As the book and now the film release hype reaches a crescendo I can safely say I'm sick of reading about the Da Vinci Code. However, I'm not sick for the obvious reasons of disliking Dan Brown's work. I'm nauseated by the literary and general artistic snobbery which is almost triumphantly displayed by expert critics. Rarely is a self respecting decent critic seen to publicly praise the work.
I think in truth what probably subconsciously irritates many purist critics is that the book presents its ideas so entertainingly without overworking the reader too much. It also touches on so many subjects which only experts in each field should be qualified to have a considered view on. It has elements of an "Introduction for Dummies" book in terms of art history, places and Christianity. Worse - it goes on to make conclusions in the fictional plot which are rather speculative to say the least.
I liked the book for two reasons...
1. It helped further enhance my existing interest in history of art, famous places and history of Chistianity and religions generally. The concept of the suppression of females in religion was also a well raised subject. Hence it did for me and evidently millions of others what any really good book should do - allows the reader to take something useful away from it, learn something, provoke thought and encourage further research. I wasn't for one moment convinced by the "garment" created from the cutting and stitching of fabrics of raw materials but it definitely provoked more study into actual facts. There was plenty of encouragement offered to the reader to think a bit differently and laterally.
2. It was a good yarn in a well tried and trusted thriller or detective format.
Yes the book was designed and written with maximum commercial success in mind. Yes it was using well understood shrink-wrapped psychology in keeping the reader interested and wanting to keep reading. Yes it had ingredients designed to make big numbers of vertical marketing groups read it - Christians, non-Christians, clergy, women (and men) irritated by overdose of male roles in religious hierarchal structures, thriller novel lovers, detective novel fans, casual history fans, lateral thinking fans, holiday readers, readers who want something easy to digest, young, middle aged and old people etc. Yes it is very American in how it's full of punchy ideas and yes it also avoided complex expressive literary writing styles. But so what I ask? The fact is that most of these elements tend to be seen as negatives by highbrow critics.
Here's a question partially related - in experiencing something new, should we criticise a well designed multimedia PC based self learning software package for the masses which maximises visual and aural stimuli as well as using psychologically proven teaching techniques in favour of drudging through research and going and listening to a plethora of badly delivered live lectures by experts? Each has their place and their merits.
The Da Vinci Code brings traditionally less studied subjects - raspberry flavoured by presentation skill and controversy - closer to the unwashed masses. This can irritate many well read critics.
However study of lateral ideas in art and religion should not be a domain for snobbery - it is for anyone who wants to feel liberated in thoughts away from their everyday lives. Shakespeare plays were always designed for the common people of England when they came out - now Shakespeare is largely in the realm of the artistic snob.
I'm going to be different to most critics and say The Da Vinci Code is a good book. I know hundreds of millions of intelligent people will support me. I doubt if the film will be a better overall experience but if it comes any way close then it can't be bad.
(PS - My first impressions on the book last year are on my blog of 1st Sept 2005.)