Sunday, February 10, 2013

Da Vinci Code, aka Da Fuck Am I Reading


It is actually a novel, but there are no other factual claims in this book.

FACT:

The Da Vinci Code is a novel written by Dan Brown in 1862. It is 2700 pages long and does not contain the letter "j." If you take the first word of each page it spells out "Dan Brown screams like a little girl when he sees an albino." Charles J. Guiteau had a copy of The Da Vinci Code on his person when he shot President L. Ron Hubbard with a cat fired from a pentagram-shaped slingshot.

All descriptions of why this book is a piece of silly, predictable, intellectually shallow tripe are accurate.

*******

There are three things that make The Da Vinci Code completely worthless reading. First:

1. Bullshit

I actually spent more time trying to find sources for a lot of Brown's more damning claims than I did actually reading The Da Vinci Code. If historical accuracy were Dan Brown's wife, she would have been fucking the milk man long ago since Dan pays her no attention. Make no mistake, he does not intend the backdrop of TDVC to be fictional:

All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate. 

And here he states that he considers the work 99% accurate. However, it is closer to 99% bullshit. Anyone who doesn't instantly urinate in terror at the mention of the word "Google" can quickly discover this. I have no idea how this book was written in an era where the entire sum of human knowledge can be accessed by anyone, instantaneously.

The Priory of Sion—a European secret society founded in 1099—is a real organization. In 1975 Paris's Bibliothèque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Nope, it was a hoax. Is academic integrity so hard, Dan?



The connections may be invisible, he often preached to his symbology classes at Harvard, but they are always there, buried just beneath the surface.

So, by your own character's admission, he makes connections that aren't there. He's a Harvard professor? In symbology, no less? That's not an academic discipline I would take seriously even if it were real.

Symbologists often remarked that France—a country renowned for machismo, womanizing, and diminutive insecure leaders like Napoleon and Pepin the Short—could not have chosen a more apt national emblem than a thousand-foot phallus.

That sounds like a whole bunch of psuedopsychological drivel to me, but who am I to contradict a symbologist. 




Despite the orgiastic rituals once held at the Arc du Carrousel...

I couldn't find any reference to this, but considering that the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel was completed in 1808, I find it extremely unlikely that any religious orgies took place there.

Despite the estimated five days it would take a visitor to properly appreciate the 65,300 pieces of art in (the Louvre)...

It would indeed be extremely difficult for a visitor to appreciate 65,300 pieces of art at the Louvre Museum since there are only 35,000 of them.

The late French president who had commissioned the pyramid was said to have suffered from a "Pharaoh complex." Singlehandedly responsible for filling Paris with Egyptian obelisks, art, and artifacts. François Mitterrand had an affinity for Egyptian culture that was so all-consuming that the French still referred to him as the Sphinx. 

Actually, they called him the Sphinx because he was a very enigmatic person. As for his "pharaoh complex," I couldn't find a single goddamn thing online about it.

As a young astronomy student, Langdon had been stunned to learn the planet Venus traced a perfect pentacle across the ecliptic sky every four years. So astonished were the ancients to observe this phenomenon, that Venus and her pentacle became symbols of perfection, beauty, and the cyclic qualities of sexual love. As a tribute to the magic of Venus, the Greeks used her four-year cycle to organize their Olympiads. Nowadays, few people realized that the four-year schedule of modern Olympic Games still followed the cycles of Venus. Even fewer people knew that the five-pointed star had almost become the official Olympic seal but was modified at the last moment—its five points exchanged for five intersecting rings to better reflect the games' spirit of inclusion and harmony.

There's just one teensy little thing wrong with that passage, Mr. Brown; the pentagram formed by Venus is not perfect. The rest of your information is correct, however. Oh, except for the pentagram representing perfection and sex to the Greeks, which it didn't. You're right on the money with the rest... Although, the Greeks actually based the Olympics around Zeus, not the planet Venus. But those are the only mistakes! Well, except for saying that the original Olympic seal was a pentagram, which there is no reference to, anywhere. But everything else you said is true! Which is, uh...

Nothing.

"Unfortunately, the United States military has also perverted the pentacle; it's now our foremost symbol of war. We paint it on all our fighter jets and hang it on the shoulders of all our generals." So much for the goddess of love and beauty.

