... can be accessed online here, at the Diocese of Sioux Falls website. It includes the Q&A session and is about 80 minutes in length.
... can be accessed online here, at the Diocese of Sioux Falls website. It includes the Q&A session and is about 80 minutes in length.
... to the Coded Craziness.
• From the legal world:
Lawyers believe the verdict will have a major impact on other potential claims. One partner close to the case told Legal Week: "This is a landmark case, whichever way it goes, it will probably set the scene for some time to come."
Reynolds Porter Chamberlain publishing specialist David Hooper said: "Lawyers always said in the pop music world, 'where there's a hit, there's a writ', and it could be that books are heading that way."
The impression of Opus Dei conveyed in Dan Brown's novel, "The Da Vinci Code," is "the complete opposite of what Opus Dei is about," said Brian Finnerty, U.S. spokesman for the international Catholic organization.
• From the producer of the Cinematic Code:
The producer of "The Da Vinci Code" movie says a flap with some Catholics over the upcoming film has been a blessing.
Brian Grazer says that's because it's sparking debate about religion, faith and belief. He talked about the movie on N-B-C's "Today" show.Some Catholic groups consider the movie insulting to their faith and want a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie stating it's a work of fiction. The film is to be released in May.
Grazer calls the movie "informed fiction" with "symbols that lead to certain clues that in some cases can be proved to be fact." But he says it's not a historic tale.
[Question: If "sparking debate about religion, faith, and belief" is so great, does Grazer support, say, cartoons that mock certain religions? Or is he only for making movies that misrepresent Christianity?]
• From Catholics near and in Boston:
No surprise that the Vatican has denounced the novel. [Actually, that is a surprise since it didn't happen. Yes, Cardinal Bertone has strongly criticized the novel. No, Cardinal Bertone is not "the Vatican." Newsflash to MSM: Just because a Cardinal in Rome says something, it doesn't mean "the Vatican" is behind it.]
Or that members of the Catholic clergy find it offensive.
“I’m not going to read something that’s a bunch of crap,” said the Rev. Bob Carr, of St. Benedict Parish in Somerville. “People are reading it and I don’t encourage it. It reflects an ignorance of everything that people have known about who Jesus is for the past 2,000 years.”
But what do parishioners think? In an unscientific sampling, most Boston-area Catholics looked at “The Da Vinci Code” as nothing more than a work of the imagination, and nothing to get upset about. [Well, yeah. But I bet a lot of Catholics in Boston (and here in Oregon, for that matter) feel the same way about Catholic doctrine: nothing more than a work of the imagination. But they do tend to get upset about it.]
• From Evangelical Protestants:
The impending release of a movie version of the blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code is stirring debate in Christian circles. To many, the release represents an attack on the Christian faith. Many others also see in it a door opener for sharing the gospel. The resulting impact will depend on how prepared Christians are to respond effectively. [I see it as both: an attack and an opportunity. After all, when attacked, a good defense does more than defend -- it reveals the weaknesses of the enemy and opens up avenues for invading his territory (keeping with the warfare theme). Why portray it as one or the other? It's both.]
• From angry albinos. Really. No kidding:
The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentationare is launching a campaign against the Tom Hanks film of "The Da Vinci Code."
NOAH had unsuccessfully asked film director Ron Howard to change author Dan Brown's "hulking albino" character Silas, The New York Post reported Sunday.
A California teacher who is albino wrote to Brown in 2003 voicing her concern over the "hateful" stereotypes assigned to albinos in literature and film, the newspaper said.
• From art historians.
• From angry Catholic women.
• And, of course, from us. Right here. On the Da Vinci Hoax blog.
He has, according to a March 19, 2006, opinion piece in The Guardian:
Brown stands accused of having taken the main idea for The Da Vinci Code (namely, that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children together) from an earlier non-fiction book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. But the sneering literary set would really like to try him for something completely different. To them, he is guilty of the heinous crime of writing something that a lot of people wanted to read and tell their friends about.
The problem is, that's not actually against the law. So they are satisfying their blood lust over the plagiarism case instead. 'We told you so. Serves you all right for reading trashy airport novels, you losers. Here - take this copy of Ulysses and please try to restrict yourselves to proper, critically-acclaimed literature in future.'
Brown has become the ultimate scapegoat for the cultural snobs who cannot bear for anything that might be classed as 'popular' to take the hallowed form of 'A Book'. Since the trial, even hardened Da Vinci Code fans are turning against it. A friend who initially recommended the novel now wails: 'I knew it was too good to be true.' The memory of a book she had been unable to put down has been ruined for her by all the negative coverage. She feels stupid and duped. The would-be intelligentsia has won.
