Whenever the Da Vinci Code is mentioned all I hear about is how much Dan Brown sucks. The man can't plot, can't string a sentence together, can't vary emotional tone, and should be slaughtered by evil monkey robots.
On the other hand, I also hear that the only person who's sold more books is God. The man's making Harry Potter money off just one book.
So surely he's got to have done something right. But what?
Some guys just have it. You pick up the book, and you just can't keep from turning the pages to see what happens. (Not that I've picked up this one, so I can't say for sure. It's happened enough for me with other writers.)
Posts: 8784 | Registered: Aug 2005
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I think a lot of his success had to do with the Catholic church’s reaction to his work. I think that worked for Rushdie too. He never held much appeal to me until the Islamic nations put a price on his head.
Posts: 58 | Registered: May 2006
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First of all, I know a lot of people who do like Dan Brown. My mom, my dad, an aunt, several in-laws...
My guess is your queries suffer from sample error. Who are you talking to? Scifi and Fantasy lovers? If so, Dan Brown is not up their creek. Writers? I've noticed that writers, even amateurs, pick novels apart for the things they've learned are wrong. I recently reread a book I loved as a teenager and found that I now hatd it for all the info dumps. Strangely, I never really noticed the info dumps the first time. (Although I did skim those parts.)
I did not read the DaVinci Code (too lnog a wait at the library). I read Angels and Demonds and thought it was ok...nothing special. It suffered from some POV violations and an unbelievable, sensationalist plot (which probably made many people love it). On the other hand, I read it from cover to cover in relatively short order, so it must have done something right.
But back to what I said at first...controversy. Dan Brown has gotten himself on the news. My greatest ambition is to have my book on the "banned books list" I can't think of a better marketing ploy!
I read the book in two days. I couldn't quit turning the pages. What's more, I enjoyed it immensely and recommended it to my family and friends. Good pacing, interesting use of the old "scavenger hunt" plot device, and a conspiracy theory that broke a lot of "rules." His chapters are remarkably short, which keeps you thinking, "OK, I can read one more before folding the laundry."
I thought the ending was the weakest part of the book, as I felt a bit unsatisfied and let down, but it wasn't a deal-breaker. I know I could never have written that book, but I think I'm glad somebody wrote it.
Though the writing may not conform to traditionally held ideas of what is "good" writing, his sales figures suggest that some rules need breaking, sometimes. It's hard to have a logical argument against that kind of success. Anything that brings readers to the book racks is a good thing. I hear a lot of discontent, among writers, regarding a lot of what "makes it" in the publishing industry, but that industry doesn't exist for writers. It exists for readers.
quote:I think a lot of his success had to do with the Catholic church’s reaction to his work. I think that worked for Rushdie too. He never held much appeal to me until the Islamic nations put a price on his head.
I'm sorry, I can't let that stand.
Ayatollah Khomeini called for the fatwah. In the 90s, the reformist Iranian governemnt distanced itself from his views, although Ayatollah Khameini reaffirmed it.
Neither of these man can be considered as representing "the Islamic nations" any more than the Pope represents everyone who calls themselves Christians, or the President of the US represents the entirety of Western capitalism.
It was really easy to read. I do think that there is some virtue in plotting the entire story into one night. I think it was Aristotle who said that tragedy should take the span of a day.
It was an efficiently written book. There wasn't too much fat, or art, in it. The protagonists were smart. Some of the protagonists were believers, and the subject matter was duly intriguing. Catholics are cool. They are old. They are secretive. They have dark pasts, lots of rituals, and there are a ton of them.
[This message has been edited by Tanglier (edited June 15, 2006).]
I read the book when it first came out. Before it became a cause celebre. I found it somewhat predictable. THe writing was okay. Some places it was very good.
I think it was just luck. I have read several other thrillers along the same lines. That Jesus was maried and had kids. That it really was his sister who was doing the miracles but he fronted for her. On and on. But someone started the stone rolling on this one, a few religious leaders picked it up and got incensed. It made the news. That sort of thing.
I have to agree that luck plays a huge role here. The writing is just aweful, but luck alone can't sell so many books. I think that the main attraction that the book has are the "ideas" it presents. I'll never be able to look at Da Vinci's Last Supper the same way as I did before I read the book. It introduces the reader to "history" and "facts" [note the quotation marks] that are genuinely interesting. And it does so in a manner that easy to read, e.g., short chapters and with all the lectures evenly spaced between the chase scenes.
