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The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Yesterday, I finished The Da Vinci Code. Having had an inordinately religious Childhood replete with a lot of conspiracy theories and contrarian views on organized religion and the Catholic church I had been mildly interested in the story for some time.

Mildly because it’s all a bit boring to me now and because the time for me to take religion personally has long come and gone. That this book made such a stir on these old favorite themes of mine was enough for me to want to read it someday, but on the other hand I thought it was trying to debunk beliefs I no longer cared much about.  So I never paid much attention to the hype and only bought it because it was one of the only English-language novels in the bookstore I had shopped at.

It turns out that it was very different than I had imagined. I had imagined a more antagonistic view of religion and didn’t know it also purported to be a thriller.  On the former I think it is for the better and as to the latter it reduced it to cheap Hollywood-esque fare for me.

I admired the very rich work with riddles, puzzles, twists and wordplay. I enjoyed the art and the history details, with all their embellishments, and I enjoyed the core concept of the Holy Grail and Mary Magdalene.

What ruined it for me was the modern setting for the conspiracy and the modern “fugitive movie” genre it reduced itself to. At no point in the plot could I stop questioning it’s idiocy and enjoy a decent suspension of disbelief. And as the plot unfolded it got progressively weaker.

I think the author might have known as much as well, he added backstory of the grandfather loving to play treasure hunts and riddles in what I see as pre-empting the readers’ notion that the novel’s plot is a childlike easter egg hunt trying to take itself seriously as an edge-of-your-seat thriller. But the twists he added at the end made it even weaker and the ending was anti-climatic and did more to simply tie down the ends of the plot than provide any climax.

The last novel I read, Michael Crichton’s State of Fear also couldn’t suspend disbelief for me in its own silly race around the globe. I wonder if my imagination has become old and brittle….

Spent the night with an old flame….

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

I just did something I haven’t done in ages. I read a book cover-to-cover last night. I grew up on books and read voraciously most of my life and I’m giddy because it’s like a long-lost love has returned.

My brother and I were taught to read as toddlers using flashcards, and then the “Peter and Jane” series of Ladybird books. We never stopped and the next thing we both devoured was the “Picture Bible”, the Bible in comic book format. By five and six we were reading newspaper articles without difficulty and moving on to literature.

We weren’t allowed to watch TV so reading was our only entertainment other than one movie a week. I’d usually read three or four books in a week, but sometimes as much as five or six. We weren’t allowed to have most books but we’d smuggle them around and read them as fast as we could before they were confiscated from us.

Some of my fondest memories are our secret book club. Until adulthood there might be a grand total of a dozen books that we didn’t both read within a week. Every book he read I read. It was my our TV, our school and our lives. My brother and I would read everywhere. In the bathroom, before bed, even when walking down the street.

Then came computers. I got my first computer around the year 2000, and was instantly addicted to all the instant information available online. I taught myself various web development technologies, and began to study academic subjects with the same voracity I had once had for literature.

This enlightened me on all sorts of subjects from technology and science to political science and law. I spent a lot of my time reading things like Able2Know and Wikipedia and for a short time I was even following every known online newspaper on a daily or weekly basis. I began to contribute information and publish websites and my reading of literature, and all “hardcopy” books, virtually ceased. I’d read at least 2 books a week from 2 till 20 but might have read 3 books in the following 8 years, and only because someone send me those books and I would have been terribly rude not to have read them.

But I decided to start reading before bed again. I don’t allow TV or computers in the bedroom and thought reading would be a nice way to fall asleep again. So I started with James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I didn’t choose the book, it was left in my apartment by a friend and it was the only book I had around.

I happened by a bookstore and picked up a novel by one of my favorite contemporary authors from my childhood, Michael Crichton. And I sat down and read it overnight. It’s not that good of a book (State of Fear), but I simply missed reading that much and I’ve already bought four more books: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a collection of Aesop’s Fables (I remember them all so I won’t read it, and it’s for my brand-new book collection), Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

State of Fear felt dated, and the suspension of disbelief was difficult at times but I’ll have more to say about it later (and it’s two core concepts). Right now, I am just happy to be back in love with books, I’ve missed them!