… despite how much I may deride 50 Shades of Grey, I’ve still read it. It’s bad. I read it because it’s so very bad that it’s almost fun to read it to find out how bad it is. Now I know opinion is divided. There’s those who enjoy the romance between an improbably pert under-eating post-teen and an improbably rich and weird 27 year old with grey eyes, and then there’s those people like me.
I read it because I thought it was a sex book. There. I confess. I thought it would be a dirty book. It wasn’t. It’s as dirty as … well … something not dirty at all. It’s as raunchy as Harry Potter. I.e. not raunchy at all. Strangely, a boy magician whose parents were killed by a dark lord is more probable to me than 50 Shades.
And the sex is… well… not very sexy. There’s all this promise of bondage and submission, and then there isn’t any. It’s like picking up a copy of the Marquis de Sade and realising it’s a poor Mills-and-Boon plot. Complicated, difficult and dark men are not interesting to me. I’d rather have an uncomplicated, straightforward man who’s got past all his hang-ups.
So if it’s not a sex book, all that’s left is a romance and some bad writing. The bad writing gets on my nerves. It’s all ‘Oh My!’ and ‘Jeez’ and improbable and unrealistic things that nobody in real life would ever say. Even, I suspect, in BDSM relationships, nobody still calls each other Miss X or Mr Y after a couple of sessions at it, if there’s not been any actual BDSM. It’s how I used to speak to other teachers in