About two weeks ago, when I learned that Dan Brown’s most recent book,Inferno, was coming out, I squealed out loud and covered the surface of my apartment doing a rather uncultivated pelvic dance. I haven’t read all of Dan Browns’ books, but the ones that I’ve read (The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, and The Lost Symbol) left me a huge fan.
Now, I realise that Mr. Brown’s writing is denigrated by many literary connoisseurs; as a matter of fact, I wholly agree that his style is somewhat rigid and his template somewhat repetitive. Not all of us are great writers, however, and in the case of Mr. Brown, I’m fully willing to pay the full price of a criminally overpriced e-book (the law of demand is set in gold) for a handful of his enlightening thoughts and ground-breaking, provocative ideas.
Hence, to both pay homage to Mr. Brown and silence those who may still wish to argue that his writing is a waste of time, here are the principal reasons (in no particular order) that I enjoy his books so much.
1. More than anything else, Mr. Brown is a provocateur, pushing the boundaries of the conceivable. His books broaden the mind and arouse curiosity. No doubt because Mr. Brown himself is a very inquisitive and well-read person.
2. He is also a builder of bridges between the unlikeliest of shores – most notably those of religion and science (Angels and Demons), but also between those of history and modernity (The Lost Symbol, Inferno), as well as different faiths and cults (The Da Vinci Code).
3. Moreover, he’s a conciliator. Most of his books end in a resolution of conflicts and differences, rather than in the ‘punishment’ and ‘vengeance’ of evil (two concepts which, in my opinion, are completely useless). Even Mr. Brown’s villains, despite being some of the scariest I’ve ever encountered in literature, are genuinely human at their core – having become the monsters that they are as a result of struggling with their own insecurities and frustrations.
4. The female characters in Mr. Brown’s books are my favourite of all. Intelligent, independent, mature women who are both feminine and strong. Mr. Brown doesn’t shy away from featuring older female characters (as a matter of fact, he makes thinner skin and graying hair bewitching), or from placing them in positions of power.
5. One of my greatest delights is reading about all the preposterous situations that the central character, Harvard University professor Robert Langdon, gets himself into – and out of! Whether it’s jumping from a plane hovering several hundred metres above the ground without a parachute (Angels and Demons) or spending several hours submerged in a gas-filled tank (The Lost Symbol), this is where my eyes widen with wonder before I shake my head and chuckle at the sheer audacity of it all.
6. Mr. Brown is a master trickster. I’m usually pretty good at guessing what’s really going on in both novels and movies (such as who the real villain is), and when you’ve read several works by the same author, you learn to pick up some cues. But this man gets me again, and again, and again. In his latest novel, Inferno, he yanks the ground from beneath your feet and turns the premise upside down, and before you have the chance to recover, twists it all around one more time, just for fun.
7. As a big, big fan of art history, etymology, and – to a certain extent – symbolism, I love that Mr. Brown’s books are littered with memorable references on these subjects. He sheds a light on many objects that have become mundane in our world (curious about the crude origin of men’s ties? check out The Lost Symbol), and imbues historical monuments with new life and deeper meaning through memorable descriptions of their creation.
8. Throughout all of his books, Mr. Brown gives unique focus to his characters’ eyes. Whilst in other books you may read about someone’s big, beautiful eyes or someone’s bright green eyes, Mr. Brown gives his eyes dynamic qualities – portraying them as the live organs that they are and employing them in interpersonal communication. His eyes are warm and soft, they glow and flicker; they lock themselves with other eyes for fleeting moments, speaking the unutterable and conveying the incomprehensible; they express understanding and trust and betrayal and remorse… they are true windows into the soul, giving Mr. Brown’s characters extraordinary depth.
And there, my friends, is that.