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Oh My God, You Look Like a Frog! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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April 24th, 2006


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03:33 pm - Oh My God, You Look Like a Frog!
So I finally read the fucking Da Vinci Code.

And you know what? I enjoyed it.

My earliest recollection of being exposed to the book was Melanie's recommendation three years ago. She loved it; I don't know if it had become immensely popular by then.

Now, she loved it. Nearly everyone else I knew who spoke of the book in the next three years hated it. With the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns. They hated it like I hate The Shipping News (Shut up, Annie Proulx. How about constructing a sentence WITH A FUCKING SUBJECT once in a while?). I was very curious as to why it raised such ire.

So I read it. And I found it to be a perfectly competent thriller with all the thriller trappings. Male and female protagonists destined to become madly attracted to each other during the course of their adventures. Good guys, bad guys, plot twists, the whole shebang. And I've read a lot of thrillers in my time; I'm a fan of James Patterson, Michael Crichton, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, etc.

What makes this book fun and interesting is all the word puzzles and religious history and etymology and symbology semiotics, which may or may not have been as accurate as they proclaimed to be. I will say this to any potential reader: the book's title is misleading. I thought there would be a lot more about supersecret messages hidden in Da Vinci's paintings, but the messages and clues in the books come from someone else, although Da Vinci's influence is always apparent.

I didn't think the writing was as abominably awful as I'd been led to believe. Some of Dan Brown's tics do grate, though. He has a tendency to give us characters' obvious thought processes in italics. He's really bad at pacing his action sequences, taking needless time to describe the history of a chapel or the reason Robert Langdon wears a Mickey Mouse watch. And most maddeningly, he "subtly" ties these digressions into the action to give them relevance, but they're really just information dumps to give the book its historical flavor. Admittedly, I found many of the explanations of symbols interesting, but they often felt clumsy and like an attempt to show off. It reminded me of Cryptonomicon, except Neal Stephenson has an engaging style and a unique voice, whereas Dan Brown...doesn't.

But the book isn't bad. What irks everyone is that it's so bloody popular, that a woman noticed my book on the elevator and remarked, "That's a great book," and I didn't have the heart to tell her that no, Crime and Punishment was a great book.

What irks me, though, is the implication that I, as an intelligent, learnèd person, should not like this book. That because it is popular with the laypeople, it is automatically swill. Because of this, I actually felt dirty reading it on the train; it's the kind of book everyone reads on the train. Whereas I, a twenty-four-year-old man, had no qualms about reading Wayside School Is Falling Down in public.

Shouldn't we be the least bit thankful, though? Shouldn't we view The Da Vinci Code as Harry Potter for adults? It got people reading. It may have been the one book they read all year, but they felt good about it, and they enjoyed it. They discovered that, hey, reading can be fun, about thirty years after the rest of us did. Maybe it will inspire them to check out another book, one that will make them appreciate Da Vinci for the disposable diversion that it is.

Next on my reading list is Shadow of the Giant (the final Bean book, I presume), the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and all ten volumes of The Sandman.
Current Location: ethicalmedical.net, Cubicle 37
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Harry and the Potters - Stick It to Dolores [in my head]

(96 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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[User Picture]
From:allthelivesofme
Date:April 24th, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC)
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I haven't read The DaVinci Code yet, and I doubt I will (not really something I'm interested in), but I definitely hear you on the whole, "It's popular, therefore it must be crap" attitude. Bleh.

In other news, Wayside School is Falling Down mention! I think I might still have that book somewhere. :-D
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From:schnappycat
Date:April 24th, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC)
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Good to get your opinion.

I read the first 30 pages of Angels and Demons last year and wanted to spork my eyes out from boredom and hatred of his writing style and pacing. I just gave it up. I fear DVC will also be like that, but maybe it gets better once the plot picks up.

My biggest fear, however, is that I won't understand any of it, between my poor comprehension and my religious ignorance. Maybe that is why I have been hesitant to read.
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From:cerulgalactus
Date:April 24th, 2006 10:54 pm (UTC)
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Well, since they are the same exact book (only with a different mystery), you might not like DVC.
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From:cerulgalactus
Date:April 24th, 2006 10:53 pm (UTC)
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I enjoyed it, and his other books. For what they are (pot boiler page turners that you can toss back in a few nights) they are really good- however dont get me started on the cottage industry that has sprung up around them. If I see one more DECODING THE.... style book/dvd/scratch lottery card; Im going to punch someone.

