Microviews Vol. 6: Even More Books I Swore I'd Never Read

on Friday, February 12, 2010
Dear Penny Syber,

I have long been a customer at your fantastic secondhand bookstore. Indeed, you are my one exception to the obsessive compulsion I have about owning only new books. I'm sure Jung would make a great deal of that. Anyway, I hope that my years of custom have caused you to think highly of my taste in literature and that my visit last week did nothing to alter that. As I said at the time, it was for a greater good. With that in mind, I dedicate these reviews to you.

Your loving and usually discerning customer,

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
So I guess you're ready for my big hatchet job on the Dan Brown monolith. I have spent this month rallying against the blockbusters that have, for the most part, proven to be as terrible as I had anticipated. I have also spewed plenty of bile against religious motifs being used as the common hook to draw in the masses. But here we go. I can't believe I'm going to say this. I kind of enjoyed The Da Vinci Code. Sure, it's horribly written. Dan Brown should almost be forbidden from writing his own name. But he tells a great story and doesn't preach any sort of religious message. Who cares if the 'revelation' of a bloodline of Christ is as old as the hills? Brown doesn't pretend that it isn't. He even cites his sources (which, interestingly for the lawyers in the audience, included Holy Blood, Holy Grail). Taken for what it is, The Da Vinci Code is a fun, fast-paced nonsense adventure which might not change the course of literature, but is certainly a fun way to pass a long train ride. The characters are cardboard, the denouement is stupidly improbable and Brown's attempts to tie up the loose ends in logistically impossible ways is laughable. But who cares? I had fun the whole time. Consider it literary sorbet, to be consumed between more substantial offerings.

Review in Haiku (with apologies to the one person on Earth who hasn't read the book): Someone once told me/ Albinos can't be trusted/ No, it's the British!

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
Wow, so it took me a whole fifteen minutes to find a book that is more appallingly written than The Da Vinci Code. Well done James Redfield. You make Dan Brown look like Nabokov. And, in terms of profundity and authenticity, you thrust Elizabeth Gilbert into the stratosphere along with such luminaries as Sartre and Descartes. I remember being in high school when this book hit. People went nuts, as if it had ushered in some kind of Messianic age. Seriously, Redfield was giving Hubbard a real run for his money in terms of kickstarting a new religion (by that time people had tired of living by the Rhinehart Dice Theory which, in my humble opinion, is a far more sensible way of living one's life than either Dianetics or Celestine). Luckily, I was already happy and secure with my path in life so I didn't see any point in reading it. Now, almost twenty years later, I kind of wish I had, so that I could have thumbed my nose in scorn at the new believers. I call the biggest case of shenanigans on Redfield. He is a massive fraud. Although many people have claimed that he found a way to synthesise new age mysticism (and a whole heap of other plagiarised concepts) with conventional religion, the reality is almost the opposite. Redfield is a proselytising Christian, who sought to draw those exploring alternate paths back to the Church. He hid it in a terrible adventure that any eight year old special school student could have concocted (and seriously, I can't quite get across how spectacularly bad it is). Yep, it's got Mayans, pyramids, car chases, shootouts, evil priests [insert your own list of bad adventure cliches here, I'm bored of naming them]. And, of course, it has good priests who show you how the Insights are completely in sync with traditional, mainly Christian, doctrines. Now, I'm all for helping people find themselves. I get there's a need and an industry that services it. I also, contrary to popular belief, have no problem with conventional religion for those who wish to subscribe. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, The Force, whatever! They're all good to me. But don't preach a traditional dogma and doll it up as a new solution. That's just cruel and disingenuous. This hokey load of crap made my blood boil so much that it ought to come with a sticker on the front that screams, in embossed capital letters, "Not suitable for Jainists". Though, if I had my way I'd throw in the words "or anyone!" after that.

Review in Haiku: And now an Insight/ Great fraud perpetuated/ Until next trend strikes!

I'm off to read the newies by Delillo, Rhodes and Rachman now. Very excited.


Post a Comment