'Flat, stunted and ugly': The brotherhood of bestsellers - Macleans.ca

‘Flat, stunted and ugly’: The brotherhood of bestsellers

John Grisham sympathizes with Dan Brown


After novelist Phillip Pullman took a shot at Brown’s “flat, stunted and ugly” prose, John Grisham—who has sold more than 250 million copies of his legal thrillers such as The Pelican Brief and The Firm—came to the defence of the author of The Lost Symbol. “I know that what I do is not literature,” says Grisham. “Of course, I’ve read literature in the classic sense. We’ve all got those type of books on the shelves at home. They made me read them at school and I admit that I didn’t like them much. I couldn’t understand why they were said to be so good.”

The Telegraph

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‘Flat, stunted and ugly’: The brotherhood of bestsellers

  1. "I couldn't understand why they were said to be so good"

    From Great Expectations:

    Mr Jaggers's room was lighted by a skylight only, and was a most dismal place; the skylight, eccentrically patched like a broken head, and the distorted adjoining houses looking as if they had twisted themselves to peep down at me through it. There were not so many papers about, as I should have expected to see; and rhere were some odd objects about, that I should not have expected to see — such as an old rusty pistol, a sword in a scabbard, several strange-looking boxes and packages, and two dreadful casts on a shelf, of faces peculiarly swollen, and twitchy about the nose. Mr Jaggers's own high-backed chair was of deadly black horse-hair, with rows of brass nails round it, like a coffin; and I fancied I could see how he leaned back in it, and bit his forefinger at the clients. The room was but small, and the clients seemed to have had a habit of backing up against the wall: the wall, especially opposite to Mr Jaggers's chair, being greasy with shoulders.

    From Dan brown's new novel:

    Tonight, the Temple Room was lit by a series of precisely arranged candles. Their dim glow was aided only by a pale shaft of moonlight that filtered down through the expansive oculus in the ceiling and illuminated the room's most startling feature—an enormous altar hewn from a solid block of polished Belgian black marble, situated dead center of the square chamber.

    precisely arranged . . . dim . . . pale . . . expansive . . . most startling . . . enormous . . . solid . . . polished . . . black . . . dead . . . square

    No noun without its adjective, no eye without its glaze.

  2. It's Grisham's name that kept leaping to mind whenever Brown's writing was called into question. They both have managed the enviable feat of discovering a psychological vein and mining it for the gold it contains. However, they do so with crude tools and their riches cloud and alter their ability to assess their own work.