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  • Dan Brown: Angel or Demon?

    Okay...I'm really sorry for the very bad pun. But in light of Angels and Demons coming out, and the nature of the topic...it seemed right.

    So, looking through forums on IMDB, (because I am sad, and I do that), I came across a thread which says that Dan Brown is a liar and it got into a very heated debate. But I couldn't be bothered to post there. Because I don't like IMDB forums. Too messy. Digressing.

    Is Dan Brown an 'Angel' or a 'Demon'? Is he a liar? Did he just 'make up a load of crap' which is one theory I came across...how mature

    Personally, although the book itself is fiction, I think Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code do have facts in. It's not as if he just made them all up. The stuff about the Illuminati in Angels and Demons, it is fact. Just intertwined with fiction...

    However, it's The Da Vinci Code which I am thinking is more controversial. It's about the Holy Grail. According to Dan Brown, its not just 'The cup of Christ'. It's Mary Magdalene. (sp?) Which is bound to raise some eyebrows...what did people make of this? Shocked? Outraged? Wanted to Brown?

    And other controversial topics brought up in Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code are bound to come up...but I can't exactly remember what they were...I need to re-re-re-re-read them

    I'll post my thoughts later...I didn't know whether this would have been...an interesting topic to debate. I was simply...curious
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  • #2
    I wasn't angry or hostile about Brown's work, just amused. It's so silly, to me.

    I read "Da Vinci" and managed it, but couldn't sit through the movie. It's just too talky. "Angels & Demons" is easily its superior as both a book and a movie property. Now, that one I liked. Of course, too much of both books seem designed to do little other than screw with the Catholic Church. "Angels & Demons" especially -- if it was 50 pages shorter, it would have been quite a lovely little story, a very even-handed handling of the challenges posed by faith and reason, of religion and science. As it was, it became largely another cheap shot at the Church.

    His theological "theories" are pretty limp to me -- in "Da Vinci" Brown seemed to argue simultaneously that marriage to Christ is supposed to prove Mary Magdelene's divinity, but that any idea of Christ's divinity was stolen and attributed to him to steal it from Mary Magdelene. That's a pretty serious contradiction.

    But I don't mind that -- I don't think of those books as anything likely to lead people into error. I did mind, though, his depiction of Opus Dei, for instance, as this deeply corrupt and insidious organization. And the mortification stuff was just flat out false -- it's not part of the Roman Rite.
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    • #3
      He did what many other writers did as well: he found some obscure theories, fleshed them out by making up a lot of things and earned a lot of money with it, especially because his theories were so controversial. The Catholic Church's reaction actually boosted his sales figures.

      I'm not a theologist by far (well, our religion teacher gave us a shot at some theological essays in our final year at school, which was rather interesting, but that obviously doesn't make me a expert), but even I can tell that the whole holy grail thing is rather forcefully fitted into the picture, so to say. Moreover, the grail does not really belong into theology as far as I know, but rather into obscure myth. I rather like what Richard Wagner made of it, but Brown? It feels weird to me, to be honest.

      As for offence-taking, I really don't care. I had a very liberal Protestant upbringing, so to me an author is free to write whatever he wants, and everybody is free to believe in whatever he wants, so if Brown twists around some theology and makes money with it, fine by me.
      The Catholic Church has a tendency to get all huffy about many things, and less indignation would have helped their cause more, in this case. A plain "this actually isn't any existing doctrine, most of it is completely made up and the whole conspiracy theories fashion is getting SO old" would have done the trick.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Bloodsucker View Post
        He did what many other writers did as well: he found some obscure theories, fleshed them out by making up a lot of things and earned a lot of money with it, especially because his theories were so controversial. The Catholic Church's reaction actually boosted his sales figures.
        That's what I never got either. If it's fictional (which it is) and if the Catholic church didn't want people to know and read about this book, why on earth did they give it so much publicity by making such a huge uproar about it? I found that rather silly and against what they'd want, surely they understand that it's in our nature to poke our nose into something that we're told is not good for us? Curiosity drives us. The book wouldn't have been half as popular if they hadn't reacted in the way they had.

