me is the hallmark of "good" writing.

Ned Beauman also has a way with metaphor that fans of Chandler will appreciate. For example: "There was enough ice in her voice for a serviceable daiquiri." Or: "The sort of moustache that could beat you in an arm-wrestling contest." In fact, the whole bonkers plot is very Chandleresque in many respects.

Thanks Citoyen, will have to check out Beauman  :thumbsup:

Philip Kerr also does a good line in Chandler-esque quips.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: ian on June 26, 2013, 07:08:15 pm
Without sufficient plot to carry it along, I did find myself focusing on the writing in Inferno and I can only echo some of the criticisms. He does fling descriptions at his characters seemingly in the hope that they'll stick and I often think why, what relevance does it have? Handy character facts ahoy. He may as well tell me that a character has freckles (probably multitudinous amber facemarks). Why? What purpose does that fact have. Lots of people have freckles. Now, in the hands of another writer, perhaps our faithless narrator finds himself caught looking at those freckles, tracing lines between them, plotting new fantastic constellations. See, there's a story in there...

I'm reminded of Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes. An academic is writing a biography of Flaubert and muses on the fact that in Madame Bovary, Flaubert refers three times to the colour of Emma Bovary's eyes, and each time they're a different colour. This, he argues, is not a mistake on Flaubert's part but a function of the significance of eye colour in the respective scenes. The point being that it doesn't matter what colour Emma Bovary's eyes really are. Sure, it might help you conjure up a mental picture of her - one that would be utterly meaningless. We can learn so many more interesting things from Emma Bovary's eyes.

I'm also reminded of The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman - for me, the best new book of 2012. Late on, there's an inaccurate reference to something that happened years earlier. The thing is, even though it's not presented directly as such, the event is being described as it is remembered by the protagonist. It's the character's memory that's faulty, not the editing of the manuscript. A neat trick that conveys a lot of information (mainly about the state of mind of the protagonist) elegantly and concisely. That for me is the hallmark of "good" writing.

Ned Beauman also has a way with metaphor that fans of Chandler will appreciate. For example: "There was enough ice in her voice for a serviceable daiquiri." Or: "The sort of moustache that could beat you in an arm-wrestling contest." In fact, the whole bonkers plot is very Chandleresque in many respects.

Personally, I find the trick to successful characters is for an author to provide enough of a hook to hang your imagination on, but really not much more than that. No elaborate structure is required. Less is so often more. As a reader, you don’t really need to know what colour their eyes are, their hair colour, their brand of jacket, not unless it furthers your understanding of the character. If not, I say let the reader fill the gaps, they’ll do a better job than the words of any writer, no matter how good.

I also find the trick of good metaphors and simile is avoid overdoing it, it’s fantastic to be led by smooth, uncluttered text and then be hit with a brilliant line, it’s like stumbling across a diamond. It’s great when an author uses a metaphor to squeeze so much meaning into a few words, letting your mind unpack them into so much more – that there was enough ice in her voice for a serviceable daiquiri does that so perfectly, and avoids cliché. I like that. I’d still like to know where my stretchy cat line came from, it’s bugging me, but Google isn’t telling. I was thinking Bradbury or Vonnegut. If they don’t claim it, I’m keeping it. For the record, my cat is very stretchy, possibly infinitely so. She was rescued from her last owner, some bonkers German chap, apparently kept her in a box with a vial of radioactive material. Odd thing to do with a cat, I'd say. Claimed she was dead, but when I looked inside she wasn't.

Without sufficient plot to carry it along, I did find myself focusing on the writing in Inferno and I can only echo some of the criticisms. He does fling descriptions at his characters seemingly in the hope that they'll stick and I often think why, what relevance does it have? Handy character facts ahoy. He may as well tell me that a character has freckles (probably multitudinous amber facemarks). Why? What purpose does that fact have. Lots of people have freckles. Now, in the hands of another writer, perhaps our faithless narrator finds himself caught looking at those freckles, tracing lines between them, plotting new fantastic constellations. See, there's a story in there, we're being told that the narrator is infatuated.

Right - well, fine - that's great. Like another poster said, I'd buy your novel. When's it out?
But some of the other shit that's been recommended is not like that, as I've proved. And that isn't baseless accusation, I have downloaded and tried it.

And that’s fine really, I don’t think anyone needs to justify their reading matter (but hey, it’s smut don’t sit next to me on the plane reading it). One of the worst books I failed to read was Captain Corelli’s Mandolin which someone insisted I read. I could’t get on with it. I did briefly flirt with a terror campaign against Louis de Bernières readers, but it seemed something of a minor overreaction, so I threw the damn thing over a hedge instead (Frith St, Shepherd's Bush, it's probably still there if anyone is interested). Godawful sludge.

I sadly have to finish my novels and find a publisher, all that dull stuff. It’s more of a hobby derived from my caustic emails around the office, which appear to have gleaned something of a cult following. It’s also probably quite likely they’ll get me fired at some point (well, frankly our product management team do act like punch drunk Oompa-Loompas, so I’m sticking with that one), which I expect is part of the interest, like watching a car crash.

Anyway, I need a plan B for just that eventuality and as my wife says, anything that keeps me from setting fire to things or doing DIY (they’re often indistinguishable) is a good thing. Anyhow, one is ready for a rewrite, but unfortunately after a long rant down the pub* about epic scifi novels, I accepted a challenge to write one myself, so I’m 300,000 words across the universe. Sadly, I’m deeply stubborn so I have to stick with these things, but actually it’s quite entertaining if possibly not very good. Given that a £10 bet is riding on this, it’s probably the worst per-word rate I’ve ever had. Note to self, do not get fired soon. I’d go back to writing smut (which did fund part of my education) but it’s all pictures now. Damn you, internet!

*This is one of a long line of things I’ve agreed to do down the pub, because at a certain time in the evening they all seemed perfectly reasonable and plausible (amongst others, these involve shaving my head [ha ha baldness, you lose], committing to losing six stone [if you find them, keep them], and becoming vegetarian [beans are truly the musical fruit, an entire symphony played on the devil’s trombone]).
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Eccentrica Gallumbits on June 26, 2013, 08:52:43 pm
He may as well tell me that a character has freckles (probably multitudinous amber facemarks). Why? What purpose does that fact have. Lots of people have freckles. Now, in the hands of another writer, perhaps our faithless narrator finds himself caught looking at those freckles, tracing lines between them, plotting new fantastic constellations. See, there's a story in there, we're being told that the narrator is infatuated. It's not just a woman with freckles. Or perhaps she has green eyes and she's looking away, her face dappled with those freckles.
I have green eyes and freckles.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Cudzoziemiec on June 27, 2013, 08:52:14 am
Ian started this thread with an apology, but I'd like to thank him. Bits of it have made me snort out loud with laughter.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 27, 2013, 09:17:16 am
Ian started this thread with an apology, but I'd like to thank him. Bits of it have made me snort out loud with laughter.

+1

In particular the 20 worst lines piece mentioned by spindrift.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: her_welshness on June 27, 2013, 09:42:53 am
Ian started this thread with an apology, but I'd like to thank him. Bits of it have made me snort out loud with laughter.

+ 2  :)

I was reading out passages of Ian's verse to my husband, one of the best things that I have read in a long time  :)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 27, 2013, 10:43:01 am
Have been perservering with the marlow audio book yesterday and this morning, I still maintain it's quite confusing but have been managing to follow the story, just. My beefs with it are that there seems to be too many characters introduced too early on - all gangsters, mainly, and you're not really sure who's blackmailing who, but he does seem to recount his experiences in conversations with people a bit later on so it's slightly followable. That and the fact that 'contacts' seem to fall into his lap just a little bit too conveniently. And why is he getting involved in investigating murders when he's just a private investigator been paid to find someone's brother - it's a bit like Rosemary and Thyme who are gardening and just happen to dig up a body and the police just happen to be inept so they solve the murder themselves. There's nothing about his home life, or his human foibles or infallibilities, he just seems to flit from one murder scene to another telling the police their job. He never does anything OTHER than his PI work - he never cooks himself microwave meals, has a shave, or trips over a pavement. Bit too superhuman. But still, I'm trying to imbibe the general gist rather than understand every detail, and I haven't found any sophistication that makes it more enjoyable (to me) than Dan Brown which makes me think I'm probably missing something and not reading between the lines enough, or understanding the 'hidden deeper meaning' that is what's meant to describe the characters, but still.
Still reading the Dan Brown book as well and haven't managed to find any frustrations which irk me the way it clearly does a lot of others, either.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 27, 2013, 11:06:19 am
Quote
A voice spoke, chillingly close. "Do not move." On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly. Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.

You don't see anything wrong with this?


