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50 shades of fuss

I have always known deep down inside that there was no way I wouldn’t like 50 shades of grey.

You see I am a woman who is deeply in touch with the side of her that likes bad fiction. The happiest year of my life was the one where I had a subscription to Mills and Boon. Once a month I would come home to a little parcel of joy. I would read insatiably, briefly transported to a world where it didn’t matter that my husband didn’t know how to work the washing machine and my job didn’t involve washing poo out of other people’s colons. Sadly the romantic fiction clearly worked a little too well. I got pregnant and during the ensuing austerity measures my Mills and Boon subscription was cancelled.

What has made me cross about 50 shades (as we fans like to call it) is the amount of abuse it seems to attract. I have had a lot of time to observe this as I am working on an important project which involves me being sat in front of my computer for eight hours a day. The internet calls…………. It (50 shades) is classed as ‘mummy porn’, ‘the worst book I have ever read’ ‘a waste of time’.

The fact that I liked this book so much has caused rather an existentialist crisis.

I don’t think I am stupid. My academic performance would suggest that I am of above average intelligence although most of my academic achievements were garnered before I became a mummy so perhaps my IQ has dropped a few points. I have read lots of books that are considered good literature. But if I am being completely honest the only classic that has ever captivated me the way 50 shades did was Jane Eyre and, while we’re on the whole honesty drive here, Jane Eyre is just 50 shades of grey without the spanking.

Feeling that I somehow need to justify my enjoyment of this book has really made me think about what we consider ‘good literature’. I have read so many criticisms that this book is badly written. What exactly does that mean? There aren’t any spelling mistakes, the male protagonist doesn’t appear to develop a third hand during a sex scene (this actually happened in a book I read once, it was most disconcerting). Yes the dialogue is peppered with clichés but the thing about clichés is that they have become clichés because people are constantly using them. People learn their sexual dialogue from the media, the media is full of clichés and so it perpetuates. I remember criticising the heroine in the original King Kong film because all she did was scream and kick her legs. A friend then pointed out that if a giant ape caught hold of me and started climbing the empire state building I would be unlikely to remember my best vocabulary and would probably scream and kick my legs. Would those who criticise the book have preferred it if there had been more intellectual chit chat between the lovers?

‘Oh gosh I believe I may be about to ejaculate I do hope that is acceptable to you and will not offend your feminist principles’

‘Please desist at once my good man, I am not using any form of hormonal contraception and I do fear an unwanted pregnancy.’

Is this how other people talk when they are having sex?

Another criticism of the book is the author’s constant reference to her subconscious and her inner goddess. I don’t have an inner goddess but I’m delighted for anyone who does. I do however have an extremely active inner monologue and it enjoyed the book too.  At least I think it did.  It certainly stayed quiet when I was reading it.  Part of the reason I liked this book was because I felt that I identified with the female lead. I found her believable, she often didn’t know what to do – I often don’t know what to do. She feels unattractive – I often feel unattractive (although actually I believe she is very beautiful really, sadly I am not), she has negative voices in her head………………..ok enough along those lines.

Maybe the book is badly written but what does that mean in this day and age? People aren’t reading anymore. We spend most of our time watching movies or box sets on our electronic devices. Or we communicate via Twitter and Facebook. I know people who proudly state they don’t read books, only magazines. Suddenly a book comes along that these people want to read. A whole new (old) media has been opened up to the masses but a certain subgroup of the population are standing in the corner tut-tutting and muttering to each other ‘she doesn’t use nearly enough metaphors.’ I have read the whole of David Copperfield (and that is three weeks of my life I would dearly like back). Is it well written? Apparently so. Did I enjoy reading about every little piece of scenery along the way in the minutest detail? No I did not.

There is nothing new in 50 shades of grey.  It is a love story. There is a little bit of spanking. It’s not erotic fiction, it’s not porn, and it’s certainly not mummy porn (although I am a mummy so maybe I am blinded by this). It is the age old tale of two people trying to reconcile their differences in order that they can build a life together.

I like populist fiction. I liked Twilight, I liked The Hunger Games. I like reading compelling, fast paced stories about characters who remind me a little bit of myself. I like being transported to another world where I don’t have to worry about the mould along the side of our bath. So there it is, I’ve outed myself. I will probably lose half of my followers and most of my friends on Facebook. I will be ousted from the book festival committee least I contaminate Ian Rankin with my prole like tendencies. But………..before you all judge me………just try reading it. Take your snidey, I don’t want to like this so I shan’t hat off. Don’t read it out loud to your friends in a supercilious ‘aren’t we clever’ kind of way. Sneak off to your bedroom like a teenager, suspend disbelief and just give it a try. It will only take you four hours which is a lot less time than I invested in David Copperfield…………..

What you still don’t like it?

Is it wrong that I feel a little bit sorry for you?

That's not me by the way

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15 thoughts on “50 shades of fuss

  1. I don’tl ike Harry Potter. I wonder if JK Rowlng cares one bit! lol
    We like what we like.
    My brother believes Pratchett is for idiots and children. I keep telling him Pratchett would be ideal. He still doesn’t get the joke!

    There is a ’50 shades’ roadshow going on at the moment in South Africa.
    Seems quite popular, though not my tasse de te.
    Just cos it ain’t Hemminway, Coetzee or Virginian Woolf doesn’t mean one can read simply to enjoy.
    Too much snobbery about books. Bit like wine, I guess.

  2. I haven’t read it, but I’ve certainly come across book snobbery about other books I’ve read, and I’ve been guilty of a bit of snobbery myself from time to time. I think if you can’t be open to the possibility of liking a book by giving it a chance and reading it, that says far more about you than it does about the book. There have been books I’ve tried to read and had to give up on because they just weren’t my cup of tea, but I have a great respect for anyone who can write an entire book from start to finish. A lot of people, no doubt including fellow authors, are possibly jealous of the success and high profile of 50 Shades.

    • As an author of numerous first chapters myself I too respect anyone who actually finishes a book. I do get irritated by the number of people on various websites who claim that they could do better…..they don’t include links to the online bookstores selling their work though, perhaps they think it’s better to remain an underground sensation and worlwide readership would be selling out.

      • tearoomdelights on said:

        Ha ha, could be! It’s interesting to note how many people claim that they could easily write a book if only they had the time, but perhaps it’s not until you actually have a genuine bash at it that you realise what a challenge it is.

  3. Great post! I am not a Mills&Boon person. To be fair, I do look a bit down on that type of book. I know, I shouldn’t, but we’re all being honest here, aren’t we?

    I tend to not read Mills&Boon or erotic fiction as it doesn’t interest me. The reason I read 50 Shades (my review here) is that I wanted to say nasty things about the book. But at least I wanted to say them after reading the book. There are so many people saying bad things about the book that haven’t even read it, it’s amazing and frustrating. It should not be allowed!

    In the event, I didn’t hate the book at all, and I have very little nasty to say about it. It’s written in an easy chick-lit style and in that sense, isn’t any worse than other books like it. Well, hello, so it wasn’t high literature, so what? If it never wins the Booker prize, so what?

    I actually thought the story wasn’t bad. I didn’t care for all the sex but I did think the sex served a purpose in the book, it was clearly part of the story, rather than a story being built around a few sex scenes as you often (?) see in erotic fiction.

    Whatever you say about the book, it’s great that people who not normally read a book pick this up and are transported into a different world for a few hours.

    • I’m now on book three of the 50 shades trilogy. I will finish it because it is quite plot driven and I want to know how various issues are resolved but I must say (as I just have in my blog) that I now understand why Mills and Boons end after 180 pages. It’s begninning to get repetitive and what was quirky in the first book is becoming samey in the third.

      I’m so pleased to have discovered your blog. I do enjoy romance but my all time favourite genre is dystopian fiction and there are some books listed in your blog that I really want to read. I’ve been meaning to read I am legend for years but there are lots of other titles that I hadn’t heard of. I know you said you prefered adult to YA titles but I wondered if you had read Z for Zachariah? I read it as a teen but found it in my basement when we were moving house and throroughly enjoyed it as an adult. Thanks for the recommendations.

      • I agree about the repetitiveness. To be fair, I only skim-read books 2 and 3, reading the bits that I thought I needed to be able to follow the story – the reason I did this was that I was going to an discussion evening in which the books would be talked about and I quickly wanted to be prepared. I did read the first book at normal speed.

        I haven’t heard of Z for Zachariah – thanks for the suggestion. Did you see my list of dystopia for adults? You probably did, but if not, here’s the link: http://leeswammes.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/dystopia-for-adults-a-reading-list/

    • Fabulous list. I didn’t know there was a name for this kind of literature. Something other then post-apocalyptic. I loved The Road (very dark) by Cormac McCarthy and Oryx and Craig by Margaret Atwood, funny and fascinating and an appropirate touch of darkness as well. Didn’t get through Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, didn’t connect to the voice and all that jumping around in the narrative. But there is a ton of books I’ve never heard about and am curious to have a look at. “A society after some great disaster or change (post-apocalyptic)” is an excellent basis for an interesting, suspenseful story.

      • Glad you find the list useful! I loved The Road. It was one of the first books in this genre that I read. have fun reading some books off the list!

  4. That picture of your child reading that book? Hilarious! I almost choked on my coffee.

    Agree with everything you said. I didn’t like these set of books per se, but there’s plenty of populist stuff that I like and enjoy, and don’t appreciate anyone looking down at my reading tastes.

    • It is one of my favourite photographs. The best thing is it was completely unstaged. Luckily since she is only two she could only point at a few letters so I don’t think she will be too damaged by the experience. I’m thinking of branching out into a book blog, perhaps with a picture of her enjoying every book I review.

  5. WELL SAID YOU! And by the way you are not what you say you are not, which is a way of saying that you are what you’d like to think you are and that’s a male compliment and the authoress is, to put it politely, not the prettiest painting in the exhibition…I’ve seen her photo !!!!

  6. Very much enjoyed reading your post. I like that it’s funny and honest in a way that I can relate to. One follower more. 🙂
    I haven’t read the 50 Shades but I think I would enjoy it too, at least the first volume, when things haven’t gotten repetitive yet. I easily get bored and, to be honest, I do find clichés annoying after a while so I might not get through the trilogy. But I’ve read some samples and it looks like enjoyable erotic literature to me.
    I agree, popular literature being called ‘bad’ literature as a reflex is very annoying. It happens much more with literature written by women, btw, in case nobody noticed.
    I wouldn’t mind to write a piece of popular genre literature myself, something that then becomes a bestseller so my family and me live happily ever after. It is so much harder then it looks to write a novel at all, and harder yet to get it sold. Good for you, Stephanie Meyer and E. L. James.

  7. Pingback: One lovely blog award

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