Great works and popcorn enjoymentThere is clearly a difference between, say, Citizen Kane and Pirates of the Caribbean. The latter has very little to say, and is not really about the art of cinema, while the former is of course considered one of the finest examples of it. Does this make Pirates an unworthy film? Its less openly intelligent, less admitting of its influences and what themes it might possess are rather paper thin. However, it is also extremely fun, gripping, and an enjoyable ride.
The same can be applied to Dan Brown's works. The man is not a genius of fiction. He is not a terribly good writer from a technical point of view, and the experience of reading his books are, perhaps, empty. But do creative media always have to provide nothing but artistic merit? Must they develop themes that inform us on the human condition, or can they simply entertain?
I think people need to stand up for escapism every now and then. Retreating from mundanity into a world of heroes and villains, of adventure and excitement, is a nice thing to do now and then, and is ultimately the main appeal of Brown's work. In fact, he's rather good at it. The chapter structure, the silly and enjoyable characters, a fast paced story that unravels a mystery (no matter how ludicrous, when viewed from a distance). These all engage you with this fantasy world that he has created, and allows you to escape from the current one.
There is, of course, good escapism and bad escapism- popcorn films and books can just be too bad, technically and emotionally, to engage- see Ghost Rider for an example of this. Perhaps Dan Brown could write a little better and thus engage those who might want to escape, but are put off by poor sentence construction, or showing and not telling occasionally. The naysayers might have better luck if they tried to fight on those grounds, rather than pointing out that Brown has no artistic merit. We know, we don't care. You might be able to argue that there are much better examples of escapist literature: this is true, there is. Most people do not engage here, however, as I suspect they'd have to admit that for what he's doing, Brown is pretty good. He certainly engaged me, anyway