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E.L. James: Fifty Shades of Grey

Discussion in 'Romance Books' started by Anamnesis, Mar 20, 2012.

  1. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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    I must say I haven't seen any hatred in this thread, but I suppose it's fashionable in this day and age to dismiss anyone who criticises something you care about as a "hater". I guess I'm getting old.

    However, I did have a long-ish train journey this weekend and figured, what the hell, I have three hours to spare and why not see for myself what it is people are discussing. So yes, I read Fifty Shades Of Grey.

    Where to start... well, I'll give it this: it's probably better than the original. Anastasia Steele is a far gutsier heroine than Bella Swann, even if her desire to work for a small independent publisher even though she's never read anything written after 1850 (and still manages to misquote Shakespeare whenever she tries) is a bit odd, and at least some of the fucked-upness of their relationship is actually commented on within the story; the man's stalking, violent, manipulative behaviour isn't just treated as something romantic (though his threat to "punish" her for almost getting herself raped is apparently supposed to be seen as such, which... yech). Which is something, I guess. And while it's certainly no Secretary, it's nice to see a relationship of this type given a portrayal that doesn't completely demonise it. Compared to Twilight's chastity it goes overboard in the other direction, but hey.

    That said, no, it's really not a good novel. On any level. Plotwise, the mere knowledge that it's a Twilight rewrite is pretty obvious from the start, with the slightly offensive Native American Jacob replaced with the slightly offensive Mexican José (who can't go two sentences without blurting out "O Dios Mio!"), with the same wish-fulfillment fantasy of a sexual supergod who'll lavish her with gifts and in turn be tamed by her true love, and the same poor writing. The fact that it's badly edited (the usual stuff - "your"/"you're" mix-ups, etc) and that the prose is sometimes unbelievably clunky (the quotes posted earlier are all good examples, though personally I laughed the most at "[the orgasm balls] make me needy, needy for sex.") isn't really the worst. Nor is it the narrator's endless fascination with pointless details, the way the novel is obviously sponsored by Apple, Audi and Blackberry (seriously, EVERY CAR here is an Audi, and all of them described with more eroticism than most of the sex) or her habit of describing her emotions as a constant debate with her conscience and her "inner goddess" that mostly makes it sound as if she's suffering from DID. No, the worst thing is the repetition. See, our narrator only knows a handful of phrases, and she really likes using them. So basically, the stretches of supposed story novel she's put in to pad out the sex scenes all read like this:

    Rolled my eyes bit my lip eat something my inner goddess smirked sexily tousled hair conscience rolled my eyes bit my lip eat something my inner goddess smirked sexily tousled hair conscience rolled my eyes bit my lip eat something my inner goddess smirked sexily tousled hair conscience rolled my eyes bit my lip eat something my inner goddess smirked sexily tousled hair conscience rolled my eyes bit my lip eat something my inner goddess smirked sexily tousled hair conscience rolled my eyes bit my lip eat something my inner goddess smirked sexily tousled hair conscience rolled my eyes bit my lip eat something my inner goddess smirked sexily tousled hair conscience and on and on and on for three hundred and fifty pages. If you made a drinking game of this book, people would die of acute alcohol poisoning by the thousands. After a while you start looking forward to the sex scenes, not because the sex is all that hot, but because at least it'll break up the monotony.

    As for the actual sex scenes, well... yes, they are numerous and pretty explicit for those who wonder, though oddly puss... sorry, vaginafooting around using any r-rated words apart from the liberally used "****". And I will say that as porn goes, I've read both better and worse. Hell, I've read far worse in properly published novels by "real" authors (Haruki Murakami, I'm glancing in your direction while keeping an eye on the exit). BDSM isn't really my thing, but if you're into that, you'll get that too even if it's mostly pretty mild. However, just like the rest of the novel, the sex scenes get repetitive very quickly and you soon lose count of the
    In the end, it's not an awful novel; a bad one, a dull one, but not a catastrophically bad one. I think I would probably have enjoyed this far more if it had been worse; there are moments of so-bad-it's-good comedy (especially if you teach your inner voice to read it like Gilbert Gottfried) and bits where you cringe at how James clearly thinks she's writing one thing and it comes out as quite another. But even those bits get tiresome after the sixtythird repetition and the whole thing becomes one long slog of... well, grey, I suppose.

    :star1: +

    But I'd be interested in hearing what others who read it and like it have to say.
     
