My brain hurts a lot

Before I commence this review of Fifty Shades of Grey let me begin by saying this. I read a lot.
No, I mean - a LOT. According to my GoodReads profile I have read 730 books in four years which is effectively a book every two days. And that's only the books I've read for the first time - it obviously won't count the times I've re-read something, something I do regularly.

I love to read and I have wide and varied tastes, so when something is recommended to me or surfaces as the latest in popular culture I usually approach it with an open mind and dive in.

I read the Fifty Shades trilogy back in April, having heard nothing about it save that it was the latest in cult-fiction and was based on a BDSM relationship. "Great", I thought "maybe it will raise awareness about healthy BDSM relationships and take away some of the stigma around sexual exploration."

Oh how foolish I was.

I had the same reaction to Fifty Shades as I had to Twilight - five pages in I was longing to hurl it out of the nearest window, which was not surprising when I later learned of its Twilight fan fiction origins.
Whilst I did literally abandon Twilight in disgust, with Fifty Shades I persevered because I had not yet reached the "kinky fuckery" and I wanted to be able to give an informed opinion about the sexual content of the book.

Curiosity spanked the cat.

The book was beyond moronic; had it been written in crayon it could not have succeeded in giving a stronger impression of being composed by a person with less knowledge of literature or less knowledge about eroticism.

If its purpose was to titivate, it failed parlously. If its purpose was to entertain then that it did. But only in the sense that I was laughing hysterically at the author's desperate intent to stimulate. Amusingly, some of the situations she attempts to describe with her oh so limited vocabulary:

"convulse and shatter into a thousand pieces"
"shatter into tiny fragments"
"intense body-shattering orgasm"
"earth-shattering moment"

"you're shattered aren't you"

could genuinely have been exciting despite the cliche - there's a range of vanilla sex and BDSM, it covers everything from sex in public places to going commando in a formal setting and I have no doubt that the inevitable film will be a much better vehicle for a mediocre plot and tedious characters. In the hands of EL James however, any stimulation one could have gleaned from the sexual scenarios was obliterated by the atrocious quality of writing - it dampened my ardour in the same way having my grandmother sat in the corner of my bedroom commentating on my activities would.

It was repetitive to the point of demented, the trilogy would barely fill a page of A4 if one attempted to de-duplicate it. At some point someone needs to create a word cloud filled with "jeez", "holy crap", "icarus", "eye rolling", "lip biting", "mercurial", derivatives of "shatter" and the nauseating endless references to his hair, smell and those damned hip-hanging trousers.

Having read classics like The Story of O and Delta Of Venus, I understand how reading about the kind of sexual acts which I would not sanction, much less want to experience can nevertheless be compelling.
I also understand the power of fantasies and how they rarely reflect a person's reality - the concept that the characters in the 50 Shades Trilogy are able to gain pleasure from pain (nipple clamps, paddles and whips - oh my!) doesn't strike me as ridiculous. The concept that someone could read this book and be aroused does.

It's just SO unrealistic - for a virgin who has quite literally never been kissed, let alone masturbated to not only have "shattering" orgasms from the get-go but to only be capable of coming on command from her lover (thank you very much, don't mind if I do...) - WHAT KIND OF INSUFFERABLE MORONS FIND THIS STUFF EROTIC, MUCH LESS RELATABLE!?

From scenes where he casually removes her tampon before rutting her over a sink to the constant references to her "inner goddess" and "subconscious" I was at best bemused and at worst enraged. The single positive quality I can attribute to this book is the frequent use of condoms. This level of responsibility to an impressionable teenage reader is laudable. I do wonder however what a pair of trousers that "hang from the hip" and can contain an endless supply of condoms whilst still being described as stylish would look like.

Here's an excellent extract from the hilarious blog 50 Things That Annoy Me About 50 Shades of Grey:

“Perhaps I’ve spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high.”
Mr Rochester was rude, sarcastic and frequently cruel. Mr Darcy was rude and socially awkward. Alec D’Urberville was a rapist, and Angel Clare ran for the hills as soon as he found out he wasn’t marrying a virgin. Heathcliff was a psychopath.
Exactly which of your ideals and expectations would you say these men have set far too high?

Wuthering Heights is not a romance novel, it's gothic horror. Trying to craft a character who loves literary classics when the author clearly knows nothing about them is only one example of the simpering teenage simpleton I would have taken the author to be, had I not been informed she was middle-aged, married and a mother of two.

Do yourself a favour, don't waste your time reading the books - even Stephanie Meyer shunned them and she couldn't write a convincing grocery list much less a book. Procrastinate on the Pinterest page instead.

Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr.

Title:  5 Years by David Bowie


Christie Knox said...

You see, I'm still tempted to try reading this but I don't want to waste good money on it. Your review was very entertaining, despite not having read the book!

Albert Riehle said...

Well done! I too was suckered into reading this trash and the only reason I ever got past the mind-numbing redundancy of James' writing was because I felt if I wanted to properly trash this...trash, I was going to have to be fair and read it all the way through.

It was abominable. If she has mentioned his "grey gaze" or the fact that he was "mercurial" one more time I may have had to jump off a bridge or tear my eyes out.

Lois Entwistle said...

This review shattered me into orgasmic fragments of shattered pieces and now I'm shattered!

:-) Haven't read the book but you've said it all!

Lois Entwistle said...

Pete said...

The way I see it is the books may be trash, they may be badly written, there may be better books out there, but if they get people reading and crucially enjoying reading it can only lead them to better books in the future, so is it really such a bad thing?

(See also the somewhat hysterical & snobbish "oh but they're dreadful!" comments made elsewhere regarding e.g. Harry Potter.)