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This time it’s a tossup. From the same page as yesterday:

1. As he clambered awkwardly out of bed, a searing hot pain tore into his right forearm.

2. Crouched beside Marconi’s body, Dr. Brooks kept searching for a pulse as tears welled in her eyes.

Number One: “Hey, Professor!  I’m stupider than that Number Two!  Look, I’m not only redundant, I’m redundantly redundant.  How many people clamber deftly?  How can you sear a steak with ice?  I’m double dumb for sure!”

Number Two: “Don’t listen to that drivel, Professor!  Listen to this drivel!  He’s at least grammatical.  But how can somebody “be crouched”?  Or “be sat,” or “be knelt”?  Number Two, dumb are you!”

Number One: “So he don’t know grammar.  I don’t know common sense!  I have some pain or other tearing into the guy’s arm—like a flying knife or something.  Gotta watch out or those pains will tear into you!  Number One, you’re the—something that rhymes with ‘one’—Number One, you’re the One!”

Number Two: “He don’t know common sense?  How much common sense do you have if some guy is shot in the chest, and you’re in a hospital, and you’re not yelling for help?  And her eyes are welling with tears.  Well now, that’s a big surprise!  Number Two is what we do!”

How about it, friends?  Which one wins the Golden Chamberpot Award?

***

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of “symbology,” which apparently is the study of symbs, giving a lecture on Dante:

“This is Haman the Agagite, who, according to Scripture, was hanged to death.  However, in Dante’s poem, he was crucified instead.  As you can see here in the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo chose Dante’s version over that of the Bible.”  Langdon grinned and lowered his voice to a whisper.  “Don’t tell the pope.”  The crowd laughed.

OK, Danny, let’s get something straight.  Every pope for the last thousand years has been at least bilingual (Latin, and his native tongue), and most of them have been fluent in three or four languages, as all learned Europeans were.  The man who was pope when you wrote that stupid paragraph above, Benedict XVI, is probably a fluent speaker or reader of seven or eight languages, easily (Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German, Italian, French, English, Spanish).

I mention it, Danny, because your defenders say that you write reely good page-turnin’ stuff, and that they larn things from it, shore they do!  So Danny, do you think a Harvard professor of “symbology” should be able to READ?  As in, the BIBLE that Dante and Michelangelo read?  For the Bible that Dante and Michelangelo read says that Haman was hanged upon a cross.  He wasn’t hanged by the neck.  He was suspended from a gallows / tree / cross—the words are patibulum, lignum, and crux, the same words as are used in the BIBLE and in Latin hymns to describe the cross of Christ.

In other words, the cross of Haman is a “type” or foreshadowing of the cross of Christ.  It is EXACTLY the kind of reading that Christians engaged in—to see the Old Testament as foreshadowing the new.  Ya think that a professor from Hahvahd who studies “symbs” and gives lectures on Dante would know that?  Especially since Dante himself explicitly says that that’s how to read Scripture and his poem?

But of course the message here is that the Pope is a dunce and a meanie, while ol’ Robert Langdon, professor of symbs, is the smartypants.  Postcript to Bob: “Hanged to death” makes as much sense in English now as “beheaded to death.”  If only we could hang this novel!

***

Robert Langdon, symbologist—fluent in Symbionese—speaking to an audience at Harvard, a black hole in Cambridge where reason goes to die:

“Well, as all of you authors know, there is nothing a writer appreciates more than a blurb—one of those single-line endorsements from a powerful individual, designed to make others want to buy your work.”

How nice of you, Dan, to give us that definition—a description of the conventional meaning of a word—in a parenthetical phrase—a phrase within parentheses or commas or dashes, set apart from the rest of the sentence—a rhetorical unit of discourse consisting of a subject and a predicate!  The audience nodded, an up-and-down motion of the head, which in English speaking nations denotes approval, but which, in the Tierra del Fuego and the far-flung Isles of Langerhans, means, “Whitey is ready to be cooked.”

Langdon, alas, continues, that is to say, he resumes his speech, forming with his tongue, teeth, larynx, and oral cavity those words designed to express what he had conceived within that part of the skull where, according to the ancients, the brains of some are deposited, but which Nature, in her provident care for those destined to rule great empires or write best-selling books for the New York Times, had made perfectly solid.

***

Next: Robert Langdon, simp, continues with his lecture at Ha’v’d, on the subject of blurbs:

“And, in the Middle Ages, blurbs existed, too.  And Dante got quite a few of them.”  Langdon changed slides.  “How would you like to have this on your book jacket?”  Ne’er walked the earth a greater man than he. –Michelangelo

They existed, did they?  You mean, “There were blurbs in the Middle Ages,” right?  Before the printing press?  News flash to Dan Brown!  Before the printing press, there were no presses, see?  No presses to market the books that the non-existing presses wanted to press on a non-existing base of customers.  There are no blurbs in the Middle Ages.  Indeed, there are no blurbs anywhere until a Mr. Roland Edgeworth, of West Spasmodic, New York, found one clinging to the underside of his prefabricated outhouse in 1892.  He promptly removed it with alcohol and a lighted match, and sent it to the Smithsonian, where it may be seen to this day.

There are no blurbs in the Middle Ages.  None.  There are no book jackets in the Middle Ages.  There is no advertising in the Middle Ages.  After the invention of the printing press, when presses started existing, then affordable books started existing, and there existed poets who were friends of the author, who would write commendatory poems, not blurbs, and these commendatory poems would exist inside the book, before the main work.  Dante got no blurbs.  Michelangelo existed and wrote a sonnet in Dante’s honor.  It wasn’t a commendatory poem for an edition.  It was just that he admired Dante.

***

Same lecture, by Robert Langdon, professor of simplisms, speaking to an audience at Harvard, all of them bearing a telltale scar across their foreheads:

“In this portrait, as in nearly all depictions, he wears on his head a red cappuccio—a tight-fitting, plaited hood with earflaps—which, along with his crimson Lucca robe, has become the most widely reproduced image of Dante.”

So, then, he wears a hat on his head.  I am glad of that.  I like order, I do.  I shall take my writerly cues from Danny:

“In this painting, as in nearly all portrayals, he sits upon his chair with his arse—a large fleshy cushion positioned for convenience between his legs and his back.”

But let’s not miss the eerie image he has portrayed for us in his depiction.  The red hood, with that not red but crimson Lucca robe, has become an image of Dante.

“Che cosa you portraya in your painting, Raphaelle?”

“Atsa matta fo’ you!  Is Dante!”

“Dante?  Che Dante?  All I see is a hat and a big coat, a-floating in the air like the butterflies!”

“Cretino!  A hat and a big coat, she’s a Dante!”

 

Related: Stupid Sentences of the Day from Dan Brown

Stupid Sentences of the Day from Dan Brown, II
 
About the Author
Anthony Esolen 

Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College. His most recent book is Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Press). He also translated Dante's Divine Comedy for Modern Library Classics.
 
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