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May 21, 2006

Comments

kb

Why not watch it and THEN try and make educated statements?KB

rachjak

Proclaimer: I've read the book, which provided me the threshold criterion for offering a critical comment: it's a marginally competent pop fiction thriller with a shamelessly preposterous premise. (See Clancy, Grisham, et al.)

Disclaimer: I haven't read a single word by the author regarding his opinion of his own work because, you know, who cares?

Tanuki

KB: If someone sneaks me into the theater for free, or rents it after it's available on DVD and lets me borrow it, I'd be more than interested in watching it. I love to fulminate against bullshit, which is why I haven't banned you again. It gets old quick though, so watch it.

Rachjak: Hope things are well with you and yourns. Pity that you won't contact me through less political channels, but I guess you have your issues. We all do, I suppose.

I guess you're taking the tack that it IS all just fiction, so what's the big whoop? And yet, the Da Vinci Code's counter-factual elements strike at the heart of the most deeply-cherished beliefs of millions. It seems odd that many of those who agreed that some rather innocuous illustrations of Muhammed (I don't know where you fall on the issue, so I'm not saying this is true of you) should not be published out of respect for the adherents of Islam seem to relish the discomfort of Christians who are told that, no, Jesus didn't die for your sins and that the faith of your fathers is a joke.

The Boston Phoenix alone seems to have been honest in reporting that, after years of supporting first amendment rights and gleefully publishing photographs such as that of "Piss Christ", the only reason they wouldn't publish the Muhammed cartoons is out of cowardice. Some Muslims do more than write angry letters.

Two scenarios. First, an apparently true story. Some university students are arguing about DVC. One says, why can't we just suppose the novel's premises are true, what's the harm in that? The second says, "Suppose we suppose your mother is a whore. What's the harm in that?"

Second, suppose an enormously successful novel appeared, followed by a film version, in which the counter-culture movement of the 1960s and thereafter was actually based on an international consipiracy to destroy western civilization. There was a cabal of shadowy figures who were reaping enormous benefits from the slandering of traditional culture. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, all constructs to brainwash the gullible. Kent State--never happened. Nixon was in on it, posing as the bad guy to distract the people from history's biggest cover-up. It was all a plot to dissolve the family unit and make people dependent on the state, which would then slowly move in to finagle more and more of our individual freedoms. In the book/film, every bit of liberal wisdom--the civil rights movement, feminism, environmentalism--was shown to be part of a nefarious plot.

If it were well done, imaginative, a good pop premise, would you complacently watch as hundreds of thousands started debating the book and film as if it were actually true? Would you have no concern about the author's real views?

In other words, are you saying that you don't care about what Brown thinks because you more or less agree that Christianity is hooey and deserves to be mocked or you are a staunch advocate of the first amendment and objectively hold that anything labeled as fiction be taken as nothing more than fiction? You seem to wish us to believe you take the latter position.

rachjak

Show me a person without issues and I'll show you... a birth certifiate for Jesus, Jr. Love to get an apolitical update from ya Tanuke, but I just wasn't sure. After all, the Tanuki Ramble is the poster child for the pureeing of the personal and the political.

I'm saying that the fact that Dan Brown takes himself seriously is irrelevant to me. He wrote a book of fiction, I read it, I saw it quite clearly for what it is (and yes, thirty million people can be wrong, although I think the numbers have more to do with the physics of a pop culture phenomenon than your paranoid paradigm shift ), and I have hardly given it a second thought. Brown wants it both ways, sure. I recognize his premise is potentially offensive. Yet in order to be offended I think you'd either have to take his work as nonfiction, which is a nonstarter, or you'd have to take issue with his right to publish his ideas in any form, which, of course, is insupportable.

I'll tell you what. Read Anthony Lane's review of the movie in the New Yorker last week. He at least read 100 pages of the book before setting it aside in disgust - disgust of the literary, not the philosophical, variety. He represents my view minus the heavy duty New York pomposity. (How does a pop culture critic endure if he's offended by poor writing?)

Your penchant for inventing conspiracy theories is positively Brownian, Tanuke. But I think the modest advancements in historical documentation since 35AD and the fact that the Stones are still making songs as senior citizens might make your novel a little harder to pass off as plausible. If you said, for example, that you'd cooked up the notion that celilbacy in the Catholic priesthood was a deprave veil for an underground society of expoiltation and abuse - would I buy that? Depends on how good the writing is.

kb

Tanuki said:

"I love to fulminate against bullshit, which is why I haven't banned you again."

You do? Where have you fulminated against bullshit? And you haven't fuminated against me. I've seen you create a lot of bullshit and THEN fuminate against that from time to time, but that's about it. Anyway, thanks for not putting me in the bullshit category and, therefore, not re-banning me. Of course you banned me before and never demonstrated any BS from me, so....KB

Tanuki

To KB: Siiighhhh.... Fulminate, Fuminate, Fumigate. Yeah, maybe that's the word I need.

To Rachjak: Thanks for helping me to gain a fuller understanding of the portmanteau 'gliberal.' In other words, you did not answer my question.

If some conspiracy theory that presented counter-facts (which ridiculed your sense of identity and your values)were gaining currency--and folks were swallowing it en masse--would you blithely ignore the phenomenon as fiction? C'mon. I know how you feel about Mick.

But perhaps you DID anwer my question by flipping the red herring of priestly celibacy, ergo (your view) child abuse by priests.

Given that about 80% of the victims were male (not something the Globe made much of), perhaps Massachussets has in fact done something about the problem by legalizing same-sex marriages. Now, if only Papa Ratzi would play along...

Seriously, though, the American church has a lot to answer for. But trashing the core values of a 2000 year old institution for this is like performing euthanasia on otherwise healthy individual for catching a cold.

