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Tony Grist

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That Damn Book (And Film) [May. 7th, 2006|10:43 am]
Tony Grist
The Da Vinci Code comes too late for me. I did all this stuff in the 80s and 90s.

I'm not saying I was in the vanguard. As someone in the Observer pointed out this morning, people like Robert Graves and Margaret Murray were putting together theories involving the Great Goddess, the sex life of Jesus and centuries-old ecclesiastical conspiracies over fifty years ago.

And behind them lies Frazer's Golden Bough- one of the key texts of the early 20th century.

What was once the prattle of a few off-centre scholars and pseudo-scholars has finally gone mainstream.

There was a time when I hoped and half-believed it was all true.

But now I know it isn't.

There never was a Goddess worshipping Golden Age.
The Priory de Sion was the invention of a mid-20th century fascist hoaxer.
Opus Dei may be sinister- but it doesn't employ albino hit-men.

And so on...

That's what irritates me about Brown. If he'd done proper research- instead of cherrypicking the conspiracy websites- he'd have known that most of the ideas he's playing with here were shot to pieces ages ago.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: dadi
2006-05-07 05:28 am (UTC)
I got over Frazer in the early eighties. I like my conspiration novels all right, but I like them as NOVELS, not as gospels. And it truly scares me just how many of the youngsters (and not only) fall for this believing it the absolute truth, also because they really don't have any knowledge about history at all.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-07 06:39 am (UTC)
And they're so incurious.

It's not as if the information were hard to find.

Websites debunking the Da Vinci Code are just a google-search away.
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From: sunfell
2006-05-07 06:23 am (UTC)
I feel the exact same way. I was all into this stuff back in the 80s (still have a first edition paperback of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail"), but my deeper study (and some good Guidance) led me to understand that 99.9% of all of it was fabricated. The Goddess stuff. The Jesus stuff. The 'witch cult' stuff.

I think it was the Woodcrafter connection with Gardener that finally severed the last thread. If there were actual Native American elements blended into the Wiccan mix, the claim of a 'pure, unbroken Tradition' is bunk.

I still get amusement from some conspiracy stuff, but I don't believe any of it. At least the Pagan stuff. It's the modern Dominionist Christian movement in the US that is proving to be The Real Thing.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-07 06:47 am (UTC)
The actual history is at least as interesting as anything the conspiracy buffs can come up with.

I found Ron Hutton's account of Wiccan origins in Triumph of the Moon absolutely riveting.

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[User Picture]From: methodius
2006-05-07 07:38 am (UTC)
What irritates me about Brown is not Brown -- after all there are lots of mediocre novelists about, and lots of mediocre conspiracy novels about. What irritates me is the hype about Brown's novel, which is the lower end of mediocrity. It's a long way from being the best of its genre.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-07 07:54 am (UTC)
For some reason this particular book has hit a nerve. I don't really understand why. I wish I did.

Does it represent some sort of reaction to the rise of the religious Right?

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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2006-05-07 07:48 am (UTC)
The thing is, from what I've heard, Brown never set out to write anything other than a popular thriller. He doesn't believe any of this stuff. It's the fans who are scarily convinced it's all true. He's writing light fiction for heaven's sake.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-07 08:07 am (UTC)
I find the whole thing totally bewildering.

"It's in a book, therefore it must be true."

But then there are lots of people out there who seem to believe that Coronation Street is a fly on the wall documentary series.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2006-05-07 07:52 am (UTC)
It turns out that he's a believer. I think you accused him of being one a bit ago and I picked on you for that, asking you how you knew that. Well, I read an interview with him, and he admitted that he is a believer.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-07 08:10 am (UTC)
A believer in what exactly- the conspiracy stuff or mainstream Christianity?
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[User Picture]From: qos
2006-05-07 08:05 am (UTC)
Yes, yes!

People keep asking me if I've read Code, and I'm always a bit embarrassed to tell them "no" because I feel like my reasons make me sound like a snob: this stuff about Magdalene and Christ may be 'news' for the general public, but this theory has been out there for ages, and I studied it years ago, and frankly I'm not interested in conspiracy theories.

