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Re: [XTalk] The literary quality of The Da Vinci Code

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  • goranson@duke.edu
    The first time I picked it up I read only a few pages then left it and didn t bother again for months. On second try it went by quicky enough. I was already
    Message 1 of 15 , Feb 19, 2006
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      The first time I picked it up I read only a few pages then left it and didn't
      bother again for months. On second try it went by quicky enough. I was already
      familiar with Holy Blood, Holy Grail and with Barbara Thiering's scrolls
      scenarios, so the phony history was no big surprise. One thing seemed odd to
      me: the hero, supposedly widely experienced in all things learned, arcane, and
      cosmopolitan, veteran who solved cases at the Vatican and/or Egypt or whatnot,
      in the early pages thinks to himself how poor is his French. Can't Harvard
      expect better of its Professors of Symbology? :)

      Stephen Goranson
    • Lee Edgar Tyler
      ... For pop fiction, DVC is on the bad side of miserable. It sold only because of curiosity generated by the hype from its controversial subject and implicit
      Message 2 of 15 , Feb 19, 2006
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        John C. Poirier wrote:

        >My church has asked me to teach a multi-part course on the errors of The Da
        >Vinci Code, and preparing for that course naturally involves actually
        >reading the novel. Today I read the first two pages, and then I skipped
        >through the novel to see if the drivel of the first two pages was
        >representative of the whole book. I was shocked. I've heard the book is
        >very poor literarily, but I wasn't prepared for this. It's going to be very
        >painful reading it.
        >
        >Now, I hardly ever read fiction. IIRC it's been fifteen or twenty years
        >since I've read a (modern) novel. I therefore have a question for those of
        >you who *do* read fiction: How exceptional is Brown's drivel? Do other
        >novels as literarily inept as Brown's also make it to the top of the best
        >seller list? If there've been others, how long has it been this bad?
        >
        >
        >John C. Poirier
        >Middletown, Ohio
        >
        >
        >

        For pop fiction, DVC is on the bad side of miserable. It sold only
        because of curiosity generated by the hype from its controversial
        subject and implicit claims. DVC is Brown's 4th novel and until it his
        first three had done very poorly. Of course they're selling a little
        better now. Pop fiction is generally poor (athough there are notable
        exceptions) but Brown's is among the worst.

        When it comes to literary quaity, contemporary fiction is no better or
        worse than it has ever been. William Dean Howells, Henry James,
        Hemingway, Faulkner, all got outsold by sentimentalist and
        sensationalist tripe too. But a writer of artistic merit can still make
        a good living at it.

        Ed Tyler
      • Zeba Crook
        I too struggled to get past the first couple of pages. And while it became tiresome and predicable that at the end of every one of the bloody 109 chapters (or
        Message 3 of 15 , Feb 19, 2006
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          I too struggled to get past the first couple of pages. And while it
          became tiresome and predicable that at the end of every one of the
          bloody 109 chapters (or so) something major was revealed to a character
          that we would have to read on to find out about, that is a
          characteristic of good mystery novels, and so there is no denying that
          this book it *was* a page turner.

          The most fatal flaw of the book for me is not its historical errors.
          More troubling is that although the book is supposed to be about the
          discovery of the feminine goddess, and about how the power of the
          feminine has been suppressed for centuries by the patriarchal church
          (which in fact is accurate), the book has as its lead female character a
          woman (Sophie?) whose only purpose in the book is to allow the professor
          (I've forgotten his name already) to relate important and usually
          painfully obvious information to the reader, meaning that not only does
          she not contribute in any way to the solution of the puzzle (despite, as
          I recall, her training!) but also making her a pretty but empty-headed
          ditz. Her character in the movie will have to be played by Alicia
          Silverstone!

