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[Book] Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

I finally caved in and read this damn book. Despite a faint curiosity about its popularity and the controversies surrounding it, I resisted reading it for a long time. Maybe 'resist' is not the right word since I was never curious enough to want to read it, having been turned off by its reputed bad writing. I wouldn't have subjected myself to it still if Zoe didn't lend me the book, the illustrated version of it nonetheless. She read it and wanted my opinion on it. I took the copy but let it lie forgotten in a drawer for a year, until I picked it up again when I was unpacking and organizing my room last week. I guess the timing was right. I just finished another book in a similar vain. The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld is another historical thriller type, which doesn't usually appeal to me, but it somehow managed to hold my attention for the most part. I guess I was in the mood for another quick read that doesn't require much brain power. Pulp fiction is kind of like junk food. Once you had a big mac, you might crave for another one, no matter how unwholesome it is.

The Da Vinci Code turned out to have it all - the formulaic plot twists, the cookie-cutter characters and the cringe-worthy writing - it's the quintessential pulp fiction if I ever read one. Luckily, I started it with very low expectations, so I was able to plough on and through the corny dialogue, the contrived storylines and the lazy writing that includes countless flashbacks (as if they're apt substitutes for good characterization. Want do know more about this character? Hey, here's a flashback!), numerous italicized 'thoughts' (You know this is what a character is thinking because it's in italics) and forced 'discussions' among the characters for expositional purpose. Dan Brown enjoys having his dashing Indian Jones-esq protagonist spout supposed historical fact and trivia while he smiles or grins condescendingly to the ignorant listener, which in this case is often the 'beautiful' female companion (The hero and heroine have gotta be good looking right?). The writing goes from bad to worse as the unconvincing story unfolds and the badly developed characters prattle on about holy grail. Unlike Rubenfeld, who has literary aspirations and the writing ability to produce a readable work of fiction, Dan Brown has neither. His writing is pedestrian at best and juvenile at its worst.

What saves the book is, ironically, my ignorance about the subject matters dealt in the novel. For someone who knows very little about religion, history or art, the world the author represents in The Da Vinci Code is a fascinating one. It is a world full of secretes, codes and conspiracies, all seemingly based on facts, or rather facts as Dan Brown chose to present them. While I couldn't care less about the mysteries in the novel (ie, who is the bad guy and where is the holy grail), I was drawn in by the beautiful illustrations of Da Vinci's art and fascinated by the theories and history behind the paintings. The story and theories about Mary Magdalene were interesting if not enticing. The first thing I did after finishing the book was to google about it. I was surprised (though not greatly) to find that a lot of the 'facts' presented by Brown were misrepresented or outright fictitious. What irks me more though is how he misleads the reader by representing all those fictional details as fact. I can only conclude that he's either a very sloppy researcher or a good businessman with a vivid imagination and a knack for sensationalism, or both. What he is definitely not, however, is a good writer.

The Da Vinci Code is not entirely without merit. Its subject matters are interesting despite the inaccuracies. Reading the book has made me want to learn more about art and Da Vinci. It made me want to educate myself on topics I never really thought about, and that's always a good thing. Of course one can debate about the worthiness of such a book to garner this amount of fame and popularity (not to mention the money it makes for the writer and publisher), but in the end it's just a book. A bad one but a harmless one, at least for those who think for themselves.

Helpful links:
Fact and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code
Analysis of the Da Vinci Code
How The Da Vinci Code doesn't work
Criticisms of The Da Vinci Code

Added by Hibiscus
16 years ago on 17 December 2007 20:49