Apr 032013

Perkins, Lori, ed. Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey. Benbella Smartpop, 2012 Amazon

Much like Christian Grey himself, the Fifty Shades trilogy is everywhere, overwhelming and relentless, dominating bestseller lists, metastatizing into countless imitators, and spawning an entire industry of gifts, CDs, boardgames and other branded merchandise, plus a feature film. Through sheer repetition and ubiquity, we find ourselves trying to accommodate it, even to make excuses for its flaws and offences. Some of the authors in this essay collection try too hard to put a positive spin on Fifty Shades. Even the collection’s  editor, Lori Perkins, says:

Some have wondered how a “classic” can be so “poorly written.” But I contend that it is not poorly written, but rather written in an everywoman’s voice, a necessary part of its success I once worked with an author who used plebian language…. When she returned my edits, she told me that she did indeed know the word “simultaneously,” but when she was fantasizing, she always used the phrase “at the same time as,” and she knew that her readers did as well. [Pg.3]

EL James’ prose is not “plebian” or “in an everywoman’s voice”, it’s just plain bad. You don’t need an MFA to read or write good prose or hot prose.

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Dec 112012

I have a half-baked theory that the E.L. James we see in interviews is actually a J.T. Leroy-like front for the real author of Master of the Universe/Fifty Shades: a 15-year-old girl with serious mood and identity disorders. That’s the only way I can explain these books.

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Jul 152012

Ana continues to show her emotional maturity by teasing Christian via email, on the theory that an airplane in flight is one place where even Christian Grey can’t get to her. Her main objection to Christian’s upgrade is not the invasion of her privacy or intrusion into her life, but making her embarrassed at the airport.

More emails. Ana says everything in email that does she doesn’t say to Christian in person, and it’s hard not to read it as her being so intimidated or outright frightened by him that this is the only way she can express herself clearly. (If this story will be filmed, I bet a lot of the email communications will be converted into face to face dialog, if only to make it more visually interesting. )
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Jun 212012

The parts of Ana and Christian’s relationship that aren’t abusive are tedious. They have a post-coital cuddle and then Christian runs off to a meeting. He does mention that he’s running late for it, a rarity for him, like sleeping with a woman. Ana interprets this as success, that she is making him change for her.

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Jun 212012

Christian scoots off almost immediately, leaving Ana high and dry in one of the most emotional moments in her life. Ana’s mother calls, and tells that Ana is obviously upset about a man.

“What’s he done to you?” Her alarm is palpable.
“It’s not like that.” Although it is… Oh crap. I don’t want to worry her. I just want someone else to be strong for me at the moment.

Ana, of course, doesn’t tell her mother what’s really going on, or take her up on her offer to come home and take a break. When Kate comes in, Ana doesn’t tell her either. Ana even makes up a story when Kate wonders why Ana’s butt is tender.

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Jun 212012

Before we go any further, I want to go on record about a few things.

First, I don’t like the term “mommyporn” that is being applied to the Fifty Shades trilogy. Mommies have as much right to sexual pleasure as anybody else, and they don’t need snobs looking down at them for their interests.

Second, I don’t like the judgment that, because this series was originally Twilight fanfiction, it is automatically and obviously subliterate trash. I’ve enjoyed reading fanfiction, and written and posted it too. Lots of fanfiction writers have graduated to writing professional fiction.

The relationship between original fiction and derivative fiction is a complex one, and worthy of at least a few posts, but isn’t really in the purview of this blog. Suffice to say, if a writer alters his or her fan work enough to not be blatant plagiarism, I say go ahead and publish  it (or at least try). If by some fluke the work becomes a bestseller, well, ride that train.

If I could say anything to the millions of people who have bought millions of copies of these books, it is that there are BDSM erotica/romance books out there that are so much better in every way than this, and please give the authors and publishers of those books some of the financial support you’ve given to EL James.

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Jun 192012

Alone in Ana and Kate’s duplex, Christian and Ana have a face to face. They squabble over the antique books (like they’re the problem), and Ana begins to stand up for herself by saying she’ll donate them to charity. Then she immediately backs down.

“I’ll think about it,” I murmur, I don’t want to disappoint him, and his words come back to me. I want you to want to please me.
“Don’t think, Anastasia. Not about this.” His tone is quiet and serious.

Christian’s constant urging for Ana to stop thinking wouldn’t so troubling if she had ever started thinking about her sexuality or her relationship.

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Jun 182012

EL James opens this chapter with Ana and Christian finally getting to it, then pulls the “it was all a dream” scam. Clearly, Ana fantasizes about kink, and has at least some degree of interest in BDSM. This does not, however, mean that she should accept Christian’s proposal.

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