  2. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    BeerGood, thanks for reading, writing and reporting -- your usual excellent review. I haven't gotten to the tedium yet, but did put aside a different romance novel (The White Rose by Jean Hanff Korelitz) which didn't seem too different. So I'll plow on in Grey and see if I can make it through. At least you are one of the people commenting here who have read it, so special thanks for that.
    Sincerely,
    Peder
     
  3. sparkchaser

    sparkchaser Administrator and Stuntman Staff Member

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    Aye.

    New rule: no commenting on a book unless you have read it.

    :lol:
     
  4. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Hopefully my reading the book -- I'm now on page 52 -- will permit me to quote a post by one luckywood on today's Guardian,

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books:

    "I always like reading a negative review that makes me really want to read the book."​

    Unfortunately not about 50 Shades, but relevant anyway. :D
     
  5. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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    Truth is, I don't know what all the Hoo-Ha is all about. I've read it, enjoyed it for what it is. A superficial and light interlude. It's here under "romance" and that's where it belongs. Romance is not my genre, not by a long shot but with all the hype (whatever the heck that is) I wanted to see for myself what it was.

    As far as I can tell, it hardly fits the usual BDSM stuff; the so-called contracts in the book nullify almost everything I'd understood to fall in that category. So, what's all the fuss about??

    A young and impressionable girl (I have to suppose there are some left in the world) meets someone with seemingly insurmountable problems. They try to sort it out...wait till the next book to see what comes of that. I strongly suspect that it will turn out to be a tale of redemption for the male protagonist. But maybe not.

    Happy Ending For All But Maybe Not.......

    Wow. :rolleyes:
     
  6. lenny nero

    lenny nero New Member

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  7. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Interim report.
    I have reached p124 and am enjoying the book. It is much more enjoyable than I might have expected from all the derogatory comments that I have seen. Since most negative comment has focused on supposedly atrocious unedited writing style, I have been surprised, specifically, that I haven't yet seen a doubled word, a misspelled word, or misuse of wrong homonyms (to/too, their/there etc) or other more general solecisms. The heroine's use of expletives is indeed from a rather limited vocabulary, beginning with "O crap," and going on to "O s--t" and occasionally "O f--k." But how many of us use a full literary complement of words in our arsenal of frustration and vary them from occasion to occasion to keep our language of frustration interesting and elevated for the benefit of our listeners? So the style hasn't been at all intrusive yet, as far as I am concerned. In the realm of suspended disbelief it is entirely plausible, consistent and in character. I would characterize the emotions of the heroine as "naive and adolescent," and that is the image the author intends even if it is a little young for a girl supposedly graduating from college.
    The characters have been introduced to the reader and we have now entered the phase of "rising action," after an overwhelming kiss with her pinned to the wall in an elevator, and a clear description of two amorous sessions of normal sex in bed in one night, her first sex ever. This is neither a sex manual nor a marriage manual in vocabulary or style, but I am sure that any reader with the imagination to find meaning in the written word, and a little experience, can have a full and satisyfing visual imagination of these events. The BDSM must be just around the corner, and I wait to see how that is handled. So far a consensual written contract prohibits excesses.
    More later.
     
  8. pontalba

    pontalba Well-Known Member

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  9. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Ah, at last an opinion/review which does not follow the thundering herd.
    I'm glad to see the use of the phrase "high brow," which is perhaps what most galls me most about the condescension and superiority that I see shining through most published reviews -- if indeed they are reviews, and not just derogatory expressions of opinion.
    For myself, I have reached p.250, and the book continues to be quite different from what most published commentary has led led me to expect.

    No BDSM yet, for example. Big surprise!

    Instead there is conflict. Conflict between what he wants (BDSM) and she does not want; and what she wants (love) and he does not want. In a classical five-part dramatic plot structure (introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution), I think I am exactly at the climax, where the issues between the protagonists have been joined, and the remainder of the book will describe how these conflicts are resolved. So, there is a decent plot structure and I don't insist on high-brow language to tell me what might be an interesting story. (So far I have only two "high-brow" word-choice grievances -- as in one, two.)
    Continuing on.
     
  10. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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    Just out of curiosity, if any critique of a book is either dismissable as too "high brow", or, as seems to be the case of every other critique (Fifty Shades Of Suck, Gilbert Gottfried) linked to in this thread, not "high brow" enough, what would be a reasonable level of critique? Or does the fact that a book is commercially successful render it immune to criticism?

    But nevermind, I didn't come back to this thread to ruin anyone else's enjoyment of the book, but to post this which I thought is interesting in terms of where publishing is at right now:

    Adventures In Trash: Fifty Things That Annoy Me About “Fifty Shades Of Grey” « Cassandra Parkin

    So to sum up:
    1. EL James posts Twilight fanfiction.
    2. She does a search-and-replace to change the names, and publishes it as an original novel in e-book format.
    3. Said novel is successful enough to get picked up by a publisher.
    4. A blogger posts an indepth critique of said novel.
    5. Said blog is successful enough to get picked up by a publisher.
    6. And so repeat ad infinitum.

