Since most of you are either a) not Catholic; or b) “recovering” Catholics, you probably don’t check in with Amy’s blog the way I do. So you probably didn’t know she went to NYC week before last on a moment’s notice, to be interviewed by Stone Phillips for last night’s “Dateline” on “The DaVinci Code.”
Alas, her segment was left on the cutting-room floor, as they say. (Video needs a different metaphor, since there’s no cutting involved; “never exported from the hard drive,” maybe.) I watched anyway, because I haven’t read “The DaVinci Code” and have observed the whole phenomenon from a certain remove. I know the gist: Best-selling thriller claims enormous Opus Dei-led conspiracy to keep The Truth About Jesus from the world — that he married Mary Magdalene and had children. Huh.
Amy was interviewed because she wrote a book refuting the novel’s claims of historical accuracy, which, it turns out are…inaccurate.
I’ve no dog in this fight, having left Catholicism and conspiracy theory behind long ago. But I’m interested in what interests people, pop culture-wise, and thought perhaps the show would help explain that. And it did, sorta — there’s something irresistible about the eternal bells ringing from ancient crumbling churches, robed priests guarding secrets hidden in altarpieces and all the rest of it. Something about Evil works well in a clerical collar, or maybe it just taps into a generation of popular entertainment, from “The Omen” to “The Godfather,” the way we’ve been taught to think space aliens are 4-foot-tall bipedal creatures with big heads and really big eyes. And there’s a perverse amusement in considering that what really rankles the One True Church about all this is the idea that Jesus’ offspring settled in…France.
But a hidden “M” in Leonardo’s “Last Supper”? Sheesh. Haven’t these folks heard of the symmetry of triangular composition? And the few passages of the book I’ve read feature prose that clunks like a decade-old Yugo.
Eventually, of course, you’ll be able to buy “DVC” at garage sales for a dime. If you can’t already. Oh, and as for the whole package, John Cook points out the obvious.
If you looked at my iPod, you would find my musical id — many, many guilty pleasures; 70s pop; 70s funk; strange instrumentals I thought might make good background music for a video sometime; songs I’m really grateful are being piped into my ears alone and not announced to the world. My iPod reveals, at its thematic heart, that I’m a huge fan of the hit single. So is Ron Rosenbaum, who explicates the Return of the Single via, what else, the iPod.
I’m way late getting to this, but I thought this contrarian view of Hunter Thompson was superb and is well worth the read.
I turned off “Law & Order” at the halfway point last night; it simply can’t hold my interest anymore. Fortunately, the show will always have Lance. Dick Wolf should hire him. He could commute!
mrs. norman maine said on April 14, 2005 at 10:16 am
I read the book last year, but as I recall, DVC used Paul-is-Dead method of persuasion: just pile up disparate bits of “evidence” until the reader begins to think — at least for one heady moment — that it can’t ALL be coincidence.
I’m can’t recall all the details, but the novel posits that even Disney movies carry clues to Jesus’ bloodline! It’s pretty entertaining, but it’s also all very…cranberry sauce, ultimately.
I enjoyed the show last night. That art historian totally faked me out; I had thought he bought into the whole “Last Supper” premise.
But they rushed through the supposed debunking of the “P.S. ” documents and whether that society existed or not. Did the archeologist have the parchment studies? Were they ancient or not? And did the fact that the priest turned out to be a slimy bible salesman totally rule out the idea that he could also have blackmailed the Vatican?
Danny said on April 14, 2005 at 11:28 am
Thanks for the Thompson linkage, Nance. Some of Capuzzo’s thoughts mirror my initial reaction to the news which was, “what a selfish, cowardly con man.” I am somewhat amazed that it took anyone a month or so to reach the obvious conclusion.
I was puzzled by the Faulkner quote. I have read a lot of WF’s work and his, “Declaring it the writer’s duty ‘to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past,'” , just sounds like so much bullshit. I mean, Faulkner’s novels were singularly without hope and his characters beyond redemption. Did Billy even read his own books before he made that silly statement or was he just writing in “stream of unconsciousness?” Surely he was “puttin’ on airs” with that acceptance speech.
