Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dan Brown, where is thy sting?

Cartoon pointed out by Marcelle

At the height of its popularity, people would ask me if I had read The Da Vinci Code.

"No," I would say.

"Why not? Are you afraid that it might test your faith?" the last three words always pronounced half-teasingly half-gravely.

And actually, no. It was simply because I could never get past the first chapter of the book. Dan Brown's writing is simply atrocious, reminiscent of a juvenile Tom Clancy. Oh, yes, he's a bestselling author who could probably buy his own $47-million building in Manhattan, but that won't make me change my opinion.

Luckily, I have friends like Jute to give me a humorous rundown of the book. Unfortunately, it's pretty hard to access that portion of her site owing to her funky template.

So now comes the movie, and after the initial furor...I guess the general reaction I'm seeing on the web is a lot of shrugging and head-scratching. The movie hasn't come to Dumaguete as yet, and my friend tells me there's not a bootleg copy to be found from the usual sources. Even if it does, would it be worth the fuss?

Lauren of Laurganism.com calls for a ban of the movie, but not for the reasons that we think. The indomitable MLQ3 calls the movie a crapfest. He also provides links to Morofilm's reviews, as well as a step-by-step deconstruction from Howstuffworks.com.

Nothing sums it up better than a review from Filmstew:
The feeling moved quickly from one of great anticipation to one of, shockingly, great boredom...instead of the film building to a white knuckle conclusion, it was the audience fidgeting as Da Vinci passed the two-hour mark and unveiled the first of its half-dozen endings...by the time the big climactic moment of the film finally arrived, the audience burst out laughing, as if this were yet another classic bit of Tom Hanks comedy.

All of this is a bit of a letdown. I was actually hoping to see some sparks fly, if only for the philosophical discourse that was to follow, but it looks like I'll be disappointed.

O Dan Brown, where is thy sting? (And Ron Howard, too.)

To close things off with a high geek quotient, here's a piece of code from The Curt Jester, as pointed by Claire:
namespace DVC
class DaVinciCode : HolyBloodHolyGrail
// Set values, later to be overridden by Dan Brown method
bool monksInOpusDei = false;
bool jesusMarriedMaryMagdalene = false;
bool existenceOfPrioryOfZion = false;
bool bibleCollatedByConstantine = false;
bool nicaeaCreatedDivinityOfChrist = false;
bool gospelsLaterEditedToSupportClaims = false;
bool cupMissingFromLastSupper = false;
bool saintJohnNotInPicture = false;

public void Book()
while (peopleWillingToBelieveAnything && christianBashingAcceptable)

if (asLongAsItIsNotTheVirginMary)

mainStreamMediaChallengeCredibility = false;

string excuse = "It's a fictional book";
string action = "Spend hours writing to debunking books complaining that "
+ excuse;
bool seeContradictionSpendingTimeDefendingFiction = false;
foreach (media outlet in mainStreamMedia)
bool freePublicity = true;
bool notPointOutObviousFlaws = true;
bool dontOffendMuslimsAtAllCosts = true;
bool christianBashingOkayThough = true;
bool misrepresentOpusDei = true;
bool askIsJusticeScaliaAMember = true;


Curt Jester also has other humorous content, including a review of The Baloney Code.

Yes, it's a real book. A parody of a parody. What could be more ironic than that?


  1. I enjoyed the book a lot, and I thought the movie was ok, but not exceptionally good. But then again, my taste in books and movies are probably much more pedestrian than yours.

    The book I picked up, and couldnt put down until I finished it. Having the Opus Dei as the bad guys helped, probably ;-). The conspiracy theories I took as purely fiction, but I was willing to go along with them for as long as I was reading the book.

    The book actually reads more like a screenplay than a novel, which makes it disappointing that the movie did not come out better than it did.

  2. Oh, I enjoy a good yarn, but it has to be a well-written yarn.

    If you want more Church and Opus Dei conspiracies in fiction, try David Morrell's "Brotherhood of the Rose" and "Fraternity of the Stone." Those predate DVC by more than a decade.