        Personally I have no problem with Dan Brown's books. I didn't really think the movie was all that great, but I never understood why it was so offensive to people. It's a fictional book, I don't believe (?) Dawn Brown ever claimed it was anything but fictional, he just managed to write it in a way that make it appear believable, which ultimately a good writer should be able to do.

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        • #5
          The theories behind Brown's books, especially 'Da Vinci' have been about for a lon, long time. If the ideas behind the story interest you then I would reccomend reading 'The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail' Which is a much better and much more serious treatment of the same theories.

          Of course they are all theories and none of them can in any way be proved but they are at least interesting theoriesand make for a good diversionary read. How seriously you take them or not is up to you.

          I've read both books myself and my problem is not the controversial subject matter but how badly both are written. In both cases I was on to the baddy well before the end of the book and the overall style just does very little for me. It is possible to fuse controversial religious subject matter with a well written enjoyable book as Salman Rushdie proved but to my mind at least Brown falls a lon, long way short.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
            I wasn't angry or hostile about Brown's work, just amused. It's so silly, to me.
            Yes - so badly written, such a load of nonsense. I made it through about eight pages.

            I read "Da Vinci" and managed it, but couldn't sit through the movie. It's just too talky.
            The answer to sitting through the film was going with mates when we were in a silly mood and the cinema was quite empty and talking and laughing through it ourselves.

            "Look, it's Amelie!"

            "She's not the messiah, she's a very naughty girl!"

            Etc. Bet people loved us.


            His theological "theories" are pretty limp to me -- in "Da Vinci" Brown seemed to argue simultaneously that marriage to Christ is supposed to prove Mary Magdelene's divinity, but that any idea of Christ's divinity was stolen and attributed to him to steal it from Mary Magdelene. That's a pretty serious contradiction.
            I think calling them theories even in inverted commas is giving him too much credit there! The idea that Christ had kids is an interesting premise for a book, and I love a good conspiracy theory. But this is not one of them.

            So, I can't see why people get upset about Brown - he's just ludicrous, and I imagine the Pope thinks the same.


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            • #7
              If it wasn't for the stink that the Catholic communities and religious people made about this book and movie, I wouldn't have even read it or watched it. I tend to pick up something and read it when I hear that churches do not like it, or that it ridicules the church (dont know why, I just do).

              I haven't read Angel or Demon yet. But for me Da Vinci Code was just an okay adventure about trying to find something that may or may not have ever existed. I took in all the theories and hunting about the same as I took in the theories and conspiracies in the National Treasure movies. So the book had highly unlikely theories..its a work of fiction. Why should the Catholic Church get mad? There are bad things (true things) said about them every day. Maybe they figured they didn't need any help on bad publicity. Anyway, my point is this, the book is fiction so everything in it should be taken that way.

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              • #8
                If a work of fiction deals with historical matters, it should get the facts right and weave the fiction through and around them. George Macdonald Fraser does this brilliantly in his Flashman novels. Dan Brown is unscrupulous in his false claims about the history of the early Church. Heaven knows, there are enough real scandals in the history of the Church without inventing fictitious ones.

                I confess that the runaway success of his novel is a mystery to me, but then I don't understand why people enjoy the Bond movies. To the best of my knowledge and belief there is no special mention of the Grail in the New Testament or the writings of the early Church. The Grail first appears in European literature in a 12 century work--The Quest of the Grail--by a bloke called Chretien de Troyes. It was probably based on earlier Celtic legends about a magical serving dish which made people immortal. The Grail is one of two great legends to have come out of Medieval Europe, the other being the Wandering Jew. Neither received any kind of endorsement by the Church. We have a lot of Grail recently. I would not be surprised if the next big thing was a new movie or opera about Wandering Joe.

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                • #9
                  While I do not actually know if the Grail is specifically mentioned in the New Testament, its in Christian mythology that the Grail was a dish (or cup, or platter) used by Jesus at the last supper. The work by Chretian de Troyes is believed to be based on legends of both Celtic and Christian lore.