Ben, I can accept you enjoying DB. I'm currently re-reading some really trashy sci-fi I last read when I was 15 (Zelazny's Amber series, if anyone is interested). Plot, characters; they are all pretty rubbish. But it's enjoyable nonsense and I'm enjoying it half-out of the nostalgia.

There are some 'literary' writers who are as bad as DB for writing utter nonsense. Zadie Smith's 'White Teeth' annoyed the *uck out of me for one aspect. There is a major character who is supposed to be an unachieving nonentity. He has no guts, no determination, no ambition. A grey man. He's also supposedly won a bronze medal in the Olympics for cycling. What is wrong with this picture?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 27, 2013, 11:25:48 am
Quote
A voice spoke, chillingly close. "Do not move." On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly. Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.

You don't see anything wrong with this?
Well, the telegraph thinks what's wrong with it is:
Quote
A silhouette with white hair and pink irises stood chillingly close but 15 feet away.
I assume they've got beef with the fact that if it's a silhouette you can't know that it's got white hair and pink irises, but I took it to mean that it's almost silhouetted, but front-lit just enough to be able to see those particular features.
Or see it as a film shot - the scene starts with Langdon's view, of a silhouette, but then the camera pans round and you can see that it is the monk with his white hair and pink eyes.

And I think 15 feet IS chillingly close, thanks - would you like to be 15 feet away from him ? especially if he's got a gun, which I think he has.

Quote
Ben, I can accept you enjoying DB. I'm currently re-reading some really trashy sci-fi I last read when I was 15 (Zelazny's Amber series, if anyone is interested).

I appreciate that people here accept that DB can be enjoyable. I argue however that unless it can be proven that the english language has been factually abused (as in, not by matter of opinion, such as breaking the 'show don't tell' rule, which is technically a matter of taste) - for example, if he has deliberately used incorrect grammar because it will be better understood by a less intelligent audience; then there is no factual basis on which DB's books are a "lower form of wit", and if that is the case then ridiculing them cannot escape being anything other than snobbery. It's ridiculing something purely because it is something different to what you yourself enjoy - not because it is doing something inarguably wrong. It's purely a matter of opinion whether the way Dan Brown writes is 'wrong', so therefore to look 'down' on it IS snobbery.

By the same token, yes, ridiculing Mills & Boon is (probably) also technically snobbery.

By all means make fun of it - I don't have any problem with that - there's nothing wrong with snobbery, per se - just don't try and pretend it's not that.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: pcolbeck on June 27, 2013, 11:44:52 am
Ben your displaying some kind of reverse snobbery. All writing is not equal. writing is a combination of craft and art much like music or painting. It takes practice and application to get good at the craft bit and a few can rise above that and do something that transcends craft into art. Also just like music and painting there is a lot of intellectual bull shiting, snobbery and navel gazing in literary criticism.
There is nothing wrong with craftsman like writing the point about Dan Brown is that a lot of people think he hasn't even got that bit right. An analogy with music would be a band where you can tell what the tune is and its kind of OK but the singer is off key a bit the lead guitarist is stumbling over the solos and the rhythm section doesn't swing, that's Dan Brown. Then you have another band that only does covers but have been working hard it and they are tight with a great rhythm section etc and you can enjoy what they do but they never come up with anything that people will care about in 20 years that's craft writing. Finally you have the Beatles, Bob Dylan, JS Bach, Mozart etc etc where they have something more, that's art. Even with punk where skill wasn't supposed to matter in the end most of it was only noise and it's only the competent or the gifted that we actually listen to now.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 27, 2013, 11:48:49 am
Hmm <carefully considers Ben's last post>

Nah, I'm not being snobbish. DB is just a shit writer.


Clear enough for you?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 27, 2013, 12:04:42 pm
Ben your displaying some kind of reverse snobbery. All writing is not equal. writing is a combination of craft and art much like music or painting. It takes practice and application to get good at the craft bit and a few can rise above that and do something that transcends craft into art. Also just like music and painting there is a lot of intellectual bull shiting, snobbery and navel gazing in literary criticism.
There is nothing wrong with craftsman like writing the point about Dan Brown is that a lot of people think he hasn't even got that bit right. An analogy with music would be a band where you can tell what the tune is and its kind of OK but the singer is off key a bit

but my point is that a singer being off key is something that be judged as a matter of fact. It's not a matter of opinion as to whether they're off key. You can measure the pitch of the voice electronically and prove quantitatively that it is off the mark. You can't do that with Dan Brown. This very difference is the exact reason why a lot of this thread is snobbery.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 27, 2013, 12:06:48 pm
Dan Brown is a hack. Ben T is wrong. End of.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 27, 2013, 12:22:51 pm
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/6194031/The-Lost-Symbol-and-The-Da-Vinci-Code-author-Dan-Browns-20-worst-sentences.html

Quote
Deception Point, chapter 8: Overhanging her precarious body was a jaundiced face whose skin resembled a sheet of parchment paper punctured by two emotionless eyes.

You can measure the pitch of the voice electronically and prove quantitatively that it is off the mark. You can't do that with Dan Brown.

Can you explain what he means by "precarious" in the sentence quoted by spindrift?

And don't just make up what you think he might mean. Give an explanation that can be supported by reference to a definition of "precarious" that's given in a published dictionary - any definition in any popular dictionary will do, I'm certainly not snobbish about which dictionary you use.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 27, 2013, 12:31:15 pm
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/6194031/The-Lost-Symbol-and-The-Da-Vinci-Code-author-Dan-Browns-20-worst-sentences.html

Quote
Deception Point, chapter 8: Overhanging her precarious body was a jaundiced face whose skin resembled a sheet of parchment paper punctured by two emotionless eyes.

You can measure the pitch of the voice electronically and prove quantitatively that it is off the mark. You can't do that with Dan Brown.

Can you explain what he means by "precarious" in the sentence quoted by spindrift?

And don't just make up what you think he might mean. Give an explanation that can be supported by reference to a definition of "precarious" that's given in a published dictionary - any definition in any popular dictionary will do, I'm certainly not snobbish about which dictionary you use.

Well then, the only explanation can be THE definition of precarious as defined by a dictionary -
https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=precarious&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a
"Adjective

    Not securely held or in position; dangerously likely to fall or collapse."

He is using 'precarious', an adjective, to describe 'her body', which is a noun. This is therefore correct use of the English language. I'm not aware of the context but it's not a logical impossibility that her body was precarious.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Ham on June 27, 2013, 12:34:35 pm
In other news, I appear to have run out of popcorn.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 27, 2013, 12:58:39 pm
Well then, the only explanation can be THE definition of precarious as defined by a dictionary -
https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=precarious&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a
"Adjective

    Not securely held or in position; dangerously likely to fall or collapse."

Nope. Don't see it. Using this definition, you'd talk of your footing being precarious, or the position of your body ("position" being the noun the adjective modifies, rather than "body"), but it's certainly not standard usage to describe a body itself as being precarious.

(The overhanging face troubles me too. Conjures up a very strange mental image.)

[edit: out of interest, I googled the phrase "precarious body". Of the 4,750 results, most refer to Dan Brown.  ::-) ]

Quote
He is using 'precarious', an adjective, to describe 'her body', which is a noun. This is therefore correct use of the English language. I'm not aware of the context but it's not a logical impossibility that her body was precarious.

"Luxurious" is an adjective, "elephant" is a noun. Therefore you know exactly what I mean when I talk of a luxurious elephant, right?

Are you familiar with the concept of a category mistake?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 27, 2013, 01:01:32 pm
"Luxurious" is an adjective, "elephant" is a noun. Therefore you know exactly what I mean when I talk of a luxurious elephant, right?

Are you familiar with the concept of a category mistake?

:-\ well you could have one that's got just a bog standard saddle, and another one that's got a fancy carpet with tassles and a cup holder?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 27, 2013, 01:02:24 pm
In other news, I appear to have run out of popcorn.

<hands Ham some popcorn>  I hope you like salty
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 27, 2013, 01:02:41 pm
 :facepalm:
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: billplumtree on June 27, 2013, 01:42:27 pm
Ned Beauman also has a way with metaphor that fans of Chandler will appreciate. For example: "There was enough ice in her voice for a serviceable daiquiri." Or: "The sort of moustache that could beat you in an arm-wrestling contest." In fact, the whole bonkers plot is very Chandleresque in many respects.

The first one reminds me of Wodehouse's wonderful 'Ice formed on the butler's upper slopes.'  And the second one sounds very Wodehousian an'all.

*goes off to look up Ned Beauman*
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 27, 2013, 01:48:44 pm
*goes off to look up Ned Beauman*
I say, sir! Can't a chap have some dignity!

Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on June 27, 2013, 02:06:02 pm
... If you can read 100 words of Dan Brown's words quicker than you can read 20 of one of your authors then the story flows better. ..
Ben shut the fuck up about 'my' authors! You keep inventing a set of difficult authors & claiming they're my taste. It is not true. I have told you that it is not true. Stop calling me a liar!

FYI, I'm currently re-reading Making Money, by Terry Pratchett. I'm enjoying it, & it's going very quickly. I do not find it possible to believe that I'd read 100 words of Dan Brown faster than 20 words of Pratchett, & think it unlikely that I'd read 20 words of Brown faster than 20 words of Pratchett.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 27, 2013, 02:18:56 pm
The first one reminds me of Wodehouse's wonderful 'Ice formed on the butler's upper slopes.'  And the second one sounds very Wodehousian an'all.

Oh yes, that is a beautiful Wodehouse line. I'm sure it's no coincidence that I consider Wodehouse and Chandler among my very favourite writers.

Wodehouse is brilliant on physical appearances...

"She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and forgotten to say 'when'."

"He was more like something out of Dickens than anything human."

I would find it hard to subscribe to an argument that either of those descriptions could be improved by the addition of more detail.

And if nothing more comes of this thread than I've helped a few more people discover Ned Beauman, I'll consider it to have been all worthwhile.  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 27, 2013, 02:28:36 pm
... If you can read 100 words of Dan Brown's words quicker than you can read 20 of one of your authors then the story flows better. ..
Ben shut the fuck up about 'my' authors! You keep inventing a set of difficult authors & claiming they're my taste. It is not true. I have told you that it is not true. Stop calling me a liar!

FYI, I'm currently re-reading Making Money, by Terry Pratchett. I'm enjoying it, & it's going very quickly. I do not find it possible to believe that I'd read 100 words of Dan Brown faster than 20 words of Pratchett, & think it unlikely that I'd read 20 words of Brown faster than 20 words of Pratchett.

(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-9otJbXJyDQA/T3bCAuTi5NI/AAAAAAAAB2k/i8R_9KazbkU/s1600/calmdown.png)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on June 27, 2013, 02:28:42 pm
Cut the crap & stop trying to wind me up. You've just shown that it's deliberate - and childish.

He is using 'precarious', an adjective, to describe 'her body', which is a noun. This is therefore correct use of the English language. I'm not aware of the context but it's not a logical impossibility that her body was precarious.
There's more to correct combination than adjective + noun. Not all pairs are possible. Try to imagine a soft diamond, or hot ice, for example - and I mean hot as in temperature, & ice as in frozen water, not a stolen diamond.

Brown uses adjectives which are inappropriate. E.g. "the enormous cabin of a Falcon 2000EX corporate jet". Enormous? I'm not exactly tall, but I've been in an aircraft cabin the same width & height as that of a Falcon 2000, & found it narrow, with an oppressively low ceiling. Many people I know can't stand upright in it. It's very small compared to a narrow-body airliner, which is what I think most people would use as a reference point for aircraft cabins.

He uses adjectives which are irrelevant, e.g. "Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery".  He throws in irrelevant details (& sometimes gets 'em wrong), such as the fuel consumption of a car, or a description of a watch, & who gave it to its owner & when, when a character checks the time. These are typical of hack writers paid by the word, or writing to a target book length & needing to add filler.

So yes, it is possible to show that Brown's style is bad. Indeed, it's very easy to show it.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 27, 2013, 02:37:09 pm
'vaulted archway'
You can have a vaulted ceiling or you can have an archway. You can't have both.

'precarious body'.
A body can be in a precarious position or situation. It can be 'precariously' positioned. A body can't be  precarious.

DB uses adjectives like a 10-year-old with a random adjective-generator on his computer. Except the 10-year-old is likely to add 'bottom' and 'fart'  and with a greater sense of comedic timing.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mattc on June 27, 2013, 02:41:34 pm
I think Ben would be great at marking school english essays.
"Yup, spelling's fine, grammar's ok - another one for the 'A' grade pile."

(Letting them write on word processors might make that 'A' pile rather large.)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 27, 2013, 02:42:29 pm
... If you can read 100 words of Dan Brown's words quicker than you can read 20 of one of your authors then the story flows better. ..
Ben shut the fuck up about 'my' authors! You keep inventing a set of difficult authors & claiming they're my taste. It is not true. I have told you that it is not true. Stop calling me a liar!

FYI, I'm currently re-reading Making Money, by Terry Pratchett. I'm enjoying it, & it's going very quickly. I do not find it possible to believe that I'd read 100 words of Dan Brown faster than 20 words of Pratchett, & think it unlikely that I'd read 20 words of Brown faster than 20 words of Pratchett.

(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-9otJbXJyDQA/T3bCAuTi5NI/AAAAAAAAB2k/i8R_9KazbkU/s1600/calmdown.png)

Bravo!
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 27, 2013, 02:59:50 pm
I think Ben would be great at marking school english essays.
"Yup, spelling's fine, grammar's ok - another one for the 'A' grade pile."

(Letting them write on word processors might make that 'A' pile rather large.)

"This one has literary references! Fail!"
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 27, 2013, 03:00:27 pm
There's more to correct combination than adjective + noun. Not all pairs are possible. Try to imagine a soft diamond, or hot ice, for example - and I mean hot as in temperature, & ice as in frozen water, not a stolen diamond.
Well they're logical impossibilities, but I would have to know more of the context to be sure that a "precarious body" was a logical impossibility.

Quote
Brown uses adjectives which are inappropriate. E.g. "the enormous cabin of a Falcon 2000EX corporate jet". Enormous? I'm not exactly tall, but I've been in an aircraft cabin the same width & height as that of a Falcon 2000, & found it narrow, with an oppressively low ceiling.
No, sorry - that's at worst unrealistic, not incorrect use of language. A falcon 2000EX might not be big - but it quite easily could be.

If it genuinely is a small plane then that's simply an unrealistic description - not fundamentally inappropriate on the language level.

You dont' actually get monks called Silas with guns and who whip themselves in italy as well, and freemasons and the illuminati doesn't really exist - but that doesn't mean it's bad use of language.

If you're presenting simple unrealisticness as 'incorrect use of language' and expecting me to believe you then why should I believe you can't have a "vaulted archway"? I know what he means, and I suspect most people do, as well. Even if you can find a rule that contradicts it - language evolves, that rule might be outdated. Language is purely a human construct, things that are regarded as perfectly valid language now may not have been 50 years ago. Dan Brown may be an evolver of language, as Shakespeare was.

Quote
Many people I know can't stand upright in it. It's very small compared to a narrow-body airliner, which is what I think most people would use as a reference point for aircraft cabins.
I haven't been in one - so I don't know that. That's not incorrect use of language - it's simply unrealistic.
I imagine if you actually tried it you probably couldn't actually handbrake turn a smart car in reverse on the narrow back streets of paris but that doesn't take anything away from the story.
The point is that it's a private jet with a make and model name, and it's quite large inside. That's all.
Dan Brown obviously hasn't been in one either, but that just makes him unknowledgeable on aviation matters, not a bad writer.

Quote
He uses adjectives which are irrelevant, e.g. "Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery".  He throws in irrelevant details (& sometimes gets 'em wrong), such as the fuel consumption of a car, or a description of a watch, & who gave it to its owner & when, when a character checks the time. These are typical of hack writers paid by the word, or writing to a target book length & needing to add filler.

This is diverging from fact, back into the realms of opinion, preference and taste. It's not fact that they're irrelevant - that's just your opinion.

The thing about a body not being able to be 'precarious' is the only charge I've seen that's verging on factual incorrectness, but I'm still not convinced it is - I would have to read more around the context to be sure.
And given that most of the beef with the "20 worst Dan Brown sentences" (which is being touted as 'proof' he is a bad writer) is 'unnecessary description', which on closer examination is purely a matter of opinion, there is a clear precedence for opinion masquerading as fact (or, rather, the charge that he is a bad writer being purely opinion. Hence snobbery. Which like I say is fine - but we're not really getting very far off the ground in establishing it as concrete fact.)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 27, 2013, 03:18:41 pm
You are telling me that freemasons don't exist?  Must be to do with the decline in non-vaulted archways. (what did I do with that leather apron?

Ben, you are now talking twaddle and you know it. If a writer quotes something as specific as an airplane make and model, they should check if that 'plane is small, large, jet powered, whatever. If they are going to base a book around lots of buildings with classical architecture (such as churches), then they should know the difference between an arch and a vault.

Not researching these things makes them a bad writer. DB isn't alone.

