Like Maud Newton, we've been dipping into and thoroughly enjoying the Library of America's new collection of Edmund Wilson's brilliant literary criticism, Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1930s and 40s, and we came across this passage in his 1944 review of Lloyd C. Douglas's The Robe:
"It is so difficult, when one first glances into The Robe, to imagine that any literate person with even the faintest trace of literary taste could ever get through more than two pages of it for pleasure that one is astounded and terrified at the thought that seven million Americans have found something in it to hold their attention. What is the explanation of this? Dr. Douglas himself, in an article distinguished by both modesty and good sense (Why I Wrote "The Robe" in the June Cosmopolitan), has indicated a part of the answer, In the first place, you can always score a success by writing a novel about Jesus, if you take care to avoid the controversies which have split the later Christians into sects."
Change The Robe to The DaVinci Code and change the "avoid" in the last sentence to "stoke", and the landscape hasn't changed all that much has it? (We experienced an identical sensation to Wilson's when, motivated by curiosity about what all the fuss was about, undertook to read the first chapter of Brown's chef d'oeuvre.)