Friends of mine who've read the book have said that they enjoyed learning the history in the book. They understand that most of the book's so-called "history" is questionable, but the book introduced them to ideas like the Gnostic texts, the templars, the history of cyphers, and the controversy about Mary Magdelene. I think that before the Code most people only knew of the templar knights from the last Indiana Jones movie. I don't hink that most people buy the conclusions Brown makes, but the evidence presented is interesting enough on its own.
I think most people, including myself, read the book to see what the big deal is. I'm not sure that church opposistion has played that big a role in making the book a big deal in the first place. I may be wrong, but my impression is that churches didn't start jumping on the book untill it was well on its way to being a big hit. Then they got worried.
Write about how George Bush is secretly a Homosexual Muslim and part of a great conspiracty to over throw the Mormon stranglehold on the Boy Scouts.
Posts: 370 | Registered: Feb 2006
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...so he can organize them into private "madrassas", and why don't we leave the rest of that to your imagination?
Dan Brown is a whore. Anyone can get published if they take his path, and sometimes the money and fame is pretty tempting. Until you realise what it is you've made yourself famous as. If that's your goal, then go to it.
Honestly, I wouldn't even mind if only the book weren't such a piece of crap. It's not like I'm averse to a little Catholic bashing, or think that Christ couldn't have been married (he might even have been married to MM, though she almost certainly ouldn't have been his first wife) and had kids (I'm reasonably sure he did have kids, actually, and therefore should have been married). The assertion that Christ wasn't divine sort of reduces the whole story to pointlessness, but Dan Brown wouldn't be the first or most prominent person to suggest it.
But the writing is sheerest crap. I've been subjected to enough excerpts to state this as a matter of absolute fact, it is not an "opinion" anymore than the statement that the sun rises in the east.
Please explain, "Anyone can get published if they take his path..."
Have I missed some integral part of the story? Did he get published through some unconventional approach to a publishing house? I thought he got an agent, got a deal, published several other books, and then knocked one out of the park.
I'm sure survivor was exaggerating, but basically the point is that there is a formula to selling out your talent, however meager that may be.
Write something controversial with just enough plausible fact to be believable to people with an 8th grade education (The average American). Make sure that the people you will upset the most are powerful, populous, and that they find out about the book just before it is published. (Send them a few dozen advance copies, claiming to be a concerned man on the inside)
Oh and suppress all the evidence that the facts you used were disproved two decades earlier until just before they put the movie out.
I just have a hard time imagining Dan Brown sitting down at the computer and saying to himself, "Hey, you old whore, what's the best way we can sell out today? Hmm, I think some of yesterday's characterization had too much nuance - let's start by flattening that out to make our hero even more cardboardy!"
I think, like the rest of us, he writes the stories he's given, and does his best with them.
I haven't read it, but if the chapters leave off like they do in the Harry Potter books, I can see why people got hooked.
Last time I read it, I counted a grand total of two chapters in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince where the ending didn't make me hungry for what came next. (One of them could have been fixed by changing the title of the next chapter.)
I believe most people will fall for something along the lines of "Suddenly, Sally saw something that could destroy the world!" if only you could get the book in their hands in the first place.
I stand corrected about the Islamic nations, but my main point with Rushdie was that it wasn’t until I heard he had written something that could get him killed that I took interest. In my defense I was a freshman in high school at the time.
Posts: 58 | Registered: May 2006
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quote:I couldn't put it down, . . . Partly I think it's the cliffhangers and the pacing;
Those are the same reasons why I couldn't finish it. I read over sixty chapters, but I paused and discovered there were forty more that I had to wade through. So out of morbid curiosity, I read the last couple of chapters to see how it ended and didn't feel like I'd missed anything in between.
I don't and never have cared about the controversy in the story. I think it's ridiculous that there have been at least five books written concerning the Code, and I feel that the people who first took offense at the novel have made it more popular than it would have been if they'd just kept quiet. I was bored out of my mind rather than conflicted when I read it.
But the topic is what Dan Brown did right, and I'm of the opinion that it wasn't the Da Vinci Code. If he did something right, it was in his previous novels. He had published three novels in the five year period before Da Vinci Code saw the light of day. They weren't as popular as Code, but they were his first publications, so there may be some worth he had as a novelist beforehand. I wouldn't know because Da Vinci Code is the only thing of his I tried to read, and it's put me off from reading anything else by him.
The other side of the story (which many don't consider plausible) is that the Illuminati, or <insert fave secret group that's been secretly controlling world events from behind the scenes ever since the pharoahs thought it might be a capital idea to build something irreverently called a 'pyramid'> thought it was nigh time humans learned the *real* truth about the fact that Jesus and Mary M. had extended bouts of kissyface, in order to help bring on Novus Ordo Seclorum, just like the U.S. dollar bill sez. So they picked Dan Brown to be their mouthpiece.
