Thank god, the lawyers of Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh are appealing the decision of a London court that Dan Brown did not plagiarize their book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, for his blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code. 2007 begins to look so much less drab when I consider the spectacle of this ongoing legal battle. Consider, Reader:
1. The pure cheek of the whole thing. Whether they win their appeal or not, surely the best thing that ever happened to Baigent and Leigh was Dan Brown, since their book tended to be displayed alongside The Da Vinci Code, unquestionably boosting its sales. (One of the authors was prominently featured in a History Channel “documentary” on the truth beyond the Da Vinci Code – There isn’t any, by the way. Or is there? No, there isn’t. Or is there?) And of course each new phase of the case is essentially a free advertising spot. There is no scenario in which any of the parties can lose, really, if one keeps in mind the fact that legal counsel is a tax-deductible business expense. I say fight it all the way to the supreme court of the European Union if necessary.
2. The world-historical implications for global capitalism at stake here, since it involves Random House kind of appearing to sue itself (because it published both books), or something, while simultaneously reaping the publicity benefits of any possible outcome – the late, great William Gaddis would have loved this case, and I wish he were alive to see it and write about it.
3. The exquisite legal paradox facing Baigent and Leigh. The fact is that their book, purporting to have found an ancient conspiracy leading back to a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, is a work of fiction. The irony of fate here is pretty sublime. Their plagiarism case would be much stronger if they had told the truth and said that they had made it all up. As it stands, however, the pretense of the conspiracy-theory genre forces the authors to pretend that The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail is based on actual research etc. rather than being a fabrication of two very inventive minds.
4. What does all this imply about Dan Brown? It’s possible that he is only a figurehead or sort of corporate entity (“Dan Brown”) that involves the research genius of his wife, Blythe, and some sort of marketing genius (the real Dan Brown or his agent, etc.) who has mastered the art of narrative cliffhangers to such a degree that even a complete inability to write English prose doesn’t get in the way of the story. (Please read Anthony Lane’s priceless review of the film here; Mr. Lane made it all worthwhile.)
A Final Note: The ultimate Da Vinci Code experience, for my money, is neither the book nor the film, but the audiobook. The actor they hired to narrate, Paul Michael, is a very competent person, and I mean no real disrespect to him. But he is male, and this hopeless job forces him to do the female dialog in an sort of falsetto Inspector Clouseau French accent that makes hottie archaeologist Sophie Neveu, supposedly a descendant of Jesus Christ, sound like a breathless tranny. “My grandfather, my grandfather…” Oh my, Sophie, tell me more!
Read an excerpt from Holy Blood, Holy Grail.