The Books: “The Da Vinci Code” (Dan Brown)

Daily Book Excerpt: Adult fiction:

The%20Da%20Vinci%20Code%20paperback.jpgThe Da Vinci Code – by Dan Brown.

This book is horribly written. I mean, within the first paragraph, my literary sensibility was cringing at the awful (AWFUL) prose. I bought it on a whim, believe it or not – I bought it because I was in the train station and had a couple hours to kill, and I had no other book on me. This was last year. The book had already been out for ages – and it was EVERYWHERE. You could not get away from displays of this stupid book. I knew it was trash, but I figured – Okay, I’ll wait for it to come out in paperback. YEARS then passed. This is when you know you have a ginormous hit on your hands. The same thing happened with The Celestine Prophecy, another horribly written piece of garbage – that didn’t come out in paperback for EONS. Anyhoo – last May I picked up The Da Vinci Code – it had just come out in paperback – and I was down in Philadelphia for a relatively grueling acting job that involved long days, pages and pages of text (that had to be memorized – sometimes on the spot) – and I knew that I would need something absolutely EASY to read … something that would not require ANYTHING on my part. Now: a quick word about this. In general, I do not read to be entertained. “Entertainment” is a by-product of all the reading I do. By that I mean – there’s the whole thing about “beach reads”, etc. But that’s never been my style. I don’t read “fluff” on vacation just because it’s vacation. I look at a week-long vacation with nothing to do as the most thrilling opportunity ever to FINALLY read The Possessed or Anna K – or I will finally have the space to RE-read Grapes of Wrath. This, to me, is fun. It’s how I read. So it was so hysterical to me, starting The Da Vinci Code. The prose in that book! I mean, isn’t it awful? Can the guy use any more italicized words? It’s so … breathless. Like: calm down, please. But the thing of it was – I couldn’t put it down. (At least in the one hour I had free a day during my time in Philadelphia last year.) I would come back to my hotel at night, EXHAUSTED but also wired – because I had been busy all day long, since 6 a.m. – I’d order take-out Chinese – lie on my bed – and read. I finished it in 2 days. hahaha It’s so terrible. On many levels. But I just had to find out what happened!

Oh, and I know all the predictable yappers, the perpetually offended, complaining about how none of it is true and whining about how the book disses Christianity etc. etc. Uhm, I certainly don’t read a piece of shit like The Da Vinci Code to find out the truth about anything, mkay? It was a thriller. It was a whodunit. It was a chase. Dan Brown cannot write to save his life.

Could not put the damn thing down.

And so: Well played, Dan Brown.

Or should I say: Well played, Dan Brown.

Here’s a particularly awful excerpt.

Excerpt from The Da Vinci Code – by Dan Brown.

Earlier, while telling Sophie about the Knights Templar, Langdon had realized that this key, in addition to having the Priory seal embossed on it, possessed a more subtle tie to the Priory of Sion. The equal-armed cruciform was symbolic of balance and harmony but also of the Knights Templar. Everyone had seen the paintings of Knights Templar wearing white tunics emblazoned with red equal-armed crosses. Granted, the arms of the Templar cross were slightly flared at the ends, but they were still of equal length.

A square cross. Just like the one on this key.

Langdon felt his imagination starting to run wild as he fantasized about what they might find. The Holy Grail. He almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of it. The Grail was believed to be somewhere in England, buried in a hidden chamber beneath one of the many Templar churches where it had been hidden since at least 1500.

The era of Grand Master Da Vinci.

The Priory, in order to keep their powerful documents safe, had been forced to move them many times in the early centuries. Historians now suspected as many as six different Grail locations since its arrival in Europe from Jerusalem. The last Grail “sighting” had been in 1447 when numerous eyewitnesses described a fire that had broken out and almost engulfed the documents before they were carried to safety in four huge chests that each required six men to carry. After that, nobody claimed to see the Grail ever again. All that remained were occasional whisperings that it was hidden in Great Britain, the land of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Wherever it was, two important facts remained:

Leonardo knew where the Grail resided during his lifetime.

