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Friday, July 12, 2013

"Wildly successful"

I adore "The Heroic Absurdity of Dan Brown" by the often-late-lamented Clive James (he lives!), and you will too. It's nearly as much fun as reading Mark Twain's "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," only a great number of people are reading Dan Brown and only a few are reading James Fenimore Cooper (mostly graduate students and the occasional visitor to Cooperstown.) Both pieces have wonderful energy.
“Outside his window, hidden in the shadows of the Via Torregalli, a powerfully built woman effortlessly unstraddled her BMW motorcycle and advanced with the intensity of a panther stalking its prey. Her gaze was sharp. Her close-cropped hair—styled into spikes—stood out against the upturned collar of her black leather riding suit. She checked her silenced weapon, and stared up at the window where Robert Langdon’s light had just gone out.”

That counts as a long paragraph for Dan Brown. Generally he believes that a short paragraph will add pace, just as he believes that an ellipsis will add thoughtfulness. Groups of three dots appear in innumerable places, giving the impression that the narrative … has measles. This impression is appropriate, because the famous symbologist and the pretty, young [comma in the manner of Dan Brown] woman are actually impelled by their mission to save the world from plague. It isn’t just because the heavies are after them that they are always in such a hurry.
Clive James, you are joyous. Please do not give in to all these people who keep announcing your premature death. Deny them! Thwart them! Live! Be a Methuselah, despite all . . . plagues of ellipse and eclipse.

As for you, my very dearest reader, you must go read "The Heroic Absurdity of Dan Brown" immediately. I think there are things in it that might even be oddly pleasing to Dan Brown. It is full of charity and the milk of human kindness, as well as penetration and slaughter and downright hilarity.
Do they get together in the end? Alas, or perhaps hooray, [Langdon] realises that he is too old for [Sienna]. But hooray, or perhaps alas, she offers herself anyway. There is something … irresistible about the tall symbologist. He is a bit like a wildly successful American author of brain-teasing thrillers, but he has taken another course.
Then afterward you might read a poem or two by Clive James. Perhaps you might just go and read this review of Clive James's new translation of Dante. And then you might just buy a book. Oh, which one?


  1. Loved this. Thanks for pointing it out, Marly.

  2. Clive James is a very interesting fellow, and I liked the way he is so kind and so sharp at the same time here. His blade is no duller than before, but he is sweeter...


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.