Reading Books

Sep 19, 2005 04:59 # 38949

rosyxxx *** is getting sarcastic...

The tomfoolery of "Da Vinci Code" vs. "The Name of the Rose"

All right. I must admit I feel duped. When the hullabaloo about "The DaVinci Code" was abounding, I was impervious. I only read the damn thing because someone I love gave me a copy for Christmas. I read it. Yes, yes, I was glued. It was a page-turner. I couldn't put it down. But at the same time it rankled. Both because I AM an elitist literary snob, and because I had this niggling feeling that he was drawing on more than say books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail. I figured it was due primarily to the fact that all of the information he referenced on the Rosicrucians, hermetic mysteries, The Knights Templars, and The Freemasons was knowledge that has long, long been available for any bibliophile's perusal. I have long since moved past the library of the literary troglodyte, I think...and then I get caught up in books like "Da Vinci Code". As well as his preamble to it: Demons & Angels, with all of the murdered Church dignitaries and their affiliates.

Alas, I am as succeptible as most. Gullible would be more like it. As in gullible enough not to have remembered hearing about Italian author Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, when it appeared on coffee tables, library checkout counters, and B. Dalton and Waldenbooks shelves before the gracious advent of such bookstore monstrosities as...well you know...the places that have overtaken such literary wonderlands that have existed in, for example the St. Louis area, such as: Paul's Books in The U. City Loop (now replaced by a Blockbuster Video store...ick!), and the wonderful Library Limited with it's many corners for reading, including a living room corner complete with leather sofas and coffee tables in the mystery section. They got bought out. Unfortunately, only Left Bank Books seems to be remaining. Fortunately, it is within walking distance of my domicile. It is where poetic wonders have leaped off the shelves to me...with my hands ready and waiting.

I digress. What's new?

So...apparently with the re-invention of bookstores, came the re-invention of Umberto Eco's novel: The Name of the Rose, by the literary un-great Dan Brown. Not that re-invention of other's novels doesn't happen all the time...but I haven't even really read The Name of the Rose, only the blurbs on it, and already I smell a rat. Eco's fictional story of a medaeval monk, who discovers a plot to mysteriously murder several other monks, tied up with the Roman Catholic Church and blah, blah, blah...sounds infinitely more erudite and fascinating than anything Dan Brown, with his plain name, and plain writing style could muster. You don't need to see my face to see that my nose is turned up in disgust.

Even more, what about Eco's further exploration: Foucault's Pendulum? The story of an Italian philologist in Milan (should be right up andromacha's alley :-), studying philology as she is...), who is writing his thesis on the Knights Templars.

But instead of ending this diatribe against Dan Brown and his little group of troglodytic followers, with more irritation that I even wasted my time getting sucked into that vortex of his, I'll end with this quote from Eco's The Name of the Rose:

On sober reflection, I find few reasons for publishing my Italian version of an obscure, neo-Gothic French version of a seventeenth-century Latin edition of a work written in Latin by a German monk toward the end of the fourteenth century.

Don't even get me started on the parallels this farcical and hilarious quote has to another book...

But then, of course...I must make myself a liar too, and continue on, rather than ending, to say that back in the 1980's Eco's book was touted as the 'ultimate coffee table book', complete with a book entitled: The Key to "The Name of the Rose", which elucidates the obscure Latin passages for the Latinate-language illiterate American version of the human species. As if...it were obscure to those souls in Italy who first read his book. And Eco's book was lain upon many an aspiring reader's coffee table, without even having been read, supposedly, to give the impression of erudition; that explains why I'm not hearing about too many people comparing it's similarites to Dan Brown's writing. And THEN, a movie version of Eco's book was made in 1986, which housed the performances of Sean Connery and Christian Slater. Apparently it was not as beatific a work in comparison, if written accounts are to be believed.

All of this brings me to the conclusion, that maybe the fact that history repeats itself ad infinitum, and literary endeavors repeat themselves ad infinitum...a la, reworking of themes by authors like Borges and his "Labyrinths" into things like Danielewski's House of Leaves...and the apparent inability of various fawning literary sites all over the web to grasp such simple concepts...that at least the North American population is doomed. Doomed to inadequate exposure to awesome fiction. Hell, Borges didn't even recieve the Nobel Prize for literature...but people have been TRYING to copy his ass ever since. That's not what bothers me...

What really bothers me...what the point of this whole diatribe is: People need to give credit where credit is due. At least Danielewski does in his work (you might have to turn the book sideways to find it, or hold it up to the mirror...but he does...), whereas Dan Brown...I may be wrong, but I don't remember Eco's book being listed in his bibliography of reference books used to write his book...if it is, then, call me misinformed as well.

I guess, ultimately, I feel that with the way Dan Brown's book ended up taking up residence on so many coffee tables, along with it's version of "The Key to the DaVinci Code" smells so alarmingly of the same scent that must have pervaded the air when that same literary scenario occurred in the mid-80s with Eco's book, and it elucidary companion, and the Best-seller list blurbs...that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I have yet to embark upon reading The Name of the Rose in its entirety, but I would welcome the feedback and commentary of anyone who has read either Eco's book, or both Eco's book and Brown's book...or who would like to read both.

A study in 'comparitive literature' has begun for me...and though I don't think I shall receive any college credit for this {ha!}, I expect I will find it more interesting than most college courses on literature.

My mind is made up...not like my bed, which is a mess.

Sep 19, 2005 16:03 # 38966

andromacha *** replies...

