Thursday, May 18, 2006

The DaVinci Code - Just Enough Sugar to Help the Medicine Go Down

So - what Mass do you go to?On the eve of the release of its film version, An Spailpín Fánach is thinking once again of The Da Vinci Code book, and how Dan Brown struck exactly the right tone.

The tricky thing about that book, and books of that sort, is striking the correct tone. Strike too high a tone, yakking about Sir Guy de Boredulay on the Crusades in 13th Century marvelling at the Byzantine Empire and the remarkable harmony that existed in 12th century Sicily between East and West and nobody will read your book. Imagine that guff about Sir Guy extrapolated over 700 hundred pages and see how you fancy them onions. Not much, I'm thinking. Equally, if you go too easy on the Sir Guy business and its present day repercussions, then there's no mystery to the book at all and it's just another whodunnit, like that awful Elizabeth George writes, only set in a museum.

Dan Brown's crowning achievement, his bottling of lightning, was to strike exactly the correct tone, the happy medium between those two approaches; the approach of too much historical backstory over-egging the pudding and leading to profound mental indigestion among the hoi polloi, or not egging the thing at all and being left with nothing but flour that blows away in the breeze.

The best example of Brown's striking of that correct tone occurs in one single line of dialogue about half-way through the book. The crazed monk Silas has attempted to burgle the home of Sir Leigh Teabing (dig that crazy handle) in his pursuit of Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu (Neveau, surely? Ah well - this is a book where a Frenchman leaves anagrams for a Frenchwoman in France that are written in English. You go figure), but has been foiled in the attempt. Sir Leigh covers Silas with a peacemaker, and asks the immortal question "Whom are you working for?"

And that sums up the whole damned book. The hoi polloi see the now quite exotic object pronoun "whom" and think well, this guy must be an Earl because he talks English good. However, Sir Leigh does not talk English so good as to alienate his core market - ending sentences with prepositions might be ok in Duluth, GA, or Topeka, KS, but an Oxbridge educated knight of the realm ending a sentence on "for"? Darling, quite below the salt, I'm afraid.

I'm looking forward to the X-Men movie myself. Another big payday for Ian McKellen I notice - he'll have to play a lot of Chekov and Ibsen to make it up to Dionysus I'm thinking.

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