It's a star, dipshit. We have fifty of them on our flag.

He wondered if Fache had any idea that this pyramid, at President Mitterrand's explicit demand, had been constructed of exactly 666 panes of glass—a bizarre request that had always been a hot topic among conspiracy buffs who claimed 666 was the number of Satan.

673, actually.



"Any of them real?" Langdon asked, motioning to the cameras.
Fache shook his head. "Of course not."
Langdon was not surprised. Video surveillance in museums this size was cost-prohibitive and
ineffective. With acres of galleries to watch over, the Louvre would require several hundred
technicians simply to monitor the feeds.


Nope.

Embedded in the gray granite floor, a thin polished strip of brass glistened in the stone... a golden line slanting across the church's floor. The line bore graduated markings, like a ruler. It was a gnomon, Silas had been told, a pagan astronomical device like a sundial.

Nope! 

Da Vinci had always been an awkward subject for historians, especially in the Christian tradition. Despite the visionary's genius, he was a flamboyant homosexual and worshipper of Nature's divine order, both of which placed him in a perpetual state of sin against God. Moreover, the artist's eerie eccentricities projected an admittedly demonic aura: Da Vinci exhumed corpses to study human anatomy; he kept mysterious journals in illegible reverse handwriting; he believed he possessed the alchemic power to turn lead into gold and even cheat God by creating an elixir to postpone death; and his inventions included horrific, never-before-imagined weapons of war and torture.
Misunderstanding breeds distrust, Langdon thought. 


NOPE!

Langdon felt a chill. They played Tarot? The medieval Italian card game was so replete with
hidden heretical symbolism that Langdon had dedicated an entire chapter in his new manuscript to the Tarot... Originally, Tarot had been devised as a secret means to pass along ideologies banned by the Church. Now, Tarot's mystical qualities were passed on by modern fortune-tellers.


No, goddamn it!

The Church of Saint-Sulpice, it is said, has the most eccentric history of any building in Paris. Built over the ruins of an ancient temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis, the church possesses an architectural footprint matching that of Notre Dame to within inches.

Go home, Dan Brown. You're drunk.




2. Terrible exposition

Dan Brown does exposition even worse than Stephenie Meyer and E.L. James... and they're Stephenie Meyer and E.L. James.

The general rule of exposition is "show, don't tell." For example, if I'm writing a (barely) fictional book about what a scandalous floozy your mom is, I won't have an opening scroll in which I state that she's a scandalous floozy. I won't have a character say "As you know, there aren't any men in town your mom hasn't speedbagged with her tongue." I will show her giving fellatio to complete strangers, because that's good exposition. And trust me, she's easy to expose.

The funny thing is, Dan Brown does the good sort of exposition but he still fucks it up.

Robert Langdon awoke slowly.
A telephone was ringing in the darkness—a tinny, unfamiliar ring. He fumbled for the bedside
lamp and turned it on. Squinting at his surroundings he saw a plush Renaissance bedroom with Louis XVI furniture, hand-frescoed walls, and a colossal mahogany four-poster bed.
Where the hell am I?
The jacquard bathrobe hanging on his bedpost bore the monogram: HOTEL RITZ PARIS.
Slowly, the fog began to lift.


Dan Brown: How can I tell my audience that he's in the Hotel Ritz Paris? I know! I'll have him forget he's in a hotel room! I am a genius!

By the way, "genius," "HOTEL RITZ PARIS" isn't a monogram. That would be HRP.

Langdon still felt fuzzy. A visitor? His eyes focused now on a crumpled flyer on his bedside table.
 

THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF PARIS
proudly presents
AN EVENING WITH ROBERT LANGDON
PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS SYMBOLOGY,
HARVARD UNIVERSITY

Langdon groaned. Tonight's lecture—a slide show about pagan symbolism hidden in the stones of Chartres Cathedral—had probably ruffled some conservative feathers in the audience.


So rather than tell us that he had a presentation earlier, Dan Brown has him remember it by looking at a crumpled up flyer... even though this would be a case where it would be fine just to tell us.

