Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fifty shades of bad writing

“You beguile me, Christian. Completely overwhelm me. I feel like Icarus flying too close to the sun.”- The virginal Anastasia speaks to Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey 
One of the more interesting and puzzling phenomena in the world of books recently has been the popularity of the soft porn book - often referred to as "mommy porn" - Fifty Shades of Grey. The book, first in a trilogy, shot to the top of the New York Times combined e-reader and print fiction best-seller list and it was quickly followed by the other two parts of the trilogy.  The books have stayed there now for six or seven weeks.

If news of this latest reading rage that seems to have lots of horny women panting for more hasn't reached your ears - or eyes - yet, let me tell you what I know about it. It will have to be second-hand, because, frankly, I haven't read it either. I've just read lots about it.

The author, E.L. James, apparently conceived of the books as a bit of Twilight "fan fiction," an homage to the paranormal love story of Bella and Edward in that popular series - which I also haven't read. James “reimagined the Bella and Edward love affair set in contemporary Seattle, Washington with Bella as the young college graduate virgin and Edward as the masterful billionaire with secret sexual predilections.” She named the Bella character Anastasia and the Edward character Christian Grey and Fifty Shades of Grey was born.

The relationship of Anastasia and Christian is based on kinky sex, specifically bondage, dominance, sado-masochism or BDSM in the shorthand of the day. Christian is one messed up individual and he gets off on spanking Anastasia, dominating her and causing her pain. And Anastasia likes it! 

And it seems that a lot of women really, really enjoy reading about it. When one reads the comments on online reviews of the book, one sees that the women fans of the book empathize with Christian because of his tortured past. They forgive him and understand all of his funny little predilections. They see him as incredibly romantic and someone they'd like to have handcuff them to the bedposts.

Now, I'm not opposed to erotica as such. A well-written sex scene is a pleasurable read and a great - um - tension-reliever. But the excerpts that I've read of this book just reek! For example:
“I pull him deeper into my mouth so I can feel him at the back of my throat and then to the front again. My tongue swirls around the end. He’s my very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle. I suck harder and harder … Hmm … My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.”  
Anastasia's "inner goddess" seems to be an ever-present participant/observer in their encounters, completing a virtual three-way, so to speak. Again, after a sado-masochistic romp:
“We lie there, panting together, waiting for our breathing to slow. He gently strokes my hair … Boy … I Survived. That wasn’t so bad. I’m more stoic than I thought. My inner goddess is prostrate … well, at least she’s quiet.” 
I am at a stage in my life when there are so many good writers and good books out there and time is just too short to spend it on bad writers and bad books. My "inner goddess" tells me to stay far, far away from Fifty Shades of Grey.

If  you, on the other hand, are curious, you can speed read some of the naughtiest bits of the book here and then see what your very own inner goddess tells you about reading the whole thing!
  

29 comments:

  1. I have read it, because my friend loved it and insisted I read it. Oh my God! Bad writing! I was tempted to throw the book on the wall, but I had to return it to her! would never again listen to that friend's book recommendations as she loved the Twilight series!

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    1. Reading is such a personal thing, not unlike sex, and we all have our individual tastes. Obviously, many people do love the book, Anonymous, but I'm with you. I just don't get it. Those who love this book probably would find the books that I like incredibly boring! To each his/her own...

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    2. What's perplexing is, if people just want to read erotic books, there are a lot out there with more substance and with much better literature, heck, even Mills & Boon are better than this one and I've read quite a few when I was younger.

      This book spent so much time discussing their "supposed" contract about their dominant and submissive roles. It's a slap in the face of feminism.

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    3. You are absolutely right that there is plenty of well-written erotica out there. One doesn't have to settle for schlock!

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  2. I thought it was AWFUL! I dont mind the sex part, but the same catch phrases over and over we're so distracting! " his eyes were hooded, my breath hitches, inner goddess, I rolled my eyes". Over and over and over! I will not be wasting my time one 2&3.

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    1. Well, that's the rap on the book, Anonymous. It's not the sex that offends, it's the amateurish writing. The excerpts that I've read certainly tend to confirm that.

