~ 1 May 2006 ~

So Bad The Novel of Brown

It’s not often that a novel undergoes such scrutiny as has Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. Debunking the wildly popular thriller has become a virtual industry unto itself, and not without warrant. Brown’s fictional account of a “search for truth” was designed to push the buttons and step on the toes of the faithful. Controversy is good for business, and business is good.

Having recently finished The DaVinci Code, I’m left a bit mystified — and not at whether or not Jesus married Mary Magdalene. I’m just wondering how such a mediocre novel has gone so far in the first place. All heresies aside, it’s just not that good of a book.

To begin with, the 454 page book has 105 chapters. That’s right, one-hundred five — an average of 4.32 pages per chapter. To put this in perspective, try to see if you can find another single-volume book in your home with anything approaching that number. I’ll bet you can’t. I own a lot of books, and the closest thing I could come up with is Tom Clancy’s 1028-page The Bear and the Dragon, which boasts 61 chapters (16.85 pages per chapter).

The fact that nearly every chapter ends with its own cliffhanger doesn’t help the situation. Good novelists build tension. Dan Brown bursts the readers’ balloon again and again before it has even had time to be refilled. At regular intervals during his choppy dialogue, Brown somehow sees the need to teach us the “real reason” behind what seems like everything we do in the modern world. While the reader may often feel like he is smarter than Brown’s cardboard characters, Brown incessantly reminds us that he is smarter than his readers.

The only things I found remotely interesting while reading the novel (aside from snickering at the frequent historical gaffes), were the codes themselves. I will give Brown credit for creating a few catchy code-laden rhymes. I suspect that this element, coupled with the book’s controversial claims, accounts for the novel’s success.

Conspiracy theories are not new to the landscape of folklore. The UFO folks have been at the game for decades, and the Illuminati go back even further. Apparently, Dan Brown thought that the vast right-wing conspiracy was insufficient to satiate the paranoid, so he offers us a novel in which he finds the “sacred feminine” and Knights Templar under every stone within Western civilization.

With regard to “debunking” the novel’s claims, others (both Christian and non-Christian) have more than adequately done the job. Brown’s claims of authority lie in the mouths of his fictional scholars, Robert Langdon and Leigh Teabing. Even outside the fictional world of the book, Brown cites real-world scholars as his basis for believing that “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.” The truth is, however, one can find a scholar who believes just about anything. Truth is not so indiscriminate.

The Gnostic “sacred feminine” that is Brown’s deity is elusive and unattainable, much like the secret society that protects it. Brown’s Christ is unknowable, locked up in a code that cannot be cracked. He is an elusive Christ that doesn’t have to be dealt with. A Christ that is revealed must be faced. A Christ that is revealed is decidedly uncoded — not a code to be solved by man, rather one who solves the man.

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2 Comments:

  1. John R. » 2 May 2006:

    Bingo. I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “Yeah, I know it’s not true and his history is a mess, but it’s just so well-written.”

    To which I have to say, “Uh, no, actually it’s not. It’s crap even as fiction.” That goes over real big, as you can imagine.

    With the possible exception of Tom Clancy, I’ve never seen anyone write more stilted, silly dialogue. And how about a little exposition, rather than just having one character sit down and explain the whole mystery to us in three pages?

  2. Heather » 4 May 2006:

    I just thought you would also be interested to know that Val and I heard here (Minsk) on the news that they have banned Brown’s book in Russia because apparently all of the whole “philosophy” of the book was stolen from a man who works in the Hermitage in St. Pete. I guess no one will really ever know if the “stolen” part is true, but definitely interesting…..

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