I think that the author of the piece, Viv Groskop, misunderstands the change of heart. The court battle didn't change the mediocre writing in TDVC, but exposed how empty is the notion that the novel is a well-researched and intellectually rich work. Readers who might otherwise be "snobs" were willing to put up with Brown's lousy prose because, as Dan Burstein, editor of Secrets of the Code: An Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind The Da Vinci Code (New York: CDS Books, 2004) admitted, the poor writing was at the service of something Big and Important and Life-Changing. From my March 2005 article, "The 'It's Just Fiction!' Doctrine", Burstein's explanation:
"I was as intellectually challenged as I had been by any book I had read in a long time." He recounts making his way through "scores of books that had been mentioned or alluded to in The Da Vinci Code: Holy Blood, Holy Grail, The Templar Revelation, Gnostic Gospels, The Woman With the Alabaster Jar, The Nag Hammadi Library, and more." ...
Burstein admits that the Code is not well-written, but explains that literary quality is beside the point: "Say what you will about some of the ham-fisted dialogue and improbably plot elements, Dan Brown has wrapped large complex ideas, as well as minute details and fragments of intriguing thoughts into his action-adventure-murder mystery."
Ah, yes, the "large complex ideas" and "fragments of intriguing thoughts" that were mostly culled from works of "speculative history" (aka, pseudo-history based on fancy, not fact). And mostly by Brown's wife, not Brown himself. The court case helped to further reveal that the Emperor/Author has No Clothes/Credibility. Embarrassment follows. Snobbery follows, a defensive reaction to having been taken in by the Coded Con. Groskop concludes:
Win or lose this case, Dan Brown has drawn back into bookshops and libraries many people who had completely given up on finding anything they wanted to read ever again. The success of a page-turner thriller, whether semi-plagiarised or not, does not threaten Western society. But putting up with the book snobs is an ongoing trial for us all.
Which only goes to prove the point. Are we really to believe that all of those poor souls who finally discovered or re-discovered reading because of TDVC did so based on the novel's unique literary merits (which are dubious, even for popular fiction)? Or because of an appeal that directly flowed from its many large ideas, outrageous claims, and relentless slander of Christianity?
The Telegraph reports:
A monk may have leapt to his death from a monastery after reading The Da Vinci Code, it emerged yesterday.
Abbot Alan Rees, 64, a revered figure in the Benedictine community, fell 30ft from a second-storey balcony at Belmont Abbey in Herefordshire last October.
The Swansea-born monk had suffered from depression for the past 12 years.
But at a recent inquest into his death, Fr Paul Stonham, the Abbey's replacement abbot, linked his last bout of depression to a novel. There is speculation that he was referring to The Da Vinci Code.
Such news, of course, should be handled with extreme care and should not be recklessly used to "prove" how horrible TDVC is, especially since extreme depression is a complex matter. But one wonders: if reading the novel was indeed a factor in Abbot Rees lapsing back in depression, was it because he believed some of the claims made within the novel, or was it because he was upset over how the novel portrayed Catholicism (specifically, perhaps, the murderous Opus Dei "monk," Silas)? Or was it something else? We'll probably never know. May God have mercy on his soul. Requiem in pace.
Lewis Perdue, novelist and blogger, has been following the Coded Craziness from the beginning and has written a lot of helpful material about many aspects of the success of The Da Vinci Code. Last year he lost a lawsuit against Dan Brown; Perdue claimed that Brown plagiarised elements of two of his novels, Daughter of God, published in 2000 and The Da Vinci Legacy (1983). Since I am not a lawyer and am still trying to make sense of what constitutes plagiarism in the 21st century, I cannot say much about that case (I did glance through Perdue's novels. There are certainly similarities, as he has outlined in detail.) However, Perdue's blog DaVinciCrock has much to offer, including this fine summary of the court battle in London:
Other than Dan Brown confirming that I was correct about the James-Frey-like biographical fabrications over on Writopia, (and that the legions of books debunking DVC's historical, factual and religious errors were also correct) the testimony confirmed that:
• Dan did rely heavily on HBHG,
• He was well-coached for cross-examination and conveniently can't remember details or historical fact,
• There are contradictions between his statement and the Random House briefs in my case,
• Blythe and not he conducted what research there exists,
• Most of the well-hyped research consisted of pages of material copied from other authors and,
• Blythe is the real force,
Baigent & Leigh don't seem to have proven any specific infringements in the expression.