                  Anyway I think one of the reasons the movie is such a success is because people are always captivated by legends. The Grail...the Fountain of Youth...The Ark of the Covenant. The search for legendary items always makes for a wonderful read or show. Many people also love a good conspiracy theory type story. Which if you think about it, is all the movies are. Conspiracy theories about secret orders and lost unobtainable ojects. Movies and books about those things are always a kick to watch/read , which is probably why they have such a success.

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                  • #10
                    I think calling them theories even in inverted commas is giving him too much credit there! The idea that Christ had kids is an interesting premise for a book, and I love a good conspiracy theory. But this is not one of them.
                    Giving him any credit at all for the theories in 'Da Vinci' is giving him too much, mainly because they're not his. The theory that Jesus and Mary had a kid goes way, way back and any web searches for Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Lynn Picknett, Rennes le Chateau, the holy blood and the holy grail or the templar revelation will produdce bettr written and better presented treatments of these theories.

                    Of course they should be taken with a pinch of salt, as with any conspiracy theories but at least the material and authors listed above make for an interesting distraction. Brown to me has latched on to some interesting but far fetched memes and used them to compensate for his bad writing.

                    edit: for a really good and much more lighthearted treatmnent of these kind of consoiracy theories read the Illumiati! trilogy. They are simply fantastic books.
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                    • #11
                      My case against Brown is that he messes about with known historical facts, and may give to his simpler readers the false idea that they are reading the real inside dope that the Church has been covering up. It is all so second rate, as well as unscrupulous.

                      A good conspiracy story should respect the known facts and look imaginatively into those areas where the facts are in doubt. In Dallas in 1963,for example, why did the FBI not keep an eye on Oswald when they had every reason to do so from his past record? Why was Bush so intent on invading Iraq when he knew two things perfectly well: there were no weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. I offer these only as examples of opportunities for good mystery writers.

                      There is absolutely no trace of Grail legends in Christian literature before the 12 th century and the Church never regarded it as a more than a "romance."

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                      • #12
                        To be fair on Dan Brown's case, he is a fiction writer and he doesn't say, 'Everything in my books are fact. Believe them right now!'

                        He adds historical context because it makes the book interesting. Who doesn't love a conspiracy? I do! But it is fictional. It's a story. A story with true groups like the Illuminati, and true art, like the Mona Lisa.

                        And like someone already said, it's not as if Dan Brown is 'making' the theories up. Before I'd read Angels and Demons, probably before it was even wrote, I'd heard the theory that Mary Magdalene was the Holy Grail. The marriage and the kid, I didn't expect/know/think of. It was still an interesting theory though.

                        I think that Dan Brown is a good writer though. I mean, I myself, believed his stories at first. (But I am gulliable and tend to believe anything ). But I thought the plot was interesting, and I have re-read Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code a fair few times! I think they're amazing!

                        But one thing I don't get is the Churches reaction. I believe that the Church wouldn't have reacted if something was false. Or, reacted as strongly. Which makes me believe that something in Dan Brown's books have hit a nerve with the church.

                        I mean, the Vatican apparently wouldn't allow the movie 'Angels and Demons' be filmed in the Vatican walls, when usually, the Vatican allow movies to be filmed in the walls. What could be possibly wrong with that if what happens in Angels and Demons is, in fact, fiction?

                        I get myself confused when I think about topics like this

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                        • #13
                          I enjoyed The Mummy pictures because they did not confuse us with cod history, and I love Rachel Weiss. King Solomon's Mines was another good one.

                          If he were to clean up his act Dan Brown could be a competent writer of tap fiction, for which there is a demand.I used to enjoy Robert Bloch and Dennis Wheatley, and Edgar Wallace in his prime used to churn out a new thriller every fortnight, and they were pretty good. I think The Four Just Men was his biggest success.

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                          • #14
                            Well I pretty much second everyone in here who thought that Dan Brown wasn't worthy of all the attention he got; it is unfortunate that far better books get swept under the carpet with hardly a second glance.

                            One of the things I found most aggravating about the whole situation was the "Church's" outcry. I'm not sure I would call the books blasphemy, exactly. I completely disagree with his theories, that is for sure. But for the Catholic church to take such offence personally, as though they represent Christianity, really irked me. Hello, there are a whole lot of other denominations out there that read the Bible too!