So, are you in fact saying that your 'fiction'line is as genuine as Ron Howard's? You think the church deserves it, but would rather be thought of as intellectually above the fray?

rachjak

I did answer your question, Tanookie. Maybe what you mean is I didn't bite at your either/or setup to do so.

You haven't read the book; you suggest in defending against this perceived assault on your "core values" that marriage is a possible cure to institutionalized pedophilia (I suspect the victims - in Massachusetts, Michigan, Ireland, Poland - would find your catching a cold image a less than adequate metaphor for their suffering); and in trying to get me to respond you patronize me by equating my long ago fixation with a rock star with your feelings for your daddy's God.

In other words, you're hurt to the point of being irrational over this. But why?

Anthony Lane: "Should we mind that forty million readers—or, to use the technical term, “lemmings”—have followed one another over the cliff of this long and laughable text? I am aware of the argument that, if a tale has enough grip, one can for a while forget, if not forgive, the crumbling coarseness of the style; otherwise, why would I still read “The Day of the Jackal” once a year? With “The Da Vinci Code,” there can be no such excuse. Even as you clear away the rubble of the prose, what shows through is the folly of the central conceit, and, worse still, the pride that the author seems to take in his theological presumption. How timid—how undefended in their powers of reason—must people be in order to yield to such preening? Are they reading “The Da Vinci Code” because everybody on the subway is doing the same, and, if so, why, when they reach their stop, do they not realize their mistake and leave it on the seat, to be gathered up by the next sucker? Despite repeated attempts, I have never managed to crawl past page 100."

That's only 100 pages more than you read, but it was enough to lead him to this conclusion :

"The Catholic Church has nothing to fear from this [book]. It is not just tripe. It is self-evident, spirit-lowering tripe that could not conceivably cause a single member of the flock to turn aside from the faith. "

kb

"To KB: Siiighhhh.... Fulminate, Fuminate, Fumigate. Yeah, maybe that's the word I need."

Yes, perhaps if you can't respond you SHOULD use a different word. Perhaps you could make entire sentences. Go ahead. Give it a try!KB

Tanuki

Rachjak:

"My daddy's God?"

Yes, and his father's before that, etc., etc. What's your point?

Although Dad wasn't a church-going guy, and had little faith in an afterlife, he was nominally Catholic, and I think a better man for his religious background. Anyways, I think I know a bit more than you do about my father's religious beliefs, not to mention the religion I was brought up in and wish I knew a lot more about.

But perhaps I was condescending in suggesting that you, like so many other people I've met of our generation, have a code of ethics--really, what I see as a kind of religion--based on our culture. The post-Christian, post-industrial age of affluence and media saturation.

I'm hardly alone in positing that religious faith will out. In the absence of a traditional religion, people pick up on whatever's out there. As G K. Chesterton famously didn't say (but is often claimed to have said), "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing—they believe in anything." For most young people of our generation, how could we resist preferring "The Imitation of Mick" to Thomas of Kempis' dreary recommendations in "The Imitation of Christ." To quote another of our old favorites (how we shook our heads over this phase of his life), "You gotta serve someone..." Zimmerman may be generally full of it, but I think he had a point on that one.

Speaking of believing everything, your faith in New Yorker movie critics is remarkable, but maybe Lane wasn't asserting bald fact in claiming that NO one's faith was shaken by The Da Vinci Code. (Literal interpretation of the New Yorker is a new one on me). English majors should know hyperbole when they see it.

Anyways, I think he wouldn't quibble with these damning statistics.

The Da Vinci Code Undermines Faith (MSNBC)
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12815760/

MOst Da Vinci Code readers believe Jesus fathered a child (The Telegraph)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/05/17/nvinci17.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/05/17/ixuknews.html

Many Canadians Believe Da Vinci Code (National Post)
http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=f97e6516-8ffe-48f6-8d81-81a5f607e2de

Reading Da Vinci Code does alter belief (Yahoo News)
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060516/film_nm/leisure_davinci_religion_dc

One in four French believe in Da Vinci Code (Yahoo News)
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060509/od_afp/sciencereligionfranceoffbeat_060509112129

So what's the big whoop? Some people really beleive there's something to Christianity. Some of them have been willing to die for this. I mean, what got into the priest Maximilian Kolbe, a prisoner at Auschwitz, when he volunteered to take the place of a young father randomly chosen to be locked in a cell and starved to death? If he just wanted to off himself, there were much easier ways. This was a man with a PhD in philosophy, multi-lingual. Lived for Japan, in a while. How different from the one boom and it's party time with 70 virgin murder-martyrs of certain branches of Islam.

What made him a hundred times better a man than I could ever be? I think I know his answer. And I don't see how any thinking person can lightly disparage this man's reasons, or suffer the casual disparagement of others who, in effect, mock his sacrifice for fun and profit.

rachjak

The New Key,

I'm interested to learn that one need only be nominally a Catholic to be a better man. Maybe that perception explains the high enrollment numbers. Unfortunately, I think it also explains the high gullibility numbers. (I see your four Google hits from Yahoo! news et al, and raise you half a Harpers). You ask how a thinking person can dismiss Dan Brown. I ask how a thinking person of faith could do anything but scoff. I don't refer to you of course - it' s unclear where or with whom your faith lies, and, oh, you haven't read the book. (There must be a third hand copy lying around somewhere in your universe that you could borrow without having to drop a coin in Brown's well. Afraid you'll be embarrassed to discover just how flimsy a presenation it is?)
If it's really true that one in four Christians are insecure enough in their faith that a beach blanket novel can cause them to reconsider what to believe, I'd venture to suggest that the Church has deeper problems than Dan Brown.

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