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  3. I have to say, I completely agree. I read the book last weekend, after everyone at work read and raved about how good it was. I really didn't enjoy it myself. At first, I picked up on the Icarus references, and (having studied Greek myth) thought it might lead to something. It didn't. The repetitive phrases didn't create a character, which I think they were meant to, they really got annoying. I wont read beyond the first book.

    The hype around the books reminds me of the Twilight Saga, which I also read, and enjoyed much more than this. I don't read a lot of books written in first person, because the person telling the story usually frustrates me as they will inevitably say things out of character in order to develop the story of give information that we need, that really they shouldn't know, or that to say it is completely out of character.

    In this case, I think the author was trying to write like its a 3rd person, but in a first person voice. Ana had no problem taking about her body with textbook terminology when they were actually having sex and describing it to us, but when she isn't having sex with him she says "down there".

    The hype around the books reminds me of the Twilight Saga, which i also read, and enjoyed much more than this. I don't read alot of books written in first person, because the person telling the story usually frusterates me as they will enivetably say things out of charictor inorder to develop the story of give information that we need, that realy they shouldnt know, or that to say it is completely out of charictor.

    In this case, I think the author was trying to write like its a 3rd person, but in a first person voice. Ana had no problem taking about her body with textbook termonology when they were actually having sex and describing it to us, but when she wasnt with him she would say "down there".

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    1. I've yet to hear from anyone who actually enjoyed the book, Julie, and I would really like to! I wonder what it is that they find enjoyable. Everyone who has commented here and everyone that I've talked to about the book has been turned off by the bad - and, as you mentioned, repetitive - writing. So, what's the attraction? Sex? If so, there is so much better-written sex/erotica out there for the asking!

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    2. I read the first one and it's so horrendous. I mean, painful to get through. Everything the others have said is true. Extremely repetitive, cliched, redundant, and the "sex" is not even very erotic. It makes me mad that there are so many amazing writers out there that can't get published and this chick is now a millionaire.

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    3. This has been the universal opinion of everyone that I've heard from about the book, including one of my daughters who read it. And yet, people are still buying it and reading it in droves. It's not only the writers who can't get published that concern me, but all the writers who have been published and have produced some wonderful literature, including some wonderful erotica, but they are being overlooked because of all the attention directed to this series.

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  4. Having not read this book I can only comment as an outsider looking in. Clearly nobody is about to claim 50 shades is well written and yet there has to be a reason why it's selling like it is. From my understanding E.L. James has managed to write Mills & Boon erotica and with some clever artwork for the cover and a subtle title, she's made it accessible. Ok so the cover has blown now but I'm guessing it was a thrill for the readers to be indulging in some kinky reading without having to feel too guilty about it, and even with it being well known as some s&m now, people don't have that embarrassment taking it to the check out because chances are, the women at the till has probably read it too. As for me, if I do want to read some erotica I'd still stay clear of anything that has risen from Twilight Fan Fiction. But hey, each to there own!

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    1. Absolutely right. For those who enjoy the book, I say "more power to them!" Even though I don't think it's for me, obviously it does appeal to a lot of people, so it must be meeting some need.

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  5. How can you comment so decidedly when you have not read the book? Amazing. I agree if you take a snippet from any book it may appear awkward, over(or under) written and not worthy of your time. However, it is important to take in the story as a whole before forming a sound opinion. Dont get caught up in the anti wave. I will agree the book is not great erotica. This is due to the fact that the book is a love story (and a great one at that). Eroticism and sex addictions are back drops that host a world of underlying themes. Anyhow like you said to each their own...

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    1. I'm glad that you enjoyed the book, Shadesn. I'm currently reading The Canterbury Tales. For sheer bawdiness, I don't know any modern book that could compare. That being said, tastes in literature differ and it would certainly be a duller world if they didn't. As this is Banned Books Week, we should all celebrate our freedom to read whatever we want. To be honest though, I don't think I'll be putting the James books on my TBR list.