Re: The tomfoolery of "Da Vinci Code" vs. "The Name of the Rose"

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So...apparently with the re-invention of bookstores, came the re-invention of Umberto Eco's novel: The Name of the Rose, by the literary un-great Dan Brown. Not that re-invention of other's novels doesn't happen all the time...but I haven't even really read The Name of the Rose

Oh no! That book is known also abroad!! I feel ashamed to be Italian I swear!! Umberto Eco must have written that book more than 15 years ago I think, and I remember that they wanted us to read it during high school, but after the first few pages I decided that I didn't want to read it, and so in a way or another I managed to avoid doing that ;) I don't remember which escamotage I invented though :P

I dislike Eco's style, but I dislike that ignorant Dan Brown even more. I don't want to get in the merit of saying all the details of why his book sucks so much, but let's just mention here that I hate the fact that he states that his book is historically correct, because he verified his sources, when in fact it is far from being correct. There are several historical mistakes, even important dates, and it is obvious that he never cared about verifying his sources for real.

Quite frankly, I don't even understand why it got so much success. I found it quite annoying and easily predictable, but of course it could just have been me. I honestly don't understand how Rosy can say that it was a page-turner, but I guess it depends very much on the person who reads it, on what kind of books s/he is used to and such...

However, let me just say this: Dan Brown, when compared to Guenter Grass or Musil, rules!! ;)

Italy no longer accepts illegal immigrants. Mr. B sink their boats!!!!!!!

Sep 20, 2005 06:32 # 38972

rosyxxx *** replies...

Re: The tomfoolery of "Da Vinci Code" vs. "The Name of the Rose"

There are several historical mistakes, even important dates, and it is obvious that he never cared about verifying his sources for real.

Exactly. He verifies his sources with sources that are themselves full of holes like a piece of Swiss cheese. Thank you for agreeing.

Quite frankly I don't even understand why it got so much success.

Probably for two reasons: 1) it is fast paced, and grabs you the way a frivolous piece of Hollywood film mystery can...if you let it; which appeals to the short-attention span. 2) The American public seems mostly to be so unaware of anything other than pop-culture; therefore, the information, the way Dan Brown presents it, fits the "Cliff Notes mentality"...and we all know that Cliff Notes don't really get at the core of what a book or play is trying to convey, because a good book or play has more than one interpretation, and the interpretations generally are not as facile as Cliff Notes make them out to be, in reality, but unfortunately...it's what most people want. Instant gratification.

I honestly don't understand how Rosy can say that it was a page-turner, but I guess it depends very much on the person who reads it, on what kind of books he/she is used to and such...

I was reluctant to read it, but decided to humor a close friend of mine. I found it 'entertaining and fast-paced' in the way I found the movie The Matrix frivolous, but entertaining. And just as I have found movies like The Matrix to be very entertaining, but horribly facile, I very much find Dan Brown's book entertaining...but horribly facile.

It's light reading. A book to be read once, and thrown away...discarded on the trash heap of books, given away to someone else to take to the beach and get covered with sand. Unlike, my other beloved books...which will remain to be read repeatedly in the safety of my home, where no seashore waves can ruffle the pages. Dan's book is entertaining, but expendable. As far as I am concerned, I enjoyed reading it, but if it was freezing cold, and my power were out, and I needed to build a fire, Dan's book would be first on the pile to be covered with lighter fluid and set aflame to keep warm.

You might not have noticed the sarcasm in the previous post. But if the ability to determine whether a useless book can be useful at least for light-reading purposes is based upon what else a person is used to reading, then here is my reading list of 'fav' books:

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Of Love and Other Demons
Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis
Jorge Luis Borges Ficciones
Jorge Luis Borges Labyrinths
Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics
Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities
Italo Calvino's Under the Jaguar Sun
Jose Lizama Lima's Paradisio
Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Milan Kundera's Identity
Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch
Marguerite Duras' The Lover
Carole Maso's Aureole
Sadegh Hedayat's The Blind Owl
Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body
Jeanette Winterson's The Powerbook
Jeanette Winterson's The Passion
Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five
Margaret Atwood's Bodily Harm
Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye
A.S. Byatt's Angels & Insects
Gina B. Nahai's Cry of the Peacock
Virginia Wolf's Orlando
Virginia Wolf's Melymbrosia
Amos Oz's The Same Sea

I am capable of loving books like these, while simultaneously having both contempt and enjoyment for what the teeming masses read. I have a little of both in me...and I had hoped my sarcasm was more evident. I thought it was painfully clear in my post that though I was able to eke out some minor redeeming qualities (such as keeping one's mind of off other shit...),I 'definitely' found Dan's book a frivolous waste of time (but who doesn't do things that are frivolous from time to time?) and am grateful to hear that "The Name of the Rose" is not something I missed out upon. I haven't read it, and probably won't now. You've saved me.

I just shudder to think what kind of moronic television programs were out on "The Name of the Rose" in the mid-80s. I don't watch TV much, because I consider it a waste of time, but occasionally, like the other day, I was watching some stupid indepth*snorts* program on The DaVinci Code by default. It was someone else's television. And the stupidity of the American interviewers was painful to watch.*that must be why I got the migraine I am recovering from*

I must add here, that though I find TV a frivolous distraction which mostly 'kills' your brain cells, I still gravitate towards it the way some Germans drink their beer, with it's high levels of alcohol that would knock an American out. In other words, I know that TV and Dan Brown's book are bad for me, but I still sometimes can't help myself. Dan Brown's book is like some bad weed...it gets you high, but you have a headache afterwards. ;p

I have no idea who Guenter Grass or Musil are, but I think I am glad.

So...in the market for recommending some books? Based on my list of 'favs'?

Incidentally, in terms of frivolity, my new Blythe doll is here...

My mind is made up...not like my bed, which is a mess.

This post was edited by rosyxxx on Sep 20, 2005.


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