BFTP: Am I being too much of a snob?

This repost is part of our Summer Slowdown revisiting of the blog archives. This post was originally published April 10th, 2006 (back when HaT was still on Blogger), and this time around I’m appending some footnotes.

Daffy Duck striking a distinctly unimpressed pose - arms crossed, nose in the air, foot looks like it could start tapping any momentAm I saving myself as much time and possible grief as I think I am when I refuse to read their blog if I click on a commentor’s profile and find that they’ve listed The Da Vinci Code as a favorite book?1 Maybe there are some perfectly perspicacious people who nonetheless love this book that I’m missing. But I have severe doubts.

I can understand reading it as a pop-culture phenomenon: I did that, especially as I’d already read Holy Blood, Holy Grail from which the author drew much of his plot2. I thought that was a beautifully crafted but mostly crap conspiracy theory then, and Dan Brown did a competent hack job of turning it all into a thriller, but no more. I have no gripe with people who read it from curiosity and gave it the ho-hum it deserves.

But to list it as a favorite? Mere iconoclasm does not a great book make. If the Grail conspiracy stuff has been a great eye-opener for one as to how the early Christians developed their dogma, and the controversies regarding the competing strands of Christian faith that ended up suppressed by Rome, fine. Have some residual affection for it for that.

But don’t elevate a clunkily-written hack thriller into favourite book status just because it gives the Vatican and the fundies the finger. Please.

As for the upcoming film? As Brown’s annoying stylistic lapses will have to be glossed over to sustain the pace of a movie thriller, the film actually has a chance of being a halfway decent rattling yarn if they don’t take all the religious symbology stuff too portentously3. How many believe that they will manage that? I will wait to kibbitz on someone else’s DVD though – I refuse to part with one sestertius for the dubious pleasure of seeing it.

Footnotes from 2010:
1. For those who haven’t spend much time in blogspot land, if another blogspot blogger leaves a comment on your blogspot blog, Blogger links to their profile page, so that’s the first thing you see if you click through, rather than the front page of their blog.
2. Hilariously, the writers of Holy Blood, Holy Grail actually tried to sue Dan Brown for plagiarism. The judgement quite rightly noted that they would only have a case if they were claiming that their own book was a work of fiction rather than one of alleged historical fact, and was this really what they wanted to say? They seem to have imploded at around about this point.
3. The film adaptation did end up as a halfway decent rattling yarn, although I think the second one was a better thriller, perhaps because it was a more standard OTT conspiracy theory.

Categories: arts & entertainment, ethics & philosophy, fun & hobbies, history, religion

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18 replies

  1. It was something that only struck me a long time after I’d first read the book … but did anyone else feel that Dan Brown was really looking for some feminist cookies?
    Langdon is an obnoxious self-insert character, and when he gets into the whole “sacred feminine! Evil church hates your awesome ladybits! Mary Magdalen totes awesome!” exposition with Sophie it just read to me (in hindsight after digesting the horrific prose) like so many “allies” who try to impress feminist women with their Down With The Girly Sh!t cred but just come across as condescending.

    • QoT, I think the extra-special-clunkiness of Brown’s sacred feminine exposition was that it was simply something he’d found in the Holy Blood, Holy Grail book and decided to use it as a plot point without fully understanding the philosophy of the argument, let alone believing it as an ideology. So of course it was unconvincing. I’m not sure he was looking for feminist cookies per se, he was just following a line of argument that wasn’t his own and doing a bad job of it.
      Rebekka, oh yes, the over-exposition of absolutely everything was really fucking annoying.
      lilacsigil, it’s not even a matter of enjoyment or not, as much as feeling that there couldn’t really be any true connection between us if our sensibilities are so very, very different. I feel rather the same about anybody whose favourite sitcom is Two And A Half Men.

  2. My problem with the book – which I read from idle curiosity, and LOATHED, was (among other things) the author seemed to think the reader could not be left to deduce a single skerrick of information for themselves, and therefore found it necessary to spell out every single detail of a character’s every motivation. FAIL.

  3. Everyone’s got to filter their reading somehow, and if “people whose favourite book is The DaVinci Code” tend to be a group of people whose writings you don’t enjoy, then why not?

  4. I wasn’t reading HoT yet in 2006. I’m so glad this was reposted. I’ve kept this criteria, Da Vinci Code as favourite book, for concluding dubious worthiness as a guilty secret. Now I know I’m not the only one!

  5. More useful litmus tests: listing anything by Ayn Rand in one’s favourites.

  6. Yes, Ayn Rand, but then I sort of waver between: ‘shit, this person can actually read! and ‘shit this person can’t think for themselves’. I sort of still have a little bit of hope, because of the ability to read.

    • Hm. I suspect we’re close to the same page, but just a jump to the left – I give that sort of leeway to people who list something by Heinlein as a favourite, because not everything Heinlein wrote was proto-fascist.

  7. Ahhhh! But then the people who’ve read Heinlein are very few and far between. Or am I just associating with the wrong crowd? (Yvonne pondering on that one now.)

    • maybe you’re associating with the right crowd, Yvonne!
      He’s tricksy, Heinlein. There’s just enough narrative brilliance and common-sense in there to seduce one if one isn’t well-versed in actual history.

  8. Gosh, I thought I was a literary snob for refusing to purchase any book with an Oprah Book Club sticker on it. Even if that book is the only copy of East of Eden in the shop. I do agree with you about The Da Vinci Code, though. It is definitely more worthy of the category “book” than of the category “literature”.
    Coincidently I’ve been catching up on back episodes of First Tuesday Book Club today. In the November episode Atlas Shrugged was reviewed and received the biggest thumbs down I’ve ever seen on that show. Marieke Hardy’s analysis of the “good” and “bad” characters was interesting: “the bad people are all fat, the good people are all thin”.

  9. Hey I enjoyed “This much I know is true” By Wally Lamb, Oprah sticker or not. Though, too be honest, I have much the same instant judgment about four wheel drives in the innercity and the people (read:blonds) that drive them.

    • @violent_rabbit, I too am an un-fan of large 4 wheel drives in the city, although some of the smaller ones bother me not a jot – they’re a practical-sized car that happens to have 4WD as an option rather than a huge “I’m scared of everybody else on the road and I don’t care if I take two parking spaces” thing. I’m also an un-fan of stereotyping people based on their looks, and I extend that to blond/e jokes, BTW.

  10. lilacsigil, it’s not even a matter of enjoyment or not, as much as feeling that there couldn’t really be any true connection between us if our sensibilities are so very, very different. I feel rather the same about anybody whose favourite sitcom is Two And A Half Men.

    I think it could be argued that this is snobbish but it’s more of a red flag system. I would be surprised to have anything in common with someone whose favourite show is Two And A Half Men. I’m sure I’d get along famously with some… just not the vast majority.

  11. I always interpret the Da Vinci Code as favourite book to mean “I don’t read. This is the only book I could think of.” Book snob. Guilty.

  12. This is quite a long shot but it is possible that it was that commenter’s favourite book because through a book group who met to talk about it zie met the perfect person. I’m not kidding about the book group – there was a sign in Alice Springs library inviting interested persons to talk about the ‘truth’ in the Da Vinci Code and I met more than one person who believed it was thinly veiled truth. It was at that point that I decided to be one of the people who have never read it. To this day I have not been desperate enough to read it. If, however, I was on a desert island with only the DVC or somewhere with similar lack of access to books I’d do it. But even if it was a choice between DVC and say Ulysses I’d go the James Joyce.

  13. Mindy, what a chillingly awful scenario!

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