11.11.2006

The Da Vinci Code: Why Didn't Someone Tell Me...

...this is pulp crap?

I mean I know I should have been paying attention to what people were saying beyond the religious nuttiness, but I didn't. I just did not know that it is chock full of superficiality, predictability, sexism, and mediocre writing skills. Now, I confess entirely that I'm only on page 100, but I just had to pause and put down my thoughts (at least in part because I want something over my pirate pic below because someone told me it makes me look like I'm pumped full of testosterone with my dominant jaw and obvious pumped body! I'd love to look macho when I'm TRYING but I thought I looked hot and more femme than butch in that pic!). Anyhow, back to The Da Vinci Code...

To exemplify my critique, let's begin with Silas's backstory in Chapter 10. I could have guessed the S&M albino thug would have an abusive alcoholic father. I didn't think the novel would bother with his backstory, assuming, as readers likely would, that he'd have some horrid upbringing that led him to zealotry and a willingness to do others' bidding, no matter what was asked. Like Jaws or Oddjob, those over-the-top villain's assistants in the James Bond films, the albino Silas is our generic creepy evil-doer in service of the more evil-doing head villain. So, I didn't need his backstory. When I got it, it was entirely predictable and superficial, down to the butcher knife he used to stab his no-good, spouse- and child-abusing father in the back--and everywhere else, repeatedly. (I'm not arguing, by the way, that alcoholic men don't abuse and even murder their spouses with alarmingly culture-defining frequency; just that it was an easy/cheesy backstory for our albino villain's assistant.)

For sexism, I was truly surprised to see that, with the exception of Silas (who is, let's face it, an emasculated mess), the male characters are referred to by their last names (Langdon, Fache, etc.) while our intrepid cryptologist is always spoken of by her first name (Sophie). She becomes more personalized, less professional, more vulnerable. And I wonder if the author, Dan Brown, did this on purpose or not. I tend to think not.

I could go on, but let me pause here until I finish the novel and just say the whole thing has a kind of cheesy noir feel to it, artificially imposed and leaving me with a smirk on my face the whole time I'm reading it. Nonetheless, the religious symbology stuff is engaging and it is serving its purpose for me: escapism while I care for my very ill father.

4 comments:

Stavner said...

I hope your father's okay.

larry said...

I just thought you should know. Helene almost went to see The DaVinci Code until I told her of your review as posted here. She said you had told her it was good.

Elyce Rae Helford said...

Well: (1) my dad died and (2) the novel and the movie are two different things and I haven't seen the film.

j belinda yandell said...

First of all.... Dan Brown is NOT a very talented writer, he's merely.... competent? Or do i mean passable, considering most people in this world can't write a reasonable letter let alone a book, but anyway...

Yes, DaVinci Code is pulp. I don't think anyone would argue that. Then again, some of the best "reads" are pulp. Few books ever fit my criterion for Great Reads (aka page turners that you just can't put down) and Great Literature (lyric, beautiful writing plus enduring and engaging themes that transcend place, time, creed and color, etc.) But the Code, with all it's faults, was still something i could not put down. I thought it was a great read.

The amazing thing is, when you stop and really think about the whole series of clues, and the "logic" of how Langdon works it out -- my god, it's ridiculously implausible... but still somehow irresistable. Maybe it speaks to the modern subconscious, just how paranoidly eager we are to believe that some evil machinery out there somewhere has orchestrated a massive conspiracy, and that the conspiracy can be unravelled.

The sexism charges are interesting, lol, given that the book is so much about how women have been disenfranchised and shunted aside by the male-dominated church. Personally, i think that Sophie is "Sophie" because her name itself comes into play.. the revelation of what her name means, would it be less dramatic if she'd been refered to by her last name the whole book? The writer in me has to ask those kinds of questions.

The whole focus on the "Divine Feminine" is what i did like about "Code" -- along with that shift of perspective that dares ordinary people to stop and think, just maybe, that what they have always "known" might not be the real story, or even the only story. Coming from a very conservative fundamentalist background, I loved the very rational, holistic view that reminds us that history -- and religion -- is the product of so many factors, and often the "truth" is merely that which is decided upon by those with the power to write the history. That kind of informed skeptism is a vaulable point of view, and i don't begrudge Brown the millions he's made off this book if even a handful of people are provoked to question one "absolute fact" in their own reality.

While Brown may have played fast and loose with some of the history, it was still fascinating, and provoked me to research some of it to see just what is supported by fact and what is pure supposition.... i also loved the marvelous places described, and the way art plays such a prominent part. Let's face it, how often does a "thriller" involved the Mona Lisa in a pivotal role! LOL.

The movie -- oh, man was it awful. I didn't realize just how awful till i watched it again on video. The only good thing about it is getting to see some of the locations. I had searched online for photos of the Louvre, trying to see where the two pyramids met, and couldn't find one, so the movie at least showed me what i wanted to see, lol. And the scenes in Rosealyn (sp?) Chapel, at the end, are fabulous. If you enjoy the book, then i'd recommend the movie on DVD, purely because you get to see the actual places. It's kinda the same way i feel about "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" -- the movie sucked, but damn, Savannah looks fabulous, and sometimes i put on the DVD just to enjoy the visuals.