One-Minute Book Reviews

March 15, 2010

Grand Prize Winner in the 2010 Delete Key Awards for Bad Writing in Books — Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News,Uncategorized — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:33 pm
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Yes, the hero teaches courses in the nonexistent field of “symbology” at Harvard University. But too many lines in The Lost Symbol (Doubleday)  flunk English, logic, history, or other subjects. Dan Brown wins the Grand Prize in the 2010 Delete Key awards for these lines:

“The only wrinkle was the bloody black-clad heap in the foyer with a screwdriver protruding from his neck.”

Yes, a screwdriver sticking out of your neck is always something of a wrinkle.

“It was no coincidence that Christians were taught that Jesus was crucified at age thirty-three …”
Just as it’s no coincidence that people were taught that Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors.

“Thankfully, this particular crypt contained no bodies. … The entourage hurried through, without even a glance at the four-pointed marble compass in the center of the floor where the Eternal Flame had once burned.”
As opposed to one of those three-pointed compasses you usually see.

“His hips and abdomen were the archways of mystical power. Hanging beneath the archway [sic], his massive sex organ bore the tattooed symbols of his destiny. In another life, this heavy shaft of flesh had been his source of carnal pleasure. But no longer.”
That “archways of mystical power” helps to make this passage read like a cross between The Secret and recruitment brochure for McDonald’s.

“According to Nola’s spec sheet, the UH-60 had a chassis-mounted, laser-sighted, six-gigahertz magnetron with a fifty-dB-gain horn that yielded a ten-gigawatt pulse.”
Did Tom Clancy send in a play from the sidelines here?

Tom Chivers of the Telegraph collected 20 of the worst lines from Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and other books.

Read the shortlisted passages from all the finalists here.

© 2010 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 25, 2010

2010 Delete Key Awards Finalist #10 — ‘The Lost Symbol’ by Dan Brown

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:59 am
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From Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol (Doubleday):

“The only wrinkle was the bloody black-clad heap in the foyer with a screwdriver protruding from his neck.”
Yes, a screwdriver sticking out of your neck is always something of a wrinkle.

“It was no coincidence that Christians were taught that Jesus was crucified at age thirty-three …”
Just as it’s no coincidence that people were taught that Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors.

“Thankfully, this particular crypt contained no bodies. … The entourage hurried through, without even a glance at the four-pointed marble compass in the center of the floor where the Eternal Flame had once burned.”
As opposed to one of those three-pointed compasses you usually see.

“His hips and abdomen were the archways of mystical power. Hanging beneath the archway [sic], his massive sex organ bore the tattooed symbols of his destiny. In another life, this heavy shaft of flesh had been his source of carnal pleasure. But no longer.”
That “archways of mystical power” helps to make this passage read like a cross between The Secret and recruitment brochure for McDonald’s.

“According to Nola’s spec sheet, the UH-60 had a chassis-mounted, laser-sighted, six-gigahertz magnetron with a fifty-dB-gain horn that yielded a ten-gigawatt pulse.”
Did Tom Clancy send in a play from the sidelines here?

Read the full review of The Lost Symbol and more of Dan Brown’s worst lines. 

You can also read about the Delete Key Awards at @janiceharayda on Twitter. The 10 finalists are being announced in random order beginning with No. 10. The Lost Symbol is finalist #10. The winner and runners-up will be announced on March 15 on One-Minute Book Reviews and on Twitter.

© 2010 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda

February 11, 2010

Fake Book News # 4 — FDA Says Americans Consume Too Many Books With Metallic Covers

Filed under: Fake Book News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:32 pm
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FDA says Americans consume too many books with metallic covers: Urges pregnant women to “limit or avoid” Dan Brown novels.

Fake Book News posts on One-Minute Book Reviews satirize American literary culture, including the publishing industry. They consist of some of the most popular of the made-up news items that appear on Janice Harayda’s FakeBookNews page on Twitter. To read all the tweets in the series, please follow FakeBookNews (@FakeBookNews) on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FakeBookNews.

