AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Nation.com has graciously invited me to post some excerpts from my new book, 101 People Who Are REALLY Screwing America (and Bernard Goldberg is Only #73)–a response to Goldberg’s much-too-successful 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is #37).
Goldberg, who is dedicated to the proposition that it is liberals who dominate America and are responsible for most of its ills, included, by my count, eighty-one liberals, seven marginal conservatives and twelve indeterminate others in his book. But not, just for example, a single member of the Bush Administration. Not one Republican member of Congress. No one responsible for the Iraq disaster, for the pre-9/11 “intelligence failures,” for illegal spying on Americans, for sanctioning secret detention and torture, for trying to subvert the Constitution by giving the President unlimited, quasi-dictatorial powers, for corrupting Congress, for gutting our environmental laws and giving free rein and fat subsidies to polluters, drillers, strip-miners and other land-rapers, for suppressing scientific information about global warming or for seeking to replace science education with religious claptrap.
You see, it’s actually Phil Donahue, Tim Robbins and Barbra Streisand who are screwing up America. People like that. Not all of my America-screwers are high-level political evil-doers. They’re well represented, rest assured; but I also wanted to include usual and less usual suspects from the culture, media and religion industries. (Roger Ailes. Mark Burnett. Linda Chavez. Alex Castellanos. Ann Coulter. James Dobson. Tim LaHaye. “Dr. Phil” McGraw…. The list goes on and on. Well, up to 101. Or rather, down from 101.)
Not included, regrettably, were editors who force their authors to cut their excerpts’ word count down by 80 percent. What you’re getting here, just so you know, are mere snippets of fragments of excerpts of sample sections. Appetizers. Hors d’oeuvres. I’m wasting words.
#100: The Mysterious Smile of Dan (Da Vinci) Brown
You don’t read airport novels or thrillers. But your view is, as long as they stay on their side of the literature/mass-market-fiction border and don’t bother you, you don’t bother them. But if they begin to stray off the reservation, raid across the border, adopt high-culture airs in an attempt at what the Observer called the “trick of intellectual flattery” (see Flaubert’s Parrot, Galileo’s Daughter, Wittgenstein’s Mistress, Newton’s Manicurist, etc.), and make not just literary but grand historical and conspiratorial claims that billions of readers take seriously–if they become the best-selling hardback adult novel of all time and make their maker so rich that you sit around all day mumbling, “Why didn’t I think of that plot?”–then it’s time to get the women and children into the fort and mount a punitive expedition in The New York Review of Books or someplace.
The novel may not do Roman Catholicism any favors, but it does encourage New Age nonsense about “the sacred feminine.” According to Code, the figure to Jesus’s right in Leonardo’s The Last Supper is really Mary Magdalene. Her and Jesus’s A-shaped figures together form a giant M. The V-shaped space between them refers to Magdalene’s womb–the real Holy Grail. You get the picture. Or rather, you don’t: Reviewing Code, the art historian and classicist Ingrid Rowland worried that readers may come away believing they have learned something about Leonardo and his art. Adam Gopnik wrote in The New Yorker: “A cultural anthropologist, a hundred years from now, will doubtless find, in the unprecedented success of The Da Vinci Code during the time of a supposed religious revival, some clear sign that, in the Elvis mode, what a lot of Americans mean by spirituality is simply an immense openness to occult superstitions of all kinds.”