Saturday, 27 August 2016

Dan and Me

It's hard not to want to punch him.
(Note: What follows is old. It was written around 2008 during the height of Brown's fame. It's one of the first really popular performance pieces I wrote, so much so that I began to despise it, since every single time I got up to the mic, someone would say, "hey, are you doing the Dan Brown poem?" It's clunky, and yeah, deliberately clunky because it apes terrible writing, but the danger with aping terrible writing is that you might end up writing something terrible. 

The Da Vinci Code was the reason I left a book club. This, this, this, book, OK, let's be accurate at least, actually made me angry, it was so offensive on every level. The only good thing that came out of it – apart from the softness and absorbency of the pages – was that Brown's book actually goaded Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh into suing him for plagiarising Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which he totally plagiarised, or would have, except you can't plagiarise the plot of a factual work, and it put Baigent and co in the position of losing unless they admitted it was fiction. Which they couldn't. That, I admit, was beautiful.

Note for foul, heartfelt language. I have never truly wished ill on an author, but Dan Brown made me come close. Also, yes, I do believe I am a better writer than Dan Brown. However, that is a very, very, very low bar. In the end, it's a meditation on the perennial jealousy writers who want to be good feel towards terrible, terrible writers who sell millions of their books. It could be Anne Rice or EL James or Wilbur Smith or whoever, really.)


 The celebrated author Dan Brown smiled, smugly, until a revelation struck him.
“A revelation has just struck me!” he thought.
He decided that he would not mention it,
Either in internal monologue nor in narration
Until such time as he couldn't hold it off any longer
Or found the plot was flagging.
“And that's what I do,” he thought,
“Because I am a celebrated writer — no, author — of religious-themed
Conspiracy thrillers.”
A figure stepped dramatically from the shadows.
“Please,” the figure that had just stepped dramatically from the shadows whispered,
Frustratedly, “Stop with the adverbs. Just stop”
Dan Brown immediately recognised his antagonist as minor hack author Wood Ingham,
Writer of a few books he was actually not all that proud of,
An Englishman and therefore likely to be revealed
As the villain of this piece.
Wood for his part, regarded the celebrated American author,
Whose religious-themed conspiracy thrillers had sold
Millions of copies
(And two of which had been made into hit movies starring Oscar-winning
Hollywood actor Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou who everyone loved in Amelie
Although she was only in the first one
And Ewan McGregor out of Star Wars was actually in the other one)
With a face contorted by contempt and hate
As was his perfidious English manner.
“Perfidious Albion,” thought Brown,
Smirking as he realised that he was about fifty per cent sure what
“Perfidious” meant
And knew that Albion was a good synonym for England or something.
English hack Wood for his part considered what had led him to this juncture...
“Hang on. Hang on,” said the tall, fair-haired bespectacled Englishman,
Doing something sort English with his spectacles because
That's how
You build character.
“You just changed point of view! You pull this all the time, man.”
“I don't know what you mean,” said Brown, not knowing
What the English hack meant.
“I mean, come on, you haven't even mentioned in your internal monologue
“That you're tied to a chair, man.
“I mean, what is that?
“I mean, is that really how you think you build tension, by
“Withholding information and then going, hah, here's the shock that the
“Characters experienced twenty pages ago?”
Dan Brown struggled silently, wondering how he was going to escape
The bonds that held his wrists tightly to the back of the chair,
And which were indeed the subject of his sudden revelation at the top of this page.
Brown bristled, nobly. “Release me, hack!” he cried.
“Shan't,” said Wood, smugly. “This is my fictional revenge fantasy and
“I'll let you go when I decide.”
“You just broke the fourth wall! And you tell me I'm not a great writer,” retorted Brown.
“Damned right I do,” said Wood in his
Unmistakeable English accent, undaunted by the great author's inexorable logic.
“Like, just for the one example, what's with the European stereotypes?
“Like the French copper is badly shaven a smokes a lot and
“The French lady is chic because that's the only French word you know.”
Brown realised with a thunderbolt that this wasn't fair.
He did know other French words.
“That isn't fair,” shouted Brown, understanding that shouting is better for
Drama. “That isn't the only French word I know!”
“What other words do you know, then, said Wood, leeringly.
“Baguette,” uttered the best-selling author triumphantly.
“Besides,” he added, “You only hate the Da Vinci Code because I blow the
“Doors off your Christian preconceptions!”
“Oh please. Your wife did your research on Post-It notes.
“Badly.
“Umberto Eco can write a perfectly decent religious-themed thriller.
“No,” added Wood,
“I hate your work because it's shit.
“I hate your work because
“You can't write a believable character.
“Because you can't write believable dialogue.
“Because you think a Smart Car is faster than a Parisian police saloon.
“Because you think that a self-mutilating albino can be
“An invincible ninja monk.
“Because you think the Greatest Cryptologist in the World
“Can't recognise mirror writing
“And needs to be told who Leonardo Da Vinci is
“Because your protagonist is professor of an academic discipline
“That doesn’t fucking exist
“But the thing that offends me most is that every time
“I pass the big high street bookshop
“I see big displays promoting your new book
“And it pains me
“Like physically
“It pains me
“Because you are selling millions and millions
“Of your shitty, shitty novels,
“Because of the bookshop real estate you own
“That means that others can’t.
Fuck you, Dan Brown.
Fuck. You.
“Because I am a better writer than you!”
Said Wood, furiously.
Dan Brown thought for a moment and smiled. He replied,
“And how many novels have you sold, exactly?”
Wood seethed, silently.

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