December 24, 2009

Entertainment Weekly’s 5 Worst Books of 2009

Most magazines dropped their “worst of the year” lists long ago, if they had them at all. But Entertainment Weekly has kept the tradition alive. Its 5 Worst Books of 2009 are: How to Be Famous, by Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, reality-series stars whom EW faults for a lack of more than one kind of talent; Stories From Candyland, Candy Spelling’s “revenge-fueled” memoir; Christopher Andersen’s Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage, “packed with anonymous sources”; Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith, likely to give you “literary diabetes”; and Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, “one of the year’s worst written.”

October 12, 2009

Late Night With Jan Harayda — Dan Brown Channels Tom Clancy

I mentioned in a review of The Lost Symbol earlier today that Dan Brown seemed unsure of whether he wanted to write a thriller, lecture,  homily, defense of Freemasonry, or tourist brochure for Washington, D.C. Here’s line that suggests that he may also have hoped to add a dash of the gadgetry of Tom Clancy‘s technothrillers:

“According to Nola’s spec sheet, the UH-60 had a chassis-mounted, laser-sighted, six-gigahertz magnetron with a fifty-dB-gain horn that yielded a ten-gigawatt pulse.”

A Review of Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’ – The Copycat Cover Isn’t The Only Thing It Has in Common With ‘The Secret’

Filed under: Mysteries and Thrillers,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:09 am
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Spoiler Warning! Please stop here if you don’t want to read about the ending of this novel or to hear more about the “massive sex organ” mentioned in yesterday’s post.

The Lost Symbol: A Novel. By Dan Brown. Doubleday, 509 pp., $29.95.

By Janice Harayda

Were the publishers of The Lost Symbol so worried about its sales that they tried to steal some of the thunder of The Secret, the bestselling nonfiction book of 2007? The covers of both books show lit-from-behind crimson wax seals against a background that looks like parchment with cryptic markings. And the similarities don’t end there.

Dan Brown’s first novel since The Da Vinci Code is the book we might get if Rhonda Byrne turned to fiction, a mishmash of New Age mysticism and scientific half-truths. Both The Lost Symbol and The Secret hinge on the idea that ancient secrets can transform the lives of people who are enlightened enough to hear them. Byrne calls her “secret” the “law of attraction,” the theory that your thoughts can manipulate physical reality: diseases, lottery tickets, your bank account. She quotes the “personal empowerment advocate” Lisa Nichols: “When you think of the things you want, and you focus on them with all of your intention, then the law of attraction will give you exactly what you want, every time.”

Brown doesn’t mention the “law of attraction” in The Lost Symbol but draws on noetic theory — which he calls noetic “science” — a realm of metaphysics that deals with forms of consciousness typically ignored by mainstream science. And the characters in the novel often sound like Byrne. The plot involves efforts by Harvard professor Robert Langdon to find the wealthy Peter Solomon, a kidnapped Washington, D.C., Mason who speaks of “secrets that transcend your wildest imagination.”

But no one sounds more like Byrne than Peter’s sister, Katherine, who plays Lois Lane to Langdon’s Clark Kent. Brown says that Katherine’s research had proved “that ‘focused thought’ could affect literally anything” — the growth rate of plants, the direction in which fish swam. “Katherine had created beautifully symmetrical ice crystals by sending loving thoughts to a glass of water as it froze.” Katherine agrees. “I have witnessed people transform cancer cells into healthy cells simply by thinking about them,” she says. And: “Our brains, if used correctly, can call forth powers that are quite literally superhuman.” Langdon realizes as he listens to Katherine: “Human thought can literally transform the world.”

All of this has at least one problem that The Secret does: The writing might make you think warmly of Jacqueline Susann, Harold Robbins and all other writers who, bad as they were, at least didn’t italicize every passage written in the free indirect style.  Brown says of the man who has kidnapped Peter Solomon and chopped off his hand:

“His hips and abdomen were the archways of mystical power. Hanging beneath the archway [sic], his massive sex organ bore the tattooed symbols of his destiny. In another life, this heavy shaft had been his source of carnal pleasure. But no longer.”

Let’s leave aside that the first sentence in that passage says there were two “archways” and second says that there was one. Let’s also ignore that unless the man had no scrotum, more than one sex organ was hanging beneath his “archways of mystical power.” And let’s overlook that this passage is as purple as – well, do you need to be told? Apart from all of it, the mention of that “heavy shaft” is one of those “gratuitous” sexual details that actually is gratuitous instead of just offensive to some tastes: The size of that “massive sex organ” has nothing to do with the plot. The man never uses for its intended purposes, and if it had once been his “source of carnal pleasure,” it would also have been his “source of carnal pleasure” if it had been smaller.

