Monday, April 30, 2007

Chapter 34

Bishop Aringarosa. Ooh, I'd forgotten about him. He seems to think that "advertising your love of Jesus Christ was like painting a bull's-eye on the roof of your car". Which suggests that violent anti-Catholics tend to hover several feet above the road, firing vertically downwards. And you thought wearing a loin swaddle was a badge of madness.

Interestingly, it's only now that Brown reveals that he's operating in the realm of an alternate history, or possibly an imagined future. The new, unnamed Pope is an "unprecedented liberal" There are hints of skulduggery about the conclave that appointed him, although the details are left vague - maybe we're meant to assume that these are just the paranoid suppositions of a theological dinosaur. And the full impact of the liberal jiggery-popery that the new pontiff gets up to is equally sketchy, although Aringarosa's major beef seems to be that the Vatican spends too much time and money on new-fangled crazes like astronomy.

And then we suddenly remember that 90% of the chapter has been flashback. Once again Brown plays his favourite trick - appearing to keep the pace going, but moving the action not a jot. And with a self-satisfied sigh, he regales us with one of his glorious stylistic fingernails-on-blackboard moments:

"...he reminded himself that this ring was a symbol of power far less than that which he would soon attain."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Chapter 33

She gave him a weary look. "You have no idea, do you?"
Langdon frowned. "Not a clue."

...and Brown lets his notions of goddess worship take over the reins, as his nominal hero is reduced to the role of clueless idiot, resigned to occupying the passenger seat of his SmartCar. He watches, stupefied, as his captor apparently drags him into more danger, contemptuously shooting down his ideas for escape, and finally dragging him into the railway station. His Mickey Mouse watch reinforces the idea of his junior status.

Which is a brave move, but shows up the weakness of genre fiction. Sophie is more resourceful, smarter, braver and altogether more interesting than Langdon. But, because she's not an American male, the author can't bring himself to craft his narrative around her.

Incidentally, if Sophie had spent so much time in Britain (at Royal Holloway), wouldn't she say "colleagues" rather than "coworkers"?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Chapter 32

Hello. It's not exactly good to be back, but it does make me feel a little bit virtuous. In case you were wondering, in my time away, I still haven't seen the TDVC movie, nor have I converted to Catholicism, goddess worship or any other flavour of spiritual belief.

I have, however, read Chapter 32, in which Brown breaks away from a succession of short, sharp, single-scene chapters in favour of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. First there's a jolly bit of transatlantic culture clash, as we discover that, despite his immense erudition, Langdon has never seen a small car before. Then everything dissolves into a breathless blur of car chase, Parisian geography lesson and art history seminar.

Until we get to the real meat of the chapter, Sophie's flashback, in which brown proves himself to be a consummate tease, setting up the something-nasty-in-the-woodshed moment, but cutting to Sophie's horrified reaction rather than show the true ghastliness. What could it be, we wonder? A black mass? A mock crucifixion? A Ronan Keating DVD? Still you need to turn the page, just one more time, even though you know you'll hate yourself.

The only thing to detract from the delirious perfection of the episode is the absence of loin swaddles.