The less his talent, the more amazing his achievementby Clive James / July 11, 2013 / Leave a comment
Clash of the titans: Dan versus Dante (© Ian West/PA Wire/Press Association Images)
As a believer in the enjoyably awful, I would recommend this book wholeheartedly if I could. But it is mainly just awful. Nevertheless it is still almost worth reading. In the publishing world they have a term, “pull line,” which means the few words of apparent praise that you can sometimes pull out of a review however hostile. Let me supply that pull line straight away, ready furnished with quotation marks: “The author of The Da Vinci Code has done it again.”
Once again, that is, he makes you want to turn the pages even though every page you turn demonstrates abundantly his complete lack of talent as a writer. The narrative might be a bit less compulsive this time but you still want to follow it, if only to find out whether the hero and the heroine will ever get together. But to do that, they will first have to stop running to escape the heavies.
Discussing Dante even as they run, they are a handsome couple, the hero and the heroine, rather like Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll in The 39 Steps. The hero we already know. He is Robert Langdon, fresh from his activities as the “symbologist” who cracked the code associated with the famous painter whose surname was Da Vinci. (If Dan Brown’s all-time bestseller had been about the Duke of Edinburgh, it would have been called The Of Edinburgh Code.)
Langdon, though an American, still favours English tailoring. It must be easier to run in. Running beside him is Dr Sienna Brown, described as a “pretty, young woman”, in keeping with Dan Brown’s gift for inserting the fatal extra comma that he or one of his editors believes to be a sign of literacy. And indeed I should perhaps have written “the fatal, extra comma”, but something stopped me: an ear for prose, I hope.
Dan Brown has no ear for prose at all, a handicap which paradoxically gives pathos, and even tenderness, to his attempts at evoking Sienna’s charm. He has no trouble evoking her brains. She has an IQ of 208 and at the age of four she was reading in three languages. You can picture the author at his desk, meticulously revising his original sentence in which, at the…