I offended my son by telling him a book he liked was written by a bad writer. Why?  It had people drinking half-pints in Queensland (a half-pint is a schooner) amongst  many other errors.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: her_welshness on June 27, 2013, 03:21:44 pm
At best then, good and lazy nonsense  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Kathy on June 27, 2013, 03:24:04 pm
I offended my son by telling him a book he liked was written by a bad writer. Why?  It had people drinking half-pints in Queensland (a half-pint is a schooner) amongst  many other errors.

Ah, this reminds me of reading stories set in Victorian (or Georgian) England, as written by Americans. One character attached a Steampunk-contraption to their "suspenders". My eyes watered, until I realised they meant "braces". :D
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 27, 2013, 03:32:53 pm
I offended my son by telling him a book he liked was written by a bad writer. Why?  It had people drinking half-pints in Queensland (a half-pint is a schooner) amongst  many other errors.

Ah, this reminds me of reading stories set in Victorian (or Georgian) England, as written by Americans. One character attached a Steampunk-contraption to their "suspenders". My eyes watered, until I realised they meant "braces". :D
Hmm - entirely conceivable that they meant 'suspenders'.  I've seen pictures of some of those things that Victorians built. Talk of 'hot and throbbing' . . . .

Just don't google this at work.


Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mattc on June 27, 2013, 03:34:17 pm
I'm very forgiving of minor factual errors [or rather I tend not to spot them!]. However, if they started mounting up I would start to notice, and it might irritate me.

And I agree that if a writer goes out of his way to introduce unnecessary detail, he really ought to get it right. (or he should invent things that are impossible to check)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 27, 2013, 03:34:22 pm
You are telling me that freemasons don't exist?  Must be to do with the decline in non-vaulted archways. (what did I do with that leather apron?

Ben, you are now talking twaddle and you know it. If a writer quotes something as specific as an airplane make and model, they should check if that 'plane is small, large, jet powered, whatever. If they are going to base a book around lots of buildings with classical architecture (such as churches), then they should know the difference between an arch and a vault.

Not researching these things makes them a bad writer. DB isn't alone.

I offended my son by telling him a book he liked was written by a bad writer. Why?  It had people drinking half-pints in Queensland (a half-pint is a schooner) amongst  many other errors.

The anti-Dan Brown brigade have tried to avoid the charge of snobbery by saying he uses technically incorrect language which if (and only if) true would justify ridicule, but when the detail is drilled into, it transpires that it's simply unrealistic - yet now you're trying to say that the two amount to the same thing. I maintain that they don't. If you insist they do, we'll just have to agree to disagree then.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: spindrift on June 27, 2013, 03:42:08 pm
Wodehouse had the lovely line:

Quote
It's very hard to confuse a ray of sunshine with a Scotsman with a grievance.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Emily on June 27, 2013, 04:05:44 pm
Not-especially-relevant factoid:  Chandler and Wodehouse went to the same school.

<nicks some of Ham's popcorn and goes back to lurking>
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: clarion on June 27, 2013, 04:14:17 pm
What an unlikely yet interesting piece of trivia.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 27, 2013, 04:15:49 pm
Not-especially-relevant factoid:  Chandler and Wodehouse went to the same school.

<nicks some of Ham's popcorn and goes back to lurking>
If this isn't true, it should be.

<nicks some more popcorn>
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: clarion on June 27, 2013, 04:19:41 pm
Tis true!  Tis true!
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: clarion on June 27, 2013, 04:21:55 pm
And Dan Brown went to the same school as Mark Zuckerberg and John Irving (probably heavily referenced in A Prayer For Owen Meany).
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Eccentrica Gallumbits on June 27, 2013, 04:40:10 pm
Ben might call it snobbery, but I choose to think of it as taste.  ;D
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: spindrift on June 27, 2013, 05:13:06 pm
Dulwich College, I think.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Cudzoziemiec on June 27, 2013, 05:47:17 pm
You are telling me that freemasons don't exist?  Must be to do with the decline in non-vaulted archways. (what did I do with that leather apron?
I'm snorting again.  ;D
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: ian on June 27, 2013, 06:09:22 pm
OK, out of interest, let's take this passage. It's been much maligned and ridiculed, but it does illustrate something of a stylistic problem. Yes, you can skim over it, let the momentum of the plot carry you, but let's put the brakes on for a moment, get out and take a poke in the undergrowth. We'll either find some meaning, a vintage copy of Knave, or a Louis de Bernières novel tossed out of passing car.

Quote
A voice spoke, chillingly close. "Do not move." On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly. Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.

So what he's saying, if we pare down the prose is:

Quote
"Do not move." The museum curator stopped and looked around. He saw his attacker standing behind the gate.

So we've stripped Mr Brown's skeleton of all that fleshy prose. So what was he trying to do with all those words? I think we all appreciate the effort he's making not to leave a word unemployed, keep them off the street where they may get up to no good, possibly hanging out with Will Self or some other verbose miscreant. So Dan is putting them to work. But in a rather odd and unnecessary way, rather like a government back to work scheme. Have you ever wandered into a meeting and surveyed the gallery of blank faces looking back at you and had that horrible, sinking thought: am I in the right place? That's what many of the words appear to be doing here. Give them their dues, they usually don't bottle it. They take a seat, and even when it becomes very apparent they're sitting in the wrong meeting, they stick with it. The 'voice spoke' for instance. Well, his attacker was probably not going to burst into song, unless Dan Brown is hosting an impromptu version of Phantom. OK, the paragraph doesn't have context, but I'm thinking we're not about to segue into a musical number here. Someone, somewhere must be working on a musical version of The Vinci Code.

But back to practicalities, our Dan is telling us that curator is being threatened by his attacker (they'll do that, those attackers), and that the attacker is an albino. We can deduce that it's dark but there is a source of light somewhere behind the attacker. He's a silhouetted after all. Unfortunately, Dan has tripped himself here – as much lamented – you can't have an albino silhouette. Albinos are, of course, pale. I'll vouch that you don't see them eagerly booking holidays to the Costa del Sol and if they do, they're going to be in Boots buying up all the Factor 50. I think we're getting the point here that the attacker is an albino and rather a large one at that. Mountainous, however, is rather large, unless of course those are mountains really far away, in which case we may be dealing with an albino midget. It's pretty easy to see why he's a bit angry in that case, he's not been dealt a good hand by the gods.

What it really lacks is any kind of comparator. Skipping the nonsensical, you have to ask questions like how tall and broad. Tall as the gate? Perhaps he fills the space between whatever is holding the gates up? It's an easier comparison for the reader than a distant and rather unfeasible mountain. And then to the silhouette problem. We can't see his features, but we need to know that he's an albino (for some reason, just go with it, OK). So, hey what do albinos have? Dan helped here: he has thinning white hair. So, perhaps with the light behind him, we can see that, cast like an aura. Perhaps an halo, like an angel, but not that kind of the angel, after all he's holding a gun and your average angel doesn't point a gun at you (well, I assume he has a gun, he may of course be using chilling language instead).

There is, of course, no perfect way to write it, but there are better ways to write it, either leaner or richer.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: her_welshness on June 27, 2013, 06:52:55 pm
OK, out of interest, let's take this passage. It's been much maligned and ridiculed, but it does illustrate something of a stylistic problem. Yes, you can skim over it, let the momentum of the plot carry you, but let's put the brakes on for a moment, get out and take a poke in the undergrowth. We'll either find some meaning, a vintage copy of Knave, or a Louis de Bernières novel tossed out of passing car.

Quote
A voice spoke, chillingly close. "Do not move." On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly. Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.

So what he's saying, if we pare down the prose is:

Quote
"Do not move." The museum curator stopped and looked around. He saw his attacker standing behind the gate.

So we've stripped Mr Brown's skeleton of all that fleshy prose. So what was he trying to do with all those words? I think we all appreciate the effort he's making not to leave a word unemployed, keep them off the street where they may get up to no good, possibly hanging out with Will Self or some other verbose miscreant. So Dan is putting them to work. But in a rather odd and unnecessary way, rather like a government back to work scheme. Have you ever wandered into a meeting and surveyed the gallery of blank faces looking back at you and had that horrible, sinking thought: am I in the right place? That's what many of the words appear to be doing here. Give them their dues, they usually don't bottle it. They take a seat, and even when it becomes very apparent they're sitting in the wrong meeting, they stick with it. The 'voice spoke' for instance. Well, his attacker was probably not going to burst into song, unless Dan Brown is hosting an impromptu version of Phantom. OK, the paragraph doesn't have context, but I'm thinking we're not about to segue into a musical number here. Someone, somewhere must be working on a musical version of The Vinci Code.

But back to practicalities, our Dan is telling us that curator is being threatened by his attacker (they'll do that, those attackers), and that the attacker is an albino. We can deduce that it's dark but there is a source of light somewhere behind the attacker. He's a silhouetted after all. Unfortunately, Dan has tripped himself here – as much lamented – you can't have an albino silhouette. Albinos are, of course, pale. I'll vouch that you don't see them eagerly booking holidays to the Costa del Sol and if they do, they're going to be in Boots buying up all the Factor 50. I think we're getting the point here that the attacker is an albino and rather a large one at that. Mountainous, however, is rather large, unless of course those are mountains really far away, in which case we may be dealing with an albino midget. It's pretty easy to see why he's a bit angry in that case, he's not been dealt a good hand by the gods.

What it really lacks is any kind of comparator. Skipping the nonsensical, you have to ask questions like how tall and broad. Tall as the gate? Perhaps he fills the space between whatever is holding the gates up? It's an easier comparison for the reader than a distant and rather unfeasible mountain. And then to the silhouette problem. We can't see his features, but we need to know that he's an albino (for some reason, just go with it, OK). So, hey what do albinos have? Dan helped here: he has thinning white hair. So, perhaps with the light behind him, we can see that, cast like an aura. Perhaps an halo, like an angel, but not that kind of the angel, after all he's holding a gun and your average angel doesn't point a gun at you (well, I assume he has a gun, he may of course be using chilling language instead).

There is, of course, no perfect way to write it, but there are better ways to write it, either leaner or richer.

I am literally sat here crying and laughing, had to stop reading this out to my husband, as I had lost control of my faculties.  ;D :'( ;D
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 27, 2013, 07:19:45 pm
<ripple of polite applause from the expensive seats>
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: pcolbeck on June 27, 2013, 07:45:21 pm
I am literally sat here crying and laughing, had to stop reading this out to my husband, as I had lost control of my faculties.  ;D :'( ;D

FTFY
[DB]
I am literally sat here, in the fourth bedroom of my house, built in a mock tudor style in 1932 with four bedrooms, on a sturdy oak chair, its intricately woven green brocade seat pad displaying, to those who recognize that it is a classic design from Ikea, my exquisite taste, with tears like dew on a cat's fur rolling down my perfectly symmetrical yet pleasingly lob-sided face whilst simultaneous laughing like a goat that has lost a rolling pin. So much so that I had to cease reading the entertaining prose to my husband, quite and somewhat untidy in dress yet with a look in his eyes like a chinchilla that is easy with the knowledge that it is king of the jungle and thus devastatingly attractive to all women upon whom he chose to bestow his gaze upon.
[/DB]
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on June 27, 2013, 07:57:22 pm
The anti-Dan Brown brigade have tried to avoid the charge of snobbery by saying he uses technically incorrect language which if (and only if) true would justify ridicule, but when the detail is drilled into, it transpires that it's simply unrealistic - yet now you're trying to say that the two amount to the same thing. I maintain that they don't. If you insist they do, we'll just have to agree to disagree then.
You've had examples of technically incorrect vocabulary given to you. Stop pretending otherwise. You've also had it explained to you that introducing unnecessary detail & getting it wrong is bad writing. Pretending that's just opinion is plain wrong. According to you, the only sin a writer can commit is to make grammatical errors which aren't in your personal list of permitted grammatical errors. Do you really believe that? Or are you trolling?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Ham on June 27, 2013, 09:59:42 pm
<offers Ian a drink anna stuffed olive onna stick>
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 28, 2013, 02:08:45 am
Quote from: Bledlow
You've had examples of technically incorrect vocabulary given to you. Stop pretending otherwise. You've also had it explained to you that introducing unnecessary detail & getting it wrong is bad writing. Pretending that's just opinion is plain wrong. According to you, the only sin a writer can commit is to make grammatical errors which aren't in your personal list of permitted grammatical errors. Do you really believe that? Or are you trolling?
I'm drawing a distinction between grammatical errors and things that you don't like bit which aren't grammatical errors, you keep deliberately trying to blur the boundaries. But I stand by my distinction.

You're very fond of stating that   being unrealistic and "over description" are errors, but when you get slightly closer to proving it, give me  a shout.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 28, 2013, 08:13:16 am
Lol @ pcolbeck
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: HTFB on June 28, 2013, 04:00:11 pm
Not-especially-relevant factoid:  Chandler and Wodehouse went to the same school.

<nicks some of Ham's popcorn and goes back to lurking>
I worry about being a Wodehouse bore, but since somebody else has started it: yes, and although they were a year off being there at the same time they were both on the Classical side (in modern terms that would mean Latin and Greek A-levels, but probably also English Literature) under the great A H Gilkes.

Wodehouse gives an account in one of his early school stories of Gilkes' routine of setting essay topics for the Classical sixth form ("One man's meat is another man's poison", in the book) and then giving one-on-one evening tutorials. The pupil would read the essay out and Gilkes criticised it mercilessly for English style as well as content. Both Wodehouse and Chandler had early and specific training in writing in order to be read aloud, in hitting a tone, and it shows.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 28, 2013, 04:06:11 pm
Great knowledge, HTFB. (And Emily.) Not boring at all.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: mrcharly-YHT on June 28, 2013, 04:15:32 pm
Definitely not boring.

I find it fascinating that two people with the same education and training evolved such different (and distinctive) styles.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: HTFB on June 28, 2013, 04:15:41 pm
My other Wodehouse/Chandler mashup trivia factoid is that they're the two authors quoted in the OED for the use of "bimbo" to mean a bloke, not a babe. There's no evidence that this was school slang, though.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on June 29, 2013, 05:30:53 pm
Quote from: Bledlow
You've had examples of technically incorrect vocabulary given to you. Stop pretending otherwise. You've also had it explained to you that introducing unnecessary detail & getting it wrong is bad writing. Pretending that's just opinion is plain wrong. According to you, the only sin a writer can commit is to make grammatical errors which aren't in your personal list of permitted grammatical errors. Do you really believe that? Or are you trolling?
I'm drawing a distinction between grammatical errors and things that you don't like bit which aren't grammatical errors, you keep deliberately trying to blur the boundaries. But I stand by my distinction.

You're very fond of stating that   being unrealistic and "over description" are errors, but when you get slightly closer to proving it, give me  a shout.
I'm not blurring the boundaries at all. I've pointed out that Brown (1) makes linguistic errors (not limited to syntax - and if you really think that as long as the syntax fits the rules you learned at school all is well with his language, then I say to you "Colourless green ideas sleep furiously"), & (2) he makes ridiculous factual errors. You have chosen to interpret mentioning both of them as mixing them up, because it suits you. You're wrong.

Lack of realism is not an error, & I have never suggested that it is. Are you stupid, or are you just pretending to be? I have mentioned reading Terry Pratchett with pleasure. Think about what that says about my opinions of unrealistic literature.

Over description is lousy style. It's not a linguistic error, & I have never said that it is. You are misrepresenting what I have said, as you have at other times. This is a common tactic by those who see a debate as a contest they must win. It's obvious, & nobody's going to fall for it. You should give it up.

What I have said is a linguistic error is making semantic mistakes, such as using adjectives which don't fit what is being described (see the quote from Chomsky, above). Brown does a lot of this.

I have also said that Brown makes ridiculous factual errors (though not using those words). Factual errors in matters not central to the story are not very important, unless they're completely stupid, such as the sun rising in the west, but there's a limit to the number which is tolerable, & there are classes of factual error which are so silly they're distracting. One such class is when the author makes a point of introducing something - and gets it wrong. The more specific the author is, the worse it is. For example, the 'enormous' cabin of a Falcon 2000EX business jet, with its Pratt & Whitney engines. Note that: not any old bizjet, not just a Dassault Falcon, not even just a Falcon 2000 - a Falcon 2000EX.  :facepalm:
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 29, 2013, 06:39:11 pm
Over description is lousy style. It's not a linguistic error, & I have never said that it is. You are misrepresenting what I have said, as you have at other times. This is a common tactic by those who see a debate as a contest they must win. It's obvious, & nobody's going to fall for it. You should give it up.

What I have said is a linguistic error is making semantic mistakes, such as using adjectives which don't fit what is being described (see the quote from Chomsky, above). Brown does a lot of this.
Right, but the only example I've heard of this is a "precarious body", and a "vaulted arch", which I'm not really sure why they fit into this category. I don't see why a body can't be precarious (she was about to topple off the ledge) or an arch can't be vaulted (an arch supporting a roof, something that looks like this (https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=vaulted+arch&rlz=1C1KMZB_enGB534GB534&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=BRvPUaS3Bues4ASexoHYAg&ved=0CEkQsAQ&biw=1280&bih=620)) and anyway, you know what he means so it only takes anything away from the story if you're being a total purist - and if it's known what he means, who's to say why it shouldn't become perfectly valid - like I say, language evolves.

