Friday, April 4, 2014

Inferno - Dan Brown

So, I read Inferno a thousand weeks ago and made a bunch of disconnected notes and swore I'd shape them into a cohesive post with gifs and whatall, but that's clearly not happened so I'm just going to pick a bunch of random gifs from my folder (what, like you don't have one) and then post them every third paragraph break, aptness be damned.


Dan Browns are readable because, despite the occasional 'machiolated' thrown in to impress, they are mostly small words and simple concepts: chase, shoot, betray, suddenly remember an important piece of information that solves the riddle and ends the chapter.

The prologue is in second person present tense, so brace yourself for that.

And there are some really weird misused words and random descriptors, like 'soft marble treads.' Marble is a hard thing, DB. Or there's a 'makeshift cafe' in a palace in Venice and I doubt it. I mean, here's this enormous long-standing edifice but we're just going to erect a temporary structure over here in case this espresso thing doesn't take off. Or the bad guy's video message in its 'arcane' language, which is totally in Modern English: Not Even Big Words Or Anything. Or his Obligatory Huntress Who Is Hunting Langdon Down, Obligatorily, who 'effortlessly' gets off her motorcycle, like that's so hard, and later 'moved effortlessly' down the hall SHE IS FUCKING WALKING. Words mean things, you can't just be like, Adverb goes here.

Someone needs to read this this with a cool, dispassionate, editorial eye, one that isn't so caught up in how AWESOME HIS SYMBOLISM IS, RIGHT? who will notice that, for Langdon to 'feel blood dripping down his forearm and pooling in his palm,' he has to be holding his arm really weirdly. Like, downward, but then also his hand is cupped for no reason. Or that, if it takes two people to replace a wooden beam barricading the door, a fat man having a heart attack probably could not have removed it on his own. Or: 'Ferris had rented the entire cabin using his credit card, along with an assortment of sandwiches and mineral water.' Alls I know is, the last time I tried to rent anything with a sandwich I got laughed out on my ass.

Speaking of the Huntress, her 'close-cropped hair, styled into spikes, stood out against the upturned collar of her black leather riding suit.' I get that he's going for economy, trying to squeeze several descriptors into one sentence and thinking he's pulling it off, but either that is one hell of high collar or 'close-cropped' means something more like 'nearly-shoulder-length.'

Dr Brooks, Resident Love Interest, is that beautiful-though-makeup-free, slender-yet-strong perfect unicorn that only exists in lazy fiction, with a complexion 'unusually smooth' and eyes 'unusually penetrating,' and DB is always trying to emphasize how brilliant and masterful she is. When the Huntress comes a-hunting in the hospital, she hauls Langdon out of bed and into the bathroom, runs back for his coat, locks them in the bathroom together, and then 'The young doctor took control.' SHE HAS LITERALLY  BEEN DOING ALL THE THINGS, you either should have said this earlier, or just trusted us to see her doing stuff without having to be like, Sienna! So young, so competent. ADMIRE HER.

She is also almost never described without her ponytail being mentioned. Langdon recognizes a photo of her at the age of five because of her 'blond hair in a familiar ponytail.' Oh Sienna, the only blond ever to wear a ponytail. I could almost let this go, because it turns out later that she's actually bald because reasons but another Important Lady Character is also never described without her silver hair being mentioned (as well as, at least half the time, her fantastic beauty DESPITE HER EXTREME AGE OF, LIKE, SIXTY OR SOMETHING OMG LOOK AT THE ATTRACTIVE OLDER WOMAN). It's like DB doesn't trust us to remember a character unless they have a physical descriptor attached to them at all times. It's basically the opposite of Game of Thrones' half a thousand middle-aged white bearded men.

(Total tiny nitpick on the subject of the silver-haired beauty: at one point she runs 'a quick brush through her long silver ringlets' and let's be clear: these are ringlets

and if that is your hair, you do not run a quick brush through it. You comb it with your fingers, maybe a wide-toothed comb. You brush that out, you will end up with a pile of sweet 80s scrub hair. Trust.)

Also, at one point Langdon borrows Sienna's neighbor's suit, his Brioni suit, and the suit is literally never mentioned without the brand name attached. She grabbed the lapels of his Brioni suit, a six-foot man in a Brioni suit, Professor Langdon, I hardly recognized you in that Brioni suit! (These are paraphrased, but not invented, examples.)

And DB wants you to admire Sienna so much. Young! Tortured! Genius! So when the Huntress comes again, Sienna 'knew' she was 'going to fire...sensing the woman's body language.' You knew, Sienna? You sensed her body language? Was it when she pulled out the gun, or when she brandished it, that you sensed she might fire?

SPOILER: The Huntress was actually trying to prove to Langdon that he'd been fooled, and that she was just shooting blanks, but instead of being like, I'VE BEEN SHOOTING BLANKS she decides to  be like, 'This will only hurt for an instant' and then shoot him with a blank, because that will Prove Something. Obviously Sienna totally murders her before she can get a fake shot off. Stop being so deliberately cryptic, people, it's very easy to misconstrue.

Ok but then (going back to Sienna: Child Genius), they find a death mask and Langdon spends like two pages being all, And the back of the mask is a different texture and color than the front! And Sienna is like, You think the bad guy covered the back with something? And then several paragraphs later, in which they discuss at length the hows and whys and composition of the something (gesso) the back of the mask is covered with, Langdon 'could sense the wheels turning' in Sienna's head, and suddenly she's like, 'You think there's something under the gesso?' NO SIENNA I THINK THE BAD GUY COVERED THE COMPLETELY BLANK BACK WITH GESSO JUST FOR, LIKE, THE SHEER DELIGHT OF ARTISTRY.

Palm ALL the faces. Also, semi-apt gif that time.

And on the one hand, it's dramatically compelling. People are constantly being shot at or turning out to be spies or getting amnesia or whatever. But then DB figures you need some background information, so he has someone (usually Langdon) remember an event (usually in Real Time, so while you [the reader] are watching him lecture on Dante, Sierra [or whoever] is like, Langdon? Hello? *snap, snap* as though he can't just remember facts he knows like he's an expert on the subject or anything, he has to replay a whole lecture in his head until he gets to the pertinent point. It's a weird and unlikely narrative choice) and then you get some Important Clues. You'd think all that would disrupt the narrative flow, only you aren't really thinking by this point.

Because you don't have to. Because no one can drop a name or a concept or a work of art without someone else immediately doing a quick internet search SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO ENNNNNNEHTHING.

This might sound like a complaint, but there are SO, SO many descriptions of arts. SO MANY ARTS. And I'm actually really into it, because while I'm not always down with eyeballing a bunch of paintings, I like to be told about them. And at one point he's describing a palazzo and all the statues, David and Hercules and such like, which 'bring to more than a dozen the total number of exposed penises that greet visitors to the palazzo.' Easily my favorite line in this whole novel.

Ooh, my second favorite moment is at the end when Langdon is finding out how much of the whole thing was a scam and who was in on it and he hollers at this guy who he thinks shot at him that morning and the guy is like, If I had wanted to hit the base of your spine, I would have hit it. I was trying to hit your tire. Because a spine is way easier to hit than a tire. Which, I perhaps neglected to mention, the guy also did not hit.

Straight-up, Dan Brown wants to be Robert Langdon. RL is his Mary Sue. So handsome! So tall! (Stop talking about how tall he is, he is six feet. That is the tallish side of normal-heighted.) So familiar with Italy and its lesser-known attractions ('Blah blah tourists love this one but Langdon's favorite piazza in Florence was always this quieter, more subtly beautiful one over here. Langdon's favorite walk, Langdon's favorite way of getting around, Langdon "smelled the distinctively sweet aroma of the local delicacy seppie al nero - squid in its own ink" as they raced down a canal towards their fleeing quarry. Totally irrelevant, but shows off his intimate knowledge of Venice, so Worth It.')

