Friday, January 12, 2007

Chapter 6

Does Paris need to be recalibrated in terms that Iowans can comprehend? We've already had the Tuileries explained in the context of Central Park, and the DCPJ defined as "the rough equivalent of the US FBI". Now the corridor of the Louvre's Grand Gallery is said to be "the length of three Washington Monuments laid end to end". What next? Is Leonardo (sorry, Da Vinci) to be explained as the Italian Norman Rockwell? Incidentally, this made me laugh: "The exact length, if Langdon recalled correctly, was around fifteen hundred feet..." And this is approximately exactly slightly precisely almost badly written.

Flashback to Langdon's lost love, and for once the phrase "lifelong affinity for bachelorhood" doesn't mean that our hero is gay. And then we're into the supposedly "clever" bits, the pagans and the pentacles, the gobbets of trivia about the US military and the Olympic Games, not to mention curatorial uses for invisible ink. Maybe this deluge of info is supposed to blot out the glaringly obvious fact that the renowned curator has got himself into the pose of Leonardo's Vitruvian Man, but those of us who grew up in the glory days of World In Action can spot it a mile off. But it's this illusion/delusion of cleverness that provides the book with its USP. I've tried to shut my eyes and wallow in it, honestly I have, but my intelligence can only take so much insulting.

The mundane process of plucking out bits of bad writing and exposing them to ridicule is rapidly becoming tiresome. It wearies me; you say it wearies you. I feel like an 18th-century fop, taking a stroll round an asylum and laughing at the drooling loonies. But this is particularly, um, Bedlamite: "As Langdon stared at the shimmering text, he felt the fog that had surrounded this entire night growing thicker."

Oh, and we discover that Bezu Fache is a two-faced bastard, but you knew that already.

10 Comments:

Blogger Joel said...

This book almost ruined The Louvre for me, not because I remembered anything from it but because everywhere I went I was thinking 'Is anyone here because of the DVC?' It was ridiculous because A) I was a tourist myself, B) I visited the Musée des Arts et Métiers because of its appearance in Foucault's Pendulum and C)I think I ceded the high ground when I visited locations from the computer game 'Gabriel Knight' while in New Orleans.

8:43 pm  
Blogger patroclus said...

Ooh, I loved Gabriel Knight.

9:08 pm  
Blogger Mangonel said...

Charlotte Church tells of the time she met Dubya, who asked her where she was from. On hearing her answer, he asked which state Wales was in. You betcha Paris needs to be recalibrated. DB is writing for a primary audience where possession of one's own passport is a rarity, and a suspicious, probably treasonous, one at that.

'"clever" bits'? To a globe-trotting multi-cultural sophisticate with a degree in English Literature, I dare say this stuff is all old hat. But I didn't know about the Venusian orbit (which is, as far as I can tell, all true). Or the curatorial invisible ink. I thought that was cool. Surely the 'deluge of info' isn't intended to 'blot' anything out, but introduce us to concepts he needs to tell the rest of his story. Or maybe I'm just finding reasons not to be embarrassed because Vitruvian Man didn't occur at once to me.

And is it from the presence of an eavesdropper that you deduce Fache's two-faced bastardy? Because at this point the reader has no idea why Collet is doing the listening. What did I miss?

Valerie - if I recall correctly, on first reading, at this point I was still reading because, bizarre as the death was, I understood from the writer that it was going to get even more grotesque. In short, voyeurism. Also that Silas was off immediately to get the final part of the puzzle, which would rock the western world. In spite of having read SOOOO many books which promise this, in fiction if not in fact, and been disappointed as many times, I'm still a sucker for world-rocking puzzles. Especially if I think they're going to be solved in the next chapter or two. Oh - and re your second comment, have you read Foucault's Pendulum? I have a feeling that it might turn out to be the mirror image of TDVC.

Corey - Don't do this to me! You make me want to get all cultural-imperialist on yo' ass! I'm not in a position to diss airport fiction, but are we arguing the size or the existence of the yardstick? Crap exists and TDVC is proof. And I disagree with Mr Ebert - you can't do without the story. Look at Virginia bloody Woolf! Argh! Stephen King? Good stories and good telling.