          Most people on this list know I find it sad that church groups are
          expending any effort at all to debunk a crappy work of fiction -- it
          strikes me a just a little over-defensive. It seems to me that a strong
          and vibrant Church would not be so troubled by this. But I have a
          question about the attempts by smarter people at least (like Ehrman) to
          write about this book, and this is addressed to John as well since he'll
          be addressing a church group: Is anybody telling Christians about any
          of the details in the book that are *accurate* with respect to Christian
          Origins? Or is everyone solely focused on ensuring the on-going Truth
          of Christianity by addressing only the historical errors the book makes?
          Afterall, not everything in the novel is fanciful, and yet we would
          dense not to expect some fantasy in any novel.

          Cheers,

          Zeb


          >John C. Poirier wrote:
          >
          >
          >
          >>My church has asked me to teach a multi-part course on the errors of The Da
          >>Vinci Code, and preparing for that course naturally involves actually
          >>reading the novel. Today I read the first two pages, and then I skipped
          >>through the novel to see if the drivel of the first two pages was
          >>representative of the whole book. I was shocked. I've heard the book is
          >>very poor literarily, but I wasn't prepared for this. It's going to be very
          >>painful reading it.
          >>
          >>Now, I hardly ever read fiction. IIRC it's been fifteen or twenty years
          >>since I've read a (modern) novel. I therefore have a question for those of
          >>you who *do* read fiction: How exceptional is Brown's drivel? Do other
          >>novels as literarily inept as Brown's also make it to the top of the best
          >>seller list? If there've been others, how long has it been this bad?
          >>
          >>
          >>John C. Poirier
          >>Middletown, Ohio
          >>
          >>
          >>
          >>
          --

          Z.A. Crook

          Assistant Professor

          Classics and Religion

          Carleton University

          1125 Colonel By Drive

          Ottawa, ON

          K1S 5B6

          (613) 520-2600, ext. 2276

          http://www.carleton.ca/~zcrook <http://www.carleton.ca/%7Ezcrook>




          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Loren Rosson
          ... Many people think so but I disagree. The novel wasn’t a page-turner for me at all. Brown’s writing is sophomoric and weighed down by cliches, his plot
          Message 4 of 15 , Feb 19, 2006
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            Zeb wrote:

            >...at the end of every one of the
            >bloody 109 chapters (or so) something
            >major was revealed to a character
            >that we would have to read on to find out
            >about, that is a characteristic of good mystery
            >novels, and so there is no denying that
            >this book it *was* a page turner.

            Many people think so but I disagree. The novel wasn’t
            a page-turner for me at all. Brown’s writing is
            sophomoric and weighed down by cliches, his plot
            completely insulting to the reader’s intelligence. The
            historical errors are laughable and wouldn't be taken
            seriously by writers, save for the fact that so many
            people *do* take this stuff seriously. Trust me, I
            work in a public library. And when the film comes out,
            the gullibility factor is going to go up by a factor
            of at least five.

            >I have a question about the attempts by smarter
            >people at least (like Ehrman) to write about this
            >book, and this is addressed to John as well since
            >he'll be addressing a church group: Is anybody
            >telling Christians about any of the details in
            >the book that are *accurate* with respect to
            Christian
            >Origins?

            You mean the no-brainers?

            >Or is everyone solely focused on ensuring
            >the on-going Truth of Christianity by addressing
            >only the historical errors the book makes?
            >Afterall, not everything in the novel is fanciful,
            and
            >yet we would dense not to expect some fantasy
            >in any novel.

            Certainly Ehrman has no such goal. He’s just irked as
            an historian that many people view the novel as
            historical fiction, or based on a large amount of
            history.

            I think I mentioned the following review on one of the
            lists before, and I’ll mention it again for John (and
            Zeb). It’s by Laura Miller of Salon, one of my
            favorite reviewers, and should be mandatory reading
            for all who like the DaVinci Code -- whether for its
            “fact” or fiction.

            http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2004/12/29/da_vinci_code/index_np.html

            (You can read the review for free even if you don’t
            subscribe to Salon.)

