Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

My Photo
Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Price's The Da Vinci Fraud

While I'm up, I'd like to recommend a book that will probably be unfairly overlooked: it's Robert M. Price's The Da Vinci Fraud ("Why the Truth is Stranger Than Fiction") . I blame the cover, because there is a host of anti-Da Vinci Code books out there, and most of them are simply preaching-to-the-choir rebuttals of Dan Brown's book, saying, in essence, "Jesus wasn't married because the BIBLE SAYS SO AND THAT'S WHAT ALL GOOD CHRISTIANS BELIEVE!" Which may be true, but is hardly worth saying, since that's the whole point of Brown's book: to tweak exactly what all good Christians believe. You react this way, and Dan Brown wins.

What Price does is different. He goes back and looks at the actual history involved. As a result, this book turns out to be using The Da Vinci Code as a springboard for a whole host of other really interesting questions: Who were the Knights Templar? What do they have to do with the Masons? Where did the Grail legend come from? Who established the canon of Scripture? And who the devil is Mary Magdalene anyway?

(This, by the way, is why the book is going to go unnoticed. Instead of pointing this out on the cover--say, with a subtitle that says, "What Biblical Research Actually Says, and Why Dan Brown is Partly Right"--so you'd be able to tell this book from the dozens of others written by generic partisan Christians with axes to grind and Dan Brown to totally refute, the publisher has seemingly taken pains to make it look EXACTLY like every other book on the market. It's a terrible shame.)

What's extra cool about this is that Price himself, a biblical scholar and a former member of the Jesus Seminar, is actually more interested in the questions than he is in preserving anyone's turf. Without seemingly having decided any of the answers beforehand, Price first disembowels Brown's sources--just because a bunch of Masons in funny hats claim their brotherhood is descended from the Knights Templar doesn't mean they're not lying to sound important--and then calmly shows how and where Brown simply misunderstands a lot of the basics of biblical scholarship. (Brown at one point claims that there were 80 gospels, and Constantine personally cut them down to four. Against this blunt caricature, Price describes thirty of the gospels we actually know about, and explains why certain of them never had a chance (The Gospel of Mary is absurd fiction from beginning to end), and why a few others might have made the cut if they'd had different backers (The Gospel of Peter is a little too Docetist, and the Gospel of Thomas probably would have made it in if Irinaeus hadn't decided to base the canon on numerological perfection--and P.S., it's only because he wanted seven epistles of Paul that Hebrews was declared Pauline and brought into the fold)).

I guess it's not for everyone, but the research at work--most of which he actually shows you, so you can see why he's drawing the conclusions he is--should be fascinating to anyone who's curious and is willing to have more than a few bombs dropped along the way. Plus, he's often funny. (The biggest thing I'll take away, I think, is his assertion that the Grail legend is to England what Mormonism is to America--a way of saying, "Our country is part of the Christian story, too!" One sentence, and the whole Arthurian cycle changed for me.) It's too expensive for me to buy everyone a copy, but with this recommendation, I hereby do what I can.

And since I'm using the dumb computer that won't let me use links again, here's the address:


Blogger Jason Rohrblogger said...

Did you ever get a chance to peruse "Holy Blood, Holy Grail?"

5/13/2008 12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Masonic fraternity doesn't claim to be descended from the Templars. A few fey members may do so.
It seems clear that "America" (by which is likely meant the U.S.) does not claim the LDS Church and many do not claim it is Christian.

5/13/2008 8:53 AM  
Blogger that atheist guy said...

Have you heard Price's podcasts "The Bible Geek"? Interesting stuff.

5/13/2008 9:30 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Anonymous: I was going from memory, so I don't know if the Masons claim to be descended from the Knights Templar, but the brunt of Price's argument is that the secret society's lineage (which is some collection of the Merovingians, the Albigensians and the Priory of Sion) is asserted by people (esp. Baignet of Holy Blood, Holy Grail) who are falling for the modern Priory of Sion's own claims to be associated with the great societies of the past. (Price's take on it: "This would be like Ralph Kramden's Raccoon Lodge claiming to have been founded by St. Joseph.")

Also, you missed my point on the Grail. The Grail legend people were doing what the Mormons tried: giving their national myths a direct Christian lineage. Whether anyone believes it or not isn't relevant--though I don't think anyone really believes King Arthur is coming back, either.

This is a sidenote, but I say "America" when I mean "The United States of America" for the same reason that people say "Mexico" when they mean "The United States of Mexico" and say "Liberia," "Estonia," or "Brazil" instead of The Republic of Liberia, The Republic of Estonia, or The Republic of Brazil. It's also why we call the movie "The Adventures of Robin Hood" by plain old "Robin Hood" and not "The Adventures." There are too many alternative Adventures, Republics, and (to an admittedly lesser extent) United States. Anything else would be grammatically nonsensical.

I'm familiar with the tradition in certain liberal circles of asserting that calling ourselves "America" is an arrogant wresting of the term away from Latin, Central, South and other Americas. But until the day we give in and call ourselves The Big One, I don't see any sensible alternative, and the quest to get people to call America something else is quixotic and wastes valuable energy. Yeesh.

Jase--I got the book (thanks!), but then I moved, and everything's tumbled together in a huge box and I can't find it without digging. But I've been thinking about it, and that's why I finally picked up The Da Vinci Code (also, I was curious about how to write a talky thriller) and, ultimately, Price's book when I saw it. (That's the current irony: I've brought a hugeish library with me everywhere, and yet I'm not reading anything from it, but just grabbing other books that just happen to be on nearby shelves instead.) I assume I'll finally read it when I have a place of my own and can get my old library back out of storage.

5/13/2008 11:24 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home