{    Cnytr   }

{Thursday, June 09, 2005  }

.:{I know it's been done before, but here is myself...}:.

Out of boredom and curiosity, I have undertaken the Herculean task of reading a book.

*shock* Did a little Dominican just say that? A "Herculean task"? When is reading a book a Herculean task? I'll tell you: reading a book is a Herculean task when it's The Da Vinci Code.

You will recall that Hercules, a demi-god of Greek mythology, the son of Zeus who died at the hand of his wife, undertook seven tasks (note the symbolic number), including Dreaming the Impossible Dream, Burping the Alphabet in Three Seconds and Getting His Car To Stop Making That Sound.

And thence such impossibly large tasks are called "Herculean", which you will note is similar to the word hurrrrggghhhh, which is the sound you make when lifting something really heavy.

And I read this book, and it was hard because I wanted to put it down because it was so terrible. But nevertheless, I persisted. I kept on. I continued reading. I persevered. I decided to remain reading the book because it was so popular. But it was really hard because I was bored. Nevertheless, I kept reading. Like Hercules trying again and again until he finally was able to Drink An Entire Gallon of Milk Without Dying or Vomiting.

Think my prose idiotic? That's exactly the way Dan Brown likes to beat his audience over the head again and again with glaringly false entymology, stupid and half-false myths and origins of things. He also seems to think that the more he repeats things, the more his audience will believe or understand him. In actuality, we figured out the whole book in the first two chapters minus some minor details. We solve the puzzles faster than the paper-thin characters of Robert and Sophie and for someone whose name actually means "Wisdom", she's pretty rock-dumb. She has maybe two minutes of shining glory where she earned my respect -- at the point where we first met her -- but her character soon fizzled and died, becoming less than an "ignotus" in a dialogue.

In fact, that's what The Da Vinci Code is. It's rather like Galileo's publicizing his findings in a vulgar/popular format rather than a scholarly format, and making the target audience (the Church or, more specifically, Pope Urban VIII) the Stupid character. And not just the nesciens, the "how right you are!" guy who's always hanging around in Plato's dialogues, but the wide, doe-eyed, naive kid who practically screams out "oh! teach me! tell me your wisdom! And then sleep with me."

Except, of course, for the obvious fact that Galileo was right (and the Church was big enough to own up to it) and Dan Brown is just stupid

(A minor pick on Sophie's character -- she's described to be wearing black leggings and a knee-length Irish sweater, apparently with pockets. I ask you 1) who wears that? 2) could anything be more unattractive?)

Another thing about Brown's writing is the fact that EVERYTHING.





Approximately the first 300 pages of the book occur in the space of one night. As characters are sitting there and explaining (the same thing. Over and over and over again.), one is mentally looking at one's watching, wondering when someone is going to come in and shoot them or something more exciting.

The strikes against Dan Brown are as follows:

1) Bad Plot
2) Bad style
3) No Sense of Timing
4) Flimsy, Floppy, See-Through Characters Who Aren't Really Characters At All
5) Bad Dialogue
6) Bad Transitioning (ugh, what a movie this is going to make)

Ignoring the blatantly nonexistant scholarship, baseless claims, fictional theology and all the other things that have been torn apart again and again so much that I think the above errors are so obvious they have no need of being pointed out to anyone with a pulse.

I mean, everybody *knows* it's the Jesuits who are behind the conspiracy, not Opus Dei or the invented-in-1950-by-a-mad-Parisian "Priory of Sion".

But as I say, I ignored these blatant errors to see if there was anything good in the style or writing of the book itself -- I had heard it described as a good work of fiction, at least, and a page-turner. If I weren't so stubborn I would have stopped reading it at chapter four (and Dan Brown's chapters are four pages long at best. Does this guy have no sense of organization, either?).

