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Brown vs Dickens / Germany vs Argentina

Last night I started reading Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" - just because someone remarked that, "You, of all people, haven't read that book?"

It's true that I have been into this sort of thing: the Fibonacci sequence, the Golden Ratio... etc etc. But I had never been into what I call "pop fiction". Anyway, I picked up the book and started reading. As reference, I always use Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" which must be familiar to anyone who knows me (or this blog). It has the merit of being the only classic I have read cover-to-cover more than once (apart from being a heavy influence on me, almost a blueprint of where my life is going).

Getting back to the topic at hand - Dan Brown's so-called masterpiece, selling more than 60 million copies (right?) and translated into 40+ languages (somehow all popular books end up being translated into 40 or 42 languages, never 20 or 30 or 70).

A second reason for my having started reading the book was that the movie was out. It is a habit of mine to read the book a movie is based on, beforehand. For example, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Merchant of Venice etc. Since I was already reading Memoirs of a Geisha these days, I thought about adding The Da Vinci Code to the list as well.

The novel begins with a "Facts" page, as everyone knows, a page listing three facts. It then launches straight into a murder scene. I knew what was in store. It is a thriller after all.

The book is filled with historical references, especially to art history, secret societies and Christianity. By about the 34th chapter (a third of the novel), I figured I had had enough Christian Catholic secret history-mystery nonsense. I decided to stop reading this "Hollywood screenplay" novel. I went on to Wikipedia and read the remaining plot outline. Interesting story.

Dan Brown's writing style is usually simplistic. He is a commercial writer - the way he writes is designed to clutch a reader in until he has finished the book. That's why his books sell. That's also why Sydney Sheldon sells. Brown is more concerned with captivating the reader - thrilling her with what is going on in the story. Dickens, on the other hand, was concerned with using language to paint a picture and let the reader figure out herself what was being described. Brown's style is narrative, Dickens' is artistic.

Dickens created immortal characters - so complex that you are left wondering whether one is a hero or a villain or just supporting cast. Look at Philip Pirrip, who himself proclaims that he "is a complex mixture of good and bad." Or the little Mar's Davey transmogrifying into the intimidating profile of an adolescent David Copperfield. That's Characterization. Brown fails miserably here. The most powerful character, Robert Langdon, is reduced to a hollow encyclopedia who does nothing more than blabber out history texts from memory. Sophie Nevue, "the chick", is a typical, much-needed clever hotshot spy-type woman ubiquitous in any kind of thriller novel. All dead characters.

In any case, comparing Brown with Dickens is pointless. Some may laugh, but most will agree. It is like comparing Mozart with Michael Jackson. Jackson's music is not bad, and it is more popular than Mozart's in his time. Still there is no comparison.

That said, the other match tonight, the one between Germany and Argentina, ended with a victory for Deutschland..... as I had been saying all along, yet people took Argentina's side because they were leading with 1-0 at one point. But well... they are OUT. (And just look at the un-sportsman-ship displayed by them after the match, in that melee that broke out).

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