EDITOR’S NOTE: Today National Review Online continues its new series of exclusive contributions from the most eminent figures of our age. Drawn from all the proverbial walks of life–even your own!–our contributors will reveal themselves as never before to you. The rich, the powerful, the influential, the famous, the really smart, the vulgar…they will all be here only at National Review Online. Celebrities, authors, journalists, TV stars, politicians, international statesmen, top CEOs, rock idols, will unbutton themselves solely for your pleasure. Imaginatively invented and edited by Alexander Rose, It’s All About Me’s contributors represent the grand comedy and faintly depressing tragedy that is American life as we know it.
A telephone is ringing in the darkness–a tinny, unfamiliar ring. I fumble for the bedside lamp and turn it on. Squinting at my surroundings I see a plush Renaissance bedroom with exquisite Louis IX furniture, hand-frescoed walls, and a mahogany four-poster bed with a person in it, who is me, Dan Brown, the master storyteller and a bestselling author whose talent for dialogue and depth of characterization exceed even Tom Clancy at his finest. The jacquard bathrobe hanging on the bedpost bears the monogram: HOTEL RITZ PARIS.
Where the hell am I?
The cobwebs in my head blow away, like candles in the wind. Oh, that’s right, I am in my New England bedroom recovering from a trip to the world renowned city of Paris, where I attended a lecture given by world renowned Harvard religious symbologist Robert Langdon, who gave me an idea for a novel about religious symbology. On my bedside table I see Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum … It’s really difficult to read. How I wish someone would write a dumbed-down version!
I pick up the phone. “Monsieur?”, says the voice. “Sir, an important man is here to see you, s’il vous plait?” I wish Juanita would stop putting on a French accent. “A very important man,” she pressed. That could only be my friend, Sir Leigh Teabing, the Royal Historian and Ambassador-Plenipotentiary to the Exchequer. He was awarded a knightency by Queen Elizabeth the II for his amazing volume on the House of Percy, in which he revealed for the first time the ninth earl’s involvement in a Rosicrucian-Illuminati-Masonic conspiracy to do, er, something or other.
“Good evening, old fruit!,” he exclaimed as he shimmered in, his monocle popping out. “I say, how the devil are you, old bean? Lawks-a-mercy, had a spot of bother getting up the apples and pears, don’t you know! Good lord, is that settee kosher or wot? Must ‘ave a knees-up round the old Joanna, eh!” (Did I not already tell you my research skills are second to none?: I based this dialogue on The Code of the Woosters, a useful compendium of contemporary slang). His manservant, Rémy Legaludec, stood by, menacingly. I don’t trust him. Rémy, I mean, not Sir Teabing, who is as straight as a piece of string.
But who was the femme fatale (fatal woman) accompanying him? She looked familiar, like a beautiful Jacques Saunière, world renowned curator of the Louvre (the Louvre), the world renowned art museum in Paris. “Ah, ‘alo, ‘alo, monsieur (Mister), my name is Sophie Neveu,” she said in flawless English, “I studied at the Royal Holloway.” There is a sadness about her, as if she were about to find out her grandfather had been shot by a psychotic albino assassin working for Opus Dei–hey, it happens–but on the outside she smiles enigmatically, like Amon L’Isa.
Sophie took off her glasses, the ones that made her look like the renowned French government cryptographer she was. “My God,” I said, “you’re beautiful.” “Thank you,” she said, tossing her mane of thick burgundy hair playfully. Her playfulness disguised the haunting memory of witnessing her beloved grandfather participating in a bizarre sex ritual, but I wasn’t to know that, though I thought I’d mention it now to keep the narrative tension at fever pitch. See, that’s what good writing is all about.
Sir Teabing was also a sight for sore eyes. I wanted to pick his brains about an idea I’d had for a new bestselling book. “Sir Teabing,” I said to the Royal British Knight of the Realm, “I’d like to pick your brains about an idea I’ve had for a new bestselling book.”
“O, Jubilate!,” Sir Teabing said. “Fire away!, as we used to say on the hunting-fields of Eton College, the world renowned school for the British upper-crust.”
“From my researches at the Institute of Historical Review, and with the help of world renowned scholar David Irving, I’ve discovered the existence of a secret cabal–known as ‘Jews’–which controls the destiny of the world through its factotum, an entity called ‘Israel’ that worships the fertility god Straussianus. This ancient sect of men pays fealty to the ‘Priory of American Enterprise,’ a shadowy organization that seeks to institute the rule of Neoconnium for the next thousand years, the first step being the invasion of the sacred and happy land of Nebuchadnezzar …”
“I say, my cheeky Cockney chappie, hold your horses,” said Sir Teabing. “There’s nothing new about that old chestnut. Haven’t you been reading The American Conservative and The Nation recently? Queer bedfellows, those two, but not half so queer as some chaps I knew at public school, which is what you Americans call private school.” Sophie glanced nervously at me. Had Sir Teabing’s words been a reference to le vice Anglaise (the Angle’s vice) she had heard so much about from her beloved grandfather, a habit they had picked up from the Grand Order of Bulgars? Or did they point to something darker and more mysterious, a hidden code to unraveling the enigma of …
“You mean, it’s been done before?”, I said, quizzically but disappointedly. I’d put a lot of work into that one, as had Sam, Pat and Alexander C. “Well, what about this? Seventy-five years ago, the galactic overlord, Xenu, sent tax-audit demands to the 178 trillion people living in his overpopulated space empire of 76 planets. When they came to the tax office to discuss the matter, Xenu had 13.5 trillion of them frozen and put on spaceships to Earth, then known as Teegeeack. You follow?” Sophie and Sir Teabing nodded understandably. It all made so much sense.
