March 15, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

Posted in fiction, film at 1:47 pm by Jerry

While I sat on a bench near an entrance at work, a fellow employee passing by shot a bunch of questions in a row – “Waiting for your wife to pick you up? How’s marriage? What are you reading?” She looked at the cover, and continued to walk out the door, saying, “Ahhh, the Da Vinci Code. Don’t believe what he is saying!” I called out before the door closed, “Don’t worry!” And then I turned back to the popular work of fiction.

I finished it later on that night. It’s good. Dan Brown really knows how to write chapters with hooks at the end! I’m not necessarily a mystery buff. Riddle after riddle gets a little tiresome for me unless riddles have some deep impact on my life (even then I get tired eventually). But aside from little character development, the plot was ingeniusly woven.

I know there’s controversy over the book. Look in book stores and you’ll find shelves defending the truth Dan Brown twisted, and books on why the Da Vinci Code is so popular. I’ve only seen the covers. That’s enough for me, for now. I suppose Brown asked for the trouble (good publicity?) by starting his book with a page entitled “Fact:” with a following list.

I don’t know if other fiction writers have led their readers to consider parts of their material as fact (unless the genre is historical fiction of which Da Vinci Code is not), but I liked Brown’s premise because I thought it was part of his work of fiction.

Fiction is never without truth. However, truth in fiction is usually an interpretation. If Brown intended the Fact page to lie outside of his work of fiction, I admit, I’d be disappointed. As twisted as it may sound, I like the idea of the author misleading the reader at the beginning of their book.

There’s plenty of material for interpretation in this book. Brown even helps you with your interpretations through his main character, a “Symbologist.” Which led me to ask myself, “Should I trust a fictional character to help me interpret the fictional book itself?” That question alone led me to appreciate Brown’s ingeniousness!

Here’s a short disclaimer on page 171 I used as a response to my question:

A career hazard of symbologists was a tendency to extract hidden meaning from situations that had none.

I love the way Brown just slips that line in the story without drastically sending the reader into disbelief. Here’s a couple of lines (said by various characters) I liked so much, I’ve started quoting one of them in conversation with others…

“The bible did not arrive by fax from heaven.” – p.231
“The problems arise when we begin to believe literally in our own metaphors.” – p.342

And here’s a passage that caught my eye…

[character A said] “Do you really wonder why Catholics are leaving the Church? Look around you, [character B]. People have lost respect. The rigors of faith are gone. The doctrine has become a buffet line. Abstinence, confession, communion, baptism, mass–take your pick–choose whatever combination pleases you and ignore the rest. What kind of spiritual guidance is the Church offering?”

“Third-century laws,” the [character B] said, “cannot be applied to the modern followers of Christ. The rules are not workable in today’s society.”

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4 Comments »

  1. Paul Morgun said,

    Hey Jerry, great review, I have been wanting to read this book for a while now…thanks for your observations.

  2. Jerry said,

    Thanks Paul. I’m looking forward to the movie. I hear it’s coming out late spring/early summer.

  3. Marc V said,

    Hey Jerry. Long time reader, first time commenter. (I think I’ve commented before. I just like saying that.)

    I’ve been wanting to read the Da Vinci Code for some time now, just to see what all the fuss is about. But it’s been in hardcover for forever and I’m too cheap to shell out the $40.00 and library books just end up sitting on my shelf unread until the due date. But it’s coming out in paperback on March 28 and I plan on snapping up a copy then.

    I saw a trailer for the film. It didn’t show much, but it was enough to intrigue me. Tom Hanks stars in it.

    Incidentally, I appreciate your analysis of the controversy re: the “facts” of the book and I think I agree for the most part. If I may add my two cents, however, I would say that it becomes more problematic when the “facts” move outside of the fiction. In other words, it may be an effective (and pleasing) literary tool to set up what follows in a book as “fact”, but when a) the author appears to be pushing it as “fact” in interviews and on his website and b) less discerning readers are taking it as fact outside of its fictional context (i.e. they “believe” it as one would believe a non-fiction history text). Do you know what I mean?

    Anyway, my two cents. I haven’t read the book yet, but eagerly anticipate its arrival in paperback. I’m not one for book banning, censorship or any sort of controversy (a la the Harry Potter issue) regarding books, so none of this really matters to me that much.

  4. Tracey said,

    Great quotes! I have yet to steal this book from my Mom, (There’s a reason I gave it to her for Christmas!) and I’m eager to dive into it. It sounds like the themes of the sections you posted are similar to another book that I’m reading right now… 🙂


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