Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shackleton Speaks Encore

So, we were river swimming the other day, Shackleton and I. We had a big long stretch of Cotton Brook to ourselves and I was giving him a gentle push downstream in our inner tube when I noticed a mother duck crossing into the river ahead of us with eight ducklings behind her.

"Shack look at the ducks!"


"Do you see them?"



"They might attack."

I'm not making that up and he actually was worried about a duck attack, analogizing from the mother bear situation.


I was reminded about that episode when he just announced that, for today, he is not going to use his hands for anything.

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.