Thursday, May 04, 2006

Blood boiling point

Published May 4, 2006

When the world famous book “The Da Vinci Code” was published in 2003, I had signed up for one of those book of the month clubs, seeking some free books as a distract from an already hectic schedule. When the box arrived, I had half a dozen free hardbacks. This was fun. All these books for a couple pennies, plus I only needed to buy two more hardbacks at their regular discount price. Not too shabby. These were top selling titles. There were books by Grisham, Trigiani, Follet, and an author I had never heard of, Brown.

A friend of mine saw the book and murmured, “I heard that one was good”. I shelved it again. I let it sit for three months and forgot about it. Around the same time, Pop came to visit (my Dad) and was perusing my crammed book shelves and asked if I had anything good to read, because unlike me, he was retired and had lots of time to read. Most of the books I selected from the book club were books he had already read, except one. I tossed him the Da Vinci Code and said, “Someone said this was good”, maybe you’ll like it. He took a stack of books home with him. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had a running commentary from him on the ones he liked and why.

The next time I saw Dad, we had a fairly nice visit, until the subject of reading came up. He had a very serious look on his face and said he had something of mine he wanted to return (and it wasn’t soon enough I guess), because when Pop is unhappy about something, the whole room knows about it. He threw the book down in front of me and affixed on it was a post-it note scribbled in his hand with these exact words “TJ, that was some kind of book! At what point does your blood boil?” It was signed, “Dad”.

“Huh?” I asked. What do you mean? He then asked me if I had read it and sheepishly I admitted I hadn’t. He told me that the book wasn’t written particularly well, but he hung in until the end to see if the author would somehow redeem himself. Apparently that didn’t happen. .Pop was pretty upset. About reading a book? I was a little ruffled. He’s read lots of books he didn’t like, but never with this kind of reaction, especially over a piece of fiction. I suddenly felt like a kid put in the corner. “Dad it’s supposed to be fiction, why are you so upset?” He told me to read it and get back to him. I decided to put it back on the shelf and I let it sit for a really long time.

Not too long after Dad’s review came down on my head like a sledgehammer, my Catholic neighbor whom I will call Dave, dropped by the house and asked if we had read the “evidence” in the Da Vinci Code and “what did we think of it?” I could hear myself repeating “Isn’t it a work of fiction Dave?” His lingering response of “I dunno….” was followed by a dissertation on a documentary he watched on television which seemed to support the contentions in the Dan Brown book. I was more than a little troubled by what followed next. Mary Magdalene married to Jesus? A Goddess? They had a child? The Catholic Church suppressed it all – Bam! I now knew that based on this conversation, I was going to have to read this book because even some of my Catholic friends were buying the fiction as fact. My blood was beginning to warm big time. I was really angry. This was really some kind of book.

I pointed to a book on my book shelf which is a biography of St. Mary Magdalene and asked him if he wanted to read it. He wasn’t interested. I asked him if he knew what Gnosticism was and it’s origins. He still wouldn’t budge. I asked him if he believed that Jesus is God and had a Divine nature. “I’m not sure what that means.” I asked if he believed that Jesus was the Second Person of the Trinity. A blank stare and still no response from Dave to this basic tenant of Faith question. He was disappointed that we didn’t share his enthusiasm. In his mind he saw the fiction as historical fact. I pulled the book off the shelf, read the introduction about Opus Dei and thought to myself “Blessed Jose Marie Escriva must be flipping over in his grave”. My blood was starting to really churn.

Why are people so attracted to a book which reportedly misrepresents and misunderstands people, places and events? I decided to read it for myself and put it up against known historical and biblical history. I’m using Dad’s post-it as a book mark. The next column I write will be May 19, the same day the Sony film is set for release. I’ll let you know what I think. However, I am doing one more thing that day, besides writing another column on this subject. I am purchasing tickets for my family to see the DreamWorks Hedgehog movie because I now know at what point my blood boils.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at

No comments: