The comparison between James Frey and Dan Brown isn't as odd as it might seem. Frey wrote a non-fiction work, which turned out to be in part fictional, and he was pilloried. Brown wrote a novel, claiming that everything apparently based in historical fact was true, which turned out to be a lie, and became rich and famous. And it says something about our slippery grasp of the idea of truth that this bothers very few of us. Frey's lies were personal; Dan Brown's are historical and institutional.
"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will come to believe it." Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda. Too extreme a comparison? Of course! But we are left wondering about the attraction of Dan Brown's tale. The "fiction" at the core of the story is the most post-modern of lies: the lack of evidence supporting it is proof of the conspiracy and denials on the part of the Vatican and other Christian leaders is evidence of the continuing cover-up.
It is by no means original; it weaves together a host of myths, legends, suppositions and heresies and packages them in a potboiler of a story of which the most complimentary thing critics can say is that it is a perfect airport book.
The only truly original thing that can be said of the novel is that it somehow proved to be the right book at the right time, or if you are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the wrong book at the wrong time.There's an element of the Christian community, which argues that Christianity is the only religion at which it is still permissible to hurl slander, innuendo and lies. And when you think of the collective glee and profit that corporations, businesses, media outlets and millions of ordinary people indulge in through contemplation of the Code, it's understandable why some Christians believe their faith is under siege.
It is impossible to imagine a comparable collective rubbing of the hands if the heart of a novel alleging a conspiracy of such magnitude were Buddhism, Judaism, Islam or Hinduism. Fans of the Code will argue that it's just a novel, a little bit of fun and speculation. But even that is an extension of the lie, a dissimilitude about the ping of recognition that reading the novel sparked, "I knew there was something wonky about the story of Christ from the very beginning."