Yet Another Reason Not To Read Or See "The Da Vinci Code"
Or take the "Gospel of Judas" seriously:
It's a good rule in this line of work to respect a hit. But golly, The Da Vinci Code makes it hard. At the start of the book, Dan Brown pledges, "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." It's everything else that's hokum, beginning with the title, whose false tinkle testifies to Brown's penchant for weirdly inauthentic historicity. Referring to "Leonardo da Vinci" as "da Vinci" is like listing Lawrence of Arabia in the phone book as "Of Arabia, Mr. L," or those computer-generated letters that write to the Duke of Wellington as "Dear Mr. Duke, you may already have won!"
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Novelist Dan Brown staggered through the formulaic splendour of his opening sentence. I've discussed his anarthrous kickoff with a couple of novelists and they say things like, "It doesn't sound like a novel," and I usually reply that that's the point. If The Da Vinci Code were just a novel, it would just be crummy writing. But insofar as it evokes one of those interminable Newsweek background pieces reconstructing the John Kerry presidential campaign or some such, it bolsters the sleight of hand of the book: it rhythmically supports the impression that this is not a work of fiction, but a documentary unlocking of a two-millennia-old secret -- to wit, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and sired a long line of descendants unto (anarthrous alert) police cryptologist Sophie Neveu, played in the movie by renowned French actress Audrey Tautou. In other words, the Gospels are a crock. Acclaimed painter Leonardo da Vinci knew the truth and left clues in his acclaimed paintings.
This premise has made anarthrous novelist Dan Brown the bestselling anarthrous novelist in the world. Even in a largely post-Christian West, Jesus is still a hit brand but, like other long-running franchises, he's been reinvented. It's like one of those bizarro Superman/alternate universe specials the comic books like to do. Or maybe one of those sputtering soaps that take refuge in ever more bizarre storylines -- that season of Dallas where they wrote off the previous year's worth of shows as a bad dream of Pam Ewing's.
The latest Bizarro Christ bestseller is the so-called Gospel of Judas, lost for 1,600 years but apparently rediscovered 20 minutes ago, edited by various scholars and now published by the National Geographic Society in Washington. Evidently, National Geographic has fallen on hard times since the days when anthropological studies of remote tribes were a young man's only readily available source of pictures of naked women. So I hope this new wrinkle works out for them. Renowned betrayer Judas Iscariot, you'll recall, was the disciple who sold out Jesus. Only it turns out he didn't! He was in on the plot! The betrayal was all part of the plan! For, as the Gospel of Judas exclusively reveals, Christ came to him and said, "Rudolph, with your nose so bright . . ." No, wait, that's a later codex. Christ said to Judas that he "will exceed all" the other disciples because it had fallen to him to "sacrifice the man that clothes me."