            Loren Rosson III
            Nashua NH
            http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/

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          • Stephen C. Carlson
            ... I wonder if there s a personal reason as well: with the success of the book (and the movie), he ll have a lot more misconceptions about the Bible to deal
            Message 5 of 15 , Feb 20, 2006
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              At 02:45 PM 2/19/2006 -0800, Loren Rosson wrote:
              >Certainly Ehrman has no such goal. He�s just irked as
              >an historian that many people view the novel as
              >historical fiction, or based on a large amount of
              >history.

              I wonder if there's a personal reason as well: with the
              success of the book (and the movie), he'll have a lot
              more misconceptions about the Bible to deal with in his
              classes than before.

              Stephen

              --
              Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
              Weblog: http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/
              Author of: The Gospel Hoax, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1932792481
            • David C. Hindley
              ...
              Message 6 of 15 , Feb 20, 2006
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                --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, Zeba Crook <zcrook@...> wrote:

                <<But I have a question about the attempts by smarter people at least
                (like Ehrman) to write about this book, and this is addressed to John
                as well since he'll be addressing a church group: Is anybody telling
                Christians about any of the details in the book that are *accurate*
                with respect to Christian Origins? Or is everyone solely focused on
                ensuring the on-going Truth of Christianity by addressing only the
                historical errors the book makes?

                Afterall, not everything in the novel is fanciful, and yet we would
                dense not to expect some fantasy in any novel.>>

                Zeb,

                Exactly!

                I would think that the vast majority of church-goers go, not because
                their religion fills an intellectual void, but because it fills an
                emotional one.

                Their religion allows them to effectively rationalize any dissonance
                created by their experiences in the real world. Rationalizations do
                not need to be based in the most factually accurate data available.

                For example, "fundamentalist" elements of several world religions are
                currently up in arms because of basic misconceptions about the
                teachings/origins of their own religion as well as the religions of
                others.

                So you are correct. When church goers come to a church teacher/leader
                on account of their temporary dissonance over a new life experience,
                especially one that is based on inaccuracies of the historical
                record, this is a perfect opportunity to bring those persons *up to
                speed* in the factual knowledge department.

                Merely destroying the inaccuracies inflicts collateral damage on
                other "facts" they have used to rationalize their life experience (or
                else they would not have found the new facts somewhat pursuasive),
                and they may be left with a greater void than they had before.

                Remember L. Festinger's sociological prediction that when faced with
                dissonance, one defense tactic is to dig in on the facts we "know"
                and force out the facts that challenge what we know. It is a "circle
                the wagons" mentality. This is, in effect, what the fundamentalists
                of all religions are doing now and have done for eons.

                We certainly do not need more of that ...

                Respectfully,

                Dave Hindley
                Cleveland, Ohio USA
              • Bob Schacht
                I consider the whole post below to be badly off topic, and if it had been up to me, I would not have approved its appearance on this list. Please folks, let s
                Message 7 of 15 , Feb 21, 2006
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                  I consider the whole post below to be badly off topic, and if it had been
                  up to me, I would not have approved its appearance on this list. Please
                  folks, let's get back to the business of this list!