But, he can't really do the "tell me" kind of exposition well, either:

"Ladies and gentlemen..." the hostess had announced to a full house at the American University of Paris's Pavilion Dauphine, "Our guest tonight needs no introduction. He is the author of numerous books: The Symbology of Secret Sects, The An of the Illuminati, The Lost Language of Ideograms, and when I say he wrote the book on Religious Iconology, I mean that quite literally. Many of you use his textbooks in class."

"He needs no introduction. So, allow me to introduce him." Notice how that only happens in fiction? The author is aware that the (fictional) audience knows who he is and it would be weird to introduce him, but he has to get around the fact that the real world audience doesn't. So, the author throws out a half-assed thing TV Tropes calls As You Know.

Last month, much to Langdon's embarrassment, Boston Magazine had listed him as one of that city's top ten most intriguing people—a dubious honor that made him the brunt of endless ribbing by his Harvard colleagues.

I'm not sure why this should be "dubious" but the hostess decides to read the article out loud when she's introducing him for some reason:

"Although Professor Langdon might not be considered hunk-handsome like some of our younger awardees, this forty-something academic has more than his share of scholarly allure. His captivating presence is punctuated by an unusually low, baritone speaking voice, which his female students describe as 'chocolate for the ears.' " 

Wow! Now I know that he is forty-something with an unusually low baritone speaking voice! This isn't awkwardly delivered or superfluous information at all. Seriously though, "forty something?" If you're going to cheat at exposition like this, don't also test my suspension of disbelief by telling me that the magazine editors don't know how old he is.

Here's some from the antagonists:

"Inside a house of the Lord," the Teacher exclaimed. "How they mock us!"
"As they have for centuries." 


The Teacher fell silent, as if letting the triumph of this moment settle over him. Finally, he spoke.
"You have done a great service to God. We have waited centuries for this..."


As you know, you've read my blog for months and there has never been exposition this forced before.

"I have a favor to ask of you. I just received a call from an influential American bishop.
Perhaps you know him? Manuel Aringarosa?"
"The head of Opus Dei?"
Of course I know of him. Who in the Church doesn't?

"Hello, person who doesn't need to be informed about anything! There's an influential American bishop named Manuel Aringarosa. Even though he's famous throughout the Catholic church, I will ask you if you know who he is so that you can tell the audience that he's the head of Opus Dei!"

God knows he needs the pension, Collet thought. Fache's zeal for technology had hurt him both professionally and personally. Fache was rumored to have invested his entire savings in the technology craze a few years back and lost his shirt. And Fache is a man who wears only the finest shirts.

Interesting conversation you're having with the narration there, Collet.



Their relationship had evaporated in a single instant one March night when she was twenty-two. Ten years ago. Sophie had come home a few days early from graduate university in England and mistakenly witnessed her grandfather engaged in something Sophie was obviously not supposed to see. It was an image she barely could believe to this day. 

Dan Brown does this shit a lot. "I have a terrible dark secret, and I'll tell you what it is later! I promise it's really shocking! Just keep reading!"

Langdon fired back, smiling as he projected a slide of a spiral seashell. "Recognize this?"
"It's a nautilus," the bio major said. "A cephalopod mollusk that pumps gas into its chambered shell to adjust its buoyancy." 


"Sorry, I want someone who's not a clumsy exposition device to tell me. Anyone else recognize this?"

One night, there was a horrific fight, and his mother never got up. The boy stood over his lifeless mother and felt an unbearable up-welling of guilt for permitting it to happen. This is my fault!

The character felt guilty right then. "I AM FEELING GUILT RIGHT NOW!"


3. Laughably bad writing

Although a mere worm compared to the Grand Duchess of Literary Nonsense, Dan Brown has his share of things that are really hard to understand and/or take seriously.

The man's English was accented—a sharp, authoritative bark."My name is Lieutenant Jerome Collet. Direction Centrale Police Judiciaire."

"I speak English fluently, but I must say the name of my bureau in French because I will not sully it with your filthy swine tongue."
 
"My capitaine requires your expertise in a private matter."

"My capitaine also requires that we call him capitaine even when speaking English. I hope to be as French as him one day."

