Thursday, January 05, 2006

Da Vinci Code

I thought with the movie coming out soon, I should finally break down and read the book.

All just so when people say, after I've made some critical remark or another, "Have you read the book?" I could finally say "Yes" and not be criticized for being critical of a book I never read. (Most people have never read "Mein Kampt" either but have no trouble criticizing its author or its contents.)

But I can't bring myself to do it. I refused to buy it, so I got one from the library. But it's too....disgusting to even try to read. How CAN so many people WANT to read this, how can people recommend it, how can anyone believe this stuff?

I sure wish Gilbert Chesterton were here now to write a column for ILN (Illustrated London News) on this book, or the movie. I feel sure he'd write some clear-headed words and I'd feel much better about the whole thing. What would he say about it, do you think?


  1. GKC already wrote about one point of this discussion: the flawed idea that one must have had the experience or read the book in order to know it is sewage. To quote GKC:

    My correspondent, who is evidently an intelligent man, is very angry with me indeed. He uses the strongest language. He says I remind him of a brother of his; which seems to open an abyss or vista of infamy. The main substance of his attack resolves itself into two propositions. First, he asks me what right I have to talk about Spiritualism at all, as I admit I have never been to a seance. This is all very well, but there are a good many things to which I have never been, but I have not the smallest intention of leaving off talking about them. I refuse (for instance) to leave off talking about the Siege of Troy. I decline to be mute in the matter of the French Revolution. I will not be silenced on the late indefensible assassination of Julius Caesar. If nobody has any right to judge of Spiritualism except a man who has been to a seance, the results, logically speaking, are rather serious: it would almost seem as if nobody had any right to judge of Christianity who had not been to the first meeting at Pentecost. Which would be dreadful. I conceive myself capable of forming my opinion of Spiritualism without seeing spirits, just as I form my opinion of the Japanese War without seeing the Japanese, or my opinion of American millionaires without (thank God) seeing an American millionaire. Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed: [John 20:29] a passage which some have considered as a prophecy of modern journalism.
    [GKC, ILN June 9, 1906 CW27:207-208]

    As in the case of pornography [GKC: "There is such a thing as pornography; as a system of deliberate erotic stimulants. That is not a thing to be argued about with one's intellect, but to be stamped on with one's heel." The Common Man 126-127] there are some things we must avoid lest we pollute our minds with sewage.

    That book is one of them.

  2. Did GKC know Dr. Conan Doyle?

  3. Dr. T:
    You bring up an excellent point, and one I haven't seen in the blogging around I've done and read in the past about this book, which is:
    there is a lot of trash in this book, things I do not want to pollute my mind with. If it were a movie, wouldn't this sort of thing be rated X? Why are Christians reading it? Why are they giving it to their family members, and in some cases to their children to read? Isn't it a danger to the soul to read this sort of near-or actual-awful-graphic stuff? I can't, simply cannot understand: except that we live in a decadent time, filled with people who have no ability to judge that something is trash when it's trash.
    And I am not even talking about the theology or lack thereof. I merely speak of the physical problems of a s*xual nature that are in this book. Yuck. I couldn't wait to get it out of my house for fear one of my children might accidentally see something in it that would harm them. And that feeling was enough for me to know that this book is bad. Really bad.

  4. Along the same lines as Dr. Thursday's citations, but somewhat more positive, is this memorable paragraph from "Tom Jones and Morality" in All Things Considered:

    "The two hundredth anniversary of Henry Fielding is very justly celebrated, even if, as far as can be discovered, it is only celebrated by the newspapers. It would be too much to expect that any such merely chronological incident should induce the people who write about Fielding to read him; this kind of neglect is only another name for glory. A great classic means a man whom one can praise without having read. This is not in itself wholly unjust; it merely implies a certain respect for the realisation and fixed conclusions of the mass of mankind. I have never read Pindar (I mean I have never read the Greek Pindar; Peter Pindar I have read all right), but the mere fact that I have not read Pindar, I think, ought not to prevent me and certainly would not prevent me from talking of "the masterpieces of Pindar," or of "great poets like Pindar or Æschylus." The very learned men are angularly unenlightened on this as on many other subjects; and the position they take up is really quite unreasonable. If any ordinary journalist or man of general reading alludes to Villon or to Homer, they consider it a quite triumphant sneer to say to the man, "You cannot read mediæval French," or "You cannot read Homeric Greek." But it is not a triumphant sneer—or, indeed, a sneer at all. A man has got as much right to employ in his speech the established and traditional facts of human history as he has to employ any other piece of common human information. And it is as reasonable for a man who knows no French to assume that Villon was a good poet as it would be for a man who has no ear for music to assume that Beethoven was a good musician. Because he himself has no ear for music, that is no reason why he should assume that the human race has no ear for music. Because I am ignorant (as I am), it does not follow that I ought to assume that I am deceived. The man who would not praise Pindar unless he had read him would be a low, distrustful fellow, the worst kind of sceptic, who doubts not only God, but man. He would be like a man who could not call Mount Everest high unless he had climbed it. He would be like a man who would not admit that the North Pole was cold until he had been there."