  3. Dominique,

    I suggest you go the whole hog - become a member of the Opus Dei and write about it.

    More fun, more thrilling. Hah!

  4. Hi, HB: been there, done that. ;-) Not a bad place to be in, actually.

  5. DOM,
    I haven't actually seen the movie. But been studying the Apocrypha a little more. Although the Gospel according to Judas is of intrinsic archaeological and historical interest, from a literary point of view I really like the Gospel according to Thomas the Doubter (Zen like christianity) and this week discovered Gospel According to Mary Magdalene which apparently was well known. She was some kind of Amazona ala NPA after Christ died...maybe Jesus was a political rebel fighting the Roman imperialists. She was his Gabriela Silang! And they WERE lovers I am convinced of that. For who would show up at the tomb of a crucified condemned rebel recently crucified by Pilate and the Sanhedrin?

    Who shows up at the place of execution to claim the body nowadays on Death Row after...? but mother and wife or daughter?

    If one does not believe ANY of the Gospels were "divinely inspired" while others were mere inventions, then the genre of Greek writing we call the New Testament and the Apocrypha take on a whole new meaning.

    Not that we can PROVE anything ... but a literary appreciation of let us say Rizaliana would be rather lame if all that were included in it as canonical were the two great novels.

  6. The central mystery of abiding interest to me is HOW did Christianity as a religion get started to begin with, before it became the state religion of the Holy Roman Empire?

    In other words, WHAT created the genre of Jesus story telling in the first and second centuries, if one tries to find or imagine a NONSUPERNATURAL explanation of the phenomenon that a religion got started and it is the world's dominant faith 2000 years later.

    Clearly it has something to do with the "miracle" of Jesus resurrection and how the people of Jerusalem and Israel of the mid first century reacted to it.

    It might be interesting as a WRITING exercise to write a Gospel According to Dominique (or according to Dean or anybody elese) that takes up the story of Jesus and imagines some plausible set of circumstances that led to the Holy Roman Empire, the establishment of Christianity.

  7. Here's one plot line:

    For thirty years Jesus was essentially a monk at the Essene Monastery in the mountains high above the Dead Sea. He was produced by their rather odd breeding program that merely replenished their fixed number whenever someone was about to die by recruiting suitably selected women to bear sons for them under conditions that we, and the gullible in those towns, might think was "virgin birth". For the Essenes are learned men and women, scientists, historians, herbalists, medical doctors, educators...Jesus was their most brilliant and sensitive recruit. He would grow in their knowledge for 30 years before going out and beginning his own, perilous and eventually tragic ministry. He would be mistaken for a political leader, which perhaps he was, I cannot see too clearly about that in the dim mists of the past...But yes, there is a great love story too in the person of Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, a loose unmarried woman, a harlot, madly in love with the charismatic teacher of crowds.

    Now we know part of the rest, the part where he is arrested, tortured, crucified. But died? Well yes and know...after the Centurion pierces his side with a lance but decides NOT to break his legs... a glimpse through his helmet reveals a secret emblem in the middle of forehead, a mystic "E" for the Essene brotherhood!

    Jesus appears to be dead, indeed, for all intents and purposes in First Century Judea, he IS dead. Fifty thousand in the crowd of Jews, Romans, gentiles SEE him die!

    But...they "bury him in the tomb"...Essene technology whirs into action, his brothers have anticipated the shock that crucifixion brings, the collapse of the lungs, the loss of consciousness...but ...but they are ready for the greatest miracle they have ever performed...to resuscitate a man thought and believed by them to be dead.

    And perhaps it IS a miracle, certainly that is what the crowds would have thought seeing the crucified Jesus later in the market places showing off his wounds or their healed scars!

    In that millieu, a Religion would have gotten started for sure!

    Apostasy? or Occam's Razor?

  8. Dean,

    Must say the way you tell the story makes it a perfect synopsis for A book.

    On the other hand, when you say, that Magdalene was in love with Jesus - you're probably right because Jesus was an extraordinary man but I don't know if they were lovers because not all women who fall in love with great men become their lovers.

