Jan 262005
Authors: Jesse D. McLain

People love controversy.

Some people seem to love it so much they create it where it clearly does not exist.

It seems recently one of the hottest topics of controversy is over "The Da Vinci Code," by Dan Brown. In order to enlighten myself about society's obsession, over Winter Break I finally got around to reading the novel.

"The Da Vinci Code" proved to be well worth the read; it included a complicated plot twist, conspiracy theory and even some historical backing. Main character Robert Langdon finds himself in the midst of a foreign country attempting to pin him with a false murder wrap. For those of you who haven't yet read the book, I'll stop there. Brown asserted himself as a fine writer of a classic mystery novel.

But at no point during reading "The Da Vinci Code" did I lose myself to the point of thinking that what I was reading was anything but a novel, a piece of fiction. Even the author himself noted, "'The Da Vinci Code' is a novel and therefore a work of fiction," according to www.danbrown.com. However, some critics out there must have gotten really into the book, to the point where they can't even distinguish a setting in historical context from a nonfiction piece of literature.

According to Peter Millar of the Times of London, "The Da Vinci Code" is "without doubt, the silliest, most inaccurate, ill-informed, stereotype-driven, cloth-eared, cardboard-cutout-populated piece of pulp fiction I have ever read." Damn, I guess he didn't like it.

Millar isn't alone: Nationwide organizations have sprung up all over the place attempting to discredit almost every aspect of the novel, especially devout religious groups that feel the novel is a personal attack on their justification and credibility. I don't know, but if I was the Catholic Church I think I'd be a bit more concerned about the wandering eyes of priests than the pages of a piece of fiction.

Brown, who interestingly enough considers himself a Christian, was quick to respond to his critics: "This book is not anti-anything. It's a novel. I wrote this story in an effort to explore certain aspects of Christian history that interest me. The vast majority of devout Christians understand this fact and consider 'The Da Vinci Code' an entertaining story that promotes spiritual discussion and debate." Brown continues by describing his most common critics: "Even so, a small but vocal group of individuals has proclaimed the story dangerous, heretical and anti-Christian. While I regret having offended those individuals, I should mention that priests, nuns, and clergy contact me all the time to thank me for writing the novel." As well they should. Anything that brings millions closer to the church should be thought of as a blessing in times when Christian recruitment is dwindling.

And of course, there is going to have to be a movie. "The Da Vinci Code," the movie, is scheduled for release in May 2006 with Tom Hanks staring as Langdon, which will inevitably bring even more criticism and praise for Brown's novel. Certainly political correctness, along with religious and historical accuracy, will come into play. One of the story's main villains happens to be an albino, and of course that is bound to anger a select few.

So according to critics, Catholics and Christians in general are depicted badly, and albinos, too, and while we're adding to the list, the French Police don't look overly competent either. But what great mystery novel was politically correct? Throw out "Gone With the Wind," "The Scarlett Letter" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" just to name a few.

To each and every one of his critics, Brown encourages: "The dialogue is wonderful. These authors and I obviously disagree, but the debate that is being generated is a positive powerful force." And why shouldn't he encourage them? Brown's enemies are among his strongest advocates for keeping his own pockets filled.

Jesse D. McClain is a junior English major. Her column runs every other Thursday.

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