  5. Thanks, Furor, it is indeed an excellent cross-reference.

    For your information, that essay is the same as the ILN essay for May 11, 1907 (which appears in CW27:458). I mention this since All Things Considered is very hard to obtain, but the ILN collection is available through ACS.

  6. Have to say that I haven't read this book, but it sounds a lot worse than imagined...

    Also, I am sadly not surprised. Horrified, yes- but apparently it was only a matter of time before the people who have created garbage that has passed for 'art' turned their 'creative expression' toward attempting to corrupt the life of our Lord.

    What I also do not understand, is how people who purport to not even believe in God, embrace this stuff as gospel.

    I really don't get it.

  7. I think, Rhapsody, that they want "proof" that they are right not to believe Christianity, because books like this "prove" how Christianity hides the truth from people, and has brainwashed people for thousands of years into thinking that a certain church has all the answers. Books of this nature give sceptics hope that their way of thinking is right, and that they are right to question the very foundations of Christianity--that of the divinity of Christ.

  8. If this was 'proof,' among other things it would be classified as 'non-fiction'- & as the author is undoubtedly keeping his paycheck rather than it going toward any 'real' research, they'll have to keep digging.

    The danger is not to the Church, but to the people rummaging in this waste.

  9. This discussion suggests another Chesterton argument which may help in explaining the grave error in the 'story' under discussion:

    "Do you mean to say," demanded Tarrant, "that we can really be killed now by something that happened in the thirteenth century?"
    Father Brown shook his head and answered with quiet emphasis: "I won't discuss whether we can be killed by something that happened in the thirteenth century. But I'm jolly certain that we can't be killed by something that never happened in the thirteenth century; something that never happened at all."
    "Well," said Tarrant, "it's refreshing to find a priest so sceptical of the supernatural as all that."
    "Not at all," replied the priest calmly; "it's not the supernatural part I doubt. It's the natural part. I'm exactly in the position of the man who said, 'I can believe the impossible, but not the improbable."'
    "That's what you call a paradox, isn't it?" asked the other.
    "It's what I call common sense, properly understood," replied Father Brown. "It really is more natural to believe a preternatural story, that deals with things we don't understand, than a natural story that contradicts things we do understand. Tell me that the great Mr. Gladstone, in his last hours, was haunted by the ghost of Parnell, and I will be agnostic about it. But tell me that Mr. Gladstone, when first presented to Queen Victoria, wore his hat in her drawing-room and slapped her on the back and offered her a cigar, and I am not agnostic at all. That is not impossible; it's only incredible. But I'm much more certain it didn't happen than that Parnell's ghost didn't appear; because it violates the laws of the world I do understand. So it is with that tale of the curse. It isn't the legend that I disbelieve. It's the history."

    [GKC, "The Curse of the Golden Cross" in The Incredulity of Father Brown]

  10. Most of us pay school taxes, whether we have kids or not, or whether or not our kids attend public schools.

    Public high schools have organized book discussions of this particular novel. Our local hs organized the program, but held the actual discussion at the public library.

    I do not know what dear Gilbert would have said, but as he was a man of words, I would be willing to bet it might start with, 'Dear Editor,' or 'Dear Board of Ed'...

  11. Warning: a personal outing is ahead.

    Ok, let me say one thing: as a member of Opus Dei, The Duh Vinci Code's depiction of members of the Work as lunatics who go out and commit murder, and then make it all ok with enough self-flagellation, is bad enough. But Dan Brown is so lazy he can't even get easily verifiable things right, such as that there are no monks in Opus Dei, our headquarters is NOT in Manhattan (it's in Rome, stupid) and members of Opus Dei do not wear monk's habits.

    I first read The Duh Vinci Code in the summer of 2003, right about the time it first started making a splash, and at first I was outraged. But then as it sunk it,I realized how stupidly laughable the book is. I mean it is so ridiculously stupid, you can pretty much tell how stupid an individual is by whether they think it's a great book or not (hint: stupid people think it's a great book).

    Not only from an Opus Dei perspective, but from a theological perspective, from a historical perspective, from the perspective of art criticism (art experts loathe this book), and even from a paganism perspective, The Duh Vinci Code is a ridiculous book. The president of the local chapter of National Education Association where I live -- the teachers' union -- gave it a glowing review in my local paper. What does that tell you?

  12. And a local high school near me put it on the "literature list" for must reads in the high school classroom. (Reason #573 why we homeschool.)

    But not only is it bad lit, its just BAD. I mean, didn't you feel like you should go to confession for just reading it?

  13. It was more like I felt like I needed to do something nice for my poor brain cells, so I read some Tolkien and Chesterton and drank a lot of wine. Then I sent a scathing e-mail to my Lutheran uncle, who had recommended it to me.

    I did mention it to my spiritual director. At this time Opus Dei hadn't even noticed the book yet, so he sort of shrugged (attacks on the Work are nothing new) and said something like, "Well don't let it get to you." As if! ;-)


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