                  Bob Schacht
                  Assistant Moderator

                  At 06:55 PM 2/20/2006, David C. Hindley wrote:
                  >--- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, Zeba Crook <zcrook@...> wrote:
                  >
                  ><<But I have a question about the attempts by smarter people at least
                  >(like Ehrman) to write about this book, and this is addressed to John
                  >as well since he'll be addressing a church group: Is anybody telling
                  >Christians about any of the details in the book that are *accurate*
                  >with respect to Christian Origins? Or is everyone solely focused on
                  >ensuring the on-going Truth of Christianity by addressing only the
                  >historical errors the book makes?
                  >
                  >Afterall, not everything in the novel is fanciful, and yet we would
                  >dense not to expect some fantasy in any novel.>>
                  >
                  >Zeb,
                  >
                  >Exactly!
                  >
                  >I would think that the vast majority of church-goers go, not because
                  >their religion fills an intellectual void, but because it fills an
                  >emotional one.
                  >
                  >Their religion allows them to effectively rationalize any dissonance
                  >created by their experiences in the real world. Rationalizations do
                  >not need to be based in the most factually accurate data available.
                  >
                  >For example, "fundamentalist" elements of several world religions are
                  >currently up in arms because of basic misconceptions about the
                  >teachings/origins of their own religion as well as the religions of
                  >others.
                  >
                  >So you are correct. When church goers come to a church teacher/leader
                  >on account of their temporary dissonance over a new life experience,
                  >especially one that is based on inaccuracies of the historical
                  >record, this is a perfect opportunity to bring those persons *up to
                  >speed* in the factual knowledge department.
                  >
                  >Merely destroying the inaccuracies inflicts collateral damage on
                  >other "facts" they have used to rationalize their life experience (or
                  >else they would not have found the new facts somewhat pursuasive),
                  >and they may be left with a greater void than they had before.
                  >
                  >Remember L. Festinger's sociological prediction that when faced with
                  >dissonance, one defense tactic is to dig in on the facts we "know"
                  >and force out the facts that challenge what we know. It is a "circle
                  >the wagons" mentality. This is, in effect, what the fundamentalists
                  >of all religions are doing now and have done for eons.
                  >
                  >We certainly do not need more of that ...
                  >
                  >Respectfully,
                  >
                  >Dave Hindley
                  >Cleveland, Ohio USA
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
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                • Gordon Raynal
                  ... Bob and all, Perhaps to get back on topic folks might want to look at the latest New Yorker (the feb. 13/20 double edition). It has a very nice article
                  Message 8 of 15 , Feb 21, 2006
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                    On Feb 21, 2006, at 3:28 AM, Bob Schacht wrote:

                    > I consider the whole post below to be badly off topic, and if it had
                    > been
                    > up to me, I would not have approved its appearance on this list. Please
                    > folks, let's get back to the business of this list!
                    >
                    > Bob Schacht
                    > Assistant Moderator

                    Bob and all,

                    Perhaps to get back "on topic" folks might want to look at the latest
                    New Yorker (the feb. 13/20 double edition). It has a very nice article
                    on Mary Magdalene with a review of how she has been thought about
                    across the millennia. One nice feature is how the creation of
                    characteristics/ attributes relates to the various issues in various
                    eras.

                    Gordon Raynal
                    Inman, SC
                  • Jeffrey B. Gibson
                    David C. Hindley wrote: [snip] ... Interesting note. But I m not sure what it has to do with the purview of XTalk. If we are going to discuss any aspect of
                    Message 9 of 15 , Feb 21, 2006
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                      "David C. Hindley" wrote:

                      [snip]

                      > Merely destroying the inaccuracies inflicts collateral damage on
                      > other "facts" they have used to rationalize their life experience (or
                      > else they would not have found the new facts somewhat pursuasive),
                      > and they may be left with a greater void than they had before.
                      >
                      > Remember L. Festinger's sociological prediction that when faced with
                      > dissonance, one defense tactic is to dig in on the facts we "know"
                      > and force out the facts that challenge what we know. It is a "circle
                      > the wagons" mentality. This is, in effect, what the fundamentalists
                      > of all religions are doing now and have done for eons.
                      >
                      > We certainly do not need more of that ...

                      Interesting note. But I'm not sure what it has to do with the purview of XTalk.

                      If we are going to discuss any aspect of the Davinci Code (which, btw, I found to
                      be a fun read -- after I cursed out loud and then threw the book against the wall
                      upon completion of Teasdale's discourse), could we bring the discussion back on
                      topic?

                      Otherwise, I'll have to close the thread.