“When the fleet of spaceships got here they dumped the bodies into volcanoes and then dropped hydrogen bombs to vaporize them. But Xenu took their souls and made them watch 3-D movies to implant a false reality and made them believe in fake stuff, like religion. These spirits attached themselves to us and caused people to believe in the lies created by Xenu to control us. It’s left up to Don Black, the hero, to ‘clear’ humans of these alien spirits against all odds. It’ll sell millions, what do you think?”
Rémy gave me a funny look. Just then, Sir Teabing said: “It sounds like a flier, but I think the Scientologists got there first, old thing. Thomas Cruise and Jonathan Tra-, Tra-, Travol-, well, some foreign name anyway, pay a million dollars, which are known as pounds in Blighty, to have these secrets revealed to them. Must come as something of a disappointment after all that, I should think.”
This was getting hard. I grasped at straws, like a drowning man. Suddenly, it hit me, like a steam train crashing into an iceberg. “The Church!”, I said. “Controlled by a secret faction of fanatics, the Church has suppressed all knowledge of Jesus Christ’s love life in order to…in order to,” I could barely mouth the words, so explosive were they, “conceal Our Lord’s true nature. In a desperate race against time, handsome and debonair symbologist hero Don Black must expose their lies, get the girl and save the world from their domination. The McGuffin could be, I don’t know, a fiendishly complex code phrase that Dan, sorry, Don, and, er, Sophia, would have to break…. Something like ISAAC OPEL and PIN. I’m going to rock the Church to its very foundations and reveal the truth to my readers, the more deluded of whom might actually think that a third-rate thriller ought to be regarded as an authentic contribution to theology and history!”
“Remarkable, my good fellow!”, said Sir Teabing. “But is it truly believable? Do you really think the Church of England could pull off such a diabolically cunning plan? The Archbishop of York and his henchman, the Bishop Suffragan of Ohio, are sinister, shadowy figures, as we all know, but The Anglican Candidate, Gene Robinson, inadvertently came close to giving the game away….”
Sophie gave a curt nod, in agreement. “Unfortunately, I think I’ve already broken your code using the same amazing ability to make unrealistically enormous logical jumps that you invest so many of your characters with.”
Sir Teabing and I looked expectantly at her, as if we were pregnant.
“Thus, ISAAC is a reference to Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler, the 17th century fishing guide crammed with clues–known only to initiates of not overly exciting but sociable outdoor activities–to the Rosicrucian Enlightenment, the movement based on principles advanced by the Cathar Heretics and the Knights Templar, guardians of the Holy Grail. “Angler” is, of course, a Latinised play on “England,” the country visited by the Venetian sacred geometrician Paracelsus in 1524; Paracelsus cites “Germanius”–brother of King Dagobert II–on page 5284 of his Cryptex Cryptonomicon…”
I nod knowingly. As does Sir Teabing, who excitedly says, “… and 5284 is, of course, 1524 according to the Jewish calendar! And Paracelsus–whose real name was Kaspar Hauser–was adopted by German monks when he was seven, which is what you get if you add 5+2+8+4 together and then subtract the total of 1+5+2+4!”
“Yes,” said Sophie. “And 450 years later, that very same monastery asked Roberto Calvi, later murdered by a renegade sect of Merovingians, Halliburton employees, Cubans, and the P2 Lodge, to invest its funds with the Rothschilds, who along with the Rockefellers and the Carlyle Group, owned a minority stake in General Motors, which…”
I completed her sentence. “…wholly owns OPEL, the major German car-manufacturer! A-ha, at last the circle comes full square! And what else is based in Germany? The Lutheran Church, a Protestant denomination mentioned in the Jacobite-derived Dead Sea Scrolls, a text literally littered with mentions of the sacred Aramaic word, “þÿŸðÐ,” roughly rendered in English as “PIN,” the ancient word for, you guessed it, New Hampshire.”
“Or you could just tap those words, I guess, into an online anagram generator and get EPISCOPALIAN, as the author of this article did,” interrupted Rémy unhelpfully. “I mean, isn’t that a more reasonable explanation for these totally unrelated events than the ever more ludicrous and outlandish conspiracy theories you drum up to mask your own ignorance of how the world works?”
We sat stunned by Rémy’s outburst. “Know your place, manservant!,” said Sir Teabing, with feeling.
“Non! (No!), I shall have my say,” said Rémy. “Look, nobody’s going to buy a book with characters so wooden they’re an insult to furniture, whose plotting is so unashamedly designed to appeal to Hollywood executives it’s offensive, and which rips off a hoary old work of junk pseudohistory called Holy Blood, Holy Grail that was written by a couple of obsessive nutcases in the ’80s. Nobody could take such lowbrow, manipulative garbage seriously. I obviously have more faith in the taste of the great American public than you …”
“Have a peanut, Rémy,” offered Sir Teabing. “Now let Dan get to work.”