Carl E. Olson on the Cure for the Common Code
Readers with advanced degrees in comparative religion, European history, symbology, art, and cryptology will have a grand old time” reading The Da Vinci Code, gushed the Louisville Voice Tribune. Never mind that symbology is a fictitious academic discipline and no advanced degrees are currently available. The Chicago Tribune earnestly remarked that the book “transmits several doctorates’ worth of fascinating history and learned speculation.” ABC television featured the novel in a primetime special, National Geographic also plumbed its depths on the tube, and a sea of ink has been spilled examining, critiquing, and mulling over the fiction of a reclusive novelist from New Hampshire.
Why? What is the appeal? Some of it seems obvious. The novel has an intellectual appeal: Fans come away believing they now know things of value. It benefits from the historical illiteracy of many readers, an illiteracy often combined with a measure of gullibility and literary deafness. Unsuspecting readers are exposed for the first time to an attractively revisionist take on church history, a crude but effective feminism, and bracing anti-Catholic lectures. It entertains, surprises, and shocks, to the tune of 18 million copies sold worldwide.
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Carl E. Olson is the author of Will Catholics Be ?Left Behind?? (Ignatius), and co-author, with Sandra Miesel, of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius).
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