In fan-fiction parlance, the Gary Stu is the male equivalent of a Mary Sue, a fictional character who acts as a place-holder for the wish fulfilment fantasies of the author.
This morning, in a shameful moment of weakness and curiosity (brought on, no doubt, by not having had my coffee yet), I picked up Dan Brown’s new novel, The Lost Symbol, sequel to the magnificently awful The Da Vinci Code. With my evening free because the Devil is reaping souls in Wales, I began to read, and on page 8, came across this piece of hilarity:
‘I hate to embarrass you, Professor,’ the woman said, sounding sheepish, ‘but you are the Robert Langdon who writes books about symbols and religion, aren’t you?’
Langdon hesitated and then nodded.
‘I thought so!’ she said, beaming. ‘My book group read your book about the sacred feminine and the church! What a delicious scandal that one caused! You do enjoy putting the fox in the henhouse!’
Langdon smiled. ‘Scandal wasn’t really my intention.’
If that weren’t enough proof, further down the same page:
Langdon glanced down at his attire. He was wearing his usual charcoal turtleneck, Harris Tweed jacket, khakis, and collegiate cordovan loafers…his standard attire for the classroom, lecture circuit, author photos, and social events.
And so I turn to the author photo of Dan Brown on the back flap of the jacket, and lo and behold – he is wearing a tweed jacket, khakis, and the irritatingly smug grin of a very poor writer who has become very rich indeed. He probably has on loafers, but the picture doesn’t show his feet. Although I suppose it’s entirely possible he’s still got on his gravity boots.
Still – for a book with a retail price of £18.99, WH Smith was very kind to charge me only £5. (And yes, I put down the book, having only reached page 8, to write this blog post. For the curious among you, it has not yet turned out to be a page-turner.)