While I am pulling for B&L for purely psychological reasons, and while I do think that there are probably real infringements there, I do not think that B&L have proven their case.
I have to agree. That Brown relied heavily on HBHG is a no-brainer. But I doubt the plaintiffs adequately demonstrated enfringement of copyright (but, again, such things are so hazy and apparently — nearly impossible? — hard to quantify...). Regardless, the trial has shown clearly that Brown is not a well-informed and diligent researcher as he has been so often touted by his publisher (who described TDVC as "... intricately layered with remarkable research and detail.") and many in the MSM. And his sources are, to put it kindly, dubious at best — unless you're the sort of person who entertains flat earth theories and would rather spend a vacation at Area 51 than Disneyland.
A summary news report from the AP:
Judge Peter Smith said he would give his verdict in the case before the current court term ends April 13.
In a written statement handed to the court yesterday, Rayner James said Brown had copied from ''Holy Blood, Holy Grail," but acknowledged he may have done so ''unwittingly because of the research materials supplied by Blythe Brown."
''His evidence should be approached with deep suspicion," the lawyer said of Brown's testimony during three days on the stand last week. ''He had almost no recollection of matters that related to timing. He would struggle to recall a year, was rarely able to recall a month. His general attitude in cross-examination was uncooperative."
Rayner James said evidence from Blythe Brown would have been of ''fundamental importance to this case." He claimed she would have been able to confirm the extent to which ''The Da Vinci Code" relied on Baigent's and Leigh's work.
Dan Brown knew ''little about what she did," Rayner James said.
"It remains the position that only she knows the extent of her involvement in the research and creation" of ''The Da Vinci Code," he said.
Meanwhile, the NYTimes reports that the judge expressed irritation with the lawyer of the plaintiffs:
The judge, Peter Jones, will not issue a decision for several weeks, and it is impossible to know how he will rule. But his tough questions appeared to reflect skepticism, even exasperation, toward some of the arguments put forward by the lawyer for the plaintiffs, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, two of the three authors of "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail." (The book's other author, Henry Lincoln, is not taking part in the lawsuit.) They claim that Mr. Brown lifted the central "architecture" for his megaselling "Da Vinci Code" from their nonfiction book, published in 1982.
For instance, when the lawyer, Jonathan Rayner James, argued that Mr. Brown had "been hiding the truth" about when he and his wife, Blythe Brown, who does much of his research, had first consulted "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail," Justice Jones stopped him short. If that were true, the judge asked, why had Mr. Brown left out "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" from the bibliography he submitted to the publisher, along with a synopsis of "The Da Vinci Code" in January 2001 — only to include a pointed reference to the book in the finished novel a year later?
"If he's trying to hide the fact that he's using 'H.B.H.G.' in the synopsis," the judge asked, referring to "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" by its initials, "what's the point of shouting it out from the rooftops in the book?"
On a more humorous note, I found this story about Dr. Ben Witherington III, biblical scholar and author of The Gospel Code, and his reference to TDVC as a work of "hysterical fiction," not historical fiction. Quite funny.
From a reader, who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons:
My son attends a Catholic high school. Last year, when he was a freshman, his history teacher offered extra credit to a student to to read this book. I found that appalling, and let him know it. Even though the book is "fiction", I have several coworkers who believe that much of the historical information in this book is true. Apparently, the author gives that impression. Catholics, and nonCatholics, are so ignorant of Church history that they just fall for anything.
Quite true. After all, the Chicago Tribune said Dan Brown's fourth novel is "brain candy" that "trans[mits] several doctorates' worth of fascinating history and learned speculation." The Library Journal opines that TDVC is "a compelling blend of history and page-turning suspense." And BookReporter.com states:
A stunning new thriller that will provoke much debate. Dan Brown's extensive research on secret societies and symbology adds intellectual depth to this page-turning thriller. His surprising revelations on Da Vinci's penchant for hiding codes in his paintings will lead the reader to search out renowned artistic icons as The Mona Lisa, The Madonna of the Rocks and The Last Supper. The Last Supper holds the most astonishing coded secrets of all and, after reading The Da Vinci Code, you will never see this famous painting in quite the same way again.
