Dan Brown vs. Dante: An “Inferno” Smackdown for the Ages!
It’s any author’s worst nightmare: another, really well established writer comes out with a novel with the exact same title. There’s the jealousy, the awkward cocktail-party explanations (“no, I wrote the other one”), and the incalculable damage to the first book’s SEO.
Dante Aligheri has been dead for a while, so his reaction to Dan Brown’s new novel Inferno will likely be limited to a little grave-spinning. But that doesn’t mean we can’t put the two writers head-to-head for a little comparison challenge!
In this corner: best-selling novelist, armchair cryptologist, and occasional songwriter Dan “Dan” Brown! And in this corner, Il Sommo Poeta, the Father of the Italian Language himself, Dante “Dan” Aligheri!
Round 1: Early Life and Education
Dan Brown: Born in Exeter, NH, attended the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy and Amherst College, played squash and sang in the glee club. Parents were puzzle-loving types (or maybe just last-minute shoppers) who would send the young Brown on convoluted treasure hunts for his birthday and Christmas presents. A symbologist is born!
Dante: Homeschooled. Read Provençal poetry of the troubadours, studied the greats of Classical poetry, and fought in the Battle of Campaldino. Also was a member of the Florentine physicians’ and apothecaries’ guild, because WHY NOT
Round 1 Winner: Dante, because the sword is mightier than the squash racquet.
Round 2: Secret to Getting Writing Done
Dan Brown: 4 AM wake-up calls, push-ups, and hanging upside down in his favorite pair of gravity boots
Dante: Being exiled from his homeland and subsequently having lots of time on his hands
Round 2 Winner: Dan Brown, because damned if inversion therapy isn’t crazy-cool.
Round 3: Trademark Writing Style
Dan Brown: Straightforward and readable prose that’s better than your average potboiler
Dante: Complicated and interlocking rhyme scheme that’s denser than your average tercet
Round 3 Winner: Dante, because terza rima ain’t for chumps.
Round 4: Lady Love
Dan Brown: Wife Blythe, with whom he co-wrote a book of relationship advice under the pseudonym “Danielle Brown”
Dante: Childhood love Beatrice, for whom he composed some of the greatest works of literature in the Western canon
Round 4 Winner: Dante, because La Vita Nuova will probably stand the test of time better than 187 Men to Avoid: A Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman.
Round 5: Dabbled in…
Dan Brown: Writing and performing such pop-music works as a cassette of children’s music called SynthAnimals and a self-released CD for adults called Perspective
Dante: Pharmacological work and political dissidence
Round 5 Winner: Dan Brown, because I need to get my hands on a copy of SynthAnimals.
Round 6: Most Famous Work
Dan Brown: An adventure story that blends together a modern day narrative with intricate facets of ancient mythology and religious iconography that was nevertheless widely-read and incredibly popular by virtue of its publication in an accessible, vernacular style of language
Dante: Ditto, more or less
Round 6 Winner: Tie
Round 7: Who's on your book cover?
Dan Brown: Dante
Dante: Also Dante
Round 7 Winner: Dante
Final score: Dan Brown 2, Dante 4. We have a winner! So sorry, DB—but you've gotta get up pretty early in the morning to do battle with the original Hellraiser himself. Maybe you just need a little more time in those gravity boots.
BLAIR THORNBURGH is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where she earned a B.A. in medieval studies and delivered a pretty good commencement speech. She lives in Philadelphia.