Before I began writing this letter, I spent an unnecessary amount of time wondering whether I should address it to you, or to Langdon. My first instinct was to go with Langdon. The man spends so much time using big words and explaining things – that is to say: he makes an idea or a situation clear to the other characters by describing it in more detail, or revealing relevant facts. But then, so do you. As does your other leading male character, Teabing (who also happens to be a white academic just like Langdon – but I’ll let that slide since one is American and the other is British, and I can see that you have made a solid effort to create wonderfully diverse men.)
Good fellow, I must tell you about the moment when I was reading your book, when I had to put it down so that I could applaud. (And not just in my mind. I did not simply think, “Applause, Mr Brown,” I actually applauded with my hands and everything.) You have just described a scene in which Langdon is talking about the history of the Holy Grail (one of his many concise, succinct, incisive, crisp orations), and you write, “Langdon explained.” This is natural enough. As the author of the book, it is indeed your job to provide your reader with painstakingly thorough accounts of exactly what each character is doing from one semi-moment to the next. (God knows you might risk losing our attention if you don’t.) Now, you can imagine my surprise – which immediately turned to awe for your sheer boldness – when, after only a few short paragraphs, you describe Langdon as being worried that he didn’t explain something else!
Must you be so hard on the boy? I have to admit, Dan, my heart went out to him in that moment. Langdon spends all his time explaining. Why can’t you see that? He explains quietly, and excitedly, quickly, and slowly, all the time explaining-explaining. I ask you, how will he grow into a well-rounded character if he is whole day only explaining everything to everyone (Sophie)? I mean, once you introduced Teabing, I was expecting them to share the burden of explaining, but my God, again you took me by surprise – there was not to be any sharing, because of course you saw the perfect opportunity to turn it into a ‘Whose Explanation Is Longer’ competition. A fine game which Sophie understandably wasn’t allowed to compete in.
Before you start thinking that I am anti-competition, let me calm your worries. I have grown up playing Scrabble with my mother – a woman so competitive, she takes her tiles with her on bathroom breaks. Therefore, I will be so bold (something you have taught me) to suggest that if you are going to entertain such serious competition between two of your leading characters, you must give us some idea of who has the advantage at certain points. It is only a common misconception that fair competition is the best competition. No one wants to see two runners jogging alongside each other, round, after round, after round, on the same round track, no one losing, no one winning, but everyone falling asleep. You must have realised this, too, because after one of Teabing’s particularly long explanations, Sophie only says, “Okay.” In a flash of intuition, I felt the exhaustion that you must have felt when you barely managed to get that one word of response out.
However, I feel it is my duty to bring to your attention a certain trend of thought amongst a handful of your readers. I must unfortunately tell you that there are those who have asked why your female characters say so little. Some have even argued that it is often difficult to remember that Sophie is still in the room, and that Langdon should have sacrificed a few pages worth of Grail information to occasionally remark, “Sophie! You’re still here?! I was so terribly absorbed in important thoughts that I almost forgot!” To them, I say, have you so easily forgotten that wonderful scene in which Sophie’s grandmother, Pamela, makes it very clear to Langdon that a lady in her position would indeed know the whereabouts of the Grail? I believe her exact words were, “Mr Langdon, I was, after all, married to a person of enormous influence.” So there!
In closing, Mr Brown, I would like to thank you for the thrilling journey you took me on. You know how when you’re in an airplane, it feels like you’re not moving at all? Good God, I took a trip around the world with your book.
Until next time.
Your faithful reader,
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