Rachel Harris (hiding, left) admits she is used to being considered odd.
For example, she owns a small TV, but doesn't have cable, much less Tivo or a DVD player. She washes her dishes by hand, and her clothes dry on a clothesline. Her idea of a good time is reading the newspaper in a public park, listening to the birds chirp and twitter.
But all that pales in comparison to what she did not do in the past three years: she has not read The Da Vinci Code.
"At first, I just wasn't interested...it sounded kind of lame and expensive, being in hardback, and I don't buy books. I go to the library. So I decided to wait. Then I got on this jag of reading Graham Greene and Georges Bernanos. That Diary of a Country Priest is amazing literature. Those books were so beautiful and rich in profound symbols and depth issues that I read them over and over, trying to absorb their words. Then when someone suggested Da Vinci, and I said I hadn't read it, he just gave the book to me. But I wasn't in the mood for a mystery drama, so I decided to read some poetry instead--and I read all of Gerard Manley Hopkins. It took a month, but then I decided to re-read it. That led to exploring some other religious poetry, like Denise Levertov. Then I saw that Dan Brown book collecting dust one day, and I decided to give it to someone who would read it. That's when my problems began."
Her intended recipient, her niece Janelle Petersen, was scandalized. "It wasn't that she was offering the book to me. It's that it sat in her house for, like, months and she didn't read it! I mean, that book changed my life. I never knew all the things the Church was lying to me about. Everyone needs to read it."
"So she gave it back to me and told me I had to read it," said Ms. Harris. "And I thought, why not. Maybe it is a diamond in the rough. I read the first two pages. But then the phone rang and I had to tend to the flowers and fix supper and wash my hair--oh, there were many important things to do. Then I returned to Hopkins and forgot about that book."
Young Ms. Petersen, 14, asked her aunt a week later if she enjoyed the book, and when Ms. Harris demurred, Petersen decided to take action. She coordinated a protest outside of Harris' house of her friends, holding signs saying "The Last Living Person Who Hasn't Read The Da Vinci Code." Petersen called the media for coverage, and, intrigued by the very idea that someone refused to read this book, covered the protest in droves. A news camera caught Harris opening the door and throwing the book toward the crowd.
In an exclusive interview with The Ironic Catholic, Harris said "I just want to tend my begonias in peace and read literature and poetry. I don't like reading middling airport novels. Is that such a sin?"
Meanwhile, Petersen has given up the fight. "She can live in the middle ages if she wants. It's her loss--reading new things exposes us to the great ideas of the world." Petersen walked off in a huff, gripping a small stack of magazines devoted to the latest articles on Bradgelina and other lofty concepts.