Dan Brown Makes Me Google Things

Literature

 

Warning: plot spoilers below

 

Let’s get it out of the way right now! All those who want to shake their heads or poke fun or talk down or do anything less than complimentary for eagerly devouring Dan Brown’s new novel, The Lost Symbol, do it now.

 

I’ll wait…

 

And yes. I broke my New Year resolution of only reading non-Western fiction. I have no regrets! It was a nice treat, like having a piece of cake at fat camp. (LSD, if you are reading this, thanks for keeping my secret, wish I were as trustworthy!). I have been waiting for this book since I heard rumors Brown was traipsing around our nation’s capital looking for Masonic signs. I even pre-ordered the book. Thus, when it arrived, I was as giddy as a golden retriever with a tennis ball. But I couldn’t get to it immediately. Working on this very website keeps me busy right up until midnight (and beyond) every night. The last thing I wanted to do was start reading the book at 12:30am and be kept up all night by the impending thrill ride. So, there it sat, right next to my bed, teasing me each night, for over a week. As I reached to turn out the lamp each night the spine of the book shot “come hither” looks, and a little bit of drool trickled down the side of my mouth. I was salivating to get to it…

Eventually I acquiesced, much to the detriment of my other reading endeavors. Mo Yan’s Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out got put on hold. As did Steven Mithen’s After the Ice, back issues of Book Forum and the NYRB, and every other reading material.

 

But Symbol didn’t hook me, at least not until about 120 pages in. The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons had me from the word go, and even Brown’s Deception Point hooked me fairly early (ignore Digital Fortress—you are not missing much).  But Symbol, disappointingly, took some time for me to get into. Ahhh… but when it did, I flew through those pages!

 

Sidebar: Mr. Brown. I enjoy your campy thrill novels and quirky villains and smart, intelligent, sexy women as plot devices, but why—why—is it that in each of your Robert Langdon mystery thrillers the foremost expert on codes and symbols takes forever, i.e. the entire timeline, to figure out the answer to the clues staring him right in the face!!?!!? WHY!?!?! Just as in Da Vinci and Angels I wanted to scream at Symbol, “WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT THE ANSWER TO THE RIDDLE IS _____!?!?!? WHY!?!? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU MR. SMARTY PANTS!?!?” It’s infuriating. I had the answer to The Lost Symbol figured out in the first 25 pages. Why didn’t your protagonist? You’re killing me! How about something a little more difficult next time around? Sigh…

 

I digress…

 

Dan Brown makes me Google things, and by Google I mean do extra research. When I was reading the Da Vinci Code while living in Montana, I was without a computer, but I had the library at my finger tips. Da Vinci referenced a number of Leonardo’s paintings, a couple of which I was unfamiliar with and none of which I had memorized to the detail required to understand the clues in the book. So, there I was, spread out on the living room floor, zipping through Langdon’s adventure and flipping back and forth between art books, zooming in on details of paintings, looking up variations of the same thing, and so on. That was fun—but how about including pictures the first time around? In full color, by the way. If I hadn’t spent so much time in Rome I surely would have spent as much time looking up street maps of the city, flipping through slide shows of St. Peter’s, scanning photos of fountains, and so on to get through Angels. But again, pictures would have been nice in that one too.

 

And so it went with Symbol where, upon gaining a clue to obscure, German engraver Albrecht Dürer’s Melancholia I, I was firing up the Google search engine. Later, a Scottish Rite temple was called for, and, toward the end (spoiler alert!!!!!), Laus Deo and the Washington Monument. And again, if I hadn’t spent so much time in Washington DC and visiting places like George Washington’s Masonic Memorial, the Botanical Gardens, the Smithsonian castle, and so on, I would have been further distracted by the Internet.

 

Oddly enough, besides the little clues and pictograms printed in the book, the only map or real illustration was a floor plan of the Capitol Building. Why? At the point in the book where this is printed all the action was taking place in sub-basement floors, which look much different from the floor plan. So strange…

 

I’m not going to complain too much. I do enjoy Dan Brown’s novels for what they are—brain candy. But damnit, how am I supposed to know what is so important about Melancholia I when I am hurtling at 55mph underground on the N train? Please, Mr. Brown, how about a full color illustrated edition for the next thrill ride?