Quote
I have also said that Brown makes ridiculous factual errors (though not using those words). Factual errors in matters not central to the story are not very important, unless they're completely stupid, such as the sun rising in the west, but there's a limit to the number which is tolerable, & there are classes of factual error which are so silly they're distracting. One such class is when the author makes a point of introducing something - and gets it wrong. The more specific the author is, the worse it is. For example, the 'enormous' cabin of a Falcon 2000EX business jet, with its Pratt & Whitney engines. Note that: not any old bizjet, not just a Dassault Falcon, not even just a Falcon 2000 - a Falcon 2000EX.  :facepalm:
Again most people don't know what a Falcon 2000Ex is like so it doesn't take anything away from the story. In fact you probably didn't either before you googled it in order to prove him wrong.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on June 29, 2013, 11:23:02 pm
Yawn. You're clutching at straws now. I've not quoted numerous examples of Brown's inappropriate descriptors because I'm damned if I'll subject my brain to more of that twaddle than is easily available online, but as I recall, it was one of the reasons my excursion into his works was so brief, & it seems to be often cited in criticisms of his work.

BTW, all I knew of the Falcon 2000EX (as distinct from other Falcon 2000s) last week was that  all recent Dassault Falcons have the same fuselage cross-section. But I knew the 2000 is a family of mid-size bizjets. True, not many people know or care about the size of bizjet cabins - but so what? It's one example of many, e.g. the Smart car, where he makes a point of giving a fuel consumption figure - and it's 15% of the true value, & obviously wrong to anyone with a car (& therefore some idea of what they burn) & half a brain.

I'm bored with this. Whether you really believe that Dan Brown is anything other than a hack with a certain facility for writing wordy bollocks (a useful talent, of course), or you're just playing silly buggers, you'll have to do without any further attempts of mine to enlighten you.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Euan Uzami on June 29, 2013, 11:50:02 pm
Yawn. You're clutching at straws now. I've not quoted numerous examples of Brown's inappropriate descriptors because I'm damned if I'll subject my brain to more of that twaddle than is easily available online, but as I recall, it was one of the reasons my excursion into his works was so brief...

You mean because it will prove that you've read it ;D

You can't prove you're not a snob without proving yourself a hypocrite in the process. 

And don't claim you read it and didn't enjoy it because if you didn't enjoy it you should have stopped after the da vinci code.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 30, 2013, 11:54:11 am
And thus the trolling intent is writ large.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: ian on June 30, 2013, 01:18:52 pm
For those who didn't manage to keep up. Previously on this thread, perhaps better entitled One Man's Intellectual Journey from Joyce's Finnegans Wake to Dan Brown's Inferno, we've divined a profundity of meaning in cheese-stuffed pizza crusts, and galloped a tussled unicorn through the story of the little sparkly Jesus as told in the Book of Kevin. There were men in tights. There often are, and that can't be helped. Enid Blyton was stabbed in the eye with a fork. There were claims she did it to herself. Harsh and unfair words were uttered about cupcakes. We learned about the economics of  second hand paperback sales and the fact that somewhere out there, a mountainous pile of Da Vinci Codes are waiting to fall on us. Precarious. Was that why Enid did it? Fortunately, we found a hardbitten detective to take up the case. Well, he would, but he's neck-deep in Ford Maddox Ford and sweating words like last night's whisky, so it's going to take a while for him to get on the Enid case. While we were waiting, so much time was spent in the contemplation of freckles, likely the same amount of time it would take a for a lazy cat to stretch itself to infinity. Until, of course, that cat happened to spy Flaubert's parrot on its perch across the room, and snapped us back to a reality in a fury of black fur and green feather. Dumping us in a hard place where a freckle just is a freckle and green eyes are just green, not verdigris pebbles in the pillow of her face, unless of course those green eyes belong to Madame Bovary, and she's not sure. It seems neither are we. We found out that the Louvre pyramid had fewer, or perhaps more panes, of glass than we'd previously believed. There was one fewer when some English chap, probably not in Harris Tweeds, flung a copy of Captain Corelli's Mandolin through one, undoubtedly with the sinuously reflexive arm motion of an Olympian discus thrower completing for the glory of Zeus himself. As a result of this rash yet not entirely undeserved act, somewhere in the bowels of the Louvre, under those enigmatic watchful verdigris eyes of Leonardo's painted lady herself, a museum curator looks down the barrel of a gun. Literally down, it would seem, as he's facing a furious albino midget, who with the roseate glow of his thinning long white hair, cast like a halo in the subdued museum light, might just be the very angel flung from heaven, and cursed to the pit – or at least the basement level of the Louvre, where of course they display Da Vinci's most famous painting – for his sins against paradise. Sins that amounted to the seraphim catching him trying to hide a copy of Angels and Demons under his pillow. Alas, it seems our detective is submerging himself in another glass but the evidence has it that Enid did it to herself. Another copy of Angels and Demons was found nearby. In the Louvre basement a gun is cocked and an albino midget takes aim and squeezes the trigger, slowly. The bullet cuts wide, making a small perfect hole right between those enigmatic painted eyes. The albino midget lies sprawled, the gun arm awry, blood tricking from his scalp. By this head a copy of Captain Corelli's Mandolin flaps open in the draft of the air conditioning.

So that's were we are. Now Ben T and Bledlow are squaring up for the intellectual spat of the decade. We should broadcast this, it's actually even more fun than Martin Amis having an argument with his own reflection.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 30, 2013, 02:00:53 pm
^_^
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: her_welshness on June 30, 2013, 03:40:38 pm
^_^

I concur. Plus I think Martin Amis is a shit writer.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 30, 2013, 04:40:35 pm
I wanted to make a point about style, and what we mean when we talk about style in this context, and just googled for a particular passage from David Lodge's Small World to illustrate the point. I didn't find the passage I was after but I did find this instead:

http://www.theroundtable.ro/Current/Literary/Enachi_Vasluianu_Luiza_Intratextual_Repetition_Stylistic_Consistency_and_Uniformity_in_Rendering_the_Profile.pdf

Well, I found it interesting anyway. <strokes chin>
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on June 30, 2013, 04:56:48 pm
Aha! I've found the passage I was looking for - it's quoted in a Language Log article:
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3216

You may recall that Language Log was also the source of the diatribe against Dan Brown by Geoffrey Pullum quoted earlier.

I can't be bothered to make the point any more but I do recommend reading the Lodge passage - it's very funny.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: StuAff on June 30, 2013, 05:48:24 pm
For those who didn't manage to keep up. Previously on this thread, perhaps better entitled One Man's Intellectual Journey from Joyce's Finnegans Wake to Dan Brown's Inferno, we've divined a profundity of meaning in cheese-stuffed pizza crusts, and galloped a tussled unicorn through the story of the little sparkly Jesus as told in the Book of Kevin. There were men in tights. There often are, and that can't be helped. Enid Blyton was stabbed in the eye with a fork. There were claims she did it to herself. Harsh and unfair words were uttered about cupcakes. We learned about the economics of  second hand paperback sales and the fact that somewhere out there, a mountainous pile of Da Vinci Codes are waiting to fall on us. Precarious. Was that why Enid did it? Fortunately, we found a hardbitten detective to take up the case. Well, he would, but he's neck-deep in Ford Maddox Ford and sweating words like last night's whisky, so it's going to take a while for him to get on the Enid case. While we were waiting, so much time was spent in the contemplation of freckles, likely the same amount of time it would take a for a lazy cat to stretch itself to infinity. Until, of course, that cat happened to spy Flaubert's parrot on its perch across the room, and snapped us back to a reality in a fury of black fur and green feather. Dumping us in a hard place where a freckle just is a freckle and green eyes are just green, not verdigris pebbles in the pillow of her face, unless of course those green eyes belong to Madame Bovary, and she's not sure. It seems neither are we. We found out that the Louvre pyramid had fewer, or perhaps more panes, of glass than we'd previously believed. There was one fewer when some English chap, probably not in Harris Tweeds, flung a copy of Captain Corelli's Mandolin through one, undoubtedly with the sinuously reflexive arm motion of an Olympian discus thrower completing for the glory of Zeus himself. As a result of this rash yet not entirely undeserved act, somewhere in the bowels of the Louvre, under those enigmatic watchful verdigris eyes of Leonardo's painted lady herself, a museum curator looks down the barrel of a gun. Literally down, it would seem, as he's facing a furious albino midget, who with the roseate glow of his thinning long white hair, cast like a halo in the subdued museum light, might just be the very angel flung from heaven, and cursed to the pit – or at least the basement level of the Louvre, where of course they display Da Vinci's most famous painting – for his sins against paradise. Sins that amounted to the seraphim catching him trying to hide a copy of Angels and Demons under his pillow. Alas, it seems our detective is submerging himself in another glass but the evidence has it that Enid did it to herself. Another copy of Angels and Demons was found nearby. In the Louvre basement a gun is cocked and an albino midget takes aim and squeezes the trigger, slowly. The bullet cuts wide, making a small perfect hole right between those enigmatic painted eyes. The albino midget lies sprawled, the gun arm awry, blood tricking from his scalp. By this head a copy of Captain Corelli's Mandolin flaps open in the draft of the air conditioning.

