Fifty Shades of Meh

The book Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James seems to have become a cultural phenomenon. So much so that they made a movie out of it. So I decided to read it to see what all the fuss was about.

What a disappointment.

First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, I do love erotica when it’s well written. I actually read a ton of it, mostly in short story form. But this book is not well written. Not at all.

I think this book’s popularity stems solely from the titillation factor. You’re reading something that many view as forbidden. You’re being scandalous. But ladies, I’m here to tell you there is much, MUCH, better stuff out there, and it’s free on dozens of websites. Yes, you’ll have to wade through about 10 miles of yuck to find it, during which time you’ll get a really strong sense of exactly what will turn you off, but once you find the type of thing that works for you, this book will make you laugh, it’s so amateur.

The most frustrating thing I encounter in bad writing is that the authors tend to make the same point over and over again. Have faith in your readers. They’ll get it without you having to beat them about the head and shoulders. This concept seems to be utterly lost on Ms. James. For example, she wants you to know that Anastasia feels uncomfortable and disconcerted around Christian, and she must point that out approximately 50 times in the first chapter alone. I wanted to scream.

She also uses an annoying literary device. It seems Anastasia has an “inner goddess” who pole vaults, does the merengue, peeks from behind couches, and covers her eyes in reaction to Anastasia’s latest actions or comments. She also has a subconscious, and it’s cruel, hostile and a downright bully. If my subconscious thought so little of me, I’d be in a straitjacket somewhere.

The reason erotica is better in short story form is that it requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief. You can only maintain that for so long. Christian may be fantastic in bed, but he’s also incapable if genuine intimacy, a stalker, a control freak, extremely moody, jealous, and easy to anger, likes to inflict pain, has major issues with commitment, and demands that everything be in writing. And we’re expected to believe, for the length of a novel, that Anastasia is madly in love with him.

Sorry, I don’t buy it. And I wouldn’t buy the book. The only redeeming factor in the entire read is that (spoiler alert!) she leaves him in the end. But there are sequels that I refuse to subject myself to, and based on the plot summaries in Wikipedia, I know that her rare moment of common sense doesn’t last. Lord knows why.

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14 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Meh

  1. I read it because I like to have my own opinions on things and OMG. It killed so many braincells, I’m still recovering. The fact that the book stemmed from fan fiction of the Twilight series (which I’ve also read) should be warning enough but it actually makes Twilight seem like one of the great Literature classics. It is not only bad written (I think her editor gave up on even trying to edit it) but some things don’t even make sense. Like the fact that she looks at Christian through her eyelashes or that his pants hang off from his hips in THAT way (as opposed to what? His elbows?). My blood boils whenever someone mentions the topic – Christian is a horrible person to be with – a book I would give women as examples of what sort of man NOT to date. I’m glad I’m not the only one who things so. Erotica wise, there’s nothing erotic about it. Also, bad news, she leaves him for exactly 18 hours 😐

    1. Yes! The eyelashes and the hips thing bugged me almost as much as the inner goddess did! But the thing that makes the least sense of all is why this book is so popular and why anyone on earth would bother to read book two.
      I hope you get those brain cells back. You have an amazing brain. 🙂

      1. You think the inner goddess is bad, you should read an excerpt from Grey (the totally pointless book of THE EXACT SAME STORY but through his eyes). He has something better than an inner goddess. His penis! GOD!

  2. Seattle Park Lover

    I haven’t read the book because the story isn’t my cup of tea anyway. But I have read excerpts online and have been appalled at the atrocious writing. Leaving aside the whole celebrating an abusive relationship thing, it irks me to no end that James is getting filthy rich from such badly written dreck.

    Repetitiveness is one of my pet peeves too. Even authors that I really enjoy are sometimes prone to it, and it drives me nuts. Like you said, authors should trust their readers more. We not only remember important stuff, but can usually grasp it when those important things are revealed more subtly. I find it much more enjoyable when I have an aha moment about a character or the plot because I’ve put things together myself from clues the author has been dropping, rather than having it bluntly spelled out for me.

  3. Angiportus

    It was another one of those books that I’d heard enough about to know I didn’t want to waste my time with…apart from I am not much into erotica/porn to start with. The reference to the subconscious is particularly offputting….I’ve seen this concept used to gaslight people with, to tell them they really want something they know darn well they don’t, and that kind of gas makes me want to strike a match. As a matter of fact, the time someone did it to me, the result was quite similar to the meeting of an open flame with an LPG spill.
    The tip about repetitiveness seems related to “show, don’t tell”.

    1. Show, don’t tell, is excellent advice indeed. And the subconscious in this book is extremely hostile. It’s clear that her subconscious thinks she’s stupid, annoying, frustrating, untrustworthy, and utterly beneath contempt. How would you like having THAT inside your head? No wonder she thinks an abusive relationship means love.

  4. Angiportus

    One good thing did come out of it…a while back, the local paper had a story about a whale, and it was titled “Fifty Feet of Gray”.

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