Tangentially, I saw “To Have and Have-Not” last week. What a great movie! Bacall was amazing. What was surprising for me was to see that William Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay.
Oh, and I guess this was probably in the book (and thus attributed to Ernie and not Bill), but I loved that line when Bacall asked Bogart if he was trying to guess the woman’s weight whom he had to carry after she fainted. My wife an I hooted with glee. Funny stuff.
John said on April 14, 2005 at 12:00 pm
Was you ever bit by a dead bee?
Pam said on April 14, 2005 at 12:17 pm
I read the DVC last year or at least as much of it as I could tolerate. The writing was atrocious! It was just planes, trains and automobiles with no sleeping in between. What crap! I wasn’t even the slightest bit entertained either. After the crappy author with his bad book gets my money, he doesn’t then get my time as well. It doesn’t deserve to be discussed much less a whole TV show dedicated to it. Bad writing, bad plot, boring book. It was rubbish!!
Danny said on April 14, 2005 at 1:35 pm
Pam, reading between the lines of your understated tone, I discern that you didn’t like the book too much. 🙂
Connie said on April 14, 2005 at 1:41 pm
Your friendly librarian here. Bad book. Bad writing. Bad so called facts. Horrible logic. Post hoc and all that. Most requested book of my 25 year career. Longest lasting hold list as well. Now out in a completely illustrated edition that looks like an art history textbook. But the real puzzle: this is clearly labelled a novel. Fiction. Fiction. So why do all these readers interpret it as fact?
mary said on April 14, 2005 at 1:56 pm
I’ve avoided reading it largely because my ex loved it, and he has horrible taste in books. I also heard from a couple of friends who read Dan Brown’s earlier books that Dan Brown is very shaky on things like facts, geography and history.
An update on “I am Charlotte Simmons.” Don’t bother unless you love Tom Wolfe a lot. It just never engaged me. On the other hand, “The Plot Against America” got me by about page three.
Danny said on April 14, 2005 at 5:21 pm
Agreed, Connie. I wouldn’t waste my time on that one. I just thought that Pam’s comments were funny.
My guilty pleasure over the years has been sci-fi and some fantasy. My wife refers to the latter as romance novels for geeks. Too funny.
Nance said on April 14, 2005 at 5:56 pm
Connie — Even longer on the reserve list than “Bridges of Madison County?” I recall that setting a record at the ACPL way back when.
Boy, did THAT one stink up the room.
Danny said on April 14, 2005 at 7:29 pm
John, you can go get a drink now. But only a thimbleful, mind you.
basset said on April 14, 2005 at 11:19 pm
“malignant narcissist”… that sounds about right. we all know a few of those, I would suspect.
Michael G said on April 15, 2005 at 11:23 am
While I read the Pope stuff on the Nance and Lance blogs a couple of days ago, I just got around to pitching my two pennies this AM. I’m appending it to a current post because I imagine nobody would read it if I appended it to the original post. The topic was the putative greatness of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. Much has been made of the Church’s rejecting the opportunity to advance the level of female participation in Church activities, the use of contraception, the acceptance of gays, allowing clergy to marry and sheltering child abusers. I won’t go into the latter except to say that it is inconceivable to me that in an organization as relatively small and close knit as the Catholic Church middle and upper management could be unaware of the child abuse problem given its size and its dozens of years of existence.