Of course, reasonable people these days don't believe a word of that nonsense.
(furtively, nonchalantly scratching at neck, faking an itch to slyly distract attention from Illuminati lapel pin on blazer collar)
I read it, mainly because I kept hearing how irritating it was to writers.
As a reader, I hated the cliffhangers when the next chapter jumped to a different character (I found Silas to be very boring, and I did not care at all about Bishop Ring-Around-the-Roses).
As a writer, I thought he used too many flashbacks, but I felt that he at least didn't tend to stop the action for them. He seemed to be only putting them in when the characters were travelling from one place to another (which they did a lot--makes me think there could be a board game based on the book in which the players have to race all over a map of Paris).
I have also read HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL (when it was first published), so I already knew about some of the stuff. I thought Brown's take on all of it was interesting most of the time.
Well, if you're right and his other books are just as bad (and I have no doubt of it) then I've got no clue what keeps Brown famous other than diehard fanatics--both for and against him. I just hope readers eventually realize just how rotten a writer he is, and his popularity will wither away like the abominable Pokemon.
Posts: 329 | Registered: Mar 2005
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Isn't there something we might learn from this? Like maybe a list of techniques Brown used -- favorable or irritating -- which could help even a "well-written" book increase its chances at the publishers and bookstores?
Posts: 1580 | Registered: Dec 2005
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Wow. I just don't understand all the venom. (Especially as this discussion isn't oriented around the plot content, but rather around the mechanics of the writing. What makes writing "good" is when someone enjoys reading it. Nothing else, really.) The book is published, and wildly popular. Its success is a good thing for all writers who hope to be published, as it fuels the industry and allows publishers to buy more books. Can anyone explain why the success of this particular author, and this particular book, brings out such strong negative responses?
Posts: 247 | Registered: Apr 2006
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My friend and I were talking about DVC the other day...and his main problem with it, is when Teabing brings Sophie up to speed on the whole Jesus/da Vinci/Grail/Priory issue in what my friend considers a monolithic infodump thinly veiled as dialogue (or a monologue, more like).
Posts: 103 | Registered: Jun 2006
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I read the book. I felt it was OK. Mystery thrillers aren't my regular cup of tea, but it was OK. It was a page turner because he placed interrupted scenes at the end of each chapter; in order to find out what happened in the scene, you had to continue reading, usually beyond the next chapter which was often centered around an alternate character.
His characters are shallow, but I figured this may be a characteristic of the mystery thriller. I realized this is an idea book, and not a character driven book. I also felt the characters made some illogical choices that were artificially inflating the sense of the mystery.
As for the basic concept... I had heard it postulated before even though I had never read "Holy Blood Holy Grail," which is why I thought their lawsuit was so ludicrous. For some people, finding out more about the theory of Jesus having a family was an element of being a "page turner."
I find that as I learn more about the craft of good writing, I'm becoming more critical of other writers. My friends think that I've gotten too snooty over some literature. Some of the books they love are books I can't choke down because of flaws in the writing. It's really hard to put the "critique" hat aside.
People spend millions of dollars on cigarettes. That doesn't make them good.
"he puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes you crave it fortnightly, smart @$$!"
And on the Rushdie thing, you forget that Cat Stevens supported the fatwa. Sorry, I can't remember his Islamic name off the top of my head. I think it's Jacoub Mohammed. The "10,000 Maniacs" pulled their cover of "Peace Train" as a result. It was a veritable artistic WWIII.
Cat Stephens's Islamic name was, last I heard, Yusuf Islam. (By the way, his real name is Stephan Demetri Georgieu.)
I'm not sure, but I think "The Da Vinci Code" started selling in sizeable numbers before the Catholic Church raised [valid] objections to it---or at least before they objected with the oomph! of recent months.
Brown's story reminds me of Mario Puzo. He, too, had published a couple of books before one massive bestseller. I gather an editor mentioned a minor character, a mobster, in one of those early books, and said a book about the Mob might sell better. Puzo then sat down and researched and wrote a book, "The Godfather," intended to sell better than his other books.
I think Dan Brown may have done something similar here.
Usual caveat: I read the DVC and it was slow torture. My wife, on the other hand, loved it.
