Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blogging Brown

Many of you will have seen blogs that aim to guide their readers through the less penetrable paths of literature: the Bible; Ulysses; the new Pynchon. These sites vary in their approach, but they are united in a core idea; that these books are in some way important, and worthy of consideration, but they can be pretty tough going. Readers want to read them, but need a fairly intensive level of encouragement. So the blogger takes them through, one page or chapter or section at a time. It's like a micromanaged reading group, I suppose. Or an interactive Coles Notes.

My project for 2007 is slightly different, considerably lazier, but (I hope) interesting in its own way. I want to take my readers by the hand and lead them through a work that is by no means difficult or challenging. On the other hand, it has not only sold shedloads of copies, but has captured the imaginations of thousands of people, forcing them to look anew at religion, history, art, even their holiday plans. At the same time, the conventional critical wisdom is that the book itself is a ludicrous concoction of discredited conspiracy theories, held together with cardboard characters and subliterate prose that makes John Grisham read like Nabokov.

I speak, of course, of The Da Vinci Code. Now, it's already had dozens of books written about it, and plenty of blogs, too. But these tend to focus on the subject matter; whether from the perspective of amateur symbologists and conspiracy nuts who think the book contains some long-repressed truth; or concerned Christians who see it as an equally dangerous lie, and want to pick it all apart.

Of course, I'll deal with some of that. But I'm a writer. I do words. They're my babies. And I want to find out why a book that (by conventional critical standards at least) is so egregiously badly written, is so successful. Does it succeed because of the bad writing, or in spite of it? Indeed, do those standards, maintained in an unspoken pact between Eng Lit departments and broadsheet book reviewers, actually hold water any more?

Anyway, that's the plan. I'm looking to kick off on January 1, and proceed at a pace of roughly one chapter a day, which shouldn't be too taxing for anyone. If you'd like to join me for this journey into mediocrity, all you need is a copy of The Da Vinci Code (available at all good charity shops) and the passion for a decent literary scrap. I'm especially looking for people who enjoyed the book, and are willing to defend it. Remember, the end purpose of this isn't to decide whether or not Jesus was married to his mother, or Leonardo was a lesbian Scientologist, or even that the Pope shits in the woods. It's to crack the biggest mystery of them all - why this book was so successful. See you there, and if anyone's got Audrey Tautou's mobile number...


Blogger Jun Okumura said...

I think I'll read this blog, but skip the book. That way, less gain, but less pain, I'm sure.

10:43 pm  
Blogger llewtrah said...

I've sworn never to touch the DVC, not sure if visiting here breaches that oath.

5:02 pm  
Blogger Spinsterella said...

Bollocks. Do I have to actually read it again?

I'm sure this'll be better craic than the Pynchon anyhow.

6:00 pm  
Blogger Mangonel said...

Me me me me me! C'n I play? C'n I? C'n I? Pleeeease!

For me it was like eating a large packet of my favourite biscuits all in one go. Just couldn't stop myself wanting (and getting) more, but BOY did I feel sick by the end of it.

Go Biscuits!

4:28 am  
Blogger Tim Footman said...

This is good. I was thinking everyone was going to be utterly dismissive, but some fans have been lured into the sticky web as well.

And yes, I think it would help if you've actually read the book. Although I blogged a few weeks back about how some things are so damned ubiquitous, you feel you've read them even if you haven't; also touch on the idea here.

I'm kinda looking forward to this. Let lovers of biscuits and haters of clunky adverbs alike prepare to do battle!

4:48 am  
Blogger GreatSheElephant said...

What Jun said. I´m not sure I can face a reread, particularly as I distinctly remember thinking from the very first sentence that the writing was appalling.

Interestingly (OK, not interestingly) I had the misfortune to choose Kate Mosse´s book about the Cathars to read on the plane (I´ve blanked the title - something to do with labyrinths)and that was appallingly badly written too in a very similar style yet no-one makes fun of that one. Are there still any well written pot boilers out there?

1:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could never see me reading the DVC in earnest, but this could be a good way of finding out what all the fuss is about while maintaining my pride. I'll check out Oxfam tomorrow.

6:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've covered my copy in brown wrapping paper and sellotape, done an intricate "DVC" in italics on the front in purple felt pen and am sitting at the front desk with my lucky gonk and yellow striped pencil case ready to do battle with the sarcastic know-it-alls flicking ink pellets at the back of my brylcreamed head. They know who they are!

6:39 pm  
Blogger Spinsterella said...

Can I kick things off with the very first word?


From the page before the prologue.

Lots of misguided people believe that much of the book is true - perhaps this credulity can be attributed Mr Brown's use of the word 'fact' in such a decisive manner?

But it gave me a giggle this afternoon once I got home from Age Concern. A few years ago a friend of mine was taking the piss out of the then-fashionable habit amongst the kids of saying 'fact' after any statement in an attempt to give their opinions some sort of added gravitas.

He would say things like, "I'm going upstairs - fact!" Or "It is raining - fact!"

(PS - my experience of reading it first-time round was very like Mangonel's. I did actually enjoy it for a good 2/3 of the way through.)

8:24 pm  
Blogger Tim Footman said...

Perhaps I should just step back and let you lot get on with it, merely interjecting the occasional "Fight... fight... fight..."

And Spin... it's a 'fact' within a fictional construct. I think. Like Mickey Mouse being real within the confines of Disneyland.

Oooooooooh, the word verification has "god" in the middle. I feel like someone who's found Elvis in an aubergine.

6:35 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fact! The word "verification" has "if I cat" in the middle.

4:18 pm  
Blogger Tim Footman said...

Murph, I could write a whole post about whether the correct response to that comment is a Catskills-style snare-rimshot one-two; or a Carry On muted trombone wa-wa-wa-waaaaa. Not to mention the options for spelling each one.

Happy New Year, Murph, and to Oz and the bipeds too.

5:32 pm  

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