A disclosure: I've never read Dan Brown's best-selling novels—Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code. Nor have I seen the movie adaptations. But that hasn't stopped me from enjoying the creative snarkfest that greeted the release last week of Brown's latest potboiler, The Lost Symbol. For example:
1. The Globe and Mail's Brian Joseph Davis edits excerpts from the first two chapters of The Da Vinci Code and adds a helpful memo for the author: "I’ve left it in track changes, a file format I’m guessing your editor has never shown you."
2. Create your own Dan Brown sequel with Slate's interactive generator: "Plug in a city and a sect, and our computer will do the rest." The sect menu includes Scientologists, Shriners, Skull and Bones, and the Sierra Club (among many others).
3. Sam Anderson of New York Magazine has set up the Vulture Reading Room as a discussion forum for The Lost Symbol, but don't go there looking for earnest analysis or giddy fan mail. Anderson has posted a "cringingly funny" parody (says Language Log) that begins: "New York Magazine book critic Sam Anderson closed his heavily marked-up copy of The Lost Symbol with a sudden sense of dread." And it just gets better. Keep coming back for updates; there's already an excellent contribution from linguist Geoffrey Pullum—excuse me, renowned linguist Geoffrey Pullum—and more persons of renown are standing in the on-deck circle.
4. The Telegraph (UK) selects 20 of the worst Dan Brown sentences from all five of his published novels. Commenters suggest many, many more. Most would qualify for consideration in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. One of my favorites, from 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." The Telegraph: "A keen eye indeed."
5. Then there's this sentence from The Lost Symbol: "The thirty-four-year-old initiate gazed down at the human skull cradled in his palms." Steven Poole, who writes the excellent Unspeak blog, uses those 16 words to illuminate the murky secrets at the throbbing heart of Brownian prose:
The author then types on with some description of a big room, but it is no shame for us to admit that his best work is already accomplished: the concept of an initiate holding a human skull (hollow like a bowl) filled with bloodred wine and cradled in his palms is a kind of chorus that insists on being heard again, and it is not long before the reader is thus pleasured:
The initiate had been told every room in this building held a secret, and yet he knew no room held deeper secrets than the gigantic chamber in which he was currently kneeling with a skull cradled in his palms.
Oh, do read it all.