Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Da Vinci Code

Was asked by a publisher recently if I could write somtething like The Da Vinci Code. I said yes. (What was I supposed to say?) Of course, I hadn't read the DVC just then. I've heard many bad things about the book, mostly vague rumors and put downs by people who proudly claimed never to have read the book (actually, I'm making that up. I couldn't name a single person who has knocked the book if you paid me to. Still, the overall impression has been such.) In any event, I'm now more than twenty five pages in (only 400+ to go) and so I can speak.

It's not bad. Not yet. A bit over the top. Bad guys speak in stilted language (stilted, not Stilton which is a cheese) and the plot seems to center on secret societies and, therefore, must work itself out as the unraveling of a conspiracy theory unless I miss my mark. I'm kind of hoping that Satan himself makes an appearance in the flesh as it were.

Now this is all vastly different from A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes. Probably the same difference between Rosemary's Baby and Harry Potter. It's not the difference between good and bad. Just different.

Anyway, I'll report on DVC whenI'm done. Perhaps I shall like it less.


Blogger Russel said...

The thing is that DVC must have something to it. Personally, I didn't get it. It wasn't written in a style that felt real to me and, to be honest, a lot of the religious stuff has been done elsewhere to greater effect. But a book can't keep selling without *something* to keep the momentum going. So even if we want to knock it there must be something we can learn from DVC.

Although having cried, "I'm bored now!" before throwing the book against the wall I really don't know what that lesson would be.

Chester Himes could kick DB's ass, though. But you should always expand your reading horizons.

November 25, 2005 10:26 AM  
Blogger Steven said...

I agree. DVC must have something that the readers want that I am not providing. Here's the thing: regardless of what writers think of it (and I haven't heard anyone outright pan the book as bad; only complaints that it isn't deserving of all the accolades and money) the word-of-mouth among readers seems to be great. You don't get millions of sales off of hype.

So clearly, DB gave the reading public something they wanted.

So far, I've got one idea - he gave them glamour. The main character isn't some schmo finishing a dissertation, he's a Harvard professor who happens to tour the world and is currently staying at the Ritz in Paris.

I guess this leads to escapism - a decidedly un"real" look at the world that satisfies some/many. This is something they don't get from my books. Hence the disparity in sales?

November 25, 2005 12:00 PM  
Blogger Russel said...

I think you're spot on with glamour and escapism. It also has the illusion of intelligence by calling on ideas that are very prevalent in people's lives (whether or not we are religious, the religious kerfuffle of DVC is something we all understand). By making the character an intelligent "celebrity professor" (such an oxymoron - the "celeberity professor" bit not the intelligent bit - but never mind!) the reader also buys into whatever he says.

And DVC is a very easy read. There is nothing that truly unsettles. No graphically upsetting violence etc etc.

Its a fine example of a mass consumption thriller. All power to DB in a way. He's made it. You can't knock him for that.

At the same time remember he is possibly writing very different books from you (But I have not yet read the precint Puerto Rico novels - something I must rectify especially as my interest was peaked seeing you carrying around that very large cardboard cover from one of them at B'Con!) so lessons must be taken in context. To reach DVC levels of sales takes not only a book written to appeal to a broad number of folks but also a very lucky piece of hype (in DVC's case I think the clincher was the condemnation of the Catholic Church).

As for HP, I find them well constructed kids books but little more. If you want a magical kids fantasy that the adults can enjoy as well I think Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials is just amazing...

November 27, 2005 6:29 PM  
Blogger Steven said...

Oh, DB is writing VASTLY different stuff from me. My books are like cozies with violence in them - hardboiled cozies? Softboiled is what I call them.

The Dundee Public Library doesn't carry them. Let me know if you have a hard time finding them.

Still, barring the condemnation of major religious organizations (It'd be pretty easy, I think, to get the condemnation of the Church of Scientology) how do I get DB's legion of readers? I'm still convinced that there has to be something he's offering that most in the field are not. I agree with you that besides glamour and escapism there's also the education one gets. Or feels that one gets. It's like when I watch ER on TV -- I always feel ready to insert a trach tube by midpoint and crack open a chest and massage a heart by the end.

And what's the deal with HP? I mean, there has to be something behind the craze, no?

November 27, 2005 9:43 PM  
Blogger Russel said...

I think the education one "thinks" one gets is right with DVC...

And yeah I know the books ain't in the library and they probably ain't in the local shops either (but when I get some cash for Amazon...)... the distribution round here is bad enough for UK released books never mind imported US titles...

Like I say Amazon is my friend.

I like the idea of cozies with violence. That's my main complaint with cozies. I don't think violence has to be OTT but I think it has to be present and it has to be a credible threat in a crime story.

As to HP, mass brainwashing is all I can think of. Again all power to Ms Rowling, but like DVC its been blown out of all proportion. I think when the book launch was televised from Edinburgh castle las year, that's when I finally thought it was truly, ludicrously overhyped.

November 29, 2005 7:04 AM  

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