And Im right there with you on the Annie Proulx hate. Soooooooo boring, she is.
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From:ohimesamamama
Date:April 24th, 2006 10:54 pm (UTC)
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*applause*

Also, dude. You're the first person I ever met who hates the freakin' Shipping News as much as I do.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 24th, 2006 10:56 pm (UTC)
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Honestly, I would not have finished reading it were it not a birthday present littered with little notes for me to find along the way. Sadly, the book (and the notes) were lost in the Great Postal Service Disaster of 2003.
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From:amberlynne
Date:April 24th, 2006 10:54 pm (UTC)
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That's pretty much how I feel about it. It's basically the Bruckheimer of books and I am totally okay with that. Heh. Of course, I read it a looooong loooong time ago. And when people get all pissy and tell me how awful it is, I just shrugh and say "I liked it!" 'Cause it's fun to watch them stand there with their mouths open like that. *g*
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From:cindywrites
Date:April 24th, 2006 10:57 pm (UTC)
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I think Cashmere read and liked The Da Vinci Code. I haven't read it, because I didn't like what I perceived as Brown's, "I made all this shit up and then found out it was true," attitude in interviews, etc., which has nothing to do with whether anything is a good read.

I tried the Left Behind books, in part because people were saying they were so horrible, and I wondered how they could be so horrible if they were selling so well.

But. They are. Horrible.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:April 24th, 2006 11:01 pm (UTC)
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Heh. I have no interest in testing those out, though.

I wanted to ask you, though, whether you're familiar with all the shit Brown made up and how much of it is true. Secret societies, evils of the Church, mass cover-up...the Wikipedia mentions the amusing "narrative paradox" of the book, which rattles on and on about how secret everything is but at the same time claims everyone already knows about it.
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From:tlynne75
Date:April 24th, 2006 11:08 pm (UTC)
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I liked both The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. What gets me is people, like my mother, who feel it is a huge insult to the Church and won't even look at it. It's just a book.......I really liked the history in the book. True or not, I was entertained.
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From:sterope
Date:April 24th, 2006 11:11 pm (UTC)

Umbridge, you're going down!

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I liked The DaVinci Code too. Sure, it's not highbrow literature or anything, but guess what? It's not supposed to be! I don't like when people can't handle fun, and that's what the book is all about. It's exciting and fanciful, and that's really all it takes for me to enjoy something. So what if the history behind the story is completely impossible? It's damn entertaining, and Mr. Brown is filthy rich now as a result. Good for him, I say.
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From:cleapet
Date:April 29th, 2006 08:40 pm (UTC)
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Agreed. There is an assumption that adults who don't read quality books do so because they are ignorant, and that's like saying some adults weren't aware books existed. Adults can have a variety of reasons for only reading fluff, and I bet a lot of it may have to do with time. Children and the stimulation to read is a different thing altogether.
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From:punzerel
Date:April 24th, 2006 11:21 pm (UTC)

sideays stories from the wayside school!

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Eh, I found it pretty irritating. And I don't buy the "it's popular, so it MUST be bad" - I really can't stand that kind of elitism. If it was a Harry Potter for adults? That would be GREAT. But I don't feel that it is.
I disagree with this: "But the book isn't bad. What irks everyone is that it's so bloody popular.."
I did find it to be a bad book. Badly written, badly researched.. well promoted, though ;) The dialogue was way off, the "suspense cliffhangers omg" were not suspenseful at all and could be seen from a mile away - I had more of a feeling of "oh, is that all?" - and the pomposity of a couple chapters especially annoyed me.
Its popularity irks me, yes, because I simply can't see what everyone finds so amazing. There are plenty of good things that are popular (like your Harry Potter example. I've loved the Harry Potter books since 8th grade, when no one but the English teacher and a few dorky girls read it, and I still do now, when everyone and their mother have read it.) The fact that people believe his history also bugs me since it's so obviously crappily researched (and according to a religion prof I know, it's based on a "non-fiction" book that turned out to be a big hoax.) Its whole "left-wing politics comes from sinistra!!!!!!" was the prime example - Dan Brown could've gone to the local university campus, grabbed a random history major, and fact-checked that in a second. French Revolution 101. (that sounds snooty. but seriously, Dan Brown.)
"Shouldn't we view The Da Vinci Code as Harry Potter for adults?" Half yes, half no. Personally, I consider HP to be a good book and DVC to be not a good book. The fact that people are reading is good... I'm not going to be awful and try to discourage fans of the DVC from checking out more Dan Brown and hopefully eventually something better. (Heck, I bought Nicholas Sparks books for a friend of mine, since I knew they were books she would actually enjoy, and I love that my 17-year old sister is reading, even if she's reading Shopaholic Takes Manhattan. Which is quite entertaining brain candy, actually.) I don't dislike it because it isn't highbrow literature; I dislike it because I think it's just bad. Alternately: I have nothing against thrillers; I just didn't think it was a competent thriller.
I'll admit I'm one of those people whose eyeballs burst into flame when they see someone reading it on the metro, so I'm not exactly neutral on the subject. But I don't think you can pass off most irkedness at the DVC by saying it's because it's popular.