THAT IS THE END OF THE NOVEL AND ALSO THIS 'REVIEW.' I can't rate it because I don't even know which way is up at this point.

Yes, exactly.


Sarah said...

dan brown books always leave me really uncomfortable. i always got the feeling that he was in love with langdon and trying to carry out a secret affair right in front of us. it's sort of like he held a dinner party and invited his mistress and is telling the entire table a story while also making googly eyes at langdon and playing footsie under the table and i am like, "no, sir, you are not being subtle please stop your wife is right there and i do not want to be dragged into your sordid affair." i don't even know if that makes sense, but i might have to read this for the awfulness.

Trisha said...

I think you hit the nail on the head. Every Dan Brown I read, I can't help but wondering how often DL dreams about being RL.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Hahaha, whenever I get mad at writers because they can't stop talking about the one descriptor thing they have decided to assign to a character (like a ponytail), I remind myself about our man Homer and all that "gray-eyed Athena," "wrathful Juno" etc business. And then I imagine Dan Brown in his studio being like "Yeah! I am Homer!" This almost certainly bears no relation to reality but it does make silliness like that easier to tolerate.

Um, but not the "effortlessly" thing. If you describe someone as walking effortlessly, it better be because they were previously walking effortfully due to injury or something, and now it is a miracle! Or evidence of nefariousness! That they are walking with no problem.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

PS I totally have a gifs bookmark folder, and some days I'm like, Why don't I have more gifs from 10 Things I Hate about You? Let's make that happen, Self.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Nothing turns me off quicker than a protagonist that is perfect and smart and gorgeous in every way. Isabele Allende does that with her women characters. Yeah right. I like a closet alcoholic, a cutter, a sexually awkward, slightly overweight character. That makes it almost believable.

Tika Viteri said...

I mean, the difference with Homer is that people were expected to memorize the poem and recite, so the descriptors function a mnemonic devices. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Lord, Dan Brown is dreadful. I solved the case in Angels and Demons when I was LITERALLY an art history undergrad, so don't tell me RL is super-amazing at symbology or whatever nonsense occupation he's created for himself. I want to call myself a vampirologist and look for evidence of supernatural activity that occurs on yachts in the French Riviera, but do I get to do that? NO.

This is my favorite article about Dan Brown:

Reading Rambo said...

"so I'm just going to pick a bunch of random gifs from my folder (what, like you don't have one) and then post them every third paragraph break, aptness be damned."

Ummmmm that's my method sometimes, NGL.


I'd also like to point out that we acknowledge how obviously shitty Dan Brown's writing is, but we keep reading his books.

Will Entrekin said...

This was awesome. I think I've managed to get like 20 pages into "Code." I just can't read his stuff. It's redonkulous.

Sidenote: marble bread is the kind that looks like vanilla-chocolate swirl ice cream. You know the kind I mean. It's called marble I guess because of streaks I think?

Kayleigh vW said...

GOD, BUT I LOVE YOU. Teach me for abandoning the bookish internet; I come back and BAM. Hilarious post is hilarious.

Phinnea Ravenscroft said...

So much better than reading Dan Brown. Thank you. I gave up on him when the so-called Da Vinci expert couldn't recognize mirror writing. But I love a good rant on bad writing. Especially ridiculously popular bad writing.

Phinnea Ravenscroft said...

I gave up on Dan Brown when the so-called Da Vinci expert couldn't recognize mirror writing, but I love a good rant on bad writing and does he ever fit the bill. Thank you for reading this so I don't have to.

Megan said...

This is the most hilarious book review/summary ever. Amazing.

Grominou said...

Also, the Huntress' hair is still spiked after she removes her Motorcycle helmet!

Still, I can't stop reading DB, it is such a guilty pleasure!