Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Fifty Shades Of Not Interested

Well, after yet another hiatus – this time down to actually moving house, as opposed to packing for it, and rubbish internet providers – I am finally back online. In my time away, I’ve been increasingly made aware of a series of books that have recently exploded onto the literary scene, Fifty Shades by E. L. James. I first heard about these books when a friend asked me if I had read them, and I replied in the negative – though not before doing a quick Google and discovering that the main focus of the series seems to be the high level of hanky-panky. I must admit, I was intrigued at first, but I have since come to the decision that, for the time being at least, I am not going to be reading this series – the reasons for which I will now wax lyrical on.

Firstly - and I'm just going to put this out there, this is a bit of a silly reason – I’m being stubborn, and not wanting to bow to peer pressure. Everyone under the sun seems to be reading these books, or talking about these books, and whilst I think it’s brilliant that people are talking about literature, I’ve simply heard ‘you’ve GOT to read them!’ from so many people that actually, no, I don’t think I have GOT to read them, and I don’t think I will either. I very nearly caved in last week, and actually went so far as to walk into a shop to try and purchase a copy of the first book, but when I couldn’t immediately see it, I gave up and had a browse and found something else; The Damned Busters, by Matthew Hughes, which actually turned out to be a spot-on choice for me (it’s about a less-than-heroic type of bloke accidentally causing Hell to go on strike, needing to get Hell back to work and consequently becoming a superhero out of it with a demon for a sidekick. Awesome). I think the mere fact that I went in to find a book, barely even looked for it, and then bought, basically, the antithesis to the Fifty Shades trilogy is probably indicative that, sometimes, you shouldn't try to force yourself to like something just because you've been told to (there's a lesson in there somewhere, kids).

Then of course, there is the fact that, really, I haven't heard anything about any of the books that makes me want to read them, beyond a natural curiosity borne from everyone telling me how rude they are. But that’s all I’ve heard; not a single person has said anything along the lines of, ‘That Christian is a bit of a tosser!’ (yes, I know a few details – I haven’t been living under a rock) or ‘Blimey, there’s a twist in the second book that you will NEVER guess!’ Not a single person has commented on the plot, or characterisation, or the dialogue – nothing. All I’ve heard is a few people say the writing’s not that great - I've seen the word 'drivel' bandied about a lot -  and a lot of debate on whether the sex scenes really are that rude or shocking. Now, you can write books with rude bits in, and they can still be excellent pieces of literature – Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence was a social commentary on class division and the sexual awakening of a middle-aged woman, and that was so rude it got it's publisher, Penguin Books, put on trial for publishing it. Alternatively, the 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade is (and I have to say now – gladly – that I haven’t read it) basically a catalogue of the vilest sexual acts you can imagine, and yet that has been hailed as an important of literature. So, sexual content isn’t the issue. You don’t have to write particularly well either – Charlaine Harris, author of the wildly popular Southern Vampire Mysteries, or the books the TV series True Blood is based on, is full of some pretty raunchy sex scenes that would make Edward Cullen faint in horror, and the writing is... so-so. However, the storylines are actually pretty good, and the characters are great fun, so I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve read most of them. But, for all I’ve heard, Fifty Shades seems to be just porn, and really cheesy porn at that – ‘I’ve come to service your boiler’ type stuff. If your only selling point is that it’s got a lot of sex in it, then I’m not sold.

Just for the record - I wish E L James all the luck in the world; she's done what I'd love to do, which is get herself published, and fair play to her, she's evidently tapped the market previously dominated by Jilly Cooper and Mills and Boon, which is no mean feat. I just don't think poorly written 'mummy-porn' is for me.

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