Monday, July 16, 2012

Since Not Enough Has Been Said About Fifty Shades...

I read once that the whole world over, romance stories are for the ladies and the porn is for the gents. I guess E.L. James should, maybe, get a little credit for the mash-up in her Fifty Shades of Grey tsunami. Apparently, she gave the people, the lady people at least, what they want.

But isn't that appalling? Not the mash-up or the porn so much as that this 10th-grade-girl-fantasist illiteracy is what the reading public wants, or will accept?

I finally downloaded the free sample of the first book on my Kindle. I was pretty sure I would hate it, and that really doesn't quite cover it. Granted, I didn't read the whole series. (Wild horses, wild horses hopped up on meth, could not have dragged me through that). I saw enough in the first few chapters to know that I was in for cardboard characters and every weary romance cliche ever typed: steel gray eyes, breathlessness, bodices (or their 21st century equivalent) shredded. Granted, I didn't get to the sex. I lost interest way before that.

I see in the Wikipedia article about this phenomenon (linked above) that some people who should know better have said (I am paraphrasing) that it is at least a breezy page turner. It is not. It's just bad writing, the way porno is bad film. "Did you call a plumber ma'am?" "Oh yes, I did. As you can see I didn't quite finish my shower." Barf.

It looks like what criticism there has been has come from feminists disturbed by "Anastasia Steele's" (that name is red flag number one) willingness to be sexually dominated. Oh, please. The real horror is how awful the writing is and that no one seems too much bothered by that.

People Who Know have been saying for a while now, at least since the middle of the Harry Potter series (which got sloppier as it went), that it doesn't matter how badly expressed a story may be: only the story matters. Here's proof. And it makes me sick at heart.

Not everything has to be Shakespeare, of course, but even when we're out for a good time, we ought to hold the purveyors of that good time to high standards. I mean, give me Maeve Binchy or Colleen McCullough - give me something. Can't we, and shouldn't we, demand story AND at least moderately skillful conveyance thereof?

I know I am lining myself up with those nose in the air types that Cole Porter once so brilliantly mocked:

Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose.
Anything goes.

But the fact that this crap - which should never have found its way off E.L. James' pillow - is at the top of all the best seller lists is truly depressing to me.

Sigh. I know. Why should I be surprised? I've been on this earth and among my fellow creatures for 47 years. I wonder if Anastasia Steele and Christian Gray attend lawnmower races?

Thank you for listening. I am lowering my nose, taking my wet hankie, and leaving the heath. If someone tries to sell me a copy of Fifty Shades on the way down, though, I'm going to give him or her what for.


the fly in the web said...

I saw a critique of the thing over on Victoria Corby's blog which reinforced my view that anything that gets mass sales must be crap as that is what publishers think people want.
Since nothing else is available they might have a want what you can get.

The Potter saga is meretricious rubbish....I'll read a cereal packet in extremis, but not that.

I would like to subsribe but don't understand the 'readers' thing.
So I'll just have to keep on looking you up.

the fly in the web said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nan said...

Not ever would I read it. Not ever. Brilliant blog posting, as always! The little bit of your book I've read is WAY above most anything. I sure hope someone is still alive who can recognize that fact.

Kim Velk said...

Hi Fly, Thanks for stopping by.

I will read the critique you mentioned. I believe that, terrifyingly, Shades of Gray was a word-of-mouth basically self-published hit before the big publishers glommed onto it. No doubt, however, that we are all in for an onslaught if 50-shades inspired productions.

Hey Nan - The kindest blogger, as usual. Thanks for your kind words. If you ever break down and read some of it, do let us know your thoughts...

J.G. said...

Thanks for saying what needs to be said.

I keep thinking, if the story is cliched and the writing is terrible, how can folks like it so much? But I am afraid of the answer.