That hiding place had probably not changed to this day.

For this reason, Grail enthusiasts still pored over Da Vinci’s art and diaries in hopes of unearthing a hidden clue as to the Grail’s current location. Some claimed the mountainous backdrop in Madonna of the Rocks matched the topography of a series of cave-ridden hills in Scotland. Others insisted that the suspicious placement of disciples in The Last Supper was some kind of code. Still others claimed that X rays of the Mona Lisa revealed she originally had been painted wearing a lapis lazuli pendant of Isis – a detail Da Vinci purportedly later decided to paint over. Langdon had never seen any evidence of the pendant, nor could he imagine how it could possibly reveal the Holy Grail, and yet Grail afficianados still discussed it ad nauseam on Internet bulletin boards and worldwide-web chat rooms.

Everyone loves a conspiracy.

And the conspiracies kept coming. Most recently, of course, had been the earthshaking discovery that Da Vinci’s famed Adoration of the Magi was hiding a dark secret beneath its layers of paint. italian art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini had unveiled the unsettling truth, which the The New York Times Magazine carried prominently in a story titled “The Leonardo Cover-Up.”

Seracini had revealed beyond any doubt that while the Adoration’s gray-green sketched underdrawing was indeed Da Vinci’s work, the painting itself was not. The truth was that some anonymous painter had filled in Da Vinci’s sketch like a paint-by-numbers years after Da Vinci’s death. Far more troubling, however, was what lay beneath the impostor’s paint. Photographs taken with infrared reflectography and X ray suggested that this rogue painter, while filling in Da Vinci’s sketched study had made suspicious departures from the underdrawing … as if to subvert Da Vinci’s true intention. Whatever the true nature of the underdrawing, it had yet to be made public. Even so, embarrassed officials at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery immediately banished the painting to a warehouse across the street. Visitors at the gallery’s Leonardo Room now found a misleading and unapologetic plaque where the Adoration once hung.


In the bizarre underworld of modern Grail seekers, Leonardo da Cinci remained the quest’s great enigma. His artwork seemed bursting to tell a secret, and yet whatever it was remained hidden, perhaps beneath a layer of paint, perhaps enciphered in plain view, or perhaps nowhere at all. Maybe Da Vinci’s plethora of tantalizing clues was nothing but an empty promise left behind to frustrate the curious and bring a smirk to the face of his knowing Mona Lisa.

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22 Responses to The Books: “The Da Vinci Code” (Dan Brown)

  1. ilyka says:

    I only made it through the first paragraph of this excerpt before the memory of all the awfulness returned, and it was like my brain refused to process any more trauma. I just couldn’t read any more. Somewhere in that book is the sentence, “He waved quietly.” I will never forgive that.

    Uhm, I certainly don’t read a piece of shit like The Da Vinci Code to find out the truth about anything, mkay?


    Some variant of this should be on a T-shirt, honestly. It’d be useful for me to wear around my boyfriend’s parents, who, in addition to railing against The Da Vinci Code, also want to tell me all about the witchcraft! The practice of which is a mortal sin! in the Harry Potter books! Which are sold to CHILDREN!

  2. red says:

    He waved quietly!!!!!!

    I am howling with laughter.

    Like … what? How does one wave LOUDLY?

    Horrible writer.

  3. Fence says:

    I do enjoy light fluffy reading on occasion, but when I tried to read this? I just couldn’t. It was far too horrible. I don’t think I even made it beyond the first page.

  4. Lisa says:

    I read it while I was at my parents’ house one weekend. I spent two days literally WALKING around reading it, until my brother said, “Boy, that book must be good,” and I said, “Actually, it sucks. BUT I CANNOT PUT IT DOWN.”

    Well played, indeed, Dan Brown.

  5. red says:

    Lisa – hahahahahahaha


  6. Ken says:

    “All that remained were occasional whisperings that it was hidden in Great Britain, the land of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.”

    Ever read Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Out of Time,” or Stephen King’s “Graveyard Shift?” This passage is like that. Under every layer of awful, there’s a second sub-basement of even more awful. When one gets to the trapdoor that’s bolted from below, one probably ought to think twice before getting out a crowbar.

  7. yippeekelly says:

    Sheila, I know its just the alphabetizing of the authors’ last names, but to have Jane Eyre one day then the DaVinci Code the next? I am astounded by the diversity and range. Makes me proud to be an American, that such bookshelves as yours can even exist.

  8. red says:

    yippeekelly – hahahahaha I know!! Hysterical.

  9. Kate P says:

    You guys are cracking me up.

    I was kind of surprised to find this one on your shelf (the bad writing), Sheila–but your post perfectly explains the why! I guess what I had a hard time understanding was why people read all his other books as well, but maybe it is that “fast read” idea.

  10. red says:

    I’ve heard his other books are even worse.

  11. red says:

    Oh and Kate – my reading is nothing if not eclectic. That’s kind of the fun of doing this daily book excerpt thing – because all different kinds of readers come out of the woodworks to comment.

    The Richard Bach fans – the Lucy Maud Montgomery fans – the Madeleine L’Engle fans …

    I’m excited to see who else will show up. I’m only on the letter “B”!!

  12. Lisa says:

    Angels and Demons was all right, about the same as DaVC. I tried reading one of his “technological” books, but couldn’t get past the first two pages.

    And I read Patricia Cornwall, so I knows from crap.

  13. red says:

    Lisa – ha!! This woman KNOWS from crap, people!

    What are his “technological” books? What does that mean??

  14. Lisa says:

    Deception Point was its name.

  15. Lisa says:

    It was all spy-y and computery. The poor man’s Tom Clancy, I guess.

  16. Nightfly says:

    I’m wailing at the “sub-basement of awful” and the trapdoor. Beautiful.

    Regarding fluff writing – anyone here ever read a Spenser For Hire book? It’s not exactly Tolstoy, but Robert Parker can write. He uses dialogue, hides his exposition well, describes the action, knows how to pace – and he does it under the limitations of first-person narrative.

    Now, let’s run the above through the DVC Filters:

    “Anyone who’s read a book about the Private Detective Spenser: For Hire knows how well writing can be done. The author Robert Parker writes good dialogue, but the reader also gets exposition – the explanation of background and the motivations of the characters – without it being obvious. Parker also interests the reader with descriptions of action, and paces his books expertly.

    All under the limitations of first-person narrative.”

    My keyboard just sent me an email threatening my life if I kept going, so… you get the idea.

  17. red says:

    The poor man’s Tom Clancy?

    Ouch. Think I’ll skip it.

  18. Ken says:

    Nightfly, I’m with you on Robert Parker. I don’t know from Spenser (believe it or not), but I read Double Play a couple of years ago on vacation, and the man knows his trade.

  19. Hank says:

    I have yet to watch a movie with the commentary turned on. It really adds that much the viewing?

  20. Hank says:

    Please disregard or delete my previous entry.
    Meant to put that in the searchers thread.

  21. red says:

    Hank – I really like listening to the commentary tracks on old movies, in particular. Bogdonavich is a wealth of great information – about these old guys – who can’t do their own commentary tracks (because they’re, uhm, dead) – and it gives some great perspective. Another great example is Roger Ebert’s commentary track on Casablanca – a movie I’ve seen 100 times – but there were certain comments and observations he’s made that made me see it anew.

    So I like them. Particularly with the classics.

  22. Sue says:

    It’s funny, when I read Angels & Demons, I actually blogged that “there’s going to be a massive cult around this book”. If only I could have foreseen that he’d write *exactly the same plot* only with the Templars in it: as Umberto Eco says, “The Templars have something to do with everything” – Dan Brown’s humungous bank balance not least.

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