Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chapter 46

Poor Silas. While the others are having all manner of excitement in the back of a truck, he's lying on the floor, caked in his own blood and a distinct sense of failure.

Although Brown is characterised as being an enemy of Catholicism in general, and Opus Dei in particular, he's got a pretty good grasp of the attraction that extreme manifestations of faith hold for the bungled and botched of society. Bezu Fache's faith is neatly compartmentalised alongside his work and his grumpiness; but for Silas, it's all he's got.

Pity he's a psychopath, then, isn't it?

Ooh dear, sounds like Vernet might be a wrong 'un. Should have spotted it from the Fragonard. Probably wears silk underwear as well.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chapter 45

And now we discover why Brown was so obsessed with Vernet's immaculate appearance. For reasons as yet unknown, he needs to smuggle our heroes out of the bank vault, and thus has to pretend to be a horrid, working-class truck driver who speaks "crude French", and we marvel at the transformation. But he forgets to take off his Rolex. Twat. Never mind, Collet's a bigger twat, and can't tell the difference between the real thing and a knock-off.

But Vernet pulls it off, and then wonders what the hell to do next.

I see his problem.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Chapter 44

We're not half way through the book, and the author is already recycling his jokes. We've already had the Fibonacci thing, and now we need to resuscitate it, at great length, just to fill the interminable space. And then there's something heavy and mysterious and full of liquid in the box.

Is it Dan Brown's head?

Cheer up, a couple of chapters on and we're back with Silas.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Chapter 43

According to received literary wisdom, it was Ian Fleming who created 'brand porn'; essentially, using high-end brand names to create a frisson of sophistication within his prose. For a few delirious moments, it seemed as if Bret Easton Ellis destroyed the gimmick in American Psycho, when Bateman's encyclopaedic name-dropping of Gucci et al was used to reflect the essential emptiness of the protagonist's life.

It still lives on, of course, especially in the realms of aspirational chick-lit. Brown isn't a major culprit, although he does sprinkle a little onto the description of Vernet, the bank president. Oddly - considering DB seems to be at pains to spell everything out for the benefit of the dim kid at the back of the class - he doesn't explain that Fragonard and Boucher are 18th-century Rococo painters. In fact, he doesn't explain they're painters at all. But it's clear they encapsulate something exclusive and expensive, to go with the silk suit and the rare Bordeaux.

Clearly, though, Vernet is more than just another posh, gay (?) banker, and he knows more than he's letting on. But the sense of mystery is drowned out by the sound of the reader screaming at Langdon and Sophie, "TEN-DIGIT NUMBER??? DUH??? REMEMBER THE CRIME SCENE???"

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Chapter 42

We're back in Nicholson Baker territory, as Brown pads out the text by describing the decor of a Swiss bank in minute detail. The difference is that Baker does this sort of thing to point out those details of familiar objects and situations that normally pass us by. Brown does it to adorn his books with a veneer of learning and information. And to show that he's on nodding terms with Swiss bellhops. (Incidentally, what happens if the guest speaks neither English nor French?)

But watch out guys! Fache and Collet, les flics de Keystone, are on your trail...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Chapter 41

An updraft of mountainous air causes Bishop Aringarosa to regret that he has come to Castel Gandolfo wearing nothing but a cassock. Far be it from me to question the intelligence of such a man, but should he not have worn a LOIN SWADDLE? I mean, if that half-witted albino can remember to put on his pants, surely the Bish should be able to do it?

Anyway, in he goes, meets a fat secretary, and indulges in one of those deeply uncomfortable situations where both parties know what's going on, but never get quite to the point, simply to maintain an air of mystery for the reader. And then Aringarosa proceeds (morally or geographically or both or neither) to Paris.

Let's hope he pops into the Bois de Boulogne. There's an oily black man there (see Chapter 37) who can give him a few tips about appropriate undergarments.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Chapter 40

Still grappling with a mode of transport that is perversely un-American, Langdon still has time to construct a particularly crass metaphor. See, he's got a key, right. But it's also "quite possibly the key to his own freedom". Ouch.

In fact, even if the car's not automatic, his thoughts seem to be, as reams of tosh about the Templars, the Priory, Leonardo and King Arthur bounce around his brain. Actually, I shouldn't be so dismissive. As Joel pointed out in the last post, the tradition of the pigement-deficient patriarch (Albinoah?) has been kicking around for centuries. Which doesn't prove it's not bollocks, of course, but does show that it's not original.

