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neither a bombshell nor a diamond

So I finished The Da Vinci Code.

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?

I dunno.

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.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2004 09:59 pm (UTC)
remind me I have a comment to make in person when we pick up the food - and let me know which day you will be free?
Jan. 6th, 2004 08:42 am (UTC)
sunday sunday sunday
work for you?
Jan. 6th, 2004 06:39 am (UTC)
thank you for letting me know I am in fact *not* alone in who I am and my personal, shall we say, idiosyncratic behaviours?

it's nice to see others who through the simple expedient of being can arrange into a similar statement of self- regardless of the situation or stimulations.. I as well read at a 'faster' speed, though to me it is simply a comfortable speed to read at, and fully understand what you mean about pursuing knowledge to a point of being able to correct the guide on incorrect information- not to prove I know more, but simply because I believe that knowledge should be available (my POV if you will...)

thanks for letting me know, no matter how wierd I may be in perception of those around me, there is a place I am, ahem, 'normal'...
Jan. 6th, 2004 06:42 am (UTC)
if only that "place" were a bit more palpable than a binary universe. i do apprecaite kindred souls out there on the net though =)
Jan. 6th, 2004 07:21 am (UTC)
Re: heh
I wouldn't mind if it were more tangible myself, but for now I'll enjoy it as I may.. :)
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 6th, 2004 08:42 am (UTC)
re: subculture vultures
yeah, there are definitely some crowds out there i could do better seeing more of. even so - i am definitely a square peg in most gatherings. only when i find a mess of other square pegs to i really feel at home, and we don't tend to flock too often.
Jan. 6th, 2004 07:27 am (UTC)
I've always read very fast, to the point where teachers would challenge me to comprehension "pop quizzes" because they didn't think I was catching it. It just doesn't occur to me to read slowly and I don't think I could. You shouldn't feel odd about it. As long as you're getting what you need and want out of it, why worry?

I am always afraid that I come across as a "know-it-all". I don't intend to seem that way, I just like to throw in my two cents and take part in the conversation. I don't mean to seem pushy or snobbish, I just think that if I find something interesting, other people will as well. Lately I've tried to be quiet more so that I don't come across that way.
Jan. 6th, 2004 07:47 am (UTC)
I hate thinking that i have to shut up to be able to fit into conversations. I know I come across like a know-it-all, but there are lots of times people depend on me for that. It is a tough line to walk between being the answer man, and the guy noone wants to start a convo with.
Jan. 7th, 2004 09:48 pm (UTC)
Re: quietude
(a day late and a dollar short to these discussions as always)

there is, on the other hand, something to be said for silence. 'tis not necessarily having to shut up to be able to fit in. there's just something .. okay, cinematically appealing about being the silent one who is listened to when the time for speech comes... and it's just so much easier to rout out stupidity after listening not only to the content but the manner of arguments put forth on the table..
the artificial self-elevation to the position of judge, and manipulation of others so they accept this arbitrary placement. fun games to play.

then again, maybe quietly arguing in my head but waiting to make the point is shutting up to fit in.
maybe i just like the company of my toes...
Jan. 8th, 2004 12:51 pm (UTC)
you and your goddamn toes
am i ever going to hear from you again in non-binary land?
you get your GD 'puter fixed yet?
inquiring minds want to know this shit!
btw - i don't think weighing all the arguments is fitting in, it simply leads to less foot-in-mouth syndrome, something I am sure which all who love thier toes want to avoid most vehemently.
Jan. 6th, 2004 07:54 am (UTC)
that is so great that you got kicked off the museum tour...
funny, your "weirdness," intellectual superiority, and big blabbermouth is what made me think you were cool in the first place. maybe its just cause i'm a big blabbermouth too. or maybe its cause i'd had a few too many that night.

anyway, re the book, everywhere i go i see people reading it. this was the first time i'd read anything concerning the knights templar or the holy grail, but i did find it to be a fascinating introduction, and i'm really interested in learning more about the history. clearly i am not the only one who felt this way, since Holy Blood, Holy Grail is now on the new york times non-fiction bestsellers list. i'm sure that's not a coincidence. by the way, that was a great analysis and perhaps i will print it out and read it as my own opinion at my book club meeting on sunday. of course, i won't be able to pronounce words like "Rosicrucian" so that might be a giveaway that i stole it...
Jan. 6th, 2004 08:40 am (UTC)
good reccomendation
scope out foucault's pendulum. It is a great bibliography of books to explore if you are looking to broach the topic.

i think that is why we connected for sure - blabbermouths UNITE!
Jan. 6th, 2004 08:30 am (UTC)
don't stop being you
when i was in fourth grade i was made to cry every day by other students who hated me for knowing so much more than them. i begged my mom to home school me. she, quite wisely, refused. around fifth grade, i, quite unwisely, started doing poorly in school on purpose. when i started getting B's and not A's, did it make me more popular? no. do i regret dumbing myself down on purpose? yes. so with that in mind, fuck those who can't handle your brain. i have no problem admitting that you know far more about many topics than i do, but i'm happy for you. your real friends love you, and love to learn from you.
Jan. 6th, 2004 08:37 am (UTC)
i did the exact same thing - it was in 5th grade for me though =)
thanks for de support gabster!
Jan. 6th, 2004 11:37 am (UTC)
4 ha'pennies
you remain one of the most interesting and enjoyable individuals i know. plus there is the added bonus of the fact we sometimes have concurrent political/social notions. which are slightly outside the norm. It's nice to talk to someone who doesn't think you are insane, just because you come from a different tack.
Jan. 6th, 2004 12:21 pm (UTC)
Re: 4 ha'pennies
I agree with that wholeheartedly!

I'll talk to you at greater length about this later since I'm having the day from hell today.
Jan. 6th, 2004 12:37 pm (UTC)
thanks johnny - what tack exactly do we come from?
Jan. 6th, 2004 07:55 pm (UTC)
Re: heh
i can't say for certain, but i've always rather associated you guys with the dinobots - talkative, given to occasional rages, and generally have the wierd al 'dare to be stupid' as the counterpoint to any gathering :-p

of course, i say that as an 'us', not a 'them'
Jan. 7th, 2004 04:21 pm (UTC)
da vinci code
I kind of saw it as Harry Potter for grown-ups, with history instead of magic. It's the kind of book that I really enjoy while I'm reading it, because I can read it on a surface level and just follow the story along. Once I actually think about it though....

I once had to write a book review for a non-fiction writing seminar. The professor wanted to know why I had even finished a book I obviously hated so much. I had to explain that I didn't know I hated it until I actually thought about it. You know, it's rarely a good idea to tell a Jesuit you like to think as little as possible.
Jan. 8th, 2004 12:52 pm (UTC)
no, i don't think that is a good idea at all.
but then again, that is why you go "poink".
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )


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