The Vulture Reading Room feeds the eternal flame

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If I and my friends and colleagues could just have found the strength of will to not talk about Dan Brown's new novel The Lost Symbol, perhaps we could have stopped his march to inevitable victory as the fastest-selling and most renowned novelist in human history, and The Lost Symbol could have just faded away to become his Lost Novel. If only we could just have shut up. And we tried. But we just couldn't resist the temptation to gabble on about the new blockbuster. Sam Anderson at New York Magazine has set up a discussion salon devoted to The Lost Symbol, under the title the Vulture Reading Room, to allow us to tell each other (and you, and the world) what we think about the book. Already Sam's own weakness has become clear: he struggled mightily to avoid doing the obvious — a Dan Brown parody — and of course he failed. His cringingly funny parody is already up on the site (as of about 4 p.m. Eastern time on September 22). Soon my own first post there will be up. I know that Sarah Weinman (the crime reviewer) will not be far behind, and Matt Taibbi (the political journalist) and NYM's own contributing editor Boris Kachka will not be far behind her.

We know we are fueling the eternal flame that keeps the Dan Brown pot boiling. But we just can't help ourselves. We have the willpower of a bunch of butterflies. Stop us, someone, before we write again. Because I'm sure we will.


  1. Sili said,

    September 22, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

    The more you write, the less time there's left for us to be tempted by the Brown Books.

  2. Jake T said,

    September 22, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

    Hahahah! I laughed out loud reading "a mind-numbingly complex method…in which letters are substituted more or less arbitrarily for other letters in order to yield the answers you were looking for in the first place. "

    Ok, that's awesome.

  3. dr pepper said,

    September 22, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

    Isn't that "The Great Cypher"?

  4. Pez said,

    September 22, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

    Dan Brown is kind of like the Nickelback of literature, isn’t he? They’ve both been peddling the same mind-numbing, repetitive crap since their debut effort. And in a world where book and CD sales, in general, have been going down, they manage to sell millions.

  5. peter said,

    September 23, 2009 @ 2:49 am

    "Dan Brown is kind of like the Nickelback of literature, isn’t he? They’ve both been peddling the same mind-numbing, repetitive crap since their debut effort."

    Well, managing customer expectations & perceptions is central to the mission of marketing, so repetition is usually something to be desired, at least for those customers (usually a majority) not seeking variety. Numbness of mind and low-quality output are also perfectly fine product attributes, if that meets or even exceeds customer expectations. None of this, however, should be confused with literature.

  6. Theo Vosse said,

    September 23, 2009 @ 8:08 am

    Slightly disappointed that nobody dies, even though the academic that appears on page 1 speaks Latin, but at least there is a list of suspects…

    Anyway, since when does the NY Times art critic review Idols or any other greed induced populace hypnotizer? There is no reason to take Dan Brown's books seriously, as "peter" says. Is it that it might give people the false idea that they reading and therefore literate? Because in that sense books are unlike music and film. Nobody mistakes Shakira for Shostakovich, but Brown gets to be compared to Dickens.

  7. joseph palmer said,

    September 23, 2009 @ 9:24 am

    So not content with being the world's most adept grammatical nitpicker in the name of broadmindedness, Geoff has been writing all these articles about Brown's wretched stlyle in order to conclude that the popularity of such rubbish is what makes the USA so great…..

  8. Craig Russell said,

    September 23, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

    It occurs to me after reading Geoff's article that Brown's writing is almost Homeric, in a way. Homer's Greek, rooted in a complex oral-poetic tradition that likely took centuries to develop, adheres to a strict meter, and was designed to be able to be created extemporaneously (so a poet trained in this tradition could sit down and make up a story off the top of his head that would be in perfect dactylic hexameter).

    The way this was achieved was by building a repository of "formulae", sets of words that go together to fill different metrical slots. The effect for those of us who read Homer today is that there seem to be a large number of unnecessary adjectives. You almost never have just "ships", for example; ships are usually "swift" or "black" or "hollow" or "well-equipped with rowing-benches". Any page of Homer will have a dozen examples. And these adjectives—because they are chosen based on meter rather than meaning—rarely add vital information to a scene. They become a part of the texture of the language; they're what make Homer feel like Homer.

    Is this true for Dan Brown as well? I dunno. There is the small matter of Homer's continual brilliant observations on universal truths about the human condition that Brown kinda fails to match. Still, food for thought…

  9. marie-lucie said,

    September 23, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

    Perhaps then Dan Brown should try his hand at the oral epic genre?

  10. dr pepper said,

    September 23, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

    I read the Song of Roland once, and i found it to be full of specific descriptive phrases that were used over and over again. For instance, whenever a charging knight scores a hit on another, the result is something like:

    Neither shield nor hauberk were any help. The spear lifted him from his saddle and threw him 7 paces behind his horse

    I'd always assumed that this was to make the work easier to memorize.

    In fact i wonder if some of these repetitions represent places where oral memory has lost what were previously different wordings.

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