Shades of 'Shades'

Unless you’ve been hibernating in a cave for the past 6 months, or out of the… no, not even out of the country would cover it… um… if you’ve been off the planet visiting alien relatives or something… then the publishing sensation that is ‘FiftyShades of Grey’ will have escaped your notice.  Here I am almost tempted to say ‘lucky you’ but then that would wholly depend on which side of the fence you’re sitting with this literary work of fiction.  And again, of course it depends what you consider literary.  In my book (pun intended) ’literary’ means something that is created from words, produces coherent and pleasurable sentences, makes me think, question, comprehend, examine and discuss; and paramount: the story entertains me.

I have to admit that I only bought this book to see what all the ‘fuss’ was about.  I’d heard about it, I’d noticed it had begun to rocket to questionable stardom but as I also noticed it started off as Fanfic for the ‘Twilight’ books,  it wasn’t on my radar  as Werewolves and Vampires aren’t actually my bag.

But it wouldn’t go away.  The furore I mean. It got to the stage that I actually felt like I was missing out on something and so I read a few reviews  - there are THOUSANDS of reviews here: and it’s more or less an equal split between the 5stars and the 1stars, so the reason for the massive controversy this book has created is there for all to see.

The big knockers are beside themselves with disbelief that a book of such sub-standard writing should be allowed to hit the all-time bestselling lists (the latest accolade being that this E.L. James’ debut novel has overtaken sales of Harry Potter and is continuing to run with its glory) let alone get published in the first place when you consider other struggling writers who have still to step onto the first rung of publication success.

I don’t like to judge books by their covers.  I don’t like to follow the herd if I don’t know where they’re going and I don't believe anything unless I've seen it for myself.  I suppose I’m a-everything until I find reason to jump over one side of the fence or the other (it does get a little bit painful sitting up here after all, but you do get a better view).  So I have to say that I remain a-Grey.

I read the book.  True, I did falter at the first paragraph, thinking to myself ‘Seriously?  Is this how the main character’s going to be all the way through because I’m already irritated by her’, but decided to press on.  After all, I managed to get all the way through and thoroughly enjoyed ‘Secret World of a Shopaholic’ and that Becky Bloomwood was just as scatty, hair-brained, naïve and beautiful as this Anastasia Steele is. There was just less bondage with Becky. More scarves and shoes I seem to remember.

And I have to admit that after I’d decided that Anastasia was intentionally written as an airhead and Christian Grey (he of the title) was a complete fabrication of somebody's imagination – I mean who is ever going to be the mogul of a multi-national conglomeration of a business empire by the age of 27 AND look like a god please – unless they’re fictional? So belief was suspended for the duration (oh, there are also some seriously shonky distances covered in a couple of scenes and I’m thinking of moving to the USA because they appear to have invented the 32 hour day) and I found myself enjoying the book.

So, let’s talk about sex.  I was very pleased that there was no use of the ‘C’ word whatsoever and equally no silly euphemisms for various heaving and throbbing parts of the bodies.  Sex scenes can be complicated enough without trying to decipher what exactly a furry love trumpet is doing racing through an overgrown avenue of magnolia blossom without the head starting to hurt, so for the straightforward sex, E.L. James, I thank you.

In all, I thought the story was quite sweet (okay, there’s whips and duct tape and touches of sado-masochism, but show me a B&Q where there isn’t)  and when I read this: I realised it wasn’t just me who found the whole thing a kind of  Benny Hill meets Acorn Antiques rom-com.

I actually laughed ‘til I cried whilst reading all 50 of these ‘Notes’. Here’s a couple:

40. Things that sound good until you picture someone actually doing them (2)

“Would you like a bag?”

…”Please, Anastasia.” His tongue caresses my name, and my heart once again is frantic.

a. In pronouncing the name “Anastasia”, the tongue stays entirely behind the teeth and is not visible at all. In order to accept the premise that Christian is, indeed, caressing Anastasia’s name with his tongue, I am forced to conclude that he is licking her name-badge (she works in a DIY shop).
b. On the other hand, I quite like the idea that this is what he’s doing, so I’m quite tempted to let this one go.

41. Things that sound good until you picture someone actually doing them (3)

“My scalp prickles at the idea that maybe, just maybe, he might like me…I hug myself with quiet glee, rocking from side to side.”

Why not try this one in public and see what happens?

I don’t imagine for one minute that E.L. James meant for all this contention to happen and although I enjoy reading these entertainingly scathing reviews, I also felt sorry for her that her book is being subjected to this kind of in-depth scrutiny.  But as we all know, that’s why writers need thickened skin because we can’t please all of the people all of the time, and after all, isn’t this what writing a book is all about?


Suzanne Furness said...

Just about to start reading this book!

Sandra Davies said...

I've not read it, and In bed with married women provided a link to the ten 'best bits' which didn't encourage (my brother's list of page numbers inside Lady Chatterley came to mind - equally uninspiring) but mainly I've too many other books clamouring for attention. Found time to enjoyr your post though.

Chloe said...

I didn't want to read it, particularly - now I'm sure I don't. I won't comment on the whole of a book I haven't read, but those two miniature extracts there read like they were written by somebody who's just joined their first creative writing class for fun - alright, but massively over-written. The same with the Twilight series - I didn't read them because in the extract I read, Meyer used up her entire quota for a reasonable number of adjectives within a book in one paragraph.

Having said that... good luck to them! I hate it when people get snobby and say it's not fair when "Bad" writing or "bad" music gets popular. If people are willing to buy the books/albums then good for them! Books should be about enjoyment.

Trudy said...

I haven't got time to read it at the moment, but it sounds like FUN, in a Benny Hill kind of way (great comparison!). I might find time to read those notes though, when I'm done with procrastinating in other ways - and I'm sure the great success and the happy fans should compensate for having her writing picked to pieces!

Trudy said...

Still procrastinating, found this link to Ellen Degeneres 'reading' Shades - funny.
Off to bleach a wood parquet floor now, not sure if that is procrastinating, doesn't feel fun enough.

Thrifty Gal said...

Part of me feels I should read it, but I just can't get past the terrible prose...

DT said...

Every now and again the publishing world (and readers too, evidently) need a whooping session. 50 Shades seems to be the latest recipient of the whoop-fest. I haven't read it, so I'll simply make three points:

1. There is an interesting piece about the difference between 50 Shades and the original fan-fiction work:
2. This is a great post, Debs, although the phrase 'the head starting to hurt' seems unintentionally saucy. (And funny too.)
3. Do check out the incomparable 50 Sheds of Grey:

Debs Riccio said...

Suzanne, switch off and expect nothing and you'll love it!
Sandra, I hear you!
Chloe, you're right of course!
Trudy, those Notes are HILARIOUS (as was the Ellen clip - thanks for sharing that)!
Tracey, don't feel you 'should', it hasn't enriched my life but it has made me feel more part of the reading/writing Massive :)
Laters x

Debs Riccio said...

wow, Derek, thanks for that link - this is one contentious piece of work isn't it? I didn't realise there was so much behind it (I read Twilight but not the fan fiction stuff so didn't correlate the two).

DT said...

Maybe that's what every writer secretly dreams of - a little controversy, a split audience and lots of reader engagement!

Debs Riccio said...

Now I want a Grey Shed (or 50) and I shall christen it Christian (see what I did there?)

Gillian McDade said...

I laughed at Big Knockers in your post!!!

Debs Riccio said...

Thanks Gillian, I'm glad SOMEBODY did!