Anyway, this has gotten way too long, and I should be studying POLI227, so I'll stop babbling.
[User Picture]
From:punzerel
Date:April 24th, 2006 11:22 pm (UTC)

Re: sideays stories from the wayside school!

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oh wow, that was longer than i thought!
many apologies.
From:vandalisimo
Date:April 24th, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
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Ugh, I hate Dan Brown. I couldn't get through the book at all. I thought his writing was horrendous. Gah! I think it might make for a decent move though, for some reason. Mostly because other people will be involved. Hopefully they can make real characters out of those...whatever they were in the book.
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From:smrou
Date:April 24th, 2006 11:34 pm (UTC)
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But the book isn't bad. What irks everyone is that it's so bloody popular

I have to say, I resent that generalization. In my opinion, the book is bad, and it's not just the fact that it's popular that irks me (wait a second, I never read the book--I read Angels and Demons, but from what I've heard from folks who have read them both, they're almost identical). The fact that some people talk about the book like it's some work of genius--or even worse, like the information in it is true--bugs the crap out of me, but I have no problem with the fact that it's popular, and I mostly just ignore the buzz. I like many things that are extremely popular.

I don't mind reading popular books, and I don't mind reading books that don't qualify as great literature. You mention Michael Crichton, and while sometimes I feel slightly embarrassed admitting it, I really like Crichton's books. I've read almost all of them, and I've really enjoyed almost all of them (I couldn't stand Timeline). His writing is formulaic, much like Dan Brown's, but not nearly as clumsy, and not nearly as arrogant (although I think he's getting worse on that front). Dan Brown's writing just bugged the hell out of me from the very beginning.

My sister liked The Da Vinci Code, and I don't think that makes her stupid or unintellectual, nor do I think that of you. Our tastes are not identical, and I realize that. I'm fine with that.

And for whatever it's worth, I do intend to see the movie of The Da Vinci Code. I imagine it will make a good movie. Hell, it was written like one.
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From:punzerel
Date:April 24th, 2006 11:37 pm (UTC)
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This is basically what I think, only far more eloquent and concise. :)
[User Picture]
From:capnnick
Date:April 24th, 2006 11:38 pm (UTC)
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Don't you know? As an intelligent person you are forbidden from endorsing anything from which more than 3,000 people glean enjoyment. That reminds me, you've been eating food on a pretty regular basis, haven't you? Hmm?!
[User Picture]
From:shizam23
Date:April 24th, 2006 11:41 pm (UTC)
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See, my thoughts on 'The DaVinci Code' was not so much a 'great' book as a 'fun' book.

It was a fun, if formulaic read, and it just cracks me up when people get all up in arms about how it's such a 'popcorn book' (whatever the fuck that is)"It's so predictable, OMG, how dare people enjoy it!". Relax people, not every novel can be Pride & Prejudice. It's ok to like a book that doesn't necessarily have much redeeming 'literary' value.

Hee! I've practiced this rant before, can you tell?:P But yeah, I'm with you - I mostly enjoy the authors you mentioned and the DaVinci Code particularly because hello! Fun! And also, I like it when I am smarter than the protaganist and pick the bad guy first:)
[User Picture]
From:jeeperstseepers
Date:April 24th, 2006 11:45 pm (UTC)
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So I read it. And I found it to be a perfectly competent thriller with all the thriller trappings.

I think the huge amount of Da Vinci Code hate can be explained by just that: it's a thriller with all the thriller trappings. More people have a hate-on for this book than for most other thrillers out there because more people--many more people--read this book in the first place. And the reason they read it is that the subject matter was fascinating, and the way it was reviewed and talked about it made it sound like it was so much more than a regular ol' thriller. So of course lots of us hate it...we don't like thrillers, period, and this is not the sort of book we'd normally read. It's like an 80-year old Classical musical expert reviewing a System of a Down album.

The hate for The Da Vinci Code doesn't come from the fact that it's popular, so it must suck. The hate comes from the fact that we just don't like it, and the hate is then intensified by the popularity and hearing people talking about it like it's this amazing, deep, scholarly work when really it...isn't. What makes it especially annoying for me personally is that there was so much potential. If Brown hadn't included straight-out factual inaccuracies that made me question the accuracy of the things I wasn't as familiar with and if it had been constructed just a bit better, it would have made a nice, enjoyable, light read, and I resent that he screwed it up.
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