Origin by Dan Brown “Where do we come from? Where are we going?”

Where did we come from? Where are we going?

These are the essential questions posed in this thriller set in Barcelona where all the art and architecture is real, even if the questions are elusive. 

Edmond Kirsch, former student of Harvard professor Robert Langdon, has staged a dramatic presentation in which he plans to reveal his findings on the origin of man. Were we created? Did we crawl out of a primordial ooze? Or, is there a third possibility no one has yet understood? But, before he can reveal what he wants to share he is shot, setting forth a series of dramatic events such as only Dan Brown can write.

Two of the central characters are led by a computer with a British voice named Winston, in an often charming parody of Churchhill with his insight and witticisms. But, brilliant as the computer may be, it is still only a machine, and technology can be as fallible as the man who created it.

Brown closes each chapter with us hanging suspensefully on an unfinished idea, or unresolved event, so that we are compelled to go on to the next chapter. (You might be familiar with his techniques if you read The DaVinci Code.) He does a brilliant job of creating a scene, posing fascinating theories, and revealing the meaning behind symbols. Best of all, to me, is the way that he gave equal weight to science and religion, making a case for neither as he leaves it up to the reader to establish his own conclusion. 

Even though I tired, somewhat, toward the end, there is an implication about technology which is so stunning, and so unnerving, I think Origin is well worth the read. It makes me think of the famous quote by Mark Twain, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

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Sunday Salon: One Book Abandoned for Another

I have abandoned this:

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for this:

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While I didn’t mind Dan Brown’s games in The Da Vinci Code, I find myself very annoyed with them in The Lost Symbol. It’s tiresome the way he continues to scorn Christianity, in my opinion, by making it seem a pagan ritual; quotes like these go a long way with me:

Langdon nodded and lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “Don’t tell anyone, but on the pagan day of the sun god Ra, I kneel at the foot of an ancient instrument of torture and consume ritualistic symbols of blood and flesh.”

The class looked horrified.

Langdon shrugged. “And if any of you care to join me, come to the Harvard chapel on Sunday, kneel beneath the crucifix, and take Holy Communion.”

The classroom remained silent.

Langdon winked. “Open your minds, my friends. We all fear what we do not understand.” (p. 32)

All the winking, all the innuendo, all the cultish rituals regarding what we take for granted are a bit much the second time around.  I’ll probably finish it, sometime, but I’m not in any hurry to do so this week.

However, Jhumpa Lahiri does what she does, and that is write beautifully, the third time around with grace. Unaccustomed Earth is a breathtaking work which examines our lives, our families, our thoughts in such a way that surely it must be universal. I have come to love the Indian culture, particularly through the children I teach, but I don’t feel any division between that culture and my own when I read her work. I just feel as though we are one, with similar heartaches and similar hopes.

I’m loving Unaccustomed Earth.