Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Da Vinci Revised?

Let me address a few points that have come up in the comments:

1. History is told from an author's point of view, but it does not follow from this that we have no objective knowledge of history, or that there simply is no truth about the past. It is possible to be wrong about historical claims, and it is possible that some accounts of history are better (more accurate) than others. I'm suggesting that Brown, in as much as he tries to play historian, does a poor job.

2. Fiction writers should enjoy artistic license. But when a writer refers to real places or historical events, they should be accurate. I am open to hearing examples of reputable authors who similarly mangle their research. Brown, in my mind, falls dangerously close to being in the same camp as James Frey. Is it unethical for an author to lie (dramatically) about the facts of his own life? If so, then how is Brown's case different? If a WWII movie came out that denied the holocaust, claiming it was a giant hoax, what would you think?

3. I agree that The Da Vinci Code is a great opportunity for believers to have stimulating conversations with those who may be confused or intrigued by its ideas. Some may even begin exploring Christianity as a result. I'm all for this. I have both read the book and seen the movie, and have had some great dialogues.

4. Can we know what Leonardo "meant" in his art or writings? Not with 100% certainty, but some theories are certainly more plausible than others. I wouldn't presume to say my opinion is equal in worth to that of an art historian. Some of the "theories" proposed in the book are laughable. Here are a few art bloopers found in Brown's book.


Blogger Jill Pole said...

I think what irritates me the most about Brown is that he professes, in the author's note, that "all decriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." I do not need my fiction to accurately portray historical events or people. In fact, I love a good alternate history novel. It's when a novel that is clearly full of innacurate accounts professes to be truth that I get annoyed. Although Brown clearly avoids stating that his history is accurate, I think the average reader is left with the impression of "accurate" and does not realize that "history" was left out of the note. (Not to mention that the rest of it isn't true either. How do you have accurate protrayal of "secret rituals"?? Aren't they *secret*???)

Anyway - I still think that we should read this book, if only to have an intelligent answer for those who have questions. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Chris. I loved reading the blog you sent us to that covered the flaws in Brown's art discussion. Has anyone noticed that all the pictures used for the books and the movies are pre-restoration? I'm guessing that Brown's story really falls apart when looking at the restored "Last Supper."

6:51 AM  

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