Tag Archives: Dan Brown

Writers and Authors

[originally posted at Toasted Cheese]

I just saw that Stephenie Meyer has a new book coming out. It turns out to be a Twilight-tie-in book. And that’s when this occurred to me…

No doubt you’ve heard writers say something like “I write because I have to” or “even if I never get published (again), I wouldn’t stop writing.” IOW, writing, being a writer, is part of who they are, it’s something they have always done, and will always continue to do because they enjoy (or get something from) the process of writing as much as the finished product (and its associated rewards).

OTOH, you have people like Meyer, who had not written anything prior to the Twilight series. I’m highly doubtful that she’ll produce anything of note that’s not Twilight-related (although she may try). Part of this is being typecast, of course; nothing she does (JK Rowling has the same problem) is going to be able to match that first hit.

Of course, both Meyer and Rowling have enough money that they never have to write another word again, if they don’t want to. But if they’re writers at their core, we would have no doubt that they would continue writing regardless of the fact they’re now filthy rich or that readers aren’t interested in anything that isn’t Twilight/Harry Potter.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that maybe this good/bad writing argument we’ve been having is not really about good or bad writing. Maybe it’s about writers vs. authors. Everyone expects a stack of JD Salinger manuscripts to show up sooner or later because everyone thinks of Salinger as a writer. He could stop publishing, but no one believes that he could stop writing. OTOH, if you read Dan Brown’s Wikipedia entry, it’s pretty clear that while he’s an author, he’s not a writer per se. He just kept trying different things until one of them worked out for him—and it happened to be writing novels. It could just as easily have been music or acting or something else.

Is this making sense to anyone besides me?

2006 Books Read – #6

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

The DaVinci Code

Confession.

I read The Da Vinci Code.

Here’s how it happened. We were at my parents’ place back in June and they mentioned that they’d seen the movie and asked if I’d read the book. I said no and made my standard joke about probably being the only person on the planet who hadn’t read it.

Then: “We have it,” Dad said. “You can borrow it.”

I was cornered. I couldn’t use the excuse that Dan Brown didn’t need any more money. I was uncomfortably overcome with the feeling that I was being a terrible literary snob by not reading it.

So I read it.

I hear Brown teaches creative writing. I hope he’s a “do as I say, not as I do” type, because he has numerous annoying habits including, but not limited to: overuse of exclamation points, overuse of italics, extremely short chapters, an almost complete reliance on “as you know, Bob” dialogue, and a need to end every chapter with a “cliffhanger.” I wasn’t thrilled with the “Matlock”-style confession from the implausible villain, either.

I do enjoy a good page-turner. But this book… yawn. I was ahead of the characters in figuring out a lot of the clues (zzz), found the shocking revelations not all that shocking (powerful men revised history to suit their own purposes? No!), and thought the ending was incredibly lame: after all his conspiracy-theorizing, he lets the church off the hook, pins the whole thing on rogue academic (WTF?) and goes “haha!” (use best Nelson* voice) at his readers and declines reveal the Big Secret (probably because he couldn’t come up with anything good enough) that his characters had spent the entire book searching for.

But here’s what really bugged the crap out of me: there are precisely two female characters in the entire story, and one of them doesn’t come into play until late in the book. (Oh, wait, there was another bit player who was female. But she was just there long enough for a male character to kill her. Typical.) So mostly one. And that female character is referred to as “Sophie,” (despite the fact she’s an agent of the French police) while the male characters are all referred to by their last names. Arghhh!!! He couldn’t call her by her last name too? That was too great a leap? Really?

And, of course, there are the usual cliches: male lead protects female lead, male/female leads fall in love at the end (but by the next book in the series, he’ll have moved on to someone new and she’ll never be heard from again, natch). Now granted, Brown’s chauvinism is of the ingrained sort epidemic in our society, but given that the major theme of the book was the “sacred feminine,” you’d think that someone (his editor, if not he himself) would have taken pains to work on the more obvious indicators.

*from The Simpsons