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Literary Glance: Origin by Dan Brown

November 6, 2017

For as long as I can remember, atheists have been trying to convince me there is no God.  That’s okay, because all my life I’ve been going to church and have been immersed in religion, so it’s good to have some balance.  I don’t talk about religion much, mainly because it’s personal and I don’t care about other people’s spirituality.  I mean, I care, but I don’t start debates about it.

In Origin by Dan Brown, a character claims to have found proof that the teachings of all religions are “dead wrong.”  When I read the character’s dramatic statement, instead of being intrigued, I thought, there’s Dan Brown being Dan Brown.  And it brought back some pleasant literary memories.

After books like The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons came out 10-15 years ago, there were a bunch of message board arguments about the accuracy of Brown’s books.  For those of you who aren’t old enough to remember, before Facebook and YouTube, internet trolls argued about stuff on message boards that various media sites had.  The arguments (usually about trivial matters) were nasty and vicious, and eventually most of the message boards were removed.

I didn’t participate in the online arguments about Dan Brown, but I read a few of them.  I never knew which self-proclaimed experts were really experts.  Most likely, none of them were because experts usually don’t resort to name-calling on message boards.  But the arguments made for fun reading.

I didn’t take any of the arguments seriously.  After all, I don’t get my history from historical novels.  I don’t form my political views from documentaries.  And I take everything I read in a Dan Brown novel with a grain of salt.  I treat everything like a fantasy; in his world, everything he writes is true.  That way, I can stay out of all the arguing about DaVinci and God and science and religion.

But I do like researching the locations that Brown writes about in his books.  In this age of the internet, I don’t have to rely on the words that Dan Brown uses.  And that’s good because sometimes his words are inadequate.  That’s not a knock on Brown.  He chooses some stuff that is difficult to describe.  For example, in Chapter 1 of Origin, he describes The Guggenheim Museum in Spain:

Professor Robert Langdon gazed up at the forty-foot tall dog sitting in the plaza.  The animal’s fur was a living carpet of grass and fragrant flowers.

I’m trying to love you, he thought.  I truly am.

I’m trying to love the descriptions in this book.  I truly am.  But that’s a fairly lame description of something that could have been interesting.  I’m not good at descriptions, so I can’t offer any suggestions.  Maybe I shouldn’t criticize if I can’t do any better, but that’s what critics do.

Like I said, I don’t blame Dan Brown.  This giant dog is art.  It’s difficult to describe art.  That’s why it’s art.  Art depicts something that is difficult/impossible to put into words.  But a giant jigsaw puzzle of flowers that form the shape of a dog should be verbally more interesting than what Brown came up with.  Here’s another:

A towering black widow spider rose before him, its slender iron legs supporting a bulbous body at least thirty feet in the air.  On the spider’s underbelly hung a wire-mesh egg sac filled with glass orbs.

Again, giant spiders are cool.  How can a professional author NOT come up with a cool description of a giant spider?  I mean, I know the book is about to get into that proof that the teachings of all the religions are dead wrong.  But still, it’s a giant spider.  The giant spider deserved so much more.

One last thing.  It’s tough to read a Dan Brown novel starring Professor Robert Langdon without picturing Tom Hanks.  I’ve never even seen the movies.  I read the books before the movies came out.  Even so, I still picture Tom Hanks.  That might just be me.  I picture Tom Hanks when I read a lot of books.  The last time I tried to read Moby Dick, I pictured Tom Hanks.  I think I was supposed to picture Gregory Peck.

  1. Does he really mean flagrant? Not fragrant?

  2. Unfortunately I read Angels and Demons while sick. It was so horrible that I’ll never read anythinhg else by Dan Brown. He’s overrated, overhyped and overpaid.
    Also I’ve heard that Fifty Shades of Grey is badly written. Ain’t readin’ that commercial tripe either!

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