Saturday, May 27, 2006

Listening to the DaVinci Code

While I was quite familiar with the claims made by Dan Brown about the "factual" bases for his novel, The DaVinci Code, I've never read it. With the release of the film though, I thought I'd need to do this, just to be able to respond to the questions people have about its premises. Instead of being forced to do read it though, my wife rescued me, hitting up a co-worker for the CD-version. I've been playing it in my van during errands over the past few days.

Deep into Disc 2, this is what I think of it: The DaVinci Code is a really bad impression of an implausible Robert Ludlum novel.

Apparently, I'm not alone in my yawning assessment:
There has been much debate over Dan Brown’s novel ever since it was published, in 2003, but no question has been more contentious than this: if a person of sound mind begins reading the book at ten o’clock in the morning, at what time will he or she come to the realization that it is unmitigated junk? The answer, in my case, was 10:00.03, shortly after I read the opening sentence: “Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.” With that one word, “renowned,” Brown proves that he hails from the school of elbow-joggers—nervy, worrisome authors who can’t stop shoving us along with jabs of information and opinion that we don’t yet require...

Should we mind that forty million readers—or, to use the technical term, “lemmings”—have followed one another over the cliff of this long and laughable text? I am aware of the argument that, if a tale has enough grip, one can for a while forget, if not forgive, the crumbling coarseness of the style; otherwise, why would I still read “The Day of the Jackal” once a year? With “The Da Vinci Code,” there can be no such excuse. Even as you clear away the rubble of the prose, what shows through is the folly of the central conceit, and, worse still, the pride that the author seems to take in his theological presumption. How timid—how undefended in their powers of reason—must people be in order to yield to such preening? Are they reading “The Da Vinci Code” because everybody on the subway is doing the same, and, if so, why, when they reach their stop, do they not realize their mistake and leave it on the seat, to be gathered up by the next sucker? Despite repeated attempts, I have never managed to crawl past page 100. As I sat down to watch “The Da Vinci Code,” therefore, I was in the lonely, if enviable, position of not actually knowing what happens.

Of course, there are things worse than The DaVinci Code. Those Left Behind novels come to mind...


Danny said...

I couldn't agree more with the above assessment of the book (even though I never got that far with my audio copy). It just seemed like really lousy writing, from the first sentence on. Is that sour grapes on my part (I haven't exactly sold 40 million copies of anything I've written)? I think the film is equally absurd and offensive on all sorts of levels. But one thing I don't get, not being a Christian, is why on earth it would even matter if they could somehow prove that Jesus did have a relationship with Mary Magdalene. I still don't see why that should have a negative impact on his message or his teachings.

Anonymous said...

Read the book shortly after it was published, needed some light entertainment on a plane ride (I usually do one per trans-continent trip.) Found it to be just another hack story with passable adventure, not a thiller in the Clancy or Grisham realm. Sufficiently flawed and trite to have no lasting value. Was surprised (and agast) at the intensity of interest, particularly by established clergy. There is nothing to defend, explain, or advance. It's just a yarn based on a trumped up premise developed to absurdity, ie. a defintion of fiction.

Mark Daniels said...

I responded to your question in a separate post. Thanks for raising it.

It is a thriller, but a rather bad thriller that appeals to some contemporary prejudices.

The plot is plodding and clunky and the character development is non-existent. The "facts" on which Brown claims the book to be written are not fact, at all, as several journalists and scholars have shown.

My feeling is that were it not for its play on prejudices against Christianity, Opus Dei, the Roman Catholic Church, and the authority of God over our lives, this book would have no appeal. It's scandalous that such prejudices are deemed politically correct and unobjectionable.