Today’s article Holy Sepulcre! “The Da Vinci Code” shows that conspiracy theories have no limits by Daniel Henninger has the best line so far on Dan Brown’s book:
“The Valley of the Dolls” was about people having sex. “The Da Vinci Code” is about Jesus leaving Mary Magdalene pregnant with his baby while he dies on the cross. So in a sense, Mr. Brown’s novel respects tradition.
Henninger takes a look at real bestsellers:
“The Da Vinci Code” would not be the subject of this column had it not sold 60.5 million copies, according to its publisher Doubleday. Of course this does not make it the best-selling book of all time. That title, as irony would have it, goes to the Bible, half of which one of Dan Brown’s characters dismisses as “false.”
Like the Bible but unlike Mr. Brown’s novel, most of the books in the sales Pantheon have had utilitarian staying power–McGuffey’s Reader, the Guinness Book of Records, Noah Webster’s “The American Spelling Book,” Dr. Spock’s baby book and the World Almanac.
Brown had published a novel before The Da Vinci Code called Angels and Demons which is basically a rehash of a lot of old Masonic conspiracy theories (a theme that was more amusingly treated in National Treasure).
While Brown won a copyright infringement lawsuit from the authors of the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, readers of Umberto Eco’s 1989 novel Foucault’s Pendulum will notice more than a passing similarity or two in the plot and in the novel’s structure, including one person who said,
The Da Vinci Code it’s a slap in Umberto Eco’s face. It’s the triumph of the credulous conspiracy fanatics that Eco was ridiculing.
Dan Brown knows how to write a conspiracy potboiler, an easy read, while Eco’s writing can be a slog at times. The fundamental difference between the two lies in that Eco’s book – to quote the Wikipedia reviewer of TdVC – “is in fact a satire about the futility of conspiracy theories and the people who believe them.”
Part of the appeal of TdVC lies in its idea that Mary Magdalen is exalted over the male apostles, a concept deriving from the “gospel” of Mary, a 2d century AD document that was found in 1896. It segues into our modern, diversity, equal opportunity mentality because
In this gospel Christ teaches that sin is not a problem of moral ignorance so much as a manifestation of imbalance of the soul.
which fits exactly into New Age, Taoist and Buddhist concepts we are familiar with. The idea of sin not being a problem of morality but rather of imbalance is also a most cushy place to rest our weary, self-help driven, Dr. Phil-counseled and Oprahsized psyches. It bothers not a conscience, or a lack of a conscience.
12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants* any longer, because the servant* does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another
A simple message that seems to be lost in all the gnostic “gospel” hooey and Hollywood-induced hype.
the Holy Spirit uses things to His own advantage. This may be one of those times.
The Anchoress’ statement holds more truth than those who speak of gnostic “gospels” as
spectacular discoveries that are exploding the myth of a monolithic Christianity and showing how diverse and fascinating the early Christian movement really was.
Diverse, fascinating, yes. Gospel, no.
While bearing all this in mind, I’ll end in a lighter note and go back to Henninger’s article,
The real accomplishment of “The Da Vinci Code” is that Dan Brown has proven that the theory of conspiracy theories is totally elastic, it has no limits. The genre’s future is limitless, with the following obvious plots:
Bill Clinton is directly descended from Henry VIII; Hillary is his third cousin. Jack Ruby was Ronald Reagan’s half-brother. Dick Cheney has been dead for five years; the vice president is a clone created by Halliburton in 1998. The Laffer Curve is the secret sign of the Carlyle Group. Michael Moore is the founder of the Carlyle Group, which started World War I. The New York Times is secretly run by the Rosicrucians (this is revealed on the first page of Chapter 47 of “The Da Vinci Code” if you look at the 23rd line through a kaleidoscope). Jacques Chirac is descended from Judas.
None of this strikes me as the least bit implausible, especially the latter. I’d better get started.
Since the subject of this post has to do with hype and I’m not above making a buck, my favorite translation of the Bible is
and here are the other books Henninger mentions:
As for the books I didn’t link to, I read them at the Public Library. If you want to buy them go ahead, but I’m not linking to them.