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Tom Chaney: Dan Brown and the screenplay as novel

Of Writers And Their Books: Dan Brown and the screenplay as novel. Tom says if one can come away from The Lost Symbol with something of value, it could well be a growing respect for the history of science. This column first appeared 11 October 2009.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Nancy Drew at 75

By Tom Chaney

Dan Brown and the screenplay as novel

Dan Brown is back with another fast paced novel digging into symbolism like a hog rooting in slop.

After taking the Vatican and the Catholics for a speedy turn around the turf in Angels and Demons and the Da Vinci Code, this time he takes on the Freemasons in The Lost Symbol.

Robert Langdon, the Harvard symboligist is back, running about trying to save the life of friend and mentor Peter Solomon of the Smithsonian.

Evil villain, Mal'akh who is not all he seems to be, lures Langdon from the ivory towers of Cambridge to the byways of the nation's capital under false premises in order to take us on a thirty-three degree romp through the Masonic symbols at the root of the nation and its capital and capitol.

Langdon, who is a chronic sufferer of claustrophobia, acrophobia, agoraphobia, and other fears, is tested to the max -- especially when he is placed in a coffin-like torture where waterboarding would be a relief. He drowns, but is restored to life -- all before dawn of the second day.

Because at dawn of the second day Langdon must be on top of the capitol dome with his lady fair in time for the sun to rise and kiss the top of the Washington Monument with the first rays confirming the Masonic symbolism of the obelisk and the nation.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the novel. I can even envision the movie which will be inevitable. I read the five hundred plus pages in three days and nights while tending to a bunch of other matters. It was fun. But it left me, as well as Langdon, a bit out of breath.

And behind all the running about, in which Brown revels, the book makes some interesting points.

The Masonic order has had some notable illuminati amongst its number. They are not all ancient costumes and secret rituals.

Think of Sir Isaac Newton, George Washington -- scientists and builders of nations.

If one can come away from such a book with something of value, it could well be a growing respect for the history of science.

I used to be most frustrated in collegial discussions with friends on various faculties when scientists failed to be aware of the history of their disciplines. Many academics seem to have blinders which prevent their looking right or left in their pursuit of science. But many have destroyed their rear view mirrors as well.

I reckon it is necessary to know the past to avoid the same chuck holes. That's why we have historians. Brown has his scientists aware of the past and the intricate connections across disciplines -- connections of symbols and ideas -- which link us all.

By all means, read The Lost Symbol. Be sure you are in good shape when you do -- there is much chasing about. But don't look for the mild critique of the Masonic order that we found of the Vatican in the two earlier novels.

It's kinda' fun.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2014-10-12 05:21:48
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