So that's were we are. Now Ben T and Bledlow are squaring up for the intellectual spat of the decade. We should broadcast this, it's actually even more fun than Martin Amis having an argument with his own reflection.

Brilliant.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on June 30, 2013, 11:48:02 pm
I have used saliva successfully when a pump has failed after a faerie visit.

Yawn. You're clutching at straws now. I've not quoted numerous examples of Brown's inappropriate descriptors because I'm damned if I'll subject my brain to more of that twaddle than is easily available online, but as I recall, it was one of the reasons my excursion into his works was so brief...

You mean because it will prove that you've read it ;D

You can't prove you're not a snob without proving yourself a hypocrite in the process. 

And don't claim you read it and didn't enjoy it because if you didn't enjoy it you should have stopped after the da vinci code.

And thus the trolling intent is writ large.

Indeed. Note that he's calling me a liar again. How many times is this now?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: rogerzilla on July 02, 2013, 06:28:18 am
I think we should have a competition...

to write a ride report in the style of Dan Brown.

This ride report is not, as most people believe, just about a bicycle ride.

Audax.

Its Latin name betraying its sinister associations with the Catholic Church, the Caesars (the root of the modern words Kaiser and Czar) and the fagging system in public schools.  A sordid existence of toxic pasties...nights sleeping rough...in desperation, its acolytes had been known to use the hand driers in disabled toilets for warmth.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on July 02, 2013, 01:10:42 pm
I was thinking of a thread for first lines of books in the style of Dan Brown.

How, for example, would he render these?

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

It was love at first sight.

“Take my camel, dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

As usual, at five o'clock that morning reveille was sounded by by the blows of a hammer on a length of rail hanging up near the staff quarters.

I met my Aunt Augusta for the first time in more than half a century at my mother's funeral.

"What's it going to be then, eh?"


Somewhat to my surprise, I no longer have a copy of one the above, unless it's hiding somewhere.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on July 02, 2013, 02:39:40 pm
As the eminent literary critic Geoffrey Horringer lay on the ground, breathing in the cold April air while the athletic 43-year-old's blood drained effluently from the wound in Horringer's supine thigh caused by a 9mm round fired from a Glock 17 pistol at a range of approximately 53 metres, soaking the grey wool of the academic titan's vintage Christian Lacroix suit, the 6ft professor, whose paper on "Derrida And The Death Of Reason" had been so well received at the Sorbonne last week, stared at the hands of Horringer's Breitling Superocean 42mm men's diver's watch, and as he mused on that holiday in Jakarta last summer when he'd fully tested its manufacturer's claims to be waterproof to a depth of 7,0000m, the Breitling Superocean watch struck 13.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Vince on July 02, 2013, 03:44:08 pm
Ride Report

The steel door had seen better days. Its once white paint had faded and darked to the colour of rancid butter, dark trails showed at the bottom evidencing poor braking technique. The wooden frame had been half heartedly rubbed down in anticipation of fresh paint that never came. The door rattled up, its guides alternately sticking and freeing themselves.

Wunja marched in and stood in the half darkness considering the various machines that passively waited for him. The tough old hack, its light blue paint bubbling slightly where frame oxides were forming; mismatched transfers confusing its origins, missing parts unreplaced. The galant touring machine; its lustered gunmetal paint still intact despite the many miles it had travelled; the old leather saddle flowed to an organic shape that said "sit on me, I will take care of you". Lastly perched on a shelf was a vision in celeste, oozing italian style, black carbon....


Rats... it took so long to get the bike out, I lost interest in going on a ride
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: ian on July 02, 2013, 07:39:10 pm
As the eminent literary critic Geoffrey Horringer lay on the ground, his blood draining effluently from the wound in the 43-year-old's athletic thigh caused by a 9mm round fired from a Glock 17 pistol at a range of approximately 53 metres, soaking the grey wool of Horringer's vintage Christian Lacroix suit, the 6ft literary critic, whose paper on "Derrida And The Death Of Reason" had been so well received at the Sorbonne last week, stared at the hands of his Breitling Superocean 42mm men's diver's watch, and as he mused on that holiday in Jakarta last summer when he'd fully tested its manufacturer's claims to be waterproof to a depth of 7,0000m, it struck 13.

See, it's impossible to parody DB without actually becoming DB. It's only takes a few paragraphs before the style becomes difficult to shrug off, and after a chapter, you're smothered like a rack of BBQ ribs in the sticky sauce of DB's prose. Your only escape is to become one with DB. He's taken your soul and he's going to subject it to the torture know as the superfluity of adjectives.

Colleagues will start to dread emails from you with the same fear they'd usually apply to an HMRC demand letter hand-delivered by a clown, and you'll find yourself telling everyone, even and especially the ladies underwear mannequins in M&S, the label of your defiantly non-M&S clothes. Everyone on the 1859 train will know the story of your watch. Yet despite this outward show of confidence, at night you'll cower sleepless and terrified under your pure Egyptian cotton bedsheet, fearing that there might be an angry albino midget in your wardrobe.

Take care people, in a dark place you transport yourselves.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on July 02, 2013, 08:04:12 pm
Colleagues will start to dread emails from you

They do already...

Quote
at night you'll cower sleepless and terrified under your pure Egyptian cotton bedsheet, fearing that there might be an angry albino midget in your wardrobe.

Hey, just because it sounds ridiculous, that doesn't mean it isn't true!

I've tweaked my previous post, btw. I knocked it off in haste earlier and felt it wasn't quite right. I'm happy with it now. If happy is the right word.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: clarion on July 02, 2013, 08:53:00 pm
Is it a conscious parody of the over-detailed descriptions of American Psycho?

Well, no, of course it isn't.  Dan Brown isn't that smart.  But it is reminiscent of that deliberate fetishisation.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Mrs Pingu on July 02, 2013, 09:03:38 pm
I stand by my comments on cupcakes.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Pingu on July 02, 2013, 10:29:01 pm
...waterproof to a depth of 7,0000m...

That's very precise in a European sense.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Ham on July 02, 2013, 10:56:20 pm
I stand by my comments on cupcakes.

I'll stand by your cupcakes.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: geraldc on July 02, 2013, 11:57:28 pm
Audax is a lot like a Dan Brown novel, a series of clues leading you on a chase through the country.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: rogerzilla on July 03, 2013, 06:29:25 am
I'm waiting for DB's Robert Langdon character to come out of the closet.  He always spends the novels in a life-or-death situation with an impossibly attractive, yet single, female assistant, yet never gets it on with them.

Maybe he already has his pick of Harvard students.  I imagine him spliffing up in a seedy bungalow with them, like Donald Sutherland in "Animal House".  Although a brief glimpse of DS's arse was bad enough - I don't need to see Tom Hanks'.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: LindaG on July 03, 2013, 01:56:39 pm
Best thread ever.  I just read it from start to finish and I really am Elling Out  Ell .

FWIW I read DVC. Appalling stuff. Haven't felt the need to see the film.

Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Exit Stage Left on July 03, 2013, 02:17:51 pm
LEL goes suspiciously close to Rosslyn Chapel. Is it merely coincidence that people from around the world are approaching it in such a clandestine manner?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Eccentrica Gallumbits on July 03, 2013, 02:55:17 pm
My photos of Roslin are here https://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=9102.msg159542#msg159542.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Mrs Pingu on July 03, 2013, 08:50:12 pm
I stand by my comments on cupcakes.

I'll stand by your cupcakes.

Ham, you can *have* the cupcakes. All of them.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Ham on July 03, 2013, 09:14:25 pm
I stand by my comments on cupcakes.

I'll stand by your cupcakes.

Ham, you can *have* the cupcakes. All of them.

Hang on a second - these the ones you EAT ??? Oh.  :(


 :demon:
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: ian on July 03, 2013, 09:24:50 pm
Ah, foul calumny. Most surely some cupcakes are mere heretical travesties of the true cupcake, and those who purvey them will eventually find themselves on the down escalator to cake hell where they'll spend the rest of eternity wallowing in a big vat of rancid buttercream, overseen by some diabolical Mr Kipling intent on making things exceedingly unpleasant for them. Cake hell, and your battalions of demonic Battenburgers,  I salute you.

