In Gilmore Girls, aka the best show ever written, bright-eyed Rory Gilmore is continually seen reading a wide array of books. Whether in preparation for Harvard or for her time at Yale, she is always improving herself via literature.
Juxtapose this with Patrick Lenton, who found himself re-reading The Wheel of Time for the seventeenth time, grimly hoping the ingrained misogyny might somehow disappear if he just believed hard enough. What happened to his days of challenging himself? What about that one time he read Moby Dick and felt good for eight years? Patrick decided to take a leaf out of Rory’s books and read Rory’s books.
This week’s Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge is covered by Emma Wortley.
55.) The Da Vinci Code
I was working in a bookshop in 2003 when The Da Vinci Code was released, a book that would eventually occupy the centre square in the imaginary game of ‘Holiday House Library Bingo’ I play with my friends. I read it at the time so I could join in on the small talk about it, and thought it was silly but fun.
The Da Vinci Code is the second in a series about Indiana Jones-esque protagonist Robert Langdon, a Harvard University professor in the fictional field of ‘symbology’. It opens with an albino monk murdering a curator in the Louvre, who manages to write some clues in his own blood before dying. Professor Langdon joins forces with a cryptologist named Sophie Neveu (who is, of course, pretty and brilliant and stubborn) to solve the murder, and from there the book is basically a big conspiracy thriller treasure hunt.
The book sold by the truckload, which was partly fuelled by controversy regarding its portrayal of Christianity and the Catholic Church. It was fun to have someone come into the bookshop and say, “I’m looking for—” and hand them a copy of The Da Vinci Code before they could get the whole sentence out.
There’s a myth that it’s the best-selling book of all time, but according to a Wikipedia list (which excludes religious texts like the Bible and the Quran) it’s a little way off. The number one book? Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. Memorise that for the next time you play trivia. Most of the others beating it are ones you might expect, like The Lord of the Rings and the first Harry Potter book, but there are a couple of surprise entries like And Then There Were None (or: “The Book That Had Not One But Two Racist Titles Before They Came Up With This One”) by Agatha Christie.
The Da Vinci Code is on the Reading Challenge list because of its appearance in season five, episode two, ‘A Messenger, Nothing More’, in which Rory deals with the aftermath of sleeping with a very married Dean by running away to Europe with her grandmother. Lane’s bandmates are shown talking about it in Luke’s Diner, as Brian gives a motormouthed summary of what he calls “the number one book in the country”. (Zack later solemnly parrots Brian’s account to some girls to impress them because he is terrible and unworthy of Lane down to his very marrow.) I choose to imagine that Rory read it as well, maybe on the plane to Europe.
Incidentally, having not watched Gilmore Girls for a while, I forgot how often the background music is a lady singing “la-la-la” over strummy guitar (more like The La La La Vinci code, am I right?).
Rereading the book now, I still think it’s silly and fun. It’s hard to ignore that the writing is starkly average, especially in contrast to a show known for its characters’ rapid-fire dialogue and healthy vocabularies. Thoughts, eyes and smiles constantly “flash”; senses “tingle”. According to my Kindle search function, the word “unexpected” is used twenty-two times. A character who has just been poisoned thinks to himself, “I’m being murdered!” I giggled when I read that line and I giggled again just now typing it. The book uses clunky devices like shoehorning in chunks of information about symbols and history with lengthy flashbacks of Professor Langdon giving university lectures to a chorus of appreciative student exclamations like “No shit!”
What I did not remember about the book at all is that it kind of hates the patriarchy, which is pretty enjoyable in the current #metoo climate. A major theme in the book is the way men have devalued and effaced the feminine throughout history. I think Rory would have enjoyed this aspect, and would probably have made Lorelei read it too so they could talk about it. How could she not, with lines like “The male ego had spent two millennium running unchecked” and “Jesus was the original feminist”? Yes, go ahead and reread the latter: that is a real line from The Da Vinci Code.
Curious to see the full list? You can view it here.
Emma Wortley’s reviews, fiction and poetry have appeared in Voiceworks, Southerly, Paper Crown Magazine, text Litmag and Scintilla Magazine. She tweets at @emkawo.