    Just look at Mahatma Ghandi. He had two female sort of nuns who were with him all the time who took care of him better than his wife did; they were devoted to him and perhaps, really madly, greatly in love with the persona - looked after him when he was so weak coz of his hunger strike, had to bathe him too, etc. but none of the two girls (I think one was a niece and the other was just an overly devoted fan) was a lover of Mahatma's.

    Didn't Ghandi become profuse with shame when one morning he woke up with his manhood at attention which was quite a natural phenomenon, perhaps more so because of the proximity with the two girls but he himself apologized to the girls - they aint lovers so to speak.

    Some women are capable of just outright devotion to the person they serve but they don't transgress the physical thinggy and are happy with the sterile, platonic sort of relationship.

    In other words, I could very well believe the passionate Gabriela Silang in Magdalene becoming physically tame in front of her Lord and Master.

  9. I thought I was the only one who hasn't read the book.

    The controversy surrounding the book is a marketeer's (and publisher) wet dream come true.

    -Hoovenson "who often forgets to sign and too lazy to register" Haw

  10. Dan Brown's style if I may so has become so predictable. He has a knack of weaving a good story plot that he does not really develop into a logical ending. He does develop a good chase which is what the problem is all about that makes me turn the page. But why is it that when I read him, I keep trying to see the gaps? My first Dan Brown book was Deception Point. Then the Da vinci Code. Well, the two kept me chasing indeed but first I had to read The Golden Ratio which was a tangled spider's web that somehow made sense upon second reading. And so I moved on to Dan Brown's Digital Fortress. Did you notice the holes in this one too? But then, when I read John Grisham's The Broker right after Digital Fortress, I found a lot of holes as well. Overall, I usually say the movie versions don't equal the book. I usually say to myself it's because we have more freedom to create on our own while reading--scenes and other possibilities.

  11. I didn't know Leonardo was a C# coder 500 years before C# on .NET was released. :) Anyways, for us VB lovers, it might be easy to undertand if the code was written in VB.NET

    Namespace DVC

    Public Class DaVinciCode
    Inherits HolyBloodHolyGrail

    ' Set values, later to be overridden by Dan Brown method
    Private monksInOpusDei As Boolean = False
    Private jesusMarriedMaryMagdalene As Boolean = False
    Private existenceOfPrioryOfZion As Boolean = False
    Private bibleCollatedByConstantine As Boolean = False
    Private nicaeaCreatedDivinityOfChrist As Boolean = False
    Private gospelsLaterEditedToSupportClaims As Boolean = False
    Private cupMissingFromLastSupper As Boolean = False
    Private saintJohnNotInPicture As Boolean = False

    Public Sub Book()

    While (peopleWillingToBelieveAnything And christianBashingAcceptable)
    bookSales = bookSales + 1
    movieHype = movieHype + 1
    danBrownsBankAccount = danBrownsBankAccount + 1
    historicalAccuracy = historicalAccuracy - 1
    artHistoryAccuracy = artHistoryAccuracy - 1
    skepticism = skepticism - 1
    badWriting = badWriting + 1
    If (asLongAsItIsNotTheVirginMary) Then divineFeminineSupport = divineFeminineSupport + 1
    Dim mainStreamMediaChallengeCredibility As Boolean = False
    Dim excuse As String = "It's a fictional book"
    Dim action As String = "Spend hours writing to debunking books complaining that " & excuse
    Dim seeContradictionSpendingTimeDefendingFiction As Boolean = False
    For Each outlet As media In mainStreamMedia
    Dim freePublicity As Boolean = True
    Dim notPointOutObviousFlaws As Boolean = True
    Dim dontOffendMuslimsAtAllCosts As Boolean = True
    Dim christianBashingOkayThough As Boolean = True
    Dim misrepresentOpusDei As Boolean = True
    Dim askIsJusticeScaliaAMember As Boolean = True

    End While

    End Sub
    End Class

    End Namespace

    More power Dom.