In my informed, classical, literary, reading-under-the-covers-since-I-was-6 opinion, this book is no different from so much rot that passes as airport reading nowadays. From the culture that brought us "Troy" and "Jingle All the Way", behold The Da Vinci Code in all its mind-numbing idiocy. If you desire to feel intellectually superior, read the book to see how dumb you COULD be if you a) wrote like Brown, or b) were as slow and moronic as the characters he creates.

If Dan Brown can get this published (I see a Book-Oscar for "Most Transparent and Flimsy Plot With Lots of Gaping Holes Larger than The Mediocracy of The Artist Formerly Known As Prince"), storm the presses, my friends! We'll be millionaires and best-selling authors inside a week!

As to the danger of the text, I say this is "Harry Potter" for adults. What do you do with kids who ought to be old enough to know that Harry Potter isn't real? Give 'em a broom and tell 'em to fly. They'll notice they can't. There is so much dead-end "scholarship" and "theology" in this book that the second anyone tries to take it seriously and let it fly past anyone with half a brain, they will or ought to be laughed into next Tuesday.

If there's one thing I can't stand it's idiocy, and this book is rife with it.
posted by Lauren, 12:12 AM


Thanks! Now I don't have to read it. I might read The Da Vinci Hoax... but that would be very very low on my list below about 200 other books including practically everything Card. Ratzinger ever wrote.... first, however, I want to get through Witness to Hope, which is a page-turner.
commented by Anonymous Bryan Jerabek, 12:58 AM  
Oh my goodness yes, it's awful in so many ways beyond the misleading-people-further-into-neo-paganism one. Sophie is trapped in late 1980s fashion; that sort of thing really did get worn... The stupidity of the characters is unbelievable. I can't tell if Brown is flattering his readers by ensuring that they're cleverer than the characters, or patronising his readers by believing they'll actually think Robert and chums are bright.

Have you read The Rule of Four? It doesn't seem much like TdVC, but it's being sold as such. Rather better, if ultimately pointless, I thought.
commented by Blogger Boeciana, 5:26 AM  
The entire Dominican community where I lived as a DVI read it. I admit it kept me going as I wanted to see what appalling rubbish Dan Brown would churn out next... The writing style is poor, characterisation is clumsy and non-existent and the plot is contrived. But, the fact that so many people are into his stuff and the side industry it has spurned is a sign to us of how big a niche market there is for such stuff. The question is: how can the Church and those who seek Truth help to bring that Truth to the masses?

In other words, how can we more effectively preach and save souls?!
commented by Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P., 11:47 AM  
You are now my new hero. What bravery (and I ain't kiddin'!). I don't know how you did it!
commented by Blogger Julie D., 1:52 PM  
i ventured here after seeing the link to your site via julie at happy catholic --

honestly when i saw her quote you on saying

Another thing about Brown's writing is the fact that EVERYTHING.





i thought she (you) were referring to raymond brown and his death of the Messiah, vol. 1, which is 912 pages in paperback. volume 11 is 752 pages and a much shorter read.

but you meant dan brown - while i have heard of him, i've not read a word of anything he's written and after you review, am happy that i don't have to.

peace :)
commented by Blogger ~m2~, 3:03 PM  
I have to admit that I rather enjoyed reading it with a map of Paris.

Remember, he gets his inspiration from hanging upside down!
commented by Blogger Lizzy, 3:39 PM  
I thought for sure with your Hercules comparison that you would end up comparing reading the Da Vince Code to having to clean out the horse stables of King Augeus.

commented by Blogger Jeff Miller, 5:45 PM  
Ha! Someone else who was suprised to find that the DVC is really, really poorly written.

Here's my post on it from 2004. I had an opening paragraph that said:

"I am on record as assuming - based on its sale’s performance - that while the DVC would be a scholastically ignorant work purveying a knee-jerk ideology, it would also be well written. After reading the book, I have to issue a mea culpa. The DVC really is poorly written."

For example, I found Brown's literary device of inserting "expository lectures" was lame, particularly when the lecture was given in a flashback sparked by a question to Langdon but Langdon never bothered to answer the other character's question!

