How good is your memory? If you’re like your best friend, you have no trouble remembering things that you feel are important.
Do you remember reading “The Da Vinci Code”? If Tom Hanks comes immediately to mind, you probably copped out and simply watched the movie.
“The Da Vinci Code” was written before grandchildren first brightened our septic home with their coughs and runny noses. Widely popular in its day, the book is now easily obtainable in dusty back-street bookstores or on Amazon for a penny – plus an exorbitant charge for shipping.
Years behind mainstream America, after watching the movie I finally read the first and last two chapters of “The Da Vinci Code.”
You might remember my saying that whenever I read a book I always first read Chapter 1 and the last two chapters. Reading the first chapter tells me whom the book is about, and reading the last two chapters tells me if he and she will be standing or lying down at the end. I like only books and movies that make me laugh.
Catharsis is not my thing, and if the story doesn’t have a happy ending, why should I muck up a sunny day by reading or watching it? If I want to be depressed, I can break out “Antigone” – or my diary from 1955.
Another dozen pages into “The Da Vinci Code” and I am not comforted. To my way of thinking, the author is talking down to us when he patiently explains that the Jardins des Tuileries has nothing to do with tulips.
Put yourself in my place. Were I to mention the Louvre, how would you feel if I looked at you over the top of my glasses, raised my eyebrows and added, “It’s in Paris” – just to make sure you were on board?
Although we read how much research had been put into this book to ensure accuracy, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read in “The Da Vinci Code” that Art Buchwald boasted that he had seen the “Mona Lisa,” “Venus de Milo” and “Winged Victory” within a time span of 5 minutes and 56 seconds.
I shouted and almost cried because, as you well remember, this is not true. As every adult should know, Art Buchwald wrote that it was an American, Peter Stone, who sprinted through the Louvre and set a tourist record by seeing all three in 5 minutes and 56 seconds. You might recall that Peter Stone was the American who once studied “Winged Victory” for an hour, stepped back and said, “It will never fly.”
Some people are able to remember everything. One of my favorite stories is about Paul Dirac, who read “Crime and Punishment,” handed it back to the friend who’d loaned it to him and said, “In one of the chapters, the author made a mistake. He describes the sun rising twice on the same day.”
Now you know that I cannot remember the names or faces of my friends. And you know that I can put a plate of food in the microwave at noon and forget to eat it until my wife, Marsha, finds it five hours later.
So you might well ask how a man who can’t even remember to eat can critique a book that sold 40 million copies. How, you ask, could humble know that Art Buchwald never boasted of a Six-Minute Louvre?
May I explain in the Maine coast manner?
One evening, during a quiz game at a Grange meeting, my brother knew how many million sheep were in Australia.
Yes, we’ve talked of this before. So you already know that ever since he was eight or 10 years old, I have been in awe of my younger brother’s prodigious memory. When he was only in the fourth or fifth grade he would know the answers to many questions I’d dig out of a reference book – a feat that seemed impossible to me at the time. But his knowing how many sheep were in Australia – well, wouldn’t you agree that he was pushing the envelope?
After the meeting, when I asked him how he knew how many sheep were in Australia, he said that Mr. Moberg mentioned it in a geography class down at Gorham Normal School. I allowed as how that was nice, but how could he remember it for 55 years?
My brother straightened up a bit, gave me an incredulous look and very slowly replied, “How could you forget anything that Moberg said?”
May I, with slouched shoulders, study my shoes as I offer you the same rationale? “How can you forget anything that Art Buchwald wrote?”
The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website: