My first favourite thing about The Da Vinci Code is the artfully deployed H covering Vitruvian Man’s dong. I suppose I can understand why you might not want to put a penis on a book cover, but this particular penis? Everyone’s seen that hog.
My second favourite thing is opening the cover and immediately hitting several pages of ecstatic testimonials from every publication from the New York Times to the Rocky Mountain News. Now, I don’t remember that much about this book, but what I do remember lends a fresh layer of irony to the obscured dick on the front cover; what you miss out on the cover you get before you even hit the title page, as the media fall over themselves to praise the sartorial style of a very naked emperor.
Oh dear. And I haven’t even hit the title page and I’m already talking about penises.
The first word of this book is Fact: So there.
The Priory of Sion – a European secret society founded in 1099 – is a real organization.
It’s not. I remember this book being full of a comical amount of bullshit, but I didn’t expect to be shooting it down so soon.
All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.
That’s a hell of a claim there, Dan. I have a funny feeling we’re going to be revisiting this one quite a bit.
Okay. Off we go! Are you excited? I am. No, really. Maybe it’s nostalgia or just the narcoleptic pace of more recent bad bestsellers – and yes, I’m looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey – but I seem to remember The Da Vinci Code being a brisk paced and entertainingly silly novel. Let’s get into this.
Renowed curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s grand gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six year old man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Sauniere collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.
Wow. That is quite an opening paragraph. I don’t even know where to start. The clunkily inserted details that scream movie treatment, the comma splice in the second sentence or just trying to figure out the logistics of how you manage to fall backwards in a heap. This is the good shit, kids.
Sauniere’s opening gambit (and you know this book is beloved by people who remorselessly overuse the word ‘gambit’) is to set off the alarms in the Louvre and bring down the security gates, thus separating himself from his would-be assassin.
Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.
Yeah, that’s not how silhouettes work, but we’ll move on. Fuck me, this is page 17 of 593.
The albino then produces a gun and aims it through the bars. It’s safe to say Sauniere didn’t think this one through all that well. There then follows a fairly hilarious exchange where lots of esoteric secrets are referred to in italics and we discover Sauniere is a senechaux (sentinel, guardian) of something so secretly secret that if we mentioned it out loud heads would probably explode. Then the guy shoots him.
The gun roared…
It did? Cool gun.
A gutshot Sauniere then clunkily makes his peace with God and then the albino decides not to shoot him in the head because “Pain is good, monsieur.” Okay then. Remind me not to hire this guy the next time I want someone assassinated. Dead means dead, dude. Don’t do half a job. Don’t just wound him and smirk off somewhere like an ineffectual Bond villain. Headshot or GTFO.
Of course, Sauniere is a veteran of la Guerre d’Algerie…no, really, it says that. In French and italics. I don’t know why. Presumably because if Dan just wrote the Algerian War we wouldn’t know that Jacques Sauniere, a Frenchman with a French name, currently expiring on the floor of the Louvre, Paris, is actually kind of French.
Yeah, anyway. Sauniere knows his goose is cooked, because he’s got about twenty minutes to live before the contents of his stomach leak out into his bloodstream and kill him from poisoning. I’m not sure how he knows exactly which organ has been pierced by a bullet. Personally if someone shot me in the belly my first reaction would be “OH MY GOD, I’VE BEEN FUCKING SHOT,” but I’m not in a Dan Brown novel.
He was trapped inside the Grand Gallery, and there existed only one person on earth to whom he could pass the torch. Sauniere gazed up at the walls of his opulent prison. A collection of the world’s most famous paintings seemed to smile down on him like old friends.
Also I would probably not be making anodyne commentaries on art while bleeding out from an abdominal gun shot wound, but I’m peculiar that way. Clearly the proper course of action is to clock the artwork, wince slightly and start symbologising, which is exactly what Sauniere does.
Robert Langdon awoke slowly. A telephone was ringing in the darkness – a tinny, unfamiliar ring. He fumbled for the bedside lamp and turned it on. Squinting at his surroundings he saw a plush Renaissance bedroom with Louis XVI furniture, hand-frescoed walls, and a colossal mahogany four poster bed.