3:11 am  
Blogger Tim Footman said...

Isn't there a Wales in North Dakota or summat? And fair point about the listening bit. We don't, as yet, know it's on Fache's say-so that Collet's listening. Incidentally, am I the only one who thinks that Fache is a bit like Clouseau, but the cartoon version, not Peter Sellers. Which would make Collet his uniformed sidekick, who was called something like Jeudeau.

I think Stephen King is the summit to which writers of blockbusters should aim. There might be some debate over whether he's a 'good' writer, but I've never seen anyone argue that he's 'bad'. But I promised to give such distinctions a rest, for a while at least.

And can I admit here and now that I know nothing about computer games whatsoever. I have never ascended to another level of anything.

4:48 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't stand Steven King books, I don't think they're well written at all. I love his stories though, and think they can be adapted into excellent screenplays (look at The Shining — shit book, great film). It's just the way they're written, all that unnecessary waffly language and doing funny things with the typography. Pfft.

As for Wales, I'm not really all that affronted about Dubya asking which state it's in. But maybe that's because I only recently discovered that California was the state and San Francisco was the city, not the other way round, oops.

10:42 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the idea of your 18th Century fop and the drooling loonies. Even more tiresome, this particular gurning imbecile picks up his mobile as you leave to ring his agent about the purchase of that second island in the Bahamas.

12:11 pm  
Blogger Corey Redekop said...

Mangonel, I don't think I'm smart enough to respond to your argument. I will say that Ebert is correct. Take Baker's The Mezzanine. It's a story about a man on an escalator, yet it's as rivetting a piece as has ever been written. Now take TDVC. A huge chase novel, intricate plot, philosophical ideas, and boring as sin. Story is irrelevant, style is everything.

That all said, there is a fair amount of info in TDVC I was unaware of. The problem is, considering the source, how can I believe any of it? It's couched in language so ludicrous, a plot so silly, that it could all be completely factual, yet I believe none of it. I'm tempted to deny the existence of the Louvre itself based on Brown's description, although I am sure his Louvre is fictional.

Tim, don't give up. Persevere. Only through suffering can we achieve enlightenment.

And the Church/Bush thing? Don't know if it's true, but it has the ring of truth.

1:53 pm  
Blogger Mangonel said...

Ooh, a smartness competition between a blogger who wrote a book and a blogger who wrote a comment!

*THUD*

That didn't last long, did it?

Mezzanine on my wish list. (I lied about the Minnow thing though.) Are you saying that style alone could make a story? I would say that a gifted storyteller finds the stories. The harder the story to tell, the better the teller. We're probably arguing exactly the same point.

And surely the point of this blog is that TDVC isn't boring! Not on first reading anyway. And you're right about his reliability. There's a lot later on he does get wrong - the London stuff, and practically any conclusions he draws from the Council of Nicaea.

For the record, I don't believe in Australia.

Annie, I totally forgive you the CA / SF thing - I know you have other things on your mind, like increasing the total sum of human happiness. (I lurk at your blonk.) And keep well away from Tristram Shandy - you'd hate it!

And computer games? I like the occasional game of Snood, if that counts. But I don't think it does, somehow.

2:44 pm  
Blogger Spinsterella said...

I can't stand Steven King.

I read 'It' (when I was in Burma and there aren't a whole lot of other pop-cult distractions) and it just went on and on and on, so fucking dull.

DVC may be badly written (who ever uses the height of a building to convey distance?) but it is rattling on in an entertaining manner...

3:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Story is irrelevant, style is everything."

No, no, no! Style over substance? That's like looking at a piece of graphic design that doesn't communicate properly and saying "well at least it looks cool..."

Hello Mangonel! What a nice thing to say, thank you. Although, I have to say I am very much looking forward to seeing A Cock and Bull Story. That'll do, I won't bother with "the book".

11:08 pm  

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