The DaVinci Code

A couple of weeks ago, I was stuck in the queue at Sam’s Club waiting for new tires for the Honda. The mechanic told me it’d take a couple of hours before they’d even get to my car, so I might as well go out and get some food (it was around noon) and come back a bit later. Not wanting to wander too far way, I just went back to the main Sam’s Club warehouse and did some shopping for cleaning supplies and other miscellaneous items, going up and down each and every aisle in the store. Still with time to kill, I wandered over to the book section and picked up The DaVinci Code because it was the only thing interesting enough for me to pay money for.

This wasn’t a particularly good book, especially at the beginning, though it did start to get rolling towards a somewhat predictable unmasking of the bad guy somewhere in the second half of the book, after the hard to digest chunk of exposition in the middle. I had similar feelings a decade ago after reading The Alienist by Caleb Carr after it had been hanging around the bestsellers list for some indeterminant amount of time: why was everyone talking about this book? The DaVinci Code featured less than interesting prose sprinkled with some puzzlers, but nothing too remarkable. There’s a mediocre X-Files vibe to the whole thing, what with the skeptical female sidekick that needs convincing, the learned-in-esoteria male lead, the conspiracies that should be obvious to any that would look. The only difference is that these were old conspiracies and mysteries, not modern paranoia of shadow government projects and men in black.

While in the Sam’s Club waiting room, as I started leafing through the first few pages of the book, and older Russian woman who was waiting with her son for a battery change saw what I was reading and started talking to me about it. Her accent was thick and her English wasn’t fluent, but I think she seemed to think that it was mostly real. A number of amateurs and professionals have gone through some effort to debunk some of Brown’s statements in the book, but Brown’s apparent efforts to present the book as containing truth has apparently been more powerful.

It’s also not clear to me how good a Grail story The DaVinci Code is: I don’t know how modern anthropology regards Jessie Weston’s From Ritual To Romance nowadays, but that actually was a more interesting (and plausible) exploration of the Grail Legend to me, describing how it was an amalgam of Christianity and pagan folklore and the whole wounded land/wounded king fable. Interestingly, Brown’s book omits Grail Legend elements like the Fisher King and the Gawain/Percival/Galahad figures. Didn’t fit, I guess.

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