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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Da Vinci Code

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 30, 2006

"So what do you think of 'The Da Vinci Code?' "


That has been the most often-asked question of me in the past six months.


It is the kind of question that most librarians wince, because you know any answer you give will provoke a long discussion without an agreement.


Actually the answer is rather simple, "It's fiction, the book is a novel."


Fiction; you know, the books that are arranged on the library shelf by the author's last name.


The writing is based on the imagination of the writer.


The term "novel" takes a work of fiction to the next step, implying that a course of events is put together to form a story.


Actually, I like Merriam-Webster's secondary definition of "fiction," which is "an assumption of a possibility as a fact irrespective of the question of its truth."


"The Da Vinci Code" is the second in a trilogy by Dan Brown in which the character Robert Langdon is introduced.  The first book is "Angels and Demons."


When first released in 2003, the book was promoted as a fictitious mystery/detective story, a continuation of the Langdon character, even though you don't have to read the first novel before reading "The Da Vinci Code."


The furor over its publication seemed to intensify in the past six months with the release of the movie by the same title.


Our online catalog shows a total of 324 copies of the novel in the 69 library systems in the database, with a hold list that has never been satisfied.


There are an additional 68 titles of various works that discuss "The Da Vinci Code" from writers around the world with every opinion possible.


Dan Brown must be thrilled with the response.  His book now has over 60 million copies in print in 44 languages around the world.


It is now the 8th best-selling book of all times.  And remember that this is the 2nd of a "trilogy?"  Number 3 is expected to be released in 2007.


Attempts to suppress the book, as they always do, have only expanded its appeal.


In the library world, we call it the "Banned in Boston" syndrome.  That is a phrase started in the 1800s to describe a literary work that was prohibited from being distributed in Boston, Mass.


The more things that were banned in Boston, the more they were sold elsewhere.


It reached a climax in 1930 when Ernest Hemingway's first book, "The Sun Also Rises" was banned in Boston, as well as "A Farewell to Arms."


Hemingway's books were then nationwide bestsellers.


People are curious, interested in controversy, and love a mystery.  The allure of being banned in Boston has passed, but the philosophy continues.


Any work of fiction is based on something as its framework.  Anyone who tries to dissuade from reading and exploring a written book, will simply drive the interest to read it.


A controversial book provides an opportunity to open discussion on a topic.


But remember, "Gone with the Wind" is a novel based on the historical events of the American Civil War, but it is not a history book.


And watch for Dan Brown's newest novel in 2007, "The Solomon Key."