As Langdon stared at the bizarre image, his initial revulsion and shock gave way to a sudden
upwelling of anger. "Who would do this!" 


The painting, Langdon guessed, was worth upward of two million dollars, and yet it was lying on the floor like a discarded poster. "What the devil is it doing on the floor!" 

Who would write without question marks!

Langdon stared at the picture, his horror now laced with fear. The image was gruesome and
profoundly strange, bringing with it an unsettling sense of déjà vu. A little over a year ago,
Langdon had received a photograph of a corpse and a similar request for help. Twenty-four hours later, he had almost lost his life inside Vatican City. This photo was entirely different, and yet something about the scenario felt disquietingly familiar.


His "horror" now laced with "fear." You are a clever wordsmith, Danny. I also like how your character thinks there's something familiar about this situation but he just can't put his finger on it. Maybe it's the fact that he doesn't look at crime scene photos every day?




The driver pulled out a handheld walkie-talkie and spoke in rapid-fire French. "Monsieur Langdon est arrivé. Deux minutes."
An indecipherable confirmation came crackling back.


... But not so indecipherable that he couldn't tell it was a confirmation. Langdon is just that good at symbology.



The man was stocky and dark, almost Neanderthal, dressed in a dark double-breasted suit that strained to cover his wide shoulders.

Dark = neanderthal? Dan Brown should change his name to Dan Brownpeoplearemonkeys.

Unlike the waifish, cookie-cutter blondes that adorned Harvard dorm room walls, this woman was healthy with an unembellished beauty and genuineness that radiated a striking personal confidence. 

Is it me, or does that sound like an incredibly verbose and tactful way of saying she's enormous?

On either flank, a shadowy row of sleek buttresses jutted out like the ribs of a beautiful beast.

Never thought "ribs jutting out" was beautiful. You don't have any self-image problems, do you, Mr. Brown?



Sophie detected the faint hint of a lopsided grin growing across Langdon's face, and she felt herself smile back. "Good luck, Robert."

Faint hint of a... lopsided... grin? Fuck this! Thank god I'm already a third of the way through this tripe.

More coming. Probably. Maybe.

5 comments:

  1. "Dan Brownpeoplearemonkeys" is my new favorite name. I HATED this book and couldn't read more than the first chapter. I did see the (horrible) movie though, so I'm looking forward to more recaps of the awful!

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    Replies
    1. I actually think the book has good pacing and I can see why people like it as a mystery-thriller, but everything else about it is garbage.

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    2. You, sir, are a dipshit.

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  2. Found this link while searching Google, thanks

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  3. You are clearly stupid. It was a good book. Obviously not everything was fact. Considering it's a novel, it should not be expected to be fact. It's still very interesting. You close-minded fucks just can't enjoy anything, can you? And who cares if some of his writing style you didn't particularly like. Why don't you write your own damn book if you think you can do a better fucking job than him. You are probably just a devoted Catholic and got offended because you think he is attacking the Church. It's a novel, his writing therefore does not have to be formal, nor does it have to be one hundred percent accurate. How about The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne? Not only is it boring, but it doesn't make sense. Or how about The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck? That book sucks and is just as boring as The Scarlet Letter. And it also not realistic. But these two books are considered to be some of the greatest books in our country. Why? They are fucking stupid. I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code, regardless of whether it is fact or not. Are you saying that every time you read a book you check everything it says to make sure it's true? It seems like your more of a douche bag than a person who likes to read. There's nothing wrong with a novel that isn't all fact or that doesn't follow formal writing techniques. I'll tell you the definition of a novel, just so it's clear. Novel: a fictitious prose narrative of book length. Do you see the word "fictitious?" That means it's not real. Most novel have some degree of realism, and this one does. Every historical thing told in this book could be true. Maybe Dan Brown knows something we don't. Or maybe, just maybe, he wrote a novel so that it doesn't have to be true. Actually, you know what, never mind. You are clearly correct. Who writes a novel with it being absolutely true anyway? Certainly not educated people, oh no. Only a simple minded loser would write a novel with intentions to make it fiction. You, sir, are an idiot. Why don't you just read actual history books from now on, that way you can check the sources and actually have an argument when something isn't true in the book.

    ReplyDelete