Monday, August 17, 2009

Exercises in Futility - Part One: Dan Brown.

Tim over at Cultural Snow was bragging how he was plugged in The Time Online - in an article about Dan Brown's wretched book on art history, or whatever it was about.

I think that part of the success of that book came from Dan Brown's trick of peppering the text with some high-falutin' words, not a lot, just enough to make the reader feel smarter than they actually is... are... whatever.

My sample word for Mr Brown is "plethora". This is a damn tough word, hey? You must be pretty damn smart if y'all know what that word means! It's not a word you come across every day (unless you're reading TD-VC over and over). When you were first confronted by that funny looking word, plethora, on page 133, you had to check the meaning, then when you saw it again on 142 you could say, hey, I KNOW that word! You checked again just to make sure, but come pages 183 and 213 and you are cruising you interlectural you!

Now, there may be other words (in fact I've already claimed as much) that Danny Boy uses, but this word was noted by a friend of mine who is not stupid yet somehow enjoys reading that sort of stuff (she obviously gets all the intellectual stimulation she can handle teaching eight year-olds) and it's late so we'll only play the game for this word for tonight.

Myself, I almost gave up life itself after reading the clanger that cliff-hangs Chapter 4: "As he stood up, Langdon was beginning to suspect it was going to be a very looooooooooong night."

Ugh. This is the chapter-ending equivalent of, "The young orphan girls were starkers in the dorm nightly...", sorry, that's the book I'm reading now... I meant Bulwer-Lytton's, "It was a dark and stormy night". But I persisted, mopping the blood from my eyes for the remainder of the process. BTW I pictured Harrison Ford as the main guy...


Here is the task for you. If you don't feel up to it, skip to the end of the paragraph. Go to Amazon. Load up Da Vinci Code and run your cursor over the book-cover. Up comes the 'Search Inside' tool window. Type in "plethora". The answer? A stunning 4.

Is that a lot? Maybe it's normal to say "plethora" four times in a book. Hey, books have lots of words, right? only stands to reason some are going to be repeated. Repeatedly. So your task, should you choose to accept it, is to check other books...

Ok, now do the same for "David Copperfield". Result? 0.

Do the same for "Moby Dick". 0.

Do the same for "Crime and Punishment". 0.

Do the same for "Ulysses". 2. (Dan Brown readers are twice as smart as James Joyce readers!)

Do the same for "Seven Pillars of Wisdom". 0.

Even with the encyclopedic compendiousness of Ulysses, Joyce only needs to use "plethora" twice. DB needed it four times. Amazing... I'll go to My Recommendations.

"Things Fall Apart", "The Stranger", "The Family Mashber"(?), "A Hundred Years of Solitude" -- well, I've been looking at all the classics for this exercise and it has thrown these up for me now, a classic case of the test spoiling the result -- anyway, all of them were 0.

OK, I'll try some trashy novels, and who is trashier than Stephen King or Clive Cussler? (hat tip to my fans Smoot and Indy!)

The Shining, 'Salem's Lot, Carrie = 0

Atlantis Found, Night Probe! (I bet it was dark and stormy the night they probed!), Inca Gold. 0, 0 and 0.

Man, I'm resting my case. In fact, I'm resting my tush.

Anyone who can find a novel that uses the word "plethora" more plethorically than Dan Brown does will win a prize, yet to be determined, to be delivered personally by me (airfares not included) on the escalator to the National Library of Singapore (which I descended yesterday to read "Mind At The End Of Its Tether - and promptly fell asleep, god it was boring load of piffle, lucky I didn't pay for the privilege) at a time and date of my choosing.

Anyone who can suggest an appropriate prize will also be eligible to win a prize.


I'm going to bed, it's late again...

This post is even more futile than I thought, as I've just remembered that I blogged about this before, and much more amusingly. It was a long time ago though, back before Amazon had that 'search inside' tool.



Dick Headley said...

Too much civet cat coffee I reckon.

expat@large said...

I reckon.

Indiana said...

Here is that link I mentioned to you the other night:

Plethora really doesn't mean what people think it means.

expat@large said...

Well, in that true sense then, there is a plethora of plethoras in DaVinci code!

"Dissinterested" is another word that doesn't mean exactly what many think it means. As in "The bank was dissinterested in giving me a housing loan."

Unknown said...

And there is a Plethora of Plethora's in your blog. You used it more than Danny Boy, so you must be reel intilligunt. and so are I cos I know what it mean.


savannah said...

amazing, isn't it? there's absolutely no accounting for taste in reading material these days. *sigh* xoxox

expat@large said...

Bludge: The true meaning of plethora is 'more than necessary' - the thickening and increased number of lines above normal in a chest x-ray in certain diseases is said to be 'plethoric'. I used exactly the right number of times.

Sav: up against the wall, no last cigarette, for DB readers.

knobby said...

...except that it's spelled 'disinterested'!

prize suggestion: a personalised card that reads, "You have FAR TOO MUCH time on your hands, Mr ___"

expat@large said...

Knobby: thanks' two misstakes can't be typpos, can they?

Anyway, it is quite ironic that 'disinterested' is not what the bank would be, irregardless of what you might think.

They in fact ARE plethorically 'interested', as in 'partial' (as in "not impartial") or 'involved'.

And so, after they peruse my deceptively pristine lifestyle and detect the ironic enormity of my spending habits, are are they more likely to be nonplussed or bemused?

knobby said...


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