Intellectual Property

The Messianic Legacy

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My view of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code has been ratified by London's High Court: It may be a ripoff of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, but that doesn't mean it was plagiarized from that book. Brown almost certainly lifted the central conceit of his novel—that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene spawned a line of godly descendants—from Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln's classic of crank history. But it isn't plagiarism to adopt someone's factual claims. Since Holy Blood purports to be true, any historical novelist should be free to borrow its ideas. (Indeed, I know of at least two pre-Da Vinci novels that did just that. The Magdalene yarn is one of several intertwined conspiracy theories in Robert Anton Wilson's The Widow's Son, and it has a cameo in Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. Both books, by the way, are better reads than anything Brown will ever write.)

The suit seemed a little churlish as well. I can guarantee you that Holy Blood has sold many more copies in the last few years than it would have had Dan Brown died in 1995. Note to Mr. Brown: When you write your next potboiler, please feel free to plagiarize Rebels on the Air.

Next up: The debate over Ron Howard's Da Vinci Code movie, due out in May, which promises to provoke a culture-war battle the likes of which we haven't seen since … oh, let's say V for Vendetta.

NEXT: The Straight Dope on Global Warming

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  1. There was a central plot along the same lines in Chris Carter’s sometimes fantasic series, “Millennium”.

  2. “Both books, by the way, are better reads than anything Brown will ever write.)”

    yup – i threw the fucker across the room after the “best” assassin in europe didn’t finish the job. had he not been unionized, he would have had to have completed the job (kill the dude for real), and poof. no story.

    fucking hate those types of not-deliberately-funny austin powers overly elaborate death machines that don’t work themes.

    hrumph. so there.

    [looks around] WHAT. oh. it’s not monday yet. hokae.

    [crickets]

  3. FWIW, I liked “Angels and Demons” better than “da Vinci.” Talk about a page-turner.

  4. I’ve been reading Angels and Demons and Dan Brown is a hack novel writer. He hooks you with that crappy, hook, hack, novelist style, but every little thing in the book that he seems to be trying to show you as a wonderous thing you’ve never seen before is something I’ve heard of for ages. What is his audience?

    For instance, in the beginning of the book, the hero gets a call from some scientist who says his org created the internet, has all this money, a super-jet (scramjet/ramjet type plane, etc). I’m thinking “sounds like CERN to me” and sure enough, they go to Switzerland. Then they’re talking about particle accelerators, quantum mechanics, matter/anti-matter, cosmology, etc, and it’s all shit I’ve know about for years. Not to mention all the Illuminati shit.

    Now the book was written in 2000, but still, it’s gotta be housewives without internet access that he’s writing for.

    Oh, wait, Tom Hanks stars in the movie version, so I guess I just answered my own question.

  5. sage – page-turner, yes, I’ll give you that. But it pisses me off because I know what’s coming as he’s writing it, but yet I keep reading. (I’m only 100+ pages in, so maybe I’ll start getting surprised.)

  6. Lowdog, even though I work in the aerospace biz, and even though I feel I’m pretty techno-savvy, I had never heard of a plane that runs on a hydro-slush mix. However, IMO you haven’t gotten to the good stuff yet.

  7. Well then, sage, looks like I’ll just have to keep reading it.

    Since I’m not in aerospace, I might be talking out of my ass, but isn’t the ramjet/scramjet a similar concept to what he was trying to imply?

    Also, I read a popular mechanics article over 15 years ago about a super-jet that would run it’s liquified fuel all through it’s skin, using a ramjet/scramjet sort of engine, that could possibly reach mach 15. Of course, it was mostly hypothetical, but people were talking about how such technology could be mistaken for UFO’s…if such a super-jet existed.

    I must also admit that although I was a jet-fighter buff before I realised my eyes were too bad to actually fly one without shelling out lots of money, I’ve fallen waaaaay behind on my knowledge of aircraft (the su-31 was one of my last pet interests, although I do know a little about the Raptor F-22).

  8. Everyone I know who has ever read a book has been telling me that I must read DaVinci Code – they know that I will love it! I read his other book. Now I tell people that he isn’t my kind of author – I prefer to read good books.

  9. Finally, somebody gives props to Robert Anton Wilson. I’ve been telling people for years that if they think DVC is good, they should read MASKS OF THE ILLUMINATI. *That*’ll flip their wigs…

  10. V for what now?

  11. I hope the publisher(s) are paying the court costs for this publicity stunt…

  12. The Jesus/MM=Children thing has been floating around so long that the biggest problem I had w/ DVC was that not only was it a dull novel, the ideas were not novel either.