As for the other points, not only did the Church pass on the opportunity to advance the causes noted above, but the JPII administration worked hard to push back any attempt on the part of others to advance those causes and to ensure that any future attempts at progress would be as difficult as they (the administration) could possibly make them. The administration of Pope John Paul II appears to have been one which strove not to expand the teachings, appeal and membership of the Church, but to work for its own benefit to consolidate and tighten its control of thought and expression within the Church and to enforce the commitment of all insiders to an extremely conservative and rigid ideology. Pope John Paul II installed an unprecedented number of cardinals during his reign. All of them picked for their agreement with his very conservative ideology and for their commitment to preserve it. None of them picked to provide new ideas, a dynamic range of thought, discussion or, God forbid, loyal dissension. Witness the dramatic rise in membership and prominence of ultra conservative lay organizations such as Opus Dei and the Pope’s sponsorship of them. Note the unseemly haste to canonize Jose Maria Escriva and the message that conveys. Again, all designed to advance and preserve his very conservative ideology At the same time any member of the clergy who questioned, debated or posed alternatives was quickly stifled. This is all certainly within the Pope’s rights, but how has it worked to improve the Church through twenty odd years of JPII?
Pope John Paul II worked very hard at promoting himself. He traveled constantly, met people, kissed babies and glad-handed like a champion ward heeler. The enduring image is of him getting off an Alitalia flight and kissing the ground. Having flown Alitalia, I can appreciate his feelings. The question is how did all this promotion work to advance the interests of the Church?
During his tenure, the Church has lost members (present company included) in droves from Europe and the US. There is a critical and growing shortage of men willing to enter the priesthood. As third world areas develop, the same issues that alienate Europeans and Americans will come into play there. The Church is facing a very serious financial situation. Historically, the bulk of monetary contributions to the Church have come from Europe and particularly from the US. There is a large membership in third world areas but they have never contributed $$ like Americans and Europeans. All over the world — including Europe and the US — the Church is facing increasing and increasingly serious competition from Islam, the Mormons and to a lesser extent, the Evangelicals. John Paul II did nothing to advance the basic interests of the Church. He did not do anything to grow the membership, to make the Catholic Church more attractive against growing competition. He did nothing to make the organization responsive to or even respectful of its members. He did nothing to advance the Church as a Catholic institution embracing all, providing succor and hope to all. In fact, quite the contrary. The Church has retreated to some narrow, old fashioned, constricted version of itself and told the faithful to take it of leave it. The difference between Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II couldn’t be deeper or more dramatic. It’s as if JPII had a vision of a smaller, tighter Church, almost a boutique religion that would appeal to a relatively small but extremely committed membership. The masses are welcome to join but their concerns are of no interest to Rome. Whatever. It’s clear that the hierarchy’s interests and the membership’s interests don’t coincide. The decline of the organization against the flourishing and the growth of the Mormons, Islam and Evangelicals is the real legacy of Pope John Paul II and the real problem facing his successor.
Greatness is measured in many ways. Was JPII as great man? I don’t doubt his personal sincerity or his personal beliefs. I do doubt that he made any positive contribution to the long term health and prosperity of the Catholic Church. Whatever greatness he had lay in his genius for self promotion. His failure lies in his inability to parlay that exposure into any real benefit for the organization and its millions of members. This was not a case of a man valiantly striving to do good for as many as he could while handicapped by the inherent limitations of his position. This was a man with a clear agenda which he successfully pursued with a powerful single-mindedness. His advancing the interests of the Vatican may have had some positive fall out in encouraging the Solidarity movement and the like, but his contributions to the fall of communism are vastly overrated. Enough. If this is greatness, so be it. Given the late Pope’s huge popularity and the current widespread interest in Catholicism, the incoming Pope has a wonderful opportunity to strengthen and expand Church membership, to reconcile with the many people it has alienated and to drag the Catholic Church into at least the twentieth century. While no longer a member, I sincerely hope the new Pope is up to the task.
Danny said on April 15, 2005 at 3:57 pm
Michael, I doubt anyone will read this thread either as it is getting pushed down the page, but its good to see someone post on some of these issues.
Being in the evangelical camp, I’ve chosen not to comment on JP’s legacy. Suffice it to say, we considered him an ally on the “culture of life” issues, but shared some of your same criticsms of him as far as his enforcing of man-made rules that are not scripturally based. It’s the same sort of thing for which Jesus criticized the Pharisees.