To me, the most salient feature of a Dan Brown novel is the manner in which he ineptly inserts flashbacks in order to provide the reader with necessary background information. I suppose that Brown thinks he is livening up the information by presenting it within the framework of a former lecture. These flashbacks invariably entail unlikely enthusiasm on the part of his audience, including unbridled ejaculations of surprise.
The best example comes in The Da Vinci Code, when Professor Langdon is giving a lecture on the feminine properties of the Mona Lisa to prison inmates. That’s right! And during the lecture, the convicts enthusiastically react to his revelations, as if his visit is the best thing to happen to them since their incarceration.
Chapter 6 provides the first example in The Lost Symbol. During his first lecture of the year in his Occult Symbols course, as he introduces the hidden iconography of Washington D.C., students yell out “Awesome,” they hang on his every word, laugh at his every joke, and even recognize Masonic rituals when presented with slides.
These flashback lectures–I am sure there will be more of them in the chapters ahead–are so inauthentic as to border on the absurd. Robert Langdon has the charisma of a dirty sock puppet, yet in every situation, he is welcomed like a modern day Demosthenes.
Every one of these flashbacks is so awkward as to induce nausea. But I soldier on.
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