Dan Brown did a number of things right though. The biggest was the promotion and contraversy. If you want to see a text book case of marketing, follow the promotion of DVC. Dan Brown's writing is migraine inducing to me, but his marketing of his work is masterful. DVC is a quick paced thriller that clearly delineates the bad guys from the good guys. The puzzles were all in english. Good to have your target audience able to understand. It is a very visual novel, but did not use a lot of description. Everyone has an idea of what the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper look like. It rode the media coat tails of the whole Catholic Pedophile Priest cover-up scandal. A deep distrust for the Church of Rome in the psyche of the reading populace made a book describing a millenial cover up seem plausible. Last of all, it became great coffee break conversation. People who were not avid readers would pick it up and read. The books simple driving plot made it very accessible. You can skim a lot and still follow along.
I think one weird thing about this whole deal..the lawsuit that the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail tried to pursue against Danny-Boy. Which didn't make sense at all..I mean, you'd think they'd be happy from all the extra publicity and so forth that DVC's commercial success had brought them. Perhaps they didn't want the entire proof/theory of what they were researching to be seen as 'fiction'.
I remember years ago, back in like 2000...and this is no lie, tho I can't prove it...I was kicking around the idea of writing a contemporary literary fictional work called Miriam and Yehoshua, focusing on the relationship between...you guessed it. I was fascinated by their story (I had just before this read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and loved the idea...I was raised Catholic and I had a certain, well, beef I guess you could say with the Church)...I was going to make Miriam *very* liberal, an inheritor of her father's winery (didn't know if this was possible in 31 AD Judea, I was just wingin' it), and she's free to pursue whatever...she's misidentified as a prostitute since she hangs out with them; the harlots at this particular harem she frequents give her all kinds of advice on how to prevent pregnancy, what kiosk in downtown Jerusalem sells the best twine sandals, and just discuss men in general and how baffligly idiotic they are. Miriam has an affair with a Roman centurion, for a bit of a selfish reason...she loves horses, and she gets free rides with the centurion (didn't know if the Romans had horses, I'd have to research that), but one day she decides to ride away wildly through town, exhalting in her equestrian freedom and verve, and he is angered, trying to assert his alpha-male-hood, which alienates her, and their relationship goes down from there.
Man, okay, this post is getting long...tune in next time when Mary M sez, "Geez, Marcus Agrippa, I'm appalled! Couldn't you have taken a bath first?"
Well, since Brown got the precedent established that his work didn't infringe on HBHG, I don't see why not. There have been plenty of DVC inspired works, or rebuttals.
Posts: 334 | Registered: Sep 2003
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I couldn't figure the "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" lawsuit---at the time I read their book, some time after it came out but still long ago now, I thought they were claiming it was nonfiction. And if it had a factual basis, surely that basis was available for other writers to write about...
(Somewhere 'round here is a lengthy discussion of that lawsuit. we can always go back to that to see what we said...)
I don't like the situation of Dan Brown's success and ect. as much as you guys don't, so this should make you properly mad/jealous:
Number 10 on that forbes celebrity list thingy: PAY 88 MILLION!!! -(although it doesn't say specifically for last year, this year so far, or total... but it's definately not total, b/c j.k. rowling was listed as having 75 million, and of course she has more money total... i dunno. If someone does know, post it... but O MAN THATS SO MUCH MONEY FOR THAT BASTARD!!!
"The critically lambasted film adaptation of "The Da Vinci Code" grossed $77 million domestically on its opening weekend, the second-best opening ever for an adult-oriented film. (It's well on its way to surpassing "The Passion of the Christ" in worldwide box office receipts.) Brown, whose novel has to date sold 61 million copies worldwide, recently won a plagiarism lawsuit brought against him in England. "The Da Vinci Code" supposes a union between Jesus and Mary Magdalene and speculates on the fate of their offspring. According to Hollywood scuttlebutt, Sony is planning to bring Brown's earlier work, "Angels & Demons," to the big screen."
quote:And on the Rushdie thing, you forget that Cat Stevens supported the fatwa.
I didn't know he had (maybe that's why the commercial flight he was on, a year or two back, was turned away from US airspace?), but I know that thousands, if not millions, of ordinary muslims supported it.
And tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, gave no sign whatsoever that they approved. Rushdie is, after all, still alive, and I know of no documented case of anyone actually plotting or atempting to kill him, though I stand to be corrected on that.
I should point out I am not condoning the fatwah in any way; I think words, no matter how offensive or hateful they may be deemed, should be countered with words, not with violence. I just felt the broad-brush sweep, implying the fatwah was the subject of universal support and approval among muslims, to be unhelpful (in my opinion).
Both the Godfather and DVC are easy to read. Both Puzo and Brown are clear writers. I just can't help thinking that the Godfather was a more emotionally complex and satisfying work. There was nuance in the Godfather in portraying the petty dignities and indignities of the family Corleone et al.
