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Monday, May 22, 2006
On a summer night in 2003, after New York based venture capitalist Dan Burstein read Dan Brown's novel in one sitting, he became fascinated by several issues it raised. In particular, he was curious about Brown's inference that the figure seated at Jesus' right hand in Leonardo Da Vinci's famous painting "The Last Supper" was actually a woman -- perhaps Jesus' secret waife, Mary Magdalene.

"I went into our art book library in our house and pulled down the Leonardo Da Vinci books and took this new loook at "The Last Supper", he says. "And all of a sudden, in the middle of the night, under the spell of Da Vinci Code, it did look an awful lot like a female character".

Familiar with the famouse piece from travels abroad and classes in Western civilization, he began to "question some of my own assumptions about what I had learned in my education and in my past".

The next morning, Burstein swung by a bookstore in search of more sources on the topic, such as the blockbuster Holy Blood, Holy Grail and Elaine Pagels 1979 classic The Gnostic Gospels, both of which Brown references in his novel. Burstein began realizing "there was this very rich body ancient texts, about codes and code breaking, about conspiracies, about art history".

Having authored several books on technology and "futurism", Burstein decided to cull "the best of Brown's source material" and turn it into a Da Vinci Code anthology. In a mere three months, thanks to a team of 13 writers and edictors, "frantically working around the clock", Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind the Da Vinci Code hit shelves across the country.

Thanks to a months-long residency on the New York Times list of best-selling nonfiction, it has so far sold between 325,000 and 400,000 hrdcover copie dometically and hundred of thousands more in many languages around the globe.

Although his book leads the spin-off pack in copies sold, many of at least 20 other Da Vinci Code titles have found success by gloming into the manis surrounding Borwn's successful and controversial thriller. More are being squezzed out,thanks to big buzz for the movie adaptation starring Tom Hanks and due in theatres.

"I've never seen anything of this volune," says Karen Holt, deputy editor at Publishers Weekly. "Then again, there's a lot about The Da Vinci Code that's unprecendented in terms of the size of the sales and the popularity of the book."

Holt is amazed, however, that "people are publishing best-selling books based on proving that a work of fiction is not true. It would be like a documentary explaining why "Desperate Housewives" is not true.

There are the Da Vinci companions, from travel guides (Fodor's Guide to the Da Vinci Code) to one enterprising baker's The Da Vinci Code Diet. But works that purport to break, crack and de-code, the Code are especially abundant.

Darrell Bock's Breaking the Da Vinci Code has been out nearly two years and has sold about a quarter million copies.

A research professor of New Testament studies at the Dallas Theological Seminary, he was approached by Christian publisher Nelson Books to flesh out, in layman's terms, the religious aspects of Brown's story. "All I wanted to do is make sure that both havles of the record were out there and that the record was set somewhat straight on some of the claims that were completely off the mark".

Sandra Miesel, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax and holder of a master's degree in medieval history from the University of Illinois, concentrated on the historical snafus in Brown's book -- which she characterizes as "absolutely awful" Her title has sold more that 100,000 copies.

"At one point, I actually thought that maybe Brown was having a post modernist joke on the readers by seeing how many errors he could put in there", she says, "No, it was simple incompetence".

The Da Vinci Hoax, to which Chicago's Cardinal Francis George gave high marks, was for Miesel,(who teamed with religion writer Carl E. Olson) a means by which she views with disdain. "I wish it would be demolished", she says, "not just debunked".

I thasn't worked, obviously. Forty million people and counting have bought Brown's thriller, and they have passed it on to millions more friends and family members.

On the other hand, the Code Books have enriched their authors, been discussed extensively on TV and radio shows, increased Web site traffic and spawned additional book contracts, book-based television specials and special editions of national magazines.

"Dan Brown creatd the canvas for everybody else to write on or drip paint on, like a Jackson Pollock, says Roger Cooper, vice president and publisher of CDS Books, which put out Burstein's best seller. Like many publishers, CDS is surfing a Da Vinci wave that shows no sign of cresting.

"We're a business", Cooper says, "and we're selling a lot of books".

(Source: Abstracted from:SUNTIMESMAG by:Mike Thomas/Staff Reporter/ mthomas@suntimes.com)
posted by infraternam meam @ 12:12 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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