I am both impressed and saddened at the same time.
I think what Brown brought to the table in terms of his research and and explanation of it is noteworthy. He does a fantastic job of spinning a diverse amount of ideas and history into a compelling read. Although his mystery style smacked a bit too much Agatha Christie meets a dime store plot twister. Plot holes (and explanation) aside, Brown’s his choice of chapter breaks was nauseating – I feel like someone was sitting on the remote the whole book – every time I got interested, the channel changed. Overall, the text covered a lot of ground, and did so without reading like an academic text. This is an absolute accomplishment when you look at the sandbox(es) Brown chose to play in.
My hat is off to Brown on the second cryptex – I missed the Pope totally, and “apple” was right in front of me, yet a world apart. In that regard, I am impressed by the author’s ability to draw you into the word games. Bravo. However, to offset this was the transparency of Sofia, as well as the revelation concerning the grail bloodline.
Brown’s broad penstroke history attributed to “Priory of Sion” (there have been a great many), as well as some of the glaring historical omissions in his quilt of pseudo-fact leave me a far cry from hailing it the masterpiece most have been praising it as. I will, however, fearlessly proclaim it an excellent starting point for someone looking to get engrossed in 2000+ years of historical and literary conspiracies and mysteries.
As someone who has spent (probably too much) time studying this stuff personally, I am disappointed by being served a McDonald’s happy meal. I realize that McDonalds happy meals have reached far more people across the world than many of the books I have read about eschew Rosicrucian splinter cells, grail imagery, and the Knights Templar. Brown does an impressive job of explaining significant symbols, and his choice of a historian/occultist protagonist as an arena to parade these symbols is an excellent choice.
I guess I am left with an uneasy feeling, being done. The book was good, and certain parts held definite appeal. But then in places, the book was a missed 3 pointer in the final seconds; falling short where it really could have changed everything. Granted, this “shortcoming” (as I see it) was a concession offered in order to maintain the murder mystery plot, but, as I mentioned above, if you removed the occult history from the book, you are left with either a dimestore mystery and a lot of French names OR a grotesque setup for a joke (a priest, a curator and an albino meet up with a cryptologist and a traveling historian).
So, the short version – I didn’t hate it, but I am pretty far from loving it. I would not hesitate to recommend it, but that recommendation would be contingent on a post-read conversation, and a follow up recommendation of other, more substantial texts on the subject matter brushed upon, if that sparks an interest in the person.
I am the first to admit that not everyone is out to read for the truth – to pursue it doggedly in all serious reading endeavors. There are many who read for the same pleasure that soap operas and sitcoms offer: an escape from reality. My love of science fiction, in part, follows this precise pattern. I guess my gripe is that I prefer to escape reality by delving into eschew complexities, rather than laughing at generalized simplicities, and many who have raved about this book proclaim it as a herald of the latter, rather than the former.
Hell, maybe if more people get interested about this stuff though, I won’t have to go trolling online to compare notes and avoid silly stares.
Impressions aside, one thing I realized this evening over a conversation is that, apparently, I come across as a fairly boorish intellectual snob. I do not mean to, but I guess perhaps I really am, and I am unsure of how I feel about that. I read fast. I was around 100 pages into Da Vinci,( a ~450 pager) when I got home from work. I started reading it, seriously, some time after I got home from the library, which was around seven. I was done by 10:15. I do not see this as a point to brag, nor do I see it as a competition. I know people who could have finished it an hour ahead of me. I know people who would still be struggling to get to where I was after two train rides today. Perhaps because I read fast, I get defensive when people ask me why I am rushing. I read at the pace I read, and still garner great enjoyment out of books. When I am forced to slow down my pace, I feel frustrated. That is why I hated the SAT’s more than anything. A book should never have a stop sign in it, unless it is teaching you driving laws.
I almost always have two cents to add to a conversation. I have spent lots of time making sure that I know a little bit about as much as I can. When I am truly silent, it is because I am listening to something I know nothing about. The rest of the time, I am working on shifting the newly assimilated information into the array of what I know already, and trying to figure out what questions I can ask to better hone the understanding I am gaining. Context is everything, and sources are second to that. Sometimes, the questions and answers not offered provide more data than any question or answer ever could – it is during those times that I think many people misgauge my ability to listen, because I spend so much time talking.
I do not feel I always need to be right, but I do feel that I should always try to add something to a conversation. That is not always the easiest thing to do, especially when the topics you choose to discuss, or when answers offered or questions sought get you odd looks and shrugs for almost 20 years. I remember correcting the tour guide so often in the Museum of Natural History at the age of 6, that my parents were asked to leave the tour, as I was disrupting the experience for the other patrons. I remember being the only 6th grader to vote for Hitler (in a hypothetical scenario where we were put into the socio-political atmosphere wherein Hitler came to power – a test to see if historical context could overcome historical popular opinion). I remember questioning faith when it was presented as fact, and questioning fact, when sources are deemed “irrefutable”. I have never fit in, with the teachers, or with the students. Perhaps that is why I so devoutly hate Academia. Perhaps that is why I am eternally l'avocat de diable.
I am used to being weird, and am comfortable enough in my own skin to get through the day-to-day, but my mantle still chafes more than a little when the lens of ridicule comes back around. Not from strangers, as I have learned not togive a fuck what they think without knowing me, but when it comes from close friends or family, I still have a tough time with it. Perhaps this is a side-effect of too many summer afternoons spent indoors reading instead of on the playground toughening skin. Anyone up for a game of chickens and eggs? I don’t know the answers – has my intellectual exclusiveness bred in me an inability to blend in?
So, to all you out there in LJ land who know me IRL, if I am, for whatever reason, speaking, acting, or assuming things that, in your opinion, make me out to be the antithesis of an open-minded intellectual, let me know – please. I’d hate to become an opinionated brainsnob without realizing it, only to find out it is too late to shed that particular title, amongst the many others which drag behind me as I go through life.