    Foucault’s Pendulum is one of my all time faves and Masks of the Illuminati is a rare gem. Time for me to write a book about how the Sinclair family stashed the real Grail in Canada! Oh, it’s been done? Well, nevermind then!

  13. Say want you want about me. I can’t hear you with the wads of $50,000 bills stuffed in my ears.

  14. Dan Brown is just another creative typist. I tossed Digital Fortress after getting about halfway through it. One reason was all the convoluted techno-babble he was using when extending on existing science and technology would have been more interesting and creditable.

  15. The Widow’s Son is one of my favorite RAW books. He gets a little overly self-referential/-indulgent at times, but even at his worst he’s still a helluva good read, and a great way to bend the old brain a bit. I haven’t read Masks of the Illuminati in a long time, but I recall that being a pretty damn good book too. I wish his modern stuff were as fantastic, TSOG was frankly very weak (it doesn’t help the way he seems to copy-paste a lot of his old work into his “news” essays, either…).

    Anyway, everyone should check out the HIstorical Illuminatus Trilogy (The Earth Will Shake/The Widow’s Son/Nature’s God), it’s been recently brought back from out-of-print purgatory, and buckles swash in was unimaginable to Dan Brown.

  16. Didn’t Robert Graves hit on something like this in his King Jesus? I should know, since I read most of the book, but I disliked it enough that I can’t remember. No I, Claudius, I’m afraid. Though it beat the heck out of anything I’ve attempted to read by Dan Brown. What was it with Graves and women, anyway? He had a whole goddess thing going in his fiction and nonfiction, then he made Livia (Augustus’ wife) the entire power behind the Julio-Claudians. Riiiigggght. Not that that ruins the novels–far from it–but I have a sneaking suspicion that he was a little, well, out there.

    I can’t abide The da Vinci Code. I got maybe twenty pages into it before deciding that it wasn’t very well written. And I’m historically literate enough to have hurt my eyes from all of the rolling around they’ve done in connection with the book.

  17. Considering the whole Prioy Of Zion/Bloodline of Christ was a scam dreamt up by a French con artist, I’m surprised that it has any traction at all. Then again, this is the same country that put the “Left Behind” books on the best sellers lists.

  18. Edit: …Bloodline of Chirst meme…

    …best seller’s lists.

  19. Dan Brown is the Umberto Eco for the semi-literate.
    (plagiarized from another H&R commenter)

  20. Everyone should, in fact, go see V for Vendetta. Screw this Dan Brown thing.

  21. I don’t know how to love him
    What to do, how to move him
    I’ve been changed, yes really changed
    In these past few days, when I’ve seen myself,
    I seem like someone else
    Someone fatter,
    Someone pregnant.

    I don’t know how to take this
    I don’t see why he moves me
    He’s a man. He’s just a man
    And I’ve had so many men before,
    In very many ways,
    He’s just one more
    But Jesus, Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild
    He’s the father of my child.

    Should I bring him down?
    Should I scream and shout?
    Should I speak of love,
    Let my feelings out?
    I never thought I’d come to this
    What’s it all about?
    Will it be a boy? Will it be a girl?
    In the middle of her forehead
    Will there be a Christ-like curl?

    Don’t you think it’s rather funny,
    I should be in this position?
    I’m the one who’s always been
    So calm, so cool, no lover’s fool,
    Running every show
    He scares me so
    I never thought I’d come to this
    What’s it all about?
    Yet, if he said he loved me,
    I’d be lost. I’d be frightened
    I couldn’t cope, just couldn’t cope
    I’d turn my head. I’d back away
    I wouldn’t want to know
    He scares me so
    I want him so
    I love him so
    I hope he’ll pay child support.

  22. If you like Foucault’s Pendulum and Masks of the Illuminati, or Illuminatus! and Watchmen, or if you like carnies, magic, and cons, then I recommend strongly that you watch the current TV serial, Lost.

  23. I’m surprised that know has mentioned that comic writer Garth Ennis used this idea in Preacher. In fact, in that series, the descedants of Jesus became so inbreed that they constantly threw their shit at interlocutors. I haven’t read Da Vinci Code, but I’d wager dollars to donoughts that Preacher is better.

  24. Damn it. I misspelled doughnuts….well, I guess that’s what I get for drinking Canadian whiskey and Mic lights all day.

  25. I hear Mel Gibson is coming out with a film take-off on the Da Vinci Code in which all of Jesus’s ancestors are beaten to death in a variety of slow and painful ways. It’s tentatively to be called the “Last 100 Temptations of Christ and Family.”

    JMJ

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