White decodes Da Code

It’s been a good month for Curt White. As I posted last week, The Middle Mind came out in paperback last Tuesday. Dalkey Archive has just reissued The Idea of Home (which went out of print when Sun & Moon Press closed shop earlier this year) and will also publish his new novel, America’s Magic Mountain. This week, VLS is featuring his analysis of The Da Vinci Code phenomenon in U.S. fiction.


…the interest in gnosticism and alternative forms of Christianity that The Da Vinci Code has stimulated holds the possibility for a kind of seriousness that few other creations of popular culture can claim. But as with most “serious” matters in mass culture, the opportunity to have real consequence is abolished in the same moment that it is extended. The Code and its many commentaries (like Dan Burstein’s Secrets of the Code) offer two contradictory possibilities. It is the expression of an authentic longing, and it is the incredulous insistence that we can’t really mean what we seem to be saying. To really mean this business about the hidden history and the unconfessed malice of the Catholic Church, about the relationship of a secret society like Opus Dei to the administration of the federal government, is too scary to be taken entirely seriously. So our anxiety about seriously proposing the critique as an alternative to the religio-corporate present, is immediately effaced by the assurance that—not to worry!—it’s just pulp fiction. It’s just a scandal/commodity. It obliges us to nothing more than a familiar and ephemeral enthusiasm and a willingness to stimulate a “market” (in this case, the ever beleaguered book market that staggers from year to year only on the strength of the next Harry Potter adventure, novelistic sensations like the Code, and tell-alls by disgraced politicians and celebrities).


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