Well, we know a lot more about that "extensive research" now, thanks to the trial in London. Brown's reliance on Holy Blood, Holy Grail is obvious (regardless of whether or not it is plagiarism), as is his admitted reliance on The Templar Revelation for nearly everything in the novel about Leonardo da Vinci's life and artwork:
The Templar Revelation discussed secret Templar history and the possible involvement of Leonardo da Vinci. This Da Vinci connection fit well into my desire to write in Langdon's domain, the world of art. I became excited about using Leonardo da Vinci as an historical touchstone and plot device for my new novel. Bernini had been central to Angels & Demons and I had enjoyed writing that book. Moreover, I knew Blythe was an enormous fan of Leonardo da Vinci and would be eager to help me research. It was probably at about this time that I came up with the title The Da Vinci Code. ... Da Vinci is also the connection between art and the secret society that I chose to include in The Da Vinci Code - the Priory of Sion. Like Da Vinci's paintings, the Priory of Sion and Da Vinci's involvement with it is discussed in Templar Revelation. (Witness Statement, pars. 97, 102)
But if there are still those who think the novel is "just a novel," please take the time to read my article, "The 'It's Just Fiction!' Doctrine: Reading Too Little Into The Da Vinci Code" (March, 2005. IgnatiusInsight.com), which explain why that argument/cliche simply doesn't work.
Sandra Miesel will soon be posting but is currently addressing some small technical glitches. But she sent me some comments about Dan Brown's witness statement to post:
I've now read Dan Brown's entire personal statement to the court and would like to offer a few reactions, not in any particular order but things that leap out of my notes.
Brown is trying to present himself as a serious Artist, a man of many talents just bursting with nuggets of arcane lore. If the judge is well-educated, this could backfire because Brown's performance merely reveals him as surprisingly ignorant. The way he tries to claim status from the accomplishments of family and friends does raise the suspicion that Brown is the slow child in a bright household.
The mentions of albums recorded during his brief and unsuccessful musical career carefully avoid mentioning that these were never released by a professional label. Brown speaks of Amherst but never what his major was; of his wife's art historical knowledge without identifying her education. And yet despite these supposedly fine backgrounds, Brown admits not having heard of this, that, and the other that should be available in a well-furnished liberal arts mind. (e.g. the existence of the witch-hunters' manual, the MALLEUS MALIFICARUM) And there's a certain dissonance in complaining of poverty in his early career while referring to vacations in Tahiti and Mexico during the same period.
With one exception, the books Brown does admit to using heavily are worthless esoteric histories, conspiracy books, or New Age titles. The one genuine volume of academic history, THE MURDERED MAGICIANS: THE TEMPLARS AND THEIR MYTH by Peter Partner, has gone missing. But inasmuch as it's a thorough debunking book, there's nothing in TDVC to suggest that Brown used it. (If you want to read about the Templars, Partner's book is the place to start.) That he tries to pass off ludicrous sources such as THE TEMPLAR REVELATION, Margaret Starbird, Jim Marrs, THE TOMB OF CHRIST, THE HIRAM KEY, or Barbara Walker as legitimate scholarly authorities is laughable. And that's putting it kindly.
This scheme will fail if the judge examines Charles Addison's HISTORY OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR in the particular edition Brown provides. (The crackpottery of the advertisements in the back would be enough to discredit the work eve before it's read.) This decorously Victorian text is not a bad book, just an old one--published in 1842, two years before a printed edition of the Templar trial became available. But here it's accompanied by a bizarre and ridiculous introduction penned by David Hatcher Childress that's heavily dependent on HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL with the Knights presented as sworn enemies of the Church, privy to wisdom passed down from Atlantis. I wondered while writing my part of THE DA VINCI HOAX how Brown had forgotten that the Pope who suppressed the Templars was ruling from Avignon, not Rome. Well, here's the answer--Childress forgot it first. He also, as Brown does, makes the Pope, not the king of France give the order to arrest the Templars.
Brown implicitly admits what I had suspected: he read no Gnostic texts himself. He depended on quotes from Elaine Pagels' THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS. Neither had he read any actual Grail romances although several of these are readily available in good editions from Penguin Books. He lists some books about Leonardo da Vinci but no academic titles on Renaissance art, Gothic architecture, or the witch-hunt. He used the popular Fodor travel guides for European places instead of the far more informative (and authoritative) Michelin ones. This is a man who grabs whatever scraps of information his wife happens to provide, regardless of quality. She seems as poor a judge of sources as he is.
In both TDVC and the court statement, Brown thanks an academic librarian for help but identifies his institution as the non-existent "University of Ohio" instead of the regional branch of Ohio State University at Chillicothe where the man actually works.