Just last night, I said to a friend "Holy Blood, Holy Grail came out decades ago."

And of course there is the issue of being able to tell the difference between 'myth' 'fiction' and 'history' -- with the caveat that 'history' is often blurred by the first two.

Personally, I like the idea of Magdalene and Christ having been married, but that's all I take it as: either a story that can be well told, and as a myth that speaks to certain elements of my spirituality. All this conspiracy stuff is stupid. I think.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2006-05-07 08:19 am (UTC)
It is rather disconcerting that so many church officials and religious organizations both Catholic and Protestant felt they had to respond to this in the first place. But then, a thorough grounding in religious history and doctrine has never been a prerequisite for membership in any religion, so a large number of people are prepared to accept any theory that's thrown at them (particularly a juicy one involving naughty bits that has religious authorities pulling their hair out). Like poliphilo said, the whole "It's in a book, it must be true" mentality as a social phenomenon is more interesting than the conspiracy theory itself.

Maybe the silver lining is that Da Vinci Code will inspire a few to delve deeper into the history of their faith?
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[User Picture]From: intotheraw
2006-05-07 08:41 am (UTC)
Not to mention that it is a poorly written book aimed at the lowest level of intelligence.

I only read the book because I am in the academic game of religion, and wanted to figure out why people were so upset about it. The book was horrible, sure the plot was semi-interesting, I suppose. Maybe more so for those who hadn't read anything else like it before, but the style of writing was insulting. A cliff hanger every three pages is like foreplay without ever getting to the big bang. Only worse. The big bang was the notion that maybe Jesus might have been normal enough to have had a family *rolls eyes*. Really now, where's the controversy?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-07 09:02 am (UTC)
There's got to be some reason why this book rings a bell.

Perhaps it's simply because organised religion- after years of apparent decline- is suddenly all over the headlines again.
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From: bodhibird
2006-05-07 12:13 pm (UTC)
Shortly after reading this post, I came across this pertinent entry from a feed on my other LJ. At the moment, I am inclined to agree with him.

(I also have to admit that I'd like to see the movie, so I can get the story without putting up with the dreadful writing.)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-08 02:25 am (UTC)
Interesting. This aspect of the book has been downplayed in most of the accounts I've read.

Yeah, I mean to see the film. It's often the case that dreadful books make perfectly acceptable (even classic) movies.
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From: hardrada
2006-05-07 02:10 pm (UTC)
Having read the Da Vinci Code, and enjoyed it guiltily, the way one enjoys a pot noodle, I decided I wanted more of the same, but with better writing and fewer inaccuracies, which I could admit to reading in mixed company. I lighted on Foucault's Pendulum, and decided it was one of the most wonderful books I'd ever read. No screaming factual inaccuracies that I could discern, and characters who were genuine, flawed and tragic. At the very end of the book, one of the characters reveals, through his diary, his own personal discovery of the Grail during his childhood. It's a piece of writing so beautiful, it brings goose bumps to my neck even now.

As for the Da Vinci Code, as much as I would love to pour scorn all over the whole work, and as much faith as I have in my own writing, I recognise implicitly that I couldn't write a thriller as compelling and readable. His writing is vain, shallow and profane. The statement "Have you READ the Da Vinci Code" is an instant confession of ignorance. But I still couldn't put the blasted thing down.

There is a certain genius in what he does, that triumphantly defies my intellectual snobbery. And I think if a writer could summon that same base appeal, and combine it with comparable depth and integrity, we will have another Shakespeare on our hands.
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From: hardrada
2006-05-07 02:16 pm (UTC)
PS. In the same way that "His Dark Materials" went to the National while the Harry Potter franchise was playing its dreary through the cinemas, I would love to see a stage adaptation of "Foucault's Pendulum" to complement the Da Vinci Code film. Done correctly, it would run and run.
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