Crap books and good books (was Re: Best Books of 2004)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Thu Jan 20 11:24:13 EST 2005


On Wed, 19 Jan 2005 15:58:32 +0000, minnow at belfry.org.uk wrote:

>Melissa wrote
>
>>Of course Ros enjoyed _The Da Vinci Code_.  It's a very good thriller, and
>>the inclusion of a conspiracy theory that has been well-documented makes it
>>seem more like real life.
>
>Does it matter whether the conspiracy theory, well-documented and all, is
>accurate?

That depends on who the reader is, I imagine.  I think one of the things
that makes the book appealing is that the reader can go off and look at the
pictures and buildings cited and see exactly what the author says is there
(which is what I mean by "well-documented").  But most of the people I've
talked to who loved it said that they didn't actually believe it was true,
so the bit about maligning the very real organization Opus Dei (more below)
doesn't register.  They know it's fiction, but fiction set within fact.

If you're asking "does it matter to the legitimacy of the book," I say,
Absolutely.  But I've already gone on record as objecting to the
intellectual dishonesty of the entire novel, so what do you expect?

>I ask because if I have understood rightly (and the book hasn't come my
>way, so I haven't read it) _The Da Vinci Code_ has set up a group of people
>who really exist, and used them as the villains.  Am I wrong?  Opus Dei?

This is correct.  And Dan Brown makes sure the reader knows that Opus Dei is
a real organization in a statement at the beginning, without any caveat that
he is representing them in a fictional manner.

>It isn't that I am a member, or even that I know any, but that seems to me
>to be a dangerous game to play, in that encouraging a dislike and mistrust
>of real people on the basis of a fictional account of their doings mixed in
>with a bit of fact (accurate data about when they were founded, where they
>are to be found, that sort of thing) is altogether too likely to go too
>far.

Well, someone else already pointed out Conan Doyle....  :)

Before I read the book, I'd heard that some Catholics were pretty upset
about it.  I can see why, now.  I don't think Brown has an anti-Catholic
agenda, but I do think he was irresponsibly careless in a lot of ways.  My
reading group members cited statements from his web site, about how he
seemed to think it was all just an interesting conspiracy and wasn't it fun
how it all fits together.  Like this is supposed to make things *better.*
But his treatment of Opus Dei is just part of a larger problem in which good
and evil are painted very starkly, and it's very clear where the reader's
sympathy is supposed to lie.  Regardless of what they might be like in real
life, in the book they are Bad so they can stand in opposition to Good.

>I have known for a while that Opus Dei might not be entirely sweetness and
>light, in fact I know that some of the things individual members do strike
>me as downright whacko, but I'm not convinced they are a totally Black Hat
>Organisation nor that they deserve to be portrayed as such.  Are they, in
>the book?

Yes, they are, mostly...though also as pawns in a larger game.  They're
depicted as completely obsessed with their goals and willing to commit
murder to gain them.  Though the only character I really liked was Cyrus,
the albino "bad guy" who is redeemed before the end.  I think Brown should
have created his own evil religious cult rather than drawing on an existing
organization, but then he didn't make up his own paintings and buildings to
support the conspiracy, either.  Maybe the Mona Jane just wasn't exciting
enough.

Melissa Proffitt

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