Browns attempts to show off his rich fund of lore simply demonstrate his ignorance. For example, he claims great admiration for Bernini and familiarity with his paintings. But Bernini's great achievements are in sculpture and architecture. Only a few paintings are attributed to him and these uncertainly.
Brown follows Margaret Starbird in deriving the dynastic name Merovingian from the French "mer" for sea and "vigne" for vine. He seems blissfully unaware that these rulers of France in the Dark Ages didn't speak French but rather Frankish, a Germanic language akin to Dutch and weren't called "Merovingians" in their own era. The designation in fact comes from the name of their ancestor Merovech, Latinized as Meroveus.
And then there is Brown's disquisition on the etymology of the word "sincere" which he derives from a Renaissance Spanish expression meaning "without wax" for well-wrought marble statues that required no wax to repair mistakes. My college dictionary says that "sincere" comes from French and ultimately from the Latin "sincerus" meaning pure or honest. But hey, what does Webster know? Or the OXFORD LATIN DICTIONARY?
Dan Brown's statement to the court certainly tells us what little he knows.
Sandra Miesel, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax
The European edition of TIME has a short piece titled "Five Easy Steps to a Best Seller" that takes up "tips" about writing a hit novel from Dan Brown's written testimony for the special "The Code Goes to Court" case in London. The tips, along with my thoughts:
1. Be disciplined. "My routine begins at around 4 a.m. every morning, when there are no distractions," says Brown, who also breaks every hour for "push-ups, sit-ups and some quick stretches. I find this helps keep the blood (and ideas) flowing."
In other words, be flexible — especially in how you use your sources. And in how much credit you give to them. And consider using some flexibility in how you describe your research. And don't be afraid to flex the truth, so that you can use the word "FACT" to apply to things that aren't actually factual (such as the Priory of Sion being a "real organization" that was founded "in 1099"). Push over some facts. Sit on some history. Stretch the truth.
2. Pick a "big idea" with a gray area. "The first step is to select a theme that [you] find particularly intriguing � The ideal topic has no clear right and wrong, no definite good and evil, and makes for great debate." In this case, the provocative "Jesus was married" conspiracy theory might have created too much debate.
No, no, no. Not a "big idea," but a big target, namely the Catholic Church. Don't let the complex reality of Christianity (Eastern Orthodox? Who are they? Protestants? I think I've heard of them. Don't even ask about the Ancient Oriental Churches) get in the way of mentioning the dreaded Vatican every two or three sentences. And be sure to that there are definite goods (goddess worship and Harvard symbologists) and evils (the Vatican, the Catholic Church, Opus Dei). Be clear how right your protagonist is and how wrong the dreaded Vatican is. Hammer on it. Don't relent. Pound away. And, if you're lucky, many readers won't notice that you haven't a clue about any of these "big ideas" or big targets.
3. Location, location, location. Brown initially wanted to stage a Masonic romp in Nova Scotia, but it lacked sufficient drama. Instead, a 1998 personal tour of a concealed passageway beneath the Vatican — "used by early Popes to escape in event of enemy attack" — inspired Brown to opt for Old Europe.
Pick big locations and then describe them incorrectly. Pretend to know a thing or three about Paris and London, but take comfort in the knowledge that some readers don't know the Louvre from a chapel from a Swiss bank — nor do they care. They are into the "big idea" of bashing Christianity — and anxiously awaiting the moment when Langdon and Sophie gaze into each other eyes and whisper sweet nothings about nothing at all.
4. Keep chapters snappy. "I have a short attention span," Brown told a packed courtroom, "and I write short chapters for that reason." (Chapter 27 is only 1½ pages long.)
A nice technique for conveying a sense of movement and action when nothing is happening — which is exactly what happens (or doesn't happen) for much of the novel. Also, find relief in the knowledge that readers also have short attention spans. For instance, have your characters breathlessly explain how incredible it is that Jesus has descendants, but don't explain why this has any meaning since you've already explained that Jesus is a mortal prophet. Period. End of story (so why care about him any further?) I guess that's what happens when you don't read the entire Holy Blood, Holy Grail.
5. Marry well. Not only did Blythe Brown secure her husband's first book deal, she also did much of the work behind The Da Vinci Code. "She was reading entire books, highlighting exciting ideas and urging me to read the material myself," admits Brown, who sometimes found the extent of her research "frustrating."
Marry well. Have your wife do the real work. Then point the finger at her when asked tough questions. Sure, it undermines your credentials as a dyed-in-the-wool feminist, but it beats answering tough questions. Such as: "When did you read Holy Blood, Holy Grail?"