The Secret has writing that, in its own way, is as bad. But The Lost Symbol has another problem that relates to its function as a potboiler. Thrillers often begin slowly and gain speed as the bodies pile up. The Lost Symbol has the opposite problem: It starts briskly but loses momentum and crawls through its last third. The slowdown occurs in part because Brown has the literary equivalent of a stutter: He can’t stop repeating himself. It also occurs because he’s cross-purposes with himself: He can’t decide whether he’s writing a thriller, a lecture, a homily, a defense of Freemasonry, or a tourist brochure.

Brown gives you hundreds of pages about codes, ciphers, symbols, cryptograms, pictographs, and New Age arcana that you expect ultimately to snap into place like the solid colors on the faces of a Rubik’s cube. But the ending washes out. The Lost Symbol doesn’t build toward an ingenious final twist – as good thrillers typically do – but to a message you might hear from a football player pointing toward the sky in the moments after his team won the Super Bowl. On the next-to-last page, Brown writes, “Nothing is hidden that will not be made known; nothing is secret that will not come to light.” Rhonda Byrne couldn’t have said it better.

Best line: “’Google’ is not a synonym for ‘research.’”

Worst line: See the Sept. 24 post “Dan Brown’s 5 Worst Lines From ‘The Lost Symbol” and the Oct. 6 post on “The Dan Brown Chuckle Meter”. A few more worst lines: No. 1: “His hips and abdomen were the archways of mystical power. Hanging beneath the archway [sic], his massive sex organ bore the tattooed symbols of his destiny. In another life, this heavy shaft of flesh had been his source of carnal pleasure. But no longer.” No. 2: “Wearing only a silken loincloth wrapped around his buttocks and neutered sex organ, Mal’akh began his preparations.” No. 3: “Twelve are the signs of the zodiac. Twelve are the hours of the day.” No. 4: “According to Nola’s spec sheet, the UH-60 had a chassis-mounted, laser-sighted, six-gigahertz magnetron with a fifty-dB-gain horn that yielded a ten-gigawatt pulse.”

Editor: Jason Kaufman

Published: September 15, 2009

Furthermore: You may also want to read the Sept. 29 post, “Is The Lost Symbol ‘Offensive’ to Christianity?”

About the author: Brown’s other Robert Langdon novels are Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

October 11, 2009

‘His Massive Sex Organ Bore the Tattooed Symbols of His Destiny’ — A Review of Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’ Tomorrow

Filed under: News,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:05 pm
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“His massive sex organ bore the tattooed symbols of his destiny” … but did he know how to use it? Find out tomorrow when One-Minute Book Reviews will have a review of the novel in which that line appears, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.

October 6, 2009

Late Night With Jan Harayda – ‘Chuckling’ Through ‘The Lost Symbol,’ or the Dan Brown Chuckle Meter, Part 1

Filed under: Late Night With Jan Harayda,News,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:49 pm
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Why do people do so much “chuckling” in novels about conspiracies, disasters and other events that don’t normally inspire that response in real life? I’ve been reading The Lost Symbol, and it may have more “chuckles” than any book I’ve read since Newt Gingrich’s Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th (St. Martin’s, 2007). So I’ve started a Dan Brown Chuckle Meter similar to my Newt Gingrich Chuckle Meter.

A few early ticks:

How does Brown’s hero, Robert Langdon, respond when a fan offers him a tip on how he can stop being such a bad dresser?
“Thanks for the advice,” Langdon said with a chuckle. Page 8.

What does a villain who’s trying to sneak a weapon into the Capitol do when a security guard asks if getting his tattoos hurt?
The man glanced down at his fingertips and chuckled. Page 19.

How does Langdon react when one of his Harvard students asks why the cornerstones of several Washington landmarks were all laid – or so he says – in accordance with a seemingly wacko astrological principle?
Langdon chuckled. Page 29.

Will Dan Brown deliver as many chuckles as Newt Gingrich? I don’t know the answer, because my meter is still running. What’s your guess?