                            Summary: I thought it was wildly overrated, mildly offensive and kind of boring.
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by BloodyHell View Post
                              Well I pretty much second everyone in here who thought that Dan Brown wasn't worthy of all the attention he got; it is unfortunate that far better books get swept under the carpet with hardly a second glance.

                              One of the things I found most aggravating about the whole situation was the "Church's" outcry. I'm not sure I would call the books blasphemy, exactly. I completely disagree with his theories, that is for sure. But for the Catholic church to take such offence personally, as though they represent Christianity, really irked me. Hello, there are a whole lot of other denominations out there that read the Bible too!

                              Summary: I thought it was wildly overrated, mildly offensive and kind of boring.
                              You make a lot of good points. Numerous books were much better but got swept under the carpet. They are false unrealistic looks at what the Church might do in a bad situation. Yes, he is a very talented writer, and I am also gullible, so when I read the Da Vinci Code I was all for blowing up the Louvre and finding Mary, or finding the chamber beneath Rosslyn Chappel! Then I researched it on the internet and was like oh. Well those are two books that I'll never read again! Just kidding. I mean, I still read them, but now I view them in a very different way.

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                              • #16
                                I don't think he's an angel or a demon--just a bad writer who can come up with interesting enough plots (and who uses enough cliffhangers) to make people buy his books (there are def. other authors like that out there). His books are clearly in the fiction section, and if anyone thinks they are true than they are idiots, it doesn't make him a "demon."
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                                • #17
                                  I was very entertained by all the Robert Langdon series books - and I too preferred Angels & Demons to Code. I had heard of these theories before, but I was interested in the twists they took in the book. I didn't actually *believe* I was reading anything but fiction, but I must confess that I did go searching in the middle of the night for a picture of the Last Supper.

                                  Not surprised by the Church's reaction, they are holding the conservative line - and I was amused by it all, considering the number and scope of the skeletons that actually *are* in the Church's past!

                                  I was disappointed by the plot changes in Code, but am holding out hope for better in Angels & Demons. Dan Brown is never going to win any literary writing awards, but I wasn't put off by his badness - there's plenty of that in some of the biggest names in fiction - reference some of the works of Stephen King, James Patterson or Tom Clancy.
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                                  • #18
                                    Umberto Eco wrote in his "Six walks in fictional woods" that when a book sells 10 000 copies or so, people have no trouble taking fiction for what it is - fiction. But when some fictional book sells more, like hundred thousands or millions of copies people for some reason start thinking about the content of the book wheter things written there are "true" or not.
                                    So basically that's what has happened to books of Dan Brown as well. Had it sold less, nobody would even have a conversation about if he's a "liar" or not.
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                                    • #19
                                      When a book becomes as popular as The Da Vinci Code its actual merits are of secondary importance. It is a social cultural phenomenon. It can tell us something of what is going on in the collective unconscious if we learn how to read it properly.

                                      For example I think The Godfather revealed a yearning for law and order and family values. Gone With The Wind in the 1930s revealed America's guilt complex at that time about what had been done to the South. Harry Potter is telling us something; I only wish I knew what it was.

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                                      • #20
                                        But for the Catholic church to take such offence personally, as though they represent Christianity, really irked me. Hello, there are a whole lot of other denominations out there that read the Bible too

                                        Though the popes from John XXIII to the present have been more ecumenical than their predecessors, they still hold to the Catholic teaching that Peter & his successors were granted the right & responsibility to be the primary pastor of the Church as a whole. One can be wholly unbelieving & regard the gospels as a tissue of rumors & distorted recollections; or may regard Jesus as an interesting visionary misunderstood by his disciples or the gospel writers; but I've never been able to grasp how one can read the gospels and miss the support they give to the claim. Five hundred years ago, people were complaining about papal power & wars of religion ranged over the continent for decades to follow; and even though the entire structure of political power in the world has completely changed from that day to now, and even though the papal states have been dissolved & Rome has an entirely different relation to political authorities, nonetheless, people continue to say the same things about the popes & the publications continue to win readers.
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