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September 14, 2009

Editing Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code"

I edited Dan Brown’s writing, slowly - The Globe and Mail I listened to The DaVinci Code as an audio book (from Audible.com, back in the day) when I was walking to work. My mouth would regularly drop open, gaping at what absolute shit the novel was. From the absurd plot, to the female sidekick who only exists to say "Really? Tell me more about that." to the insufferable lead, to the evil albino masochist villain to--and especially--the over-the-top writing. It's writing that is so pretentious and bombastic it is literally impossible to parody. When you spend a paragraph describing how a hand grasps a doorknob you know you are in Crap City, Population: this book.
Dear Dan Brown, Numbers don’t lie and 80 million copies sold of your novel The Da Vinci Code means you are doing something that connects with an audience. You’ve hit upon an effective formula by taking hokum usually found at the back of New Age bookstores and wedding it to a thriller plot. There’s nothing wrong with discovering that everyone is susceptible, at some point in his life, to the seductive pull of a conspiracy theory. Where there’s human nature, there’s a buck or two to be made. There’s nothing wrong with writing enjoyable potboilers and it is much more difficult than most people realize. In defence of well-written, enjoyable potboilers though, I have to point out that your writing style is so toxically inept that Vladimir Putin could use it to poison dissidents. That’s hardly constructive criticism, so I’ve also taken an editorial pass at excerpts from the first two chapters of The Da Vinci Code. I’m not attempting to turn you into Faulkner by any stretch of the imagination but there are several tips I hope you find helpful in the future. I’ve left it in track changes, a file format I’m guessing your editor has never shown you. . . .
At the site are two PDFs of the edited chapters. Awesome.

Jonathan Lethem remembers J.G. Ballard

Essay - Poet of Desolate Landscapes - NYTimes.com He has edited a new short story collection of Ballard's.
Ballard was, unmistakably, a literary futurist, at ease in the cold ruins of the millennium a lifetime sooner than the rest of us; his passing registered as a disorienting claim of time upon the timeless. Whether you embrace or reject on his behalf the label “science-fiction writer” will indicate whether you regard it as praiseful or damning, but no one reading Ballard could doubt the tidal gravity of his intellect or the stark visionary consistency of the motifs that earned him that rarest of literary awards, an adjective: Ballardian. Now, and not a moment too soon, comes The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard (Norton, $35), a staggering 1,200-page collection of a lifetime’s labors in the medium in which Ballard was perhaps most at home. Each of Ballard’s 98 short stories is like a dream more perfectly realized than any of your own. His personal vocabulary of scenarios imprints itself from the very first, each image with the quality of a newly minted archetype. Ballard was the poet of desolate landscapes marked by signs of a withdrawn human presence: drained swimming pools, abandoned lots littered with consumer goods, empty space stations, sites of military or vehicular tragedies. Himself trained in medicine, Ballard frequently chose doctors or scientists as protagonists and narrators, yet expertise never spares them from the fates they see overtaking others. If Ballard’s view of the human presence in his landscapes is grimly diagnostic, his scalpel is wielded with tenderness, his bedside manner both dispassionate and abiding. . . .

Jim Carroll has died

Jim Carroll, Poet and Punk Rocker, Is Dead - ArtsBeat Blog - NYTimes.com
Jim Carroll, the poet and punk rocker in the outlaw tradition of Rimbaud and Burroughs who chronicled his wild youth in “The Basketball Diaries,” died Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 60. The cause was a heart attack, said Rosemary Carroll, his former wife. As a teenage basketball star in the 1960s at Trinity, an elite private school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Mr. Carroll led a chaotic life that combined sports, drugs and poetry. This highly unusual combination lent a lurid appeal to “The Basketball Diaries,” the journal he kept during high school and published in 1978, by which time his poetry had already won him a cult reputation as the new Bob Dylan.
That new-Bob-Dylan curse is a bitch. I mean, look at Bruce Springsteen.