A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Friday, May 06, 2005

Comment on The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter and Pulp Fiction as a genre

Mike could not be more spot on about Dan Brown being totally unable to write in English (I do not know whether he can write in any other languages, but hopefully not). People may argue that this is mean because he has been successful, but it is not. Dan Brown's writing is so bad and so in need of a good editor (unless his current one made herculean efforts to bring the writing to the current standard), that there is no explanation why it is a best seller; or perhaps there is. Looking at what people read at airports, on the train, and what is commonly displayed at major bookshops windows, the Common Reader only chooses what is a masturbation of the mind. I am afraid that the same disastrous quality of writing applies to all Harry Potter novels who are even more detrimental as the kind of English used in these books is passed on happily to the younger generation of people who have very little exposure to (grammatically, not politically) correct language in the first place. Virginia Woolf called pulp fiction of the kind "penny dreadfuls". Richard Hoggart in The Uses of Literacy explains the phenomenon more thoroughly than this brief comment. Suffice it to say that people are influenced by "celebrity" opinions about books being good or not good, or... "unputdownable" [sic]. Harold Bloom, one of the most distinguished modern critics and theoriticians of language and literature said that "[...] I read a lavish, loving review of Harry Potter by the same Stephen King. He wrote something to the effect of, "If these kids are reading Harry Potter at 11 or 12, then when they get older they will go on to read Stephen King." And he was quite right. He was not being ironic. When you read "Harry Potter" you are, in fact, trained to read Stephen King." (the full article is in the Boston Globe).
Chartreuse has been delayed by the election results, but will go live during the weekend. If you have a bad book you have read, please email me with a comment about it so that we can have a Penny Dreadfuls section every week.
The Da Vinci Code has at least allowed people to see some old architectural masterpieces. There is now a constant stream of tourists to temple church and the surrounding inns of court (inner & middle). Although it must be said middle (of Bridget Jones edge of reason fame) is somewhat older with inner having being destroyed several times. Although the Revd Robin Griffith-Jones must be getting a little fed-up with the amount of people asking to see the crypt, there isn’t one.
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