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  6. So I came upon this blog while searching the internet to see if I was the only one who thought this book was way over rated. I am not a big reader but decided to read this book mostly because all the women in my circle had and loved it, so, I figured I'd give it a whirl. I was annoyed by the repeatative phrases like "now I see what all the fuss is about..." Enough already! Then there are the words and phrases said by Ana and Kate that no college student in the last 30 years have said, "is that new blouse?" and "I'll go fetch it." Really? Blouse, fetch? Not words used frequently by WSU students I'm sure. And then there is my final gripe. So this girl is supposedly a virgin until Christian. That first sex scene is so far from reality it's crazy! What girl finds there first time so pleasurable that they go again? Please! It's not all butterlies and flowers! It hurts and is scary and you surely don't have a clue what you are doing! This girl who claims to be as naive as a 5 year old sure knew what to do and when to do it. Ugh! I am glad to find I am not the only one who thinks this book is a waste of time.

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    1. I still have not read the book except for excerpts here and there, but those excerpts were enough for me! I think my reaction would be much like yours.

      For those who love the book, more power to them! I'm glad they found something to read that they like. I would just suggest they might expand their horizons a bit so they have something with which to compare it. There is an awful lot of wonderful writing out there. It would be a shame not to explore it.

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  7. I actually liked the book and the trilogy. I agree, the writing is horrific, but when it comes down to substance I believe the plot is very good. If you want to read and ENJOY the book, you need to read it not for the sole purpose of the erotic sex scenes.

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    1. Well, that's actually a perspective that I had not heard before. Thanks for your comment.

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  8. I have read all three books. I honestly enjoyed them. The language of the author did get on my nerves a bit. She used the same phrases over and over again. I liked the books because of the love story within them. They kept me hooked because I had to know if Anastasia and Christian actually worked out their differences and had a real relationship. I am a huge sucker for a love story. Especially one where a girl helps her man work through his imperfections. Since I highly doubt any of you will read them, I'll go ahead and spoil the ending of the last book. They end up together, married, with two kids. Which is what I was rooting for in the first place.

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    1. Thank you for an interesting perspective. Obviously, this book has a wide audience which enjoys it tremendously. To each his/her own.

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  9. I m excited for the 50 Shades Of Grey Movie. I cant wait for releasing date
    50 shades movie

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    1. I suspect you are one of millions who are waiting impatiently for that event, Stella!

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    3. I must ask do you remember your first love? The first person you fell in love with? Your first date? Remember how scared you felt and you would question why he would do this or that and you mostly did to your girl friends. It made you sound like a broken record. While reading this book you have to remember it's her first boyfriend, her first love. No im not the author so i can't vouch what she was trying to say. However keep in mind you're younger days.

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    4. Hmmm...I'm afraid I wasn't into BDSM even in my young and foolish days!

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  10. I am awaiting for the releasing of Fifty shades Movie. and i watch Charlie's work it is pretty awesome to see on the screen.
    Christian Grey

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    1. It will be interesting to see how the book is adapted as a movie and to see whether it satisfies fans of the book.

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  11. This book doesn't sound like I would enjoy it. And as you said, there are so many good books, I don't want to waste my time reading something I don't enjoy. I used to plow through to the end of books even if I didn't like them, but eventually decided I was squandering hours I could be using to read what I enjoy.

    That being said, I think it is extremely difficult to write erotic scenes. The author has to give the scene enough eroticism to make it interesting or tittillating, without making it crude or silly.

    This discussion reminded me of a personal story:
    Several years ago, a friend who was a newspaper journalist took a workshop on writing romance novels. So she invited a half-dozen friends for a pot-luck dinner and sent us each 3 paperback romance novels from the library to read so we could brainstorm some plots with her.

    Apparently romance novels have a set formula and there is no explicit sex. But by the time I got to page 50 of the first one, the phrase "I felt the evidence of his arrousal" had appeared at least a dozen times ---and gone nowhere. I shut the book and didn't read the others.

    The after-dinner brainstorming turned into a laugh-out-loud "make-fun-of-romance-novels" session. My friend switched to writing mysteries.

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    1. I think your friend made a smart choice!

      I agree that it must be very difficult to write a good erotic scene. That must be why so many bad ones are written...

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