I purchased and read Inferno, which was inscrutable and interminable, and as I read I scribbled in its margins. When I finished, my friend David Rees, the artisanal pencil sharpener, asked if he could borrow it. He added his thoughts.
It was fun to see someone else’s words next to mine. I wrote in black pen, in cursive. David wrote in red pencil, in block letters. I was semi-serious. David swore and told a lot of jokes. Usually we agreed, but occasionally we disagreed. Here are some of the highlights.
WARNING: There are probably Dan Brown spoilers here, but come on, seriously.
Very early in Inferno, I realized that Dan Brown’s career-long fetish for ellipses had reached a whole new level. Basically, ellipses are the hero of the book. They make their first appearance on the dedication page.
After a while I started trying to circle all of them, which became a meditative exercise.
Sometimes I would miss one and David would catch it for me.
We spent most of our time in the margins making fun of Dan Brown.
We mocked his pacing,
his artless exposition,
his anti-powers of description,
his careless repetitions,
his weak grasp of human behavior,
his lust for fame,
his characters’ gender stereotypes,
his implausible plot points,
and probably the worst “academic” lecture in the history of fiction.
Along the way, we managed to isolate the keywords of the Dan Brown lexicon.
Sometimes David added illustrations.
Usually, David and I agreed.
But sometimes we didn’t.
Recently I passed the book to another friend, who will add her marginal notes, and then I will pass it to someone else, and then someone else, and on and on until eventually we have written more words in Dan Brown’s book than Dan Brown himself. This seems like the only way to tame the monster at the heart of the Inferno.