Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Confessions of a Book Whore: Fifty Shades of WHAT!?




I know I am re-opening a can of worms when it comes to the erotic fiction genre rampage. I have been dying to write a post on this subject for ages – since that fateful day my mother picked up the novel and gorged herself on lashings of ripe, fervent erotic fiction. Don’t you love my puns? It’s just far too easy. 

The world collapsed into disarray with the novel that sold more copies than Harry Potter; a novel written by a mother herself about a young girl who falls in love with a rich bachelor with a dark secret. I have met many of those bachelor-types, none with as much suave and pizzazz as our dear Christian Grey. So befell the quarry of the erotic fiction, fang-bang, rip-offs, classic-rewrites and many more trilogies. I had happily ignored the trap to fall into the opinion piece of le-erotica books, having blustered my opinion out-loud on more than one occasion.


 
I read the books. Yes. Fear not, I never got past book one. Fifty Shades of Grey had me rolling me eyes at the level of unimaginative S&M scenes possible – I am sure a flat in Hillbrow could teach E.L James a few tricks.

I needed to read them, for the common place of having an opinion and ultimately seeing if I too would be swayed by leather and whips. I then challenged myself to Bared to You by Sylvia Day, another of my mother’s obsessions. If there is one thing I learned from this experience was that erotica novels are far more fun in audio – hello late night eTV porn music. Again, I found myself rolling my eyes at Eva’s tantrums, one such tantrum had her fleeing from the hotel room post-coitus in a night-robe (barefooted) after finding several vibrators in a cupboard, Gideon (hours of searching) finds her sitting in a coffee shop, and coaxes her back. Sounds like my Friday nights! 

I wanted to stay out of this online bash of erotica, or as Julie Burchill says ‘like putting a crocheted crinoline lady on a lavatory roll’ 

Then I was enlightened by Rebecca Davis’s review of Fifty Shades of Grey had me in stitches:

Unless the naming of Anastasia Steele is a rare note of humorous irony, it is not apt. The woman is a wreck. She’s 21 years old and barely been kissed. She has never been drunk. She is like a time-traveller in her own culture. And yet we are expected to believe that, despite this, she is willing to jump into a sado-masochistic sexual relationship with a mysterious older man. How about some heavy petting in the cinema first?



I find no thrill in these books, fair enough, I’ve only read two. Still. The sex is unbelievably dull, the characterisation one sided, the writing is the equivalent of bashed out essay by a grade 8.

What does this leave us with? These dull story lines and lack lustre sex scenes. Do we simply accept that this is the Austen of the era? Do we stalwarts of word rejoice in the fact that readers that would never take a gander at a tome, are now yearning breathlessly for more – and we hope silently that they’ll find the same thrill in something more meaty? Do we philander in the idea that publishing is now the expression of escapism? Or do we do as we have done up until now, question the feminism, the plot lines, and horrid characters? Can women accept the fact their place is no longer in the kitchen but in the bedroom with a whip in one hand?




It’s a complicated topic with articles aplenty, but head over to Zoe’s blog, The Book Armada, who recounts a rather hilarious and in depth ‘death match’, and other articles to some pretty hilarious recounts. And warm the cockles of your heart (or loins) with the variety of erotica that wallpaper our bookstores.


I am intrigued to know what you think of the ‘erotica phenomenon’. Leave a comment below.
 
 
 
 

8 comments:

Lisa Mandina said...

I haven't read any other than the first Fifty Shades book. And I love to see your comment about the writing being from an 8th grader. As a middle school teacher, as I was reading it, I was thinking how much the writing sounded like how my students wrote. Not the topic, just the writing itself. Great post, I'm with you on it.

plus94 said...

I have always felt like the genre is a giant leap backwards for feminism. Not that I'm a staunch feminist or anything, but in 2008 Marian Keyes published "This Charming Man", a story in which one of the main characters is forced to come to terms with the fact that she was actually in an abusive relationship because the man manipulated her into participating in an assortment of sexual acts that she actually wasn't comfortable with. Breaking free from him and his abusive nature was liberating. Fast forward a few years and women's literature is suddenly telling us that Marian Keyes' character was wrong - it's liberating to be sexually explorative. My concern is that while many women will just use it for some light entertainment and escapism, other women might feel pressure to go with the flow and subtly be manipulated into thinking that certain sexual behaviour is liberating, when in fact, like Marian Keyes' character, they aren't all that comfortable with it. The mere suggestion that this could be the Austen of the era made my skin crawl :( Unlike the power that the Harry Potter series had, I don't think that this genre will encourage non readers to read. As with the Twilight saga, yes more women are reading, but all they want to read is a rehash of the same story lines with a minor change in character name or creature. I think that we have to continue to critique this drivel on platforms such as this, but unfortunately, as with trying to convert someone into a religion, no one who doesn't already agree with us is even going to read these kinds of articles (although your raunchy picture at the top might trick them into reading a paragraph or two ;) )

Shelagh said...

I have no problem with erotic fiction in general - I'm sure that there are some excellent reads out there.

I too have read the first Fifty Shades book and the only reason I would consider pursuing the series is because of Christian. No, not the usual swooning over his good looks or money, but the fact that he is the only vaguely realised character in the whole book. He has a backstory and some motivation for his actions. Don't get me started on dear Anastasia (oh my!)... It doesn't bother me that she's a 21 year-old virgin - that's a personal choice for everyone. It's that she has about as much personality as a soggy bowl of cereal. And the sex? Boring and unimaginatively written. There are many romance novels with better sex scenes in them.

But I don't think that I can condemn the whole erotica genre just because of Ms James. There may well be an author or two out there who can get my pulse racing.

bwknister said...

Kelly--
The erotica phenomenon seems mostly suited to parody. Those who agree, and enjoy a well-written mystery might want to "Look Inside" The Anything Goes Girl at Amazon. Here's a description:
So you’ve messed up your life by saying yes too often. You’ve become The Anything Goes Girl, and your name and sex life figure prominently in locker-room graffiti. That’s why it’s like winning the lottery when you make it big on local TV.
Right?
Not for Brenda Contay. Now she’s WDIG’s Lightning Rod reporter, and doing very well. But reporting tabloid nonsense about tractor-pulls and crack addicts has a lot in common with being The Anything Goes Girl: it doesn’t leave much room for self-respect.
That’s why Brenda jumps at the chance to leave Detroit and find out what happened to an old lover. Vince Soublik was an All-State swimmer, but he just drowned in the middle of nowhere, on a tiny island in the Pacific.
When she gets there, Brenda is going to find herself in a world of trouble. Vince’s death will turn out to be collateral damage in a scandal of global proportions. And since the scandal involves the political ambitions of someone on the list of “the ten richest men in America.” Brenda’s chances of living to tell the story are next to zero.
But you never can tell about The Anything Goes Girl: she just hates to lose.

Rosalie Langevin said...

I loved the book Fifty Shades Of Grey. I am so glad i enjoyed Christian and Ana's story. I like Fifty Shades Of Grey

Emma Lavoie said...

Kristen Stewart has finally responded to rumors that she's a favorite to play Anastasia Steele

Alexia Tessier said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful book! I finished it a few days ago and cannot get it out of my head. It is pure magic. It was everything I hoped it would be and much more. ...
Fifty shades Movie

Stella Smith said...

I loved the books. I should agree these are the best written books.
Fifty Shades Of Grey Movie

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