The cover has been revealed for the next book by Dan Brown, the author of “The Da Vinci Code,” a somewhat popular conspiracy thriller you might have heard of a while back.
This takes me back to Geoffrey Pullum’s hilarious posts in Language Log about how painful reading Brown’s prose can be:
Well, actually, there is someone else around, but we only learn that three paragraphs down, after “a thundering iron gate” has fallen (by the way, it’s the fall that makes a thundering noise: there’s no such thing as a thundering gate). “The curator” (his profession is now named a second time in case you missed it) “…crawled out from under the canvas and scanned the cavernous space for someplace to hide” (the colloquial American “someplace” seems very odd here as compared with standard “somewhere”). Then:
Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.
On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.
A voice spoke, chillingly close. “Do not move.”
Just count the infelicities here. A voice doesn’t speak —a person speaks; a voice is what a person speaks with. “Chillingly close” would be right in your ear, whereas this voice is fifteen feet away behind the thundering gate. The curator (do we really need to be told his profession a third time?) cannot slowly turn his head if he has frozen; freezing (as a voluntary human action) means temporarily ceasing all muscular movements. And crucially, a silhouette does not stare! A silhouette is a shadow. If Saunière can see the man’s pale skin, thinning hair, iris color, and red pupils (all at fifteen feet), the man cannot possibly be in silhouette.
Brown’s writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad. In some passages scarcely a word or phrase seems to have been carefully selected or compared with alternatives.
The entire post is here, and it has a list of other Language Log posts about Brown’s writing at the bottom: