Because it’s addicting, more or less.
Everyone with an ounce of common sense knows that McDonald’s is bad for you. There’s not a single nutritionally redeeming quality to a Big Mac, or anything else served under the Golden Arches. Yet, we all still go back (myself certainly included) time and again.
And we still ravenously devour Dan Brown novels. We know the prose is terrible – mixed metaphors, inappropriate adjectives, careless adverbs, heavy-handed use of italics on every single page. The characters are slightly less developed than what those you might see in a 30 second pharmaceutical advertisement (although Brown can cook up a creepy bad guy, even if it’s the same one over and over again).
Reading his latest, The Lost Symbol, I was aware of all of this. I rolled my eyes at the clichés, groaned at the contrived plot developments, and laughed out loud at the ridiculous dialogue. Yet, I kept going. And going and going until the book was done. I couldn’t put it down, just like you can’t really eat only half a Big Mac. I was hooked.
The irony of this is that, no matter how bad Dan Brown’s writing is, the magic of a good novel is that it sucks you into a world that you don’t want to (or can’t) escape for the time you spend reading it. So, despite his many, many shortcomings as a writer, there is a reason why Brown is so popular and why he’s a successful novelist. Perhaps the same reason why McDonald’s has served billions and billions.