One-Minute Book Reviews

September 29, 2009

Is ‘The Lost Symbol’ Is ‘Offensive’ to Christianity?

Crosses and other religious symbols help to drive the plot of The Lost Symbol. Are the images used in an offensive way? Philip Hensher writes in a review of The Lost Symbol in the Spectator:

“The plot, naturally, is all to do with the concealment of wisdom within sacred texts, and as it unfolds, it becomes first moronic and then somewhat offensive. Moronic, because it seems to believe that wisdom and knowledge are things which are acquired by placing a bit of gold on top of a bit of stone, and then wiping off some wax. Brown’s heroes remind me of Hardy’s Jude, who thought that you could understand Greek if you cracked a simple code in the dons’ safekeeping:

“Don’t you see? These [Biblical phrases] are code words, Robert. ‘Temple’ is code for body. ‘Heaven’ is code for mind. ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ is your spine. And ‘Manna’ is this rare brain secretion.

“Not just moronic, but offensive, because the whole historical point of Christianity was that it celebrated its rites entirely openly, unlike any other religion to that point. The huge enlightenment to come, trailed by Brown, doesn’t convince, because he can’t really imagine what it would be, apart from some previously secret beliefs being made generally available. What that would mean, apart from people saying ‘With my temple, I thee worship’ at wedding ceremonies, Brown cannot limn.

“This is taking a bit of fluff all too seriously, but tales of conspiracy are worrying when they become as massively popular as Brown’s stories have done. God knows how many of his readers think there might be some truth in any of this. But even if there were none, it is depressing to see the point to which the bestseller as a form has sunk. Vintage have recently reissued all of Nevil Shute, and to read a hugely popular book of 50 years ago next to The Lost Symbol is to witness a painful decline in quality and sheer class. A novelist like Brown would never risk an extended set-piece like the motor race in On the Beach, or the details of capital investment in A Town Called Alice. Or, come to that, the thrillingly extended card game in the first part of Ian Fleming’s Moonraker. These are novels which, though aiming at popularity, respected their readers and were possessed of a decent level of craft. Nowadays, we are reduced in our thrill-seeking endeavours to listening to Dan Brown, whose idea of giving a reader a good time is droning:

“Franklin Square is located in the northwest quadrant of downtown Washington, bordered by K and Thirteenth streets. It is home to many historic buildings.”

5 Comments »

  1. It’s very much the same thing that happened with Oliver Stone’s movie JFK. There are a lot of people who think that is what actually happened even though most of what is in the movie has been debunked long ago. Even so, I think half the people buying The Lost Symbol are only doing it so they can hammer away at it after they read it.

    Comment by Chad Aaron Sayban — September 29, 2009 @ 1:55 pm | Reply

    • An apt analogy with Stone’s JFK (and another movie that got a lot of attention a while back, The Last Temptation of Christ) …

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — September 29, 2009 @ 7:55 pm | Reply

  2. SPOILER ALERT

    As Brown said in a recent interview, it’s become fashionable to bash his books. Let’s see, last I read, Symbol has sold 2.3 million copies so far: the negative comments don’t seem to be having much impact.

    Some of those doing the bashing are as inaccurate as the bashers claim that Brow is. Look at this opening “The plot, naturally, is all to do with the concealment of wisdom within sacred texts, and as it unfolds, it becomes first moronic and then somewhat offensive. Moronic, because it seems to believe that wisdom and knowledge are things which are acquired by placing a bit of gold on top of a bit of stone, and then wiping off some wax.”

    The first sentence is subjective. Of course all reviews are somewhat subjective and depend somewhat on the reviewer’s taste. As a reviewer, I’ll stipulate that. But when a reviewer says that the concealment of wisdom within sacred texts is moronic and offensive, he’s making a very odd claim, for most of the world’s great religions center around sacred texts that have overt and covert meanings. What is our reviewer really showing us here?

    Brown’s book in no way claims that wisdom comes from putting a piece of gold on top of a piece of stone. The gold and stone are the medium for a message, a message that–in fact–brings readers right back to the Bible.

    Needless to say, there are plenty negative things worthy of commenting on on Brown’s books, such as the info dumps and the strange and somewhat tedious descriptions of places. We might even question whether the CIA’s interest in the piece of gold and piece of stone in “The Lost Symbol” is remotely realistic and credible, even as a plot device. But the reviewer here has lapsed into something else, a subjective and inaccurate attack on the symbols and meanings which will certainly be variously interpreted by readers based on their faiths and frames of reference. This lapse is outside the reviewer proper arena of commentary.

    Malcolm

    Comment by knightofswords — October 1, 2009 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

    • Macolm — Still haven’t read this one and don’t know whether I’ll agree or disagree with you after I do. How can it be taking me this long?
      Jan

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — October 1, 2009 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

  3. [...] Furthermore: You may also want to read the Sept. 29 post, “Is The Lost Symbol ‘Offensive’ to Christianity?” [...]

    Pingback by A Review of Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’ – The Copycat Cover Isn’t The Only Thing It Has in Common With ‘The Secret’ « One-Minute Book Reviews — October 12, 2009 @ 1:09 am | Reply


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