“Late Night With Jan Harayda” is a series of occasional posts that appear after 10 p.m. Eastern Time and do not include reviews.

September 29, 2009

Is ‘The Lost Symbol’ Is ‘Offensive’ to Christianity?

Crosses and other religious symbols help to drive the plot of The Lost Symbol. Are the images used in an offensive way? Philip Hensher writes in a review of The Lost Symbol in the Spectator:

“The plot, naturally, is all to do with the concealment of wisdom within sacred texts, and as it unfolds, it becomes first moronic and then somewhat offensive. Moronic, because it seems to believe that wisdom and knowledge are things which are acquired by placing a bit of gold on top of a bit of stone, and then wiping off some wax. Brown’s heroes remind me of Hardy’s Jude, who thought that you could understand Greek if you cracked a simple code in the dons’ safekeeping:

“Don’t you see? These [Biblical phrases] are code words, Robert. ‘Temple’ is code for body. ‘Heaven’ is code for mind. ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ is your spine. And ‘Manna’ is this rare brain secretion.

“Not just moronic, but offensive, because the whole historical point of Christianity was that it celebrated its rites entirely openly, unlike any other religion to that point. The huge enlightenment to come, trailed by Brown, doesn’t convince, because he can’t really imagine what it would be, apart from some previously secret beliefs being made generally available. What that would mean, apart from people saying ‘With my temple, I thee worship’ at wedding ceremonies, Brown cannot limn.

“This is taking a bit of fluff all too seriously, but tales of conspiracy are worrying when they become as massively popular as Brown’s stories have done. God knows how many of his readers think there might be some truth in any of this. But even if there were none, it is depressing to see the point to which the bestseller as a form has sunk. Vintage have recently reissued all of Nevil Shute, and to read a hugely popular book of 50 years ago next to The Lost Symbol is to witness a painful decline in quality and sheer class. A novelist like Brown would never risk an extended set-piece like the motor race in On the Beach, or the details of capital investment in A Town Called Alice. Or, come to that, the thrillingly extended card game in the first part of Ian Fleming’s Moonraker. These are novels which, though aiming at popularity, respected their readers and were possessed of a decent level of craft. Nowadays, we are reduced in our thrill-seeking endeavours to listening to Dan Brown, whose idea of giving a reader a good time is droning:

“Franklin Square is located in the northwest quadrant of downtown Washington, bordered by K and Thirteenth streets. It is home to many historic buildings.”

September 24, 2009

Dan Brown’s 5 Worst Lines From ‘The Lost Symbol’

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:56 am
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The critic stood with her arms folded, her eyes locked skeptically on the librarian at the checkout desk as she processed what he had just told her. “Somebody called and said he didn’t want the copy of The Lost Symbol that he had reserved? So I moved mysteriously to the top of the waiting list … as if by an unseen power?”

The librarian shrugged weakly as he handed her a copy of the novel that had sold two million copies in a week. The critic realized that others would have to wait a day or two for her review of a 508-page book to have its measurable effect on the physical world.

Still, her eye fell on a few lines that struck her as suspicious. With force that startled even herself, she couldn’t help but play a very dangerous game and formulate her responses:

1. Chapter 16, page 84: “The OS director’s voice was unmistakable – like gravel grating on a chalkboard.”

How did the gravel get on the chalkboard? Did somebody throw the gravel at it?  Or pave it?

2. Chapter 16, page 65: “He looked more like someone Anderson would expect to find hearthside in some Ivy League library reading Dostoyevsky.”

Hey, kids! Be sure to ask to see the fireplaces in the Harvard and Yale libraries on those campus tours! Soot is great for all those rare books.

3. Chapter 89, page 332: “It was no coincidence that Christians were taught that Jesus was crucified at age thirty-three …”

Just as it’s no coincidence that people were taught that Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors.

4. Chapter 96, page 357: The only wrinkle was the bloody black-clad heap in the foyer with a screwdriver protruding from his neck.”

Yes, a screwdriver sticking out of your neck is always something of a wrinkle.

5. Chapter 28, page 119: “Thankfully, this particular crypt contained no bodies. …The entourage hurried through, without even a glance at the four-pointed marble compass in the center of the floor where the Eternal Flame had once burned.”

As opposed to one of those three-pointed compass you see in some crypts.

(c) 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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