Thursday, January 20, 2005

The fine art of criticism

Three weeks ago I wrote a blog posting that included one of my semi-weekly swipes at the Da Vinci code.
I've deliberately held back from laying into that book recently as I was patently becoming a bore on the subject. Yes, I have tried to show restraint. Even after my recent trip to Hungary when I witnessed literally dozens of people staring with glazed, bored-sh*tless eyes at Dan Brown books, written in a variety of languages, in airport lobbies, train stations and bus stops on the journey to and from here and Budapest.

Anyway, in my most recent shot at the Da Vinci code I mentioned that Dan Brown had patently stolen all of his material, including the plot and all of his 'meticulous research', from The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail and another book called The Da Vinci Legacy by a guy called Lewis Perdue. I also mentioned that The Da Vinci Legacy wasn't that crash-hot a novel. Not bad as such, just not brilliant.

Lewis Perdue left a comment on my blog a few days ago.

Lewis is clearly a sport and included the line 'For what it's worth, Da Vinci Legacy is not my best book ... fortunately I write better than I did 21 years ago. If you have some time, try Daughter of God or Slatewiper ... both a lot better.'

I probably will pick up a copy of one of his later books to make amends. After all, he's published. I'm not. The guy clearly is more committed than I am and/or writes better than I do. Sorry Lewis.

He also left a link to the latest on his plagiary case against Dan Brown

Fingers crossed on that one. Brown and his publishing house deserve to be gutted like fishes.

This is the second time something like this has happened to me recently. A few months ago a famous photographer, Bill Eggleston, wrote to me in response to a page that I had written that included the word 'Eggleston', 'Photographs' and 'Sh*t' in the same sentence. He too proved to be a good sport and left me feeling that I didn’t have a skin tough enough to become a literary or art critic. Bill even went so far as to invite me for a drink over Christmas time but then stopped writing a little before then; possibly because I stopped saying how rubbish his pictures were. Nobody likes a toady.

Anyway, I've learned that, when writing web pages, it's worth remembering that artists and other public figures have feelings too and some of them appear to have time enough on their hands to do Google searches on their own names. So, don’t write anything you wouldn’t say to their faces. Well, I'm still on safe ground writing stuff like this then …

  • Dan Brown's books are so terrible they leave me questioning the value of human existence
  • Tony Blair is a lying, blood-stained lunatic who will burn in Hell
  • Bono and his luvvy mates should dip their hands into their own pockets a bit more for a change and lay-off thinking that being pop stars makes their opinions more worthy of a showcase than anyone else's
I even thought about writing something negative about a public figure I want to meet in the hope that they would be lured, Perdue and Eggleston style, into contacting me. Sadly, I couldn’t come up with anyone. Anyone alive that is. So, unless someone finds a way to wire the Internet into the Afterlife I'll give up on that plan for now. Actually, that's not strictly true. I did toy with the idea of writing a post entitled 'Cameron Diaz - that ugly old trout' but I'm a happily unmarried man who would certainly choke if presented with a naked movie goddess saying 'Take me! Take me! Abuse me more you bounder!'; so I gave up on that idea as well.


Geek's Girl said...

So A Published Author reads your blog - I'm impressed. And I hope you realise that you're actually quite good at this blogging thing. And I'll go out and find some Lewis Perdue to read so that I can still be allowed to comment here and not come across as totally ignorant (though I realise it might be a bit late for that.

Stef said...

I think Lewis has read my blog because he's being doing searches on his name. Given that he's in the process of taking Dan Brown's publishers on in court I guess he's keeping on eye on what's being said on the web.

I read a couple of his books many moons ago when I went through a phase of being interested in the themes now covered in The Da Vinci Code - hidden history / suppression of the feminine side of religion. I can't comment on his later works and even Lewis says his work has developed and improved since writing the books I read.

Bottom line on The Da Vinci Code thing. I find it really depressing that a book that is badly written and a blatent rip of other books has been so successful. It really does prove that marketing is more important than merit and that you can sell people any old dung if you package it right. Not good. Not good.

Lewis Perdue said...

Yeah, I originally did read your blog because of doing searches to keep up with things, but have enjoyed it since then ... especially the photos...

Your comments about books, packaging and marketing are spot on. If you want to read something that will bring tears to your eyes, check out:

Which has some facts that are outrageous ...

But denial doesn't sell books ... a writer can either stay in touch with reality and try to deal with the commercial realities (thus paying the bills with royalties) or get another job to pay the bills ... or live in a cardboard condo ... Obviously there is a continuum of moral superiority points ranging from zero (pay the bills) to artistic sainthood (kraft paper).

I nearly died for my art when I was an ivestigating reporter. Ain't doin' that any more.

Finally ... yes, creative people have feelings, but we need to realize:

(a) not everybody is going to love us,
(b) everyone has a right to their opinion no matter how extreme,
(c) The Internet has made (b) a global event and
(d) Learn to live with all of the above or do something else.

Do you every get by Stanford Maps near Covent garden?

Stef said...


Thanks for the link. I'm still digesting it.

And the comments.

You may have picked up on the fact that I'm toying with writing something, probably set in London and definitely to a theme/ genre that I know to be commercial. I was discussing this with friends a few nights ago and one of them said ...

'If you compromise what you write by writing to a market it won't be very good'

I laughed. Since when has being very good been the key to success? There's plenty of good stuff out there that gets lost in the background noise.

and, yes, I do pass Stanfords quite regularly. Pre Internet and GPS days it used to be a favourite haunt. Why?

Lewis Perdue said...

I wrote something on London years ago, The Queensgate Reckoning, which was the book before The Da Vinci Legacy and, was arguably even worse-written ... it was a bestseller, but the writing?

What I remember most was how I was nearly arrested by the cops with the checkered hats. I was on Queensgate across the street from the Iraqi military mission and several of them detained me for a while. Seems as if they thought I looked as if I was plotting an assassination.

Well, I was.

But for fiction, not for real. They informed me that it looks the same either way. I suppose in this day and age they would simply have shot me. And the world could have been spared yet another badly written bestseller.

Fortunately, I had a copy of my previous book, Delphi Betrayal, in my rucksack (carried for just such occasions like this. On day, I'll tell you how a copy got me past the guards and into the offices of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions in Belgium) and gave it to them. Signed, of course. And they let me go.

Later that afternoon, I had a couple of beefy guys dressed in badly cut suits come running at me from the Russian embassy as I was taking pictures of it. (This would have been 1981 or so). Because I had no more books left in my rucksack, I ran too. A lot faster than they did.

When I reached Kensington High Street, I decided I had done enough research for the day and returned to my B&B, plugged a coin into the heater (It was Dec.) and pored over my Nicholson's to see where would be a good place to kill someone in an appropriately interesting, creative and spectacular manner.