"Langdon was thankful not to have shared his Templar church hopes with Sophie." No, Bob, but you didn't mind inflicting them on the rest of us, did you? "A career hazard of symbologists was a tendency to extract hidden meaning from situations that had none." Er, yes, quite.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Chapter 39

One of Brown's most irritating stylistic quirks is his use of italics to suggest interior dialogue. I hope they understand what I'm talking about. But here it makes some sort of sense. Interjections like "Bishop Aringarosa will protect me." and "I am pure. White. Beautiful. Like an angel." seem to suggest responses to a liturgy, as if Silas is taking part in some weird, one-man Mass, and it depicts his inner torment quite well.

Unfortunately, Brown's grasp of psychology seems to peter out there. The clunking suggestion that Silas might just be looking for a father figure is nothing more than Freud for Dummies. And we know he's not the brightest of sparks (his bumbling attempts to cover up the murder of the nun demonstrate that), but would he really fall for the bizarre assertion that Noah was an albino? Next, they'd have us believe that the Priory of Sion exists...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Chapter 38

If I remember my O-level English adequately, comic relief is a technique intended to accentuate the intensity of drama or tragedy. The porter's speech in Macbeth is a classic example: his drunken knob gags and ironic references to the horrors taking place within the castle make the murder of Duncan seem even more ghastly.

Well, if Shakespeare can do it, why not Dan Brown? With Sophie, we ask the key question: "But if the Holy Grail is not a cup... what is it?" And rather than answering it, we plunge into an extended flashback, in which Langdon exchanges quips with his editor - sorry, make that "prominent editor", just like the "renowned curator", Jonas Faukman.

Jonas Faukman - does that sound like a contrived name, or what? A quick flip back to the Acknowledgements page informs us that Brown's editor is called Jason Kaufman. Ah, the scintillating verbal dexterity of the man. And a Harry Potter joke as well.

And then we're back into the midst of the action, as Sophie jacks a taxi, we get a quick French lesson and poor old Langdon once again proves himself to be a dumb American, this time who can't cope with a manual transmission. Oh, such larks.

Incidentally, Sir Leigh Teabing (another anagram) is described as a British Royal Historian, in capitals, as if this is some kind of official role, like the Deputy Comptroller Of The Queen's Knicker Drawer. Information and misinformation, education and nonsense, oozing all over the page, like bodily fluids in the Bois de Boulogne.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Chapter 37

Place a cute, brillliant Parisienne and a wise, not-unattractive American academic in a park full of people shagging, and you might expect a sexual frisson to develop. Not here. Although I can't imagine that Brown would do flirtation particularly well, as he seems to have acquired his ear for dialogue by listening to lots of soap powder commercials. As Sophie gasps, in best Housewife-Who-Can't-Deal-With-Stubborn-Collar-Grime mode, gasps:

"You're saying the Knights Templar were founded by the Priory of Sion to retrieve a collection of secret documents? I thought the Templars were created to protect the Holy Land."

And then, like Slightly-Older-Cleverer-And-Posher-Housewife producing a packet of New Improved Kleeno, Langdon whips out the really big surprise - the Grail. Presumably, the underclad black man with flexible buttocks can't believe his eyes.

But I do like the idea of Templars being "tortured mercilessly". As if merciful torture is a viable alternative.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Chapter 36

Bezu Fache, the angriest man in France, sees through all Sophie's brilliant schemes, or so it seems. With a fusillade of extraneous italics and incongruous blasphemy (would such a devout Catholic refer to travel, lodging and cash as "The Holy Trinity"?), he calls on the might of Interpol to squash these two annoying gnats.

"They won't last till dawn," he sneers, and the whole line may just as well have "DRAMATIC IRONY" stickers all over it.

I realise who Fache and Collet really remind me of, apart from the cartoon Clouseau. It's Peter Glaze and Don Maclean in Crackerjack.

I now feel exceedingly old.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Chapter 35

"It doesn't make sense," he finally said.
"Which part?"

Langdon is confused, constantly playing Watson to this Gallic Holmes who buys tickets for train journeys she never intends to take, thus wasting seventy precious dollars. Wassup, Bob, Harvard not paying you enough? But fear not, the plucky prof has his trusty sense of smell, enabling the duo to use their plucky UV torch (which is turning into a sort of curatorial sonic screwdriver).

And more cliffhangers. What happens in the Bois de Boulogne that can be so shocking to prim, fastidious Langdon? What else can Sophie have to tell him? And what ludicrous bollocks are we going to hear about the entirely imaginary Priory of Sion?

(Incidentally, I think we can come up with a few European stations that don't look like Saint-Lazare...)