    This isn't through the looking-glass, it's a hall of carnival mirrors. I really need to re-read The Glass Bead Game.
     
  11. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    BeerGood, I am not sure whether your question of curiosity is directed at me or not, since I don't think it includes any thoughts, words or ideas that I have expressed anyplace in this thread. But to clarify your thinking on the matter, I'll respond. It is not a question of high-brow or low-brow as you wish to frame it. It is a question of content.

    First of all, I think it is useful to distinguish between "reviews" and "opinions."

    I believe that a review of a book ought to include at least enough factual information about the book's content to enable a reader of the review to form their own opinion about whether they wish to read the book or not -- plus of course any other opinion or assessment of their own that the reviewer may desire to add.

    A piece consisting solely of opinions without objective information about the book is appropriately called an opinion piece, not a review, to my mind.

    An opinion piece containig only negative opinions is appropriately called derogatory, again in my opinion. Anyone is of course free to call such a piece a review if they wish. And we have seen many about this book.

    Finally, I strongly believe that ALL reviews, articles, and opinions are admissible, and that NO written words are immune to criticism; and I fail to see where you get opposite ideas from. To suggest through your question that I am trying to suppress free expression of thought, even disagreeing thought, is scurrilous.

    Please try to read what I write, not what you think I write. I choose my words carefully.

    Respectfully
    Peder
     
  12. canuck

    canuck Active Member

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    Not sure what the foregoing post was about and I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey but the reviews I have read in the newspapers we get have nothing positive to say about this book but it's at the top of the best seller fiction list. One reviewer stated quite strongly that it was poorly written. I'm surmising that curiosity about the suggested 'soft porn' content is maybe driving the sales. Not interested in reading it but have found the posts about it interesting. :)
     
  13. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Noted that you haven't read it. No problm there. Many haven't.
    Agreed that most reviews find nothing good to say about it.
    The fact that I take issue with the overwhelming negative majority seems to irritate some and give rise to the post of mine that you refer to..
     
  14. sparkchaser

    sparkchaser Administrator and Stuntman Staff Member

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    I think beer good's "highbrow" comment comes from the op-ed piece in pontalba's link which uses the word at least twice in the opening paragraphs.
     
  15. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Yes it does, Sparky, and I am and was aware of that when I posted.
     
  16. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    At p326 now, and there are a few new things worth comment.
    First, we are definitely into falling action now. The hallmark feature of the book, BDSM, has finally entered the plot. I find its depiction surprising but, then, I have no way of gauging its authenticity.
    Second, there is actual character development /gasp!/ -- the sine qua non of a novel -- by both principal characters. For these two reasons I have had to raise my suspension of disbelief up a notch to remain "in the plot."
    Third, the deafening roar of about ten thousand negative published comments has finally had an effect. Now, when I come across a "Holy cow!" exclamation, I hear ten thousand voices saying "See? See? See? That is horrible writing. The book has horrible style. We told ya so! You should not be wasting your time with it. There is so much better to read -- real quality literature. We wouldn't think of reading such a book, and we won't. See? See? See?" It is very distracting to try to read with that echoing crescendo ringing in my ears at every turn, especially when the language wouldn't bother me (for reason already stated). I am tempted to roll my eyes.
    Fourth. There continue to be unexpected plot and writing developments which I find interesting and which keep me going, in addition to my steely resolve.

    And, barring any further surprises, I fervently hope that my next status update will simply say "Finished."

    Cheers
    Peder
     
  17. sparkchaser

    sparkchaser Administrator and Stuntman Staff Member

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    Was the BDSM everything you had hoped it would be?

    Pay no attention to those voices in your head. ;)
     
  18. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    There was nothing in particular that I had hoped the BDSM would be. My main interest was in a book that seemed to be a publishing phenomenon and that everyone else dissed, whether they had read it or not.

    The voices in my head are where many fruitful ideas come from and get discussed. :innocent:

    Many thanks for your interest,
    Peder
     
  19. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    PS. Actually, while publication of the book may indeed be a publishing phenomenon, all of the comment about it is probably more accurately called a social phenomenon. And discussion of the book and of its criticism seem like two completely separate topics to me.
    Just a nit pick.
     
  20. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    "Finished!"

    All done,
    Over and out,
    Peder
     

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