Catholics Go Crazy for Da Vinci
Da Vinci Galvanizes Christians
from Hartford Courant
The coordinator of a nationwide Catholic response to The Da Vinci Code says that there's something other-worldly about the book's success.
"I don't look for evil and grace in every corner," Matthew Pinto said, "but a book that is this wildly popular that so undermines Jesus Christ and Christianity, it would not be a far stretch for me to say that its origins are not of God."
You mean, the devil?
"From the author of lies," Pinto responded. "The devil."
With or without the horned one's help, the book is on a rocket flight, with 43 million copies sold, a planned release later this month of 5 million paperbacks, and a movie due out in May. Meanwhile, a trial on complaints that author Dan Brown stole material for the book is wrapping up in England, and a concerted Christian attack is building as the movie debut gets closer.
At this point, however, people in the book publishing industry say that nothing can slow the Da Vinci Code engine.
"When you get that kind of momentum building behind a book, that's when you get into the trope of `all publicity is good publicity,'" said Jerome Kramer, editor-in-chief of Kirkus Reviews and a website called The Book Standard. "Anything that anyone hears about it just gets 100 or 200 more people to think about buying the book."
Even the writers who are suing Da Vinci Code publisher Random House have benefited and are "making money hand over fist," Kramer said. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh contend that Brown's page-turner "appropriated the architecture" of their 1982 nonfiction book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Closing arguments were made Monday. If Baigent and Leigh get an injunction to bar use of their material, they could hold up the scheduled May 19 film release of The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks. Sony Pictures, however, says that it plans to release the film as scheduled.
Since the trial started, the book by Baigent and Leigh has been selling thousands of copies a week, "which is pretty good for a 24-year-old book" that had been off the radar screen, Kramer said.
"The Da Vinci Code seems to be essentially unstoppable," he said. "Nothing that has been thrown at it has done anything but fuel the fire."
Released about three years ago, the book quickly became a best-seller.
Some readers and reviewers labeled Brown's writing awkward, and historians have countered what they call the author's multiple errors. But the greatest outcry has been from Catholic organizations, who say the story is a giant lie that denies Christ's divinity and seeks to smear the church as murderous and anti-female.
Some who have commented on the book say that the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal and the leadership's stuttering response created a ripe climate for Brown's story of murder and conspiracy.
Catholic leaders and publishers throughout the country, acknowledging the book's popularity, are trying to pull into a parallel orbit and offer detailed refutations. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently launched a website that disputes the novel's central points, and Pinto is coordinator of a Catholic coalition's response website.
"This is an excellent teaching moment for the Catholic Church," Pinto said.
"If someone shines a spotlight on you, then you should take the opportunity to tell them about you," said Tom Hoopes, executive editor of the North Haven-based National Catholic Register. "The spotlight is going to remain there, so you might as well take the opportunity to spread the truth where you think an error is being spread."
Nevertheless, bookstores don't see sales of the Da Vinci Code arcing downward anytime soon. R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison has sold 1,700 copies, "which is astronomical," store manager Karen Corvello said. Hardcover sales had slowed a bit, Corvello said, but picked up again when the trial in England started.
"I expect the paperback is going to be huge," she said.