The Da Vinci Code 2-3 – Merde de Taureau

Last time, on The Da Vinci Code, we met Professor Robert Langdon, who – no sooner had he scraped himself off the sheets off the sheets at the Ritz Paris, following a wild night of symbology and ketamine (probably) – plunged headlong into a lengthy flashback about how women find him irresistable.

In other, slightly less nauseating news, renowned curator (no, really, it actually says that) Jacques Sauniere was foully sort-of murdered by a rubbish assassin who shot him in the gut but decided not to finish the job because ‘pain is good’. We’re off to a spectacularly silly start.

Chapter 2

One mile away, the hulking albino named Silas limped through the gate of the luxurious residence on Rue La Bruyere.

I didn’t care about his address, but thanks anyway, Dan. Get used to this, by the way. Saying that, I don’t really care about Silas, since his entire characterisation so far can be summed up in three words – pain is good. That and he’s not a very good assassin.

Anyway, he’s wearing a cilice (check the fancy foreign italics), which is basically a spiked garter that slices and dices his thigh and reminds him that…wait for it…pain is good.

He wanders up to his monk cell and calls someone – his Teacher – then a ‘male voice’ answers and Silas confirms that all four senechaux are dead.

Uh, and you know that how, Silas? Unless you were gifted with the same MRI anatomy powers that allowed Sauniere to know he was shot in the stomach and not – for example – the gall bladder, are you absolutely sure that the man you decided not to shoot in the head is definitely pushing up daisies?

Mother of God, this assassin is crap.

There was a momentary pause, as if for prayer. “Then I assume you have the information?”

“All four confirmed. Independently.”

“And you believed them?”

“Their agreement was too great for coincidence.”

Or they might have collectively agreed to lie. That’s sometimes a thing that happens, I’m told.

An excited breath. “Excellent. I had feared the brotherhood’s reputation for secrecy might prevail.”

No, wait. You’re talking about killing four people in some kind of brotherhood and they all gave up the same information? And there’s no way that in their brotherhood meetings or whatever masonic fuckery they’ve been up to, they couldn’t have come together to confirm some kind of cover story in the event that something like this might happen?

I’m not sure who’s dumber here. The good guys or the bad. Either way, it’s amazing.

Anyway, brace yourself for a blizzard of italics, because the four senechaux confirmed the existence of a clef de voute, or keystone. Keystone gets italicised for the first couple of times and then presumably the copy editor left for lunch or just got bored. I feel that.

According to lore, the brotherhood has created a map of stone – a clef de voute…or keystone – an engraved tablet that revealed the final resting place of the brotherhood’s greatest secret…information so powerful that its existence was the reason for the brotherhood’s very existence.

I’m right, aren’t I? The copy editor has already checked the fuck out, probably as baffled as I am by the random ellipsis squatting in the middle of the dashed clause. And what’s with the second – equally random – ellipsis? The reviewers were right: this book is full of intriguing mysteries.

Turns out the keystone is in Paris, in the Eglise de Saint-Sulpice, which is written out in French but isn’t allowed italics because it’s been naughty and is being punished. Probably.

Silas says the church is a fortress, especially at night, and he has no idea how he’s going to get in. This is a man who presumably broke into the Louvre after hours in the prologue, but never mind. We won’t worry about that now, because it’s time for Silas to get naked and indulge in some self-flagellation, because spooky Catholic secret societies. I’m not against this, by the way. Or anything that results in a naked Paul Bettany on my screen, even if the rest of the film scaled heights of boredom unequalled until that time I made a bet with someone that I couldn’t make it all the way through Eat, Pray, Love without weeping tears of blood.

He grabs a cat-o-nine tails, which is referred to as The Discipline, with capitals and italics, probably to make the disgraced Eglise de Saint-Sulpice feel much worse about whatever it did to merit having its italics taken away. Bad eglise! Bad!

Pain is good, Silas whispered, repeating the sacred mantra of Father Josemaria Escriva – the Teacher of All Teachers.

Oh, Silas. Really? The three words that sum up your entire milk-white, painslut existence and they’re not even yours? If you’re going to get kinky, please try to be original, otherwise it all just gets a bit E.L. James. And nobody wants that. Especially not me.

Chapter Three

The crisp April air whipped through the open window of the Citroen ZX as it skimmed south past the Opera House and crossed Place Vendome.

Dan, there’s no way to sugar coat this, so I’m not going to try. If I wanted this many directions I’d be reading a map of Paris.

In the car Langdon thinks Jacques Sauniere is dead, which is perceptive of him considering he spent his last appearance going strangely rigid over a Polaroid of Sauniere’s grisly murder. Langdon is sad about this, since he was looking forward to meeting the guy who had written extensively about the symbols in the paintings of Poussin. Also, Dan Brown has absolutely, definitely, categorically – as he stated when being sued for plagiarism – never ever read Holy Blood and Holy Grail. Got that?

Outside the city was just how winding down – street vendors wheeling carts of candied amandes, waiters carrying bags of garbage to the curb, a pair of late-night lovers cuddling to stay warm in a breeze scented with jasmine blossom.

In a way I have to give Dan some credit for attempting to set a scene here that doesn’t involve burping out street addresses. But then I have to deduct points for basically falling back on a series of Parisian stock characters. Just stick a guy on a bicycle with some onions around his neck, why don’t you?

Not sure who’s in the car with Langdon, by the way, but Collet appears to have fucked off somewhere and now he’s stuck with some guy who is referred to only as ‘the agent’. Also Interpol cares about Langdon’s whereabouts, for some reason. They must be very bored.

Langdon sticks his head out the window and again and this time gets an eyeful of tower (I’m not even sorry), a sight which launches him into some turbo-basic ruminations about how he should have been touring romantic landmarks with some woman named Vittoria.

I was confused for a moment but then I remembered this book comes after Angels and Demons, which I maybe read one time but can’t really remember on the grounds that it was very silly. But he was definitely banging some Italian marine biologist, who I guess has somehow managed to withstand his manly allure and his chocolate voice and buggered off to study the mating habits of barnacles somewhere.

There’s a brief exchange about the Eiffel Tower and then Langdon thinks this lovely thought.

Symbologists often remarked that France – a country renowed for machismo, womanizing and diminutive insecure leaders like Napoleon and Pepin the Short – could not have chosen a more apt national emblem than a thousand foot phallus.

Two words. Washington Monument. Another two words. Sears Tower. Three words. Empire State Building. Space Needle. World Trade Center. Stop me when you’ve had enough, Bob. God, and I thought I was heading straight out of the gate with the dick jokes.

…the famed Tulieries Gardens – Paris’s own version of Central Park. Most tourists mistranslated Jardins des Tuileries as relating to the thousands of tulips that bloomed here, Tuileries was actually a literal reference to something far less romantic. This park had once been an enormous polluted excavation pit from which Parisian contractors mined clay to manufacture the city’s famous red roofing tiles – or tuiles.

That’s fascinating, Robert. Nobody cares.

But he’s not done. No, no, no. We have to hear about Claude Monet and the Tuileries. It doesn’t matter that it’s boring and infodumpy and probably isn’t even slightly relevant to the plot, but Dan has done this research and he won’t see it go to waste. So eat up. Open your mouths and let Wikipedia pour in.

After the Tulieries derail we get a potted history of Paris’s museums including the Louvre, the Pompidou Center and the Musee d’Orsay. Never mind that we know we’re going to the Louvre already.

Langdon felt a familiar tinge of wonder as his eyes made a futile attempt to absorb the entire mass of the edifice.

In other words, he looked at the Louvre. It was quite big.

There follows a burped up, partially digested tour-guide bit about the artworks in the Louvre (did you know the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo were in there?), the controversy over the glass pyramid entrance and a bunch of other interesting stuff that manages to be really, really boring. Now, I freely admit to being a savage and ominvorous devourer of useless information, but it’s already obvious to me that this book is basically full of unexamined crap endlessly regurgitated in order to make the readers feel smart.

And it worked. Let’s face it, it worked. This thing sold millions.

Finally we seem to be meandering towards a point, and it turns out that the police chief Langdon is about to meet is named Bezu Fache, aka le Taureau.

The bull? says Langdon, and the driver compliments his French, at which point I call merde de taureau.

My French stinks, Langdon thought, but my zodiac iconography is pretty good. Taurus was always the bull. Astrology was a symbolic constant all over the world.

Uh. What? The most populous nation on the planet has a completely different zodiac to the West, you steaming great nit.

As he moved toward the mist of the fountains, Langdon had the uneasy sense he was crossing an imaginary threshold into another world…he was standing in front of a transparent pyramid built by the Sphinx, waiting for a policeman they called the Bull. I’m trapped in a Salvador Dali painting, he thought.

No, Robert. If you were trapped in a Salvador Dali painting all the clocks would be melting, you’d have Chupa Chup lollies sprouting from your eyesockets and there would be an ocelot named Babou pissing on your leg. Also why do I get the impression that Langdon’s idea of getting weird and wild is drinking a Diet Coke straight from the can instead of getting a glass from the cupboard?


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