Byline: Cynthia Grenier, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
March heralds spring's beginning, and this year brings an added bonus with Easter coming early at month's end.
To that end, U.S. News & World Report's periodic collectors' edition, with the cover story "Secrets of the Da Vinci Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Bestselling Novel," arrives just in time for this major Christian observance.
Tomorrow will mark the 102nd week that author Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" has been on the New York Times' best-seller list, ranking at the top of the roster or pretty close to it.
The novel's plot centers on the notion that Jesus married a nice upper-class Jewish girl named Mary Magdalene. They had children, and he appointed her - not Peter - to carry on his mission in the world. The Holy Grail, so long sought by King Arthur and sundry knights, contains Mary Magdalene's bones and supposedly lies under the I.M. Pei pyramid in the Louvre. (Yes, the book's a mega best seller in France, and the Louvre hasn't had so many visitors since it opened to the public more than a century ago.)
U.S. News & World Report's "Unauthorized Guide" of Mr. Brown's tome is, visually, a sumptuous piece of work. The text, however, consists largely of excerpts from another best seller, "Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind the Da Vinci Code," edited by Dan Burstein.
After reading it, you're left with the feeling that you have just flipped through one huge promotion for "The Da Vinci Code" or for the upcoming film, scheduled to begin production shortly in Paris.
The special edition will remain on newsstands through June 7.
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Harper's , in its March edition, is featuring "AWOL in America: When Desertion Is the Only Option," by Kathy Dobie.
Miss Dobie, author of "The Only Girl in the Car," leaves you with the feeling that soldiers have a pretty rough time of it - and we're not talking about duty in Iraq.
She quotes a letter from a new recruit describing his unhappy day-to-day life in the barracks. "You can hear people trying to make sure no one hears them cry under their covers," Miss Dobie's piece quotes the soldier as saying.
By day three, the young recruit tells his drill sergeant that the military is not for him. "For whatever reason, I'm not willing to kill," he says in the story. He soon begins making plans to get himself out.
Miss Dobie writes that though the Army may have examined the problem of the individual soldier, it hasn't taken a good look at itself. She concludes with a quote from a young soldier who has gone AWOL: "The military is a bunch of lies."
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Having just celebrated its 90th anniversary, the New Republic on its Feb. 28 cover showcased a group of distinguished Democrats of the past. The men are depicted raising their champagne glasses as a saw is working its way around the ground beneath their feet.
The headline? "To Liberalism! Embattled . . . and Essential."
Editor Peter Beinart (currently …