Posts: 193 | Registered: Dec 2001
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3. He submitted it to a publisher, who then bought it, luckily for Dan Brown, who got to option it for movie rights, too
4. He is likely repeating steps 1 and 2 at the very least
Which is all anyone needs to do right, I figure.
Yeah, the writing was fairly simple-minded and dull, certainly wouldn't win any supertastic literary awards for fantabulous prose and such, but somehow, nevertheless, the story was incredibly engaging.
All this talk in the media and elsewhere about controversy astounds me, with priests threatening this and that and what not -- too funny. What's so controversial about fiction in the first place? It's fiction, make-believe, not real. It's entertainment first and foremost. Was it because the beginning of the book lays claim to certain things as fact that some people believe that Dan Brown claims the entire work as fact? Or is it because of late Christian beliefs are being bashed around by just about anyone in the public spotlight?
I mean, if The DaVinci Code is controversial, what about a plurality of SF books in which Christianity (or any religion, really) fares much worse? Are all Fantasy stories and novels with polytheistic themes essentially written by the hand of the devil since they create false idols? What do you think? Do the majority of people who read fiction truly believe in what an author has written as incontrovertible fact in the real world? I doubt it. There are, I concede, probably more than a few morons out there who do believe...
Well. It must conspiratorial marketing genius that made The DaVinci Code so controversial, notwithstanding that just about no one read the aformentioned book which already developed the Jesus/MM thing long before Dan Brown got any inspiration from it.
Now, if you want REAL controversial Jesus-bashing, then have a gander at some high-level "church" materials presented as fact written by the late L. Ron Hubbard (you'll have to search for these yourselves, of course). From SF hack to savior of the universe, he went, if you're to believe it.
What DB did right : 1. Wrote a fairly simple story that a 14 year old can swallow 2. Wrote on a controversial topic that piqued everyone's interests 3. Pushed the plot at such breakneck pace that most readers won't have time to question how poorly done the whole story is , or the huge gaping holes in the logic presented..
All his books are poorly written... but with DVC he at least went from ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE AND CHILDISH to mediocre by revising the plot from Angels and Demons ... I'm glad i never bought any of his books ... Alot of readers now are desensatized to a good plot , lovable characters and poetic langauge , they prefer sensational foolishness that , thanks to Hollywood , we have all come to accept..
I heard that he likes to write upsideown. (by use of gravity boots.) Perhaps that's why it worked out so well for him, because upsidown bad becomes paq, which is a latin word for good. (or so I'm told by the Leprichaun that lives on my shoulder.)
Posts: 1895 | Registered: Mar 2004
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That is such a good question, and I don't know the answer, even after reading The DaVinci Code and having an ongoing love-hate relationship with it for 12 hours. I resisted reading it for a couple of years because of all the ridiculous spin-off programming I was seeing devoted to it on The History Channel and other cable channels. I caught wind of the fact that here was a novel that an awful lot of people thought was very important - and in my limited, 26-year experience, when "an awful lot of people" like something so powerfully that cable channels jump all over it, it's usually pretty pedestrian.
But I finally decided to give it a whirl, figuring that at the very least, Dan Brown must be some kind of evil genius to make so much money off of one novel.
Yes, the sentences were terrifying. The obvious foreshadowing was insulting to anybody's intelligence. The whole premise was pretty ridiculous, and moreso because of the way everybody and their uncle thinks it's about a real conspiracy.
BUT I COULDN'T STOP READING IT! I tried and tried to put it down, but I couldn't.
All I can think is that he's just a master of pacing. In spite of the novel's many flaws, it was exciting and fun to read because it moved so quickly.
I've never read a novel of that size in as short a time, I can say that. But I've never returned to read it again, either.
By the way, the movie was just as intelligence-insulting with the humorously obvious foreshadowing. I don't recommend it, unless you're maybe drunk or something and just want to laugh at the screen for a couple of hours.
quote:Honestly, I wouldn't even mind if only the book weren't such a piece of crap. It's not like I'm averse to a little Catholic bashing, or think that Christ couldn't have been married (he might even have been married to MM, though she almost certainly ouldn't have been his first wife) and had kids (I'm reasonably sure he did have kids, actually, and therefore should have been married). The assertion that Christ wasn't divine sort of reduces the whole story to pointlessness, but Dan Brown wouldn't be the first or most prominent person to suggest it.
Plus, the whole Priory of Sion thing and the Merovingians being descended from Christ were both hoaxes...admitted by the hoaxers.