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Fifty Shades of Grey has taken the publishing world by storm. Depending on which source you believe this book (the first in a trilogy) has sold between 5 million to 10 million+ copies in a mere 6 months. It has also surpassed (I hesitate to use the word ‘beaten’ in this review) the previous record for number of digital books sold (1 million).
From these kind of figures you might be led to believe that E.L. James’ trilogy is an amazing read. Let’s get one thing straight, this is not ‘literature’, or even sophisticated writing, by any stretch of the imagination.
Instead, E.L. James’ book is vapid, lazy, and pornographic in its most lurid and frankly, ‘skeezy’ form. I’m not a prude and erotic fiction when written well can do what is by all accounts, quite difficult: titillate an audience while managing to keep itself from becoming tacky or obscene. Comparing Fifty Shades to well written erotica is a bit like comparing a ballerina to a construction worker; one delicately takes all the right steps at just the right moments, the other crashes through whatever is in its way to get the job done, with the loudest amount of swearing.
The ‘plot’ is this; Anastasia ‘Ana’ Steele is naive, virginal and totally devoid of individuality. Christian Grey is a young, attractive, multibillionaire CEO. He also happens to be a sadist who requires his women to be contractually obligated to let him sexually (and mentally) dominate them whenever he likes. Our ‘heroine’ Ana Steele has never before been attracted to a man and Christian Grey has never allowed himself to fall in love with a woman. I won’t spell it out for you.
It’s not rocket science and I’m fairly sure most of you have already read it, judging by the conversations taking place at my university, on the trains, at work, etc.
Creating believable characters is seemingly, something of an inconvenience for E.L. James. Instead she leaves her readers wondering: how is it possible that Ana is as teeth grindingly naive as she is? Why does she have no discernible self respect? How is it that Ana, supposedly so well educated, is unable to think in sentences longer than five words and has a vocabulary limited to the phrase “holy shit”?
But the most pressing question by far is why everyone is so enamoured with this book.
All would be forgiven (well, mostly) if the sex scenes lived up to the hype. Is it just the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey has been the first to introduce ‘edgy’ sex scenes into mainstream reading? I’m sure a quick Google search could provide you with much the same and probably better quality writing (just please, don’t ask me to look for them).
Surely what makes a great novel, erotic or otherwise, is a writer’s ability to breathe life into their words, making them more than just squiggles on a page.
Basic writing skills are an optional component to James’ novel. After mercifully being able to ‘delete’ Fifty Shades of Grey (or, as a friend suggested to me ‘Fifty Shades of Crap’) off of my Kindle, I’m left with only a vague understanding of the infamous Mr Grey and what it is that makes him so desirable. Why would he decide to ‘slum’ it with such an unoriginal, dull character as Ana Steele, who’s most prominent thought after 300+ pages is “Holy shit, he’s so hot”?
Truly the only person who is giddy with pleasure over this book is Ms James herself. She’s no doubt laughing her way to the bank after making over $15 million with this trilogy alone, not to mention the movie deals to follow. Not bad considering Fifty Shades started out as a Twilight fan fiction post entitled “Master of the Universe”, and E.L. James was working under her other pseudonym, Snowqueens Icedragon. No, I’m being serious.
Now that it’s apparently acceptable to read pornographic books in public, even at 6 o’clock in the morning on the morning commute, maybe give these titles a go.