                      Jeffrey
                      --
                      Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
                      1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
                      Chicago, Illinois
                      e-mail jgibson000@...
                    • Bob Schacht
                      ... And a review of how she has been thought about across the millennia has what??? to do with the historical Jesus? Bob [Non-text portions of this message
                      Message 10 of 15 , Feb 21, 2006
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                        At 02:51 AM 2/21/2006, Gordon Raynal wrote:

                        >Bob and all,
                        >
                        >Perhaps to get back "on topic" folks might want to look at the latest
                        >New Yorker (the feb. 13/20 double edition). It has a very nice article
                        >on Mary Magdalene with a review of how she has been thought about
                        >across the millennia. One nice feature is how the creation of
                        >characteristics/ attributes relates to the various issues in various
                        >eras.


                        And "a review of how she has been thought about across the millennia" has
                        what??? to do with the historical Jesus?
                        Bob

                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • David C. Hindley
                        Robert, Sorry you feel that way. The sad fact remains that 16 messages have been posted, more or less and without protest, lambasting the literary quality of
                        Message 11 of 15 , Feb 21, 2006
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                          Robert,

                          Sorry you feel that way.

                          The sad fact remains that 16 messages have been posted, more or less
                          and without protest, lambasting the "literary quality" of an
                          absolutely stupid work of fiction, on the basis that somehow the very
                          foundations, maybe even the validity, of modern historical criticism
                          has been threatened by it.

                          I say essentially "when you are handed a lemon, make lemonade" and
                          it's "off topic." The whole topic shouldn't have been more than a
                          blip on the radar for god's sake, maybe one or two posts!

                          The value and purpose of historical criticism for the faith is
                          essentially a theological issue, is it not? Quit griping, man, and do
                          something positive!

                          "Business of the list" ... Geez ...

                          David C Hindley

                          --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, Bob Schacht <r_schacht@...> wrote:

                          <<I consider the whole post below to be badly off topic, and if it
                          had been up to me, I would not have approved its appearance on this
                          list. Please folks, let's get back to the business of this list!>>
                        • Rikk Watts
                          C mon David, take a breath and calm down my friend. :) You and I have been on this list long enough to know that a newbie would have been clobbered for putting
                          Message 12 of 15 , Feb 21, 2006
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                            C'mon David, take a breath and calm down my friend. :)

                            You and I have been on this list long enough to know that a newbie would
                            have been clobbered for putting up a post like that‹lots of value judgments
                            and fairly sweeping generalizations about psychology and belief, and a dose
                            of the old "bash the fundamentalists" thrown in for good measure.. they are
                            such easy targets ... good grief man, even a touch of apologetic rant to
                            spice things up. And all you got was a gentle nod. Yes we all know that
                            theology and Hist Jes are often if not always impossible to separate. But
                            from where I sit that post didn't even try. Bob was right‹keep it on topic.

                            Best
                            Rikk Watts
                            (moderator.. or something like that)


                            On 21/2/06 7:53 PM, "David C. Hindley" <dhindley@...> wrote:

                            > Robert,
                            >
                            > Sorry you feel that way.
                            >
                            > The sad fact remains that 16 messages have been posted, more or less
                            > and without protest, lambasting the "literary quality" of an
                            > absolutely stupid work of fiction, on the basis that somehow the very
                            > foundations, maybe even the validity, of modern historical criticism
                            > has been threatened by it.
                            >
                            > I say essentially "when you are handed a lemon, make lemonade" and
                            > it's "off topic." The whole topic shouldn't have been more than a
                            > blip on the radar for god's sake, maybe one or two posts!
                            >
                            > The value and purpose of historical criticism for the faith is
                            > essentially a theological issue, is it not? Quit griping, man, and do
                            > something positive!
                            >
                            > "Business of the list" ... Geez ...
                            >
                            > David C Hindley
                            >
                            > --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, Bob Schacht <r_schacht@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > <<I consider the whole post below to be badly off topic, and if it
                            > had been up to me, I would not have approved its appearance on this
                            > list. Please folks, let's get back to the business of this list!>>
                            >
                            >
                            >
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