A good cupcake is a marvellous thing. It shouldn't just be sponge on the bottom. It can go two ways. If it's to be plain, then that bottom should be as light and fragrant as an angel's fart. Or if not, the base should be swirled through with slick of night-dark chocolate or other high-grade fondant, the kind of thing men in splendid hats fight wars over.

And then the top. That's where the true majesty begins. A Himalayan peak of frosting should greet you. You should be looking up. That's how much frosting there should be. When you bite into it, the surface of that frosting should lightly break and the smooth innards go right up your nose, like you've just dived into a sugary ocean. You should bite down and claim a little sponge and then reel back, sugar fizzing directly into your brain and making sweet mischief with your neurons. Surf that sugary wave, my giddy little pancreas.

Fairy cakes are for fairies. Stupid little things probably made out of a toe nail clippings and wallpaper paste.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: rogerzilla on July 03, 2013, 09:26:21 pm
I have just finished Inferno.  It does not improve towards the end.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Mrs Pingu on July 03, 2013, 09:54:06 pm
Just say 'no' to foot high frosting, kids.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Eccentrica Gallumbits on July 03, 2013, 10:07:57 pm
I like Captain Corelli's Mandolin.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: LindaG on July 03, 2013, 10:10:20 pm
I like Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

So do I.  The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman is good too.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Eccentrica Gallumbits on July 03, 2013, 10:16:54 pm
And the other ones - The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts and Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: LindaG on July 03, 2013, 10:18:25 pm
And the other ones - The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts and Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord.

I haven't read those. Are they funny?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Pingu on July 03, 2013, 10:21:48 pm
And the other ones - The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts and Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord.

I haven't read those. Are they funny?

Yes & no  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Eccentrica Gallumbits on July 03, 2013, 10:32:41 pm
And the other ones - The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts and Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord.

I haven't read those. Are they funny?

Yes & no  :thumbsup:
In the same way as Cardinal Guzman is and isn't funny. Bits of Senor Vivo are very horrible and sad though. But the same characters pop up in all the books, so if you like the people in Cardinal Guzman, the other two books will tell you how they got there.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on July 03, 2013, 10:56:53 pm
Ah, Captain Corelli... I read it a long, long time ago...

Its status as a Famously Bad Book seems slightly odd to me. The main reasons for its reputation are, as far as I can see:
a) it was too damn popular (there was a time when if you'd tried to count the number of copies you saw being read on the Tube, you'd run out of fingers before you got from Covent Garden to Leicester Square); b) it was made into a truly appalling film starring Nicolas fucking Cage; and c) its mildly nauseating mix of irritating whimsy and mawkish sentimentality.

Of these, only the last seems to me a justifiable reason for taking against it, though I seem to remember liking it enough at the time to actually recommend it to other people. If I read it again now, I might feel differently about it. I might not.

I certainly don't remember the writing being Dan Brown/EL James levels of awful. In fact, I recall it being very readable for the most part.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Eccentrica Gallumbits on July 04, 2013, 08:07:58 am
The other thing about Captain Corelli is the ending, which is the most irritating, heartbreaking, futile ending in the history of the world.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on July 04, 2013, 08:47:51 am
I don't remember the ending. Probably for the best.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: ian on July 04, 2013, 08:58:50 am
c) its mildly nauseating mix of irritating whimsy and mawkish sentimentality.


This is what I recall. Particularly whimsy. It starts with those titles and by a page 50 that overbearing, enforced quaintness has you locked in the cellar with a sticky cake knife at your throat and forced to wear a suit made entirely out of sticky doilies. And there's sugar in my tea.

I didn't actually know it was a famously bad book. Anyway, if anyone is in Shepherd's Bush, there's a copy behind the hedge of the house at the end of Frith St. I doubt even the mildew has managed to finish it.

The EL James phenomenon had passed me by, other than the disconcerting experience of once sitting next to an oldster on a plane, and glancing over at his Kindle and seeing a passage rendered there in the largest font size supported, which meant my nosiness was rewarded with the following few, almost billboard scale, words: her hand tightened around his erection. Now, I'll be honest, my idea of fun isn't spending several hours sharing a confined space with a potentially aroused geriatric. Still, my attention was snared. It didn't get any better. A lady apparently detonated a few pages further on. Presumably to escape. It was only afterwards, when describing it to a friend, she pointed out that it was that book.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: clarion on July 04, 2013, 09:12:31 am
c.

I admit: I didn't finish it.  It may have been redeemed by some brilliant writing and exposition in the last 50 pages or whatever.  But I didn't feel it was worth taking what was, quite frankly, a very slim chance.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: rogerzilla on July 05, 2013, 06:29:27 am
T be fair to her, EL James isn't trying to produce literature, whereas Louis de Bearnaise Sauce is.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on July 05, 2013, 08:19:35 am
T be fair to her, EL James isn't trying to produce literature, whereas Louis de Bearnaise Sauce is.

Spurious distinction. If you bring the writer's motivation into an evaluation of the quality of their output, you'll very quickly find yourself tied in structuralist knots.

Besides, it's that line of reasoning that leaves you open to accusations of snobbery from the likes of Ben T.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Bledlow on July 17, 2013, 10:55:04 am
Ah, so that's who E L James is. I'd managed to avoid knowing until now.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: Eccentrica Gallumbits on August 21, 2013, 06:01:38 pm
For those who find the book too taxing, the film is on Ch5 tonight.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: clarion on August 21, 2013, 06:06:58 pm
Ah, so that's who E L James is. I'd managed to avoid knowing until now.

Nee Wisty
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: spindrift on August 22, 2013, 01:06:42 pm
The other thing about Captain Corelli is the ending, which is the most irritating, heartbreaking, futile ending in the history of the world.

The main problem is, we're supposed to believe John Hurt sired Penelope Cruz! I'm in Kefalonia now, it was a dark day for the Italians, imagine, you're an occupying army and your government declares an amnesty. The Italians stationed here were on a sticky wicket, they argued amongst themselves and decided to stay, the Germans rolled into town and killed 5000 Italians.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: HTFB on September 03, 2013, 01:36:58 pm
Not something I know anything about, but do I infer correctly that "on a sticky wicket" is a charming period euphemism for "abandoned and then murdered"?
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: spesh on September 03, 2013, 01:42:28 pm
Not something I know anything about, but do I infer correctly that "on a sticky wicket" is a charming period euphemism for "abandoned and then murdered"?

Among other variations on being hip-deep in the brown smelly stuff... ;)
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: HTFB on September 03, 2013, 02:06:06 pm
Is "being hip-deep in the brown smelly stuff" a charming period euphemism for "having a couple of weeks to await death with all your friends, before all being murdered"?

To the extent that this thread is about clarity of writing I'm not sure that your version is better than the previous one.

[Does anybody have a ladder? I can't reach the ground from these stirrups.]
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: spindrift on September 03, 2013, 02:14:29 pm
By "sticky wicket" I meant their choice when they heard of the amnesty. They had three. They chose poorly but they had no idea what was coming. Those that escaped being shot were loaded onto boats, which the Germans then sank. It was a war crime (only Katyn was worse in sheer numbers) but the senior German got off scot free because he lied about what orders he'd received.   
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: citoyen on September 03, 2013, 05:03:52 pm
Is "being hip-deep in the brown smelly stuff" a charming period euphemism for "having a couple of weeks to await death with all your friends, before all being murdered"?

To the extent that this thread is about clarity of writing I'm not sure that your version is better than the previous one.

Describing that situation as "being on a sticky wicket" sounds like the sort of thing PG Wodehouse might write. And it's a familiar idiomatic phrase, so I don't think there's any problem in respect of clarity of meaning. Rhetorically speaking, it's a good example of litotes. The only difficulty with it is that it's a kind of in-joke that assumes the reader knows the pertinent facts already. But this is often the case with Wodehouse (loads of gags that work on the assumption that the reader, like the author, received an Edwardian British public school education) and it rarely, if ever, spoils my enjoyment of his work.

"Being hip-deep in the brown smelly stuff" may not be a set phrase, but I think its meaning is equally clear.
Title: Re: an apology
Post by: HTFB on September 12, 2013, 10:44:09 am
Easy to find copies - the charity shops are stuffed with Dan Brown.
They're not, you know... [long rant]
The same phenomenon now occurs with 50 Shades: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10289912/Charity-shops-stuck-with-thousands-of-copies-of-50-Shades-of-Grey.html (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10289912/Charity-shops-stuck-with-thousands-of-copies-of-50-Shades-of-Grey.html)

"We have thousands of copies of all the Fifty Shades books but we've stopped selling them because no one was buying them."