Why I stopped liking The Da Vinci Code after I’d already read it

da Vinci CodeBack when I read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, I rather enjoyed it. It had nice suspense and action and fascinating fictional extrapolation from more or less real-sounding historical details. I didn’t notice the bad writing people complain about, either.

But later on, I heard something that turned me against the overall. I don’t remember the form I heard it in, but it’s summed up by this quote from Dan Brown:

99 percent of it is true. All of the architecture, the art, the secret rituals, the history, all of that is true… [A]ll that is fiction, of course, is that there’s a Harvard symbologist named Robert Langdon, and all of his action is fictionalized. But the background is all true.

Just… hold on a second. You’re not going to say that all that extravagant conspiracy theory stuff is made up? Because I know about conspiracy theories, and that was some serious tin foil hat stuff. It’s nothing like either a reasonable or a generally accepted hypothesis.

It gets worse. Turns out Dan Brown basically can’t get anything right, in regards to background. Even the title — apparently, calling Leonardo da Vinci “da Vinci” is like saying “What would of Nazareth do?” And how about the fact that there is no such thing as a “symbologist”? The real-life study of symbols is called semiotics, but it’s totally different. (The eminent semiotics guy Umberto Eco has written a book that’s exactly the opposite of Dan Brown’s; whereas The Da Vinci Code is an action-packed story with a naïve conspiracy theory, Foucault’s Pendulum is a long novel in which very little happens until the end that cynically deconstructs conspiracy theories. Also, I expect the numerous historical etc. details Eco includes are correct.) Indeed, the closest equivalent in real life to what Robert Langdon does might be “conspiracy theorist”, since his job is to find secret symbols everywhere that connect everything to everything else.

I like fantasy fiction, but the authors seldom claim that elves or sparkly vampires are real. So Dan Brown’s false claims basically turn his entertaining and imaginative fiction into pseudoscience. Why did he claim it was truth instead of fiction? Who knows, but doing so devalued the whole thing. Also, as it turns out, he should have done his research better even for fiction.

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