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Friday, February 03, 2012

Lisa's taken to her bed this evening with a mild case of pregnancy-related sickness and toddler-related exhaustion, so I've been on my own for the past two hours. It means I've had a chance to get on with some productive tasks without any distractions. Unfortunately it's a chance I've failed to take. There's a mountain of washing-up, the bins needs emptying, and I was planning to go shopping at Asda. But after a busy week myself, I've ended up slumped in front of YouTube watching car crashes, plane crashes and lion attacks. I also saw a woman killed by an elephant, but I didn't enjoy that one. I've been put off pedestrian walkways too.

So after ninety minutes of mindless vegetation (and I don't mean Mr Bloom's Nursery), I've decided to stop the rot by writing a blog post. And what's more, it's about literature. Kind of.

It's a well known fact that I haven't used my eyes to read a novel since Justin Bieber was born, but I do like to devour the odd audiobook on my way to and from clinics. My choice is limited to whatever I can get for a quid in charity shops, but a few weeks ago I bought this on cassette...

Digital FortressIt's 'Digital Fortress', the first novel by Dan 'Da Vinci Code' Brown. Despite sales of over a hundred million, I've never read any of Dan Brown's books (or seen the resulting films), so I didn't know what to expect, but having listened to three quarters of this one, suffice it to say, I'm not disappointed. It's so bad, it's brilliant.

What I particularly love is that Dan Brown writes like I did when I was fourteen. He has conversations going on between some of the world's leading cryptographers, in which they explain to each other what they're doing in language so basic, a three-year-old could get it. I've tested that fact, and it's true. It's a bit like having a conversation between ophthalmologists in which they explain to each other what the retina is. For no apparent reason. Using words of one syllable.

As a piece of writing, it's constantly entertaining, partly because of the ridiculousness of it all, but mainly because it sounds like the kind of adventure made up by a teenage boy and his mates, and then written down at play time. This article on the Daily Telegraph site quotes Geoffrey Pullum, an Edinburgh professor of linguistics, as saying "Brown's writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad", which is harsh, but probably true.

I haven't finished the book yet (so don't tell me how it ends), but having thoroughly enjoyed the brilliance of its ineptitude so far, it reached an all-time high today, with possibly my favourite line from any supposedly serious novel. Part of the story is set in Seville, where one of the characters attempts to kill another by shooting him in the lung whilst at church. No, really. I was driving home from Lewes Hospital this afternoon, listening to this little episode, when the deadly earnest narration provided me with this genuine laugh-out-loud moment:

"A punctured lung was fatal, maybe not in more medically advanced parts of the world, but in Spain, it was fatal."

Apparently in Madrid, most women die in childbirth, and no one lives beyond the age of forty. You'd be lucky to make it out of Barcelona alive.


Phil's Mum said...

Thanks for the review.  I won't be recommending that one to our Book Group then.  Although, on second thoughts, it would be in good company.