This may be the worst character introduction I’ve ever read since the opening paragraphs of Fifty Shades of Grey. In fact I can’t be completely sure that Robert Langdon hasn’t woken up in Christian Grey’s Red Room of Pain. Didn’t that also have a four poster bed and a lot of needlessly described antiques?
Langdon is just as confused as we are, because his first thought is “Where the hell am I?”, but then he spots a hotel bathrobe and sees the HOTEL RITZ PARIS monogram and ‘slowly the fog began to lift’.
What the hell has this man been doing? Is he some kind of high class alcoholic?
Langdon answers the phone, to discover that it’s the concierge and he’s calling at half past midnight to say he’s sorry if he woke him up. What? Oh, and there’s somebody here to see him. And it’s urgent.
Langdon still felt fuzzy. A visitor? His eyes focused now on a crumpled flyer on his bedside table.
THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF PARIS
AN EVENING WITH ROBERT LANGDON
PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS SYMBOLOGY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Wow. Symbologist parties must be fucking lit.
Tonight’s lecture – a slide show about pagan symbolism hidden in the stones of Chartres cathedral – had probably ruffled some conservative feathers in the audience.
See what I mean?
Langdon hangs up on the concierge and then – in true poorly-written-novel-protagonist style – finds the nearest mirror in order to describe himself to the reader.
His usually sharp blue eyes looked hazy and drawn tonight. A dark stubble was shrouding his strong jaw and dimpled chin. Around his temples, the grey highlights were advancing, making their way deeper into his thick of coarse black hair. Although his female colleagues insisted the grey only accentuated his bookish appeal, Langdon knew better.
Who’s a sexy boy, then? In case you weren’t clear that Langdon is a smoking hot hunk of a symbologist, we’re going to have a flashback to prove it. No, really. It’s the first chapter, someone’s already been shot, we’ve only just clunkily established that our protagonist is staying at the Paris Ritz but goddamn it, we’re going to have a flashback already.
Fortunately it’s a flashback to last night, so I’ll allow it if it goes some way to explaining what kind of cocktail of GHB and expired animal tranquilisers left our hero feeling so spectacularly shitty in the first few paragraphs of his book.
Only it doesn’t. Instead the hostess – and this is very important that it’s a woman here – whips out a copy of Boston Magazine and starts reading out excerpts from ‘the inane article’.
Somebody stop her, Langdon pleaded, as she dived into the article again. ‘Although Professor Langdon might not be considered hunk-handsome like some of our younger awardees, this forty-something academic has more than his share of scholarly allure. His captivating presence is punctuated by an unusually low, baritone speaking voice, which his female students describe as “chocolate for the ears”.’
I’m not sure what has me cringing harder; the broad stereotype that us broads can’t get enough chocolate or the fact that the author is trying to have it both ways here. Everyone wants to bang Bob, but he’s just sooooo embarrassed right now.
Langdon forced an awkward smile. He knew what came next – some ridiculous line about ‘Harrison Ford in Harris tweed’.
Oh honey, no. Stop. Put the lid on your id and let us never speak of this again.
The ringing of Langdon’s hotel phone once again broke the silence…
Langdon has basically been sitting here doing nothing but describing himself in the mirror and having flashbacks about how he can make women spontaneously ovulate just by talking about circles or some shit. I’m not sure why he’s doing this. Presumably if he’s so jetlagged shouldn’t he just roll over and – I don’t know – try to go back to sleep again?
But this is The Da Vinci Code, where nobody behaves like a normal human being.
Anyway, here’s the concierge again, calling back to say that the visitor is now on his way up to Langdon’s room. He’s not a very good hotel concierge.
It turns out that the visitor is a French policeman named Collet, and he wants to know if Langdon was scheduled to meet with ‘renowned curator’ Jacques Sauniere that evening. Dun dun dun…
Collet is as tactful as the concierge is discreet, and promptly shoves a Polaroid of Sauniere’s mutilated corpse under Langdon’s nose.
When Langdon saw the photo, his entire body went rigid.
I could go the dick joke route with this one, but my first thought was of Langdon going stiff-legged and keeling over like a fainting goat. It amuses me, so goat joke it is.
The chapter closes on the revelation that whatever was going down in that photo, Sauniere did it to himself. Dot, dot, dot…
So. That was chapter one. There are one hundred and five chapters.
And an epilogue.
I’m going to die, aren’t I?