01 April 2006

Things We Must Do

Since a blog perforce has the character of a confession, here's something I confess.

I was unable to post for the last couple of days because my free time was taken up with---brace yourself--The DaVinci Code. The Boston Archdiocese asked me to tape some television spots on the book, to be broadcast at the time of the movie's release. Thus I actually had to read the book and do some research into those misrepresentations which I didn't already know about (e.g. it turns out that there are 673 panes of glass in the Louvre pyramid, not 666; etc.).

Another person involved with me in taping these spots said that she thought the proper attitude to take toward the book was one of derision and dismissiveness. Of course I have had a high-minded contempt for the book: that's why I hadn't spent a moment on it beforehand. Yet this seems to me not an effective approach to take, if one is to dealing with people generally, since most people who have read the book like it very much; they admire the author; and they've been flattered into thinking that they've learned lots of things by reading it. Brown has won their goodwill already; one won't gain it, then, by attacks which imply criticisms of them.

It seems to me, therefore, that although the gross mistakes of the book need to be pointed out, of course, one needs to consider also why people have been so attracted to it. And I think the reason has to do, ultimately, with a failure of our schools and colleges to convey 'Western civilization'--the true history, traditions, art and architecture of which contain more than enough wonders and 'symbols' to gratify common curiosity.


Anonymous said...

I haven't read the book, but from what I've heard the appeal is largely that it's about *secrets* -- the true, long-surpressed ancient story and all that. And it's only human nature to get a thrill out of being let in on a secret -- it must be half the appeal of belief in UFO's, occult and new age stuff, all conspiracy theories.... The mainstream and well-documented is at an inherent disadvantage. So maybe you should point out that this appetite is, if not a vice, a pretty degenerate form of the (innate human, cf. Met. A.1) desire to know. And one which leaves us all vulnerable to manipulation....