Likewise, last year I observed:

"Another amateur stylistic quirk that Brown employs is tying physical appearance to moral status. Thus, Langdon - our hero - is every man’s man. In a two-for-one exhibition of bad literary habits, Brown uses a flashback lecture to describe Langdon’s “captivating presence” and as being “Harrison Ford in Harris Tweed.” (p. 9.) On the other hand, the villains are as physically defective as they're morally impaired. The fact that they’re either albino or crippled led this review to argue that Brown’s book revealed more an open prejudice toward the disabled than it did to Catholicism. Although I think the argument is a stretch, I think that the correspondence course that Brown took on writing must have stressed the idea of developing two-dimensional characters through the use of physical description."

I'm just so happy that someone else thinks Brown is a poor writer, I'm beside myself.
commented by Blogger Peter Sean Bradley, 1:20 PM  
I just found your blog (while searching for the proper Hitchhiker quote involving a Galactic error of scale) and am quite enjoying your writing. Anyway, I'll definitely save the time from that obnocious book... and I've been looking forward to Focault's Pendulum for several years now... so thanks for the reminder.
commented by Anonymous bearbearbear, 2:26 PM  
>>The question is: how can the Church and those who seek Truth help to bring that Truth to the masses?

I think the Church should publish a book filled with all the things people look for in a bestseller: mystery, revenge, salvation, magic, history, prophesy, hatred, murder, war, intrigue, love, sin, betrayal...oh, wait...never mind.

Maybe they should just come out with the PFV* Bible.

*Pulp Fiction Version - A translation of the Holy Bible using pulp fiction vocabulary.
commented by Anonymous Tim, 3:12 PM  
Hi. Love your review. Hate the book also. And may I say, Dominicans totally Rock.

BTW, I'm a Secular Franciscan with strongly Dominican intellectual tendencies. I think I was born with them, so it's nothing to be ashamed of. [wink]


ne supra crepidam judicaret
commented by Blogger UltraCrepidarian, 9:15 AM  
ok so I'm gonna make a leap apart here. I would first like to agree that much of Brown's writing style is entirely lacking. The numerous times that he references Sophies "horrible memory of her grandfathers EVIL deeds" building it to such insane tensity that there is absolutely no event capable of living up to it, for example. But I must also dissent with some of the comments I've found here. First and foremost the comment regarding Browns obvious prejiduce and physical stereotyping. While I'll grant that the "Harrison Ford in Harris tweed" is excessive, the fact that Silas is an albino makes sense in more ways than one. First, Albinism is created by a complete lace of pigmentation, similar to a form of purity. While it may not be screaming at you it's quite obvious that Silas is a pure soul who is simply doing what he is told is right. His being an albino is simply a physical example of this...and you can't say physical equations aren't found in even the best of works. Second it is a way to not prove Brown's judgmental nature...but our own. Note that all those he encounters fear not his attitude or goals in the book, but his appearance. Second is Sophie's outfit. I doubt I'll ever understand why this was brought up as a negative in the first place. 1) the goal of a writer is to create interesting and believable characters. I don't know where everyone here is from but we sound pretty American in our fashion judgments. Hold in mind that Sophie is a) french b) a nerd c) a woman wrapped up in her mind and not particularily focused on appearances. If she'd changed into Evisu Jeans and a short black top with fashion belt and stilleto's it wouldn't really fit the situation she was in.
Granted Brown's writing is slow and repetative as well as somewhat forced one can't honestly argue that he was trying to teach these "false theologies and ideas" The book is infact prefaced with a briefing of the truth of the novel which doesn't contain all of the info spilled out over the next hours of reading. If anything it was a creative way to force people to look into their beliefs. Much of his analysis on DaVinci's works was actually based in debates that have been held over these works for centuries.
The only way to save people from their misguided faiths is to understand what it is that is leading them there and help them to grow. Belief out of ignorance is pure insanity.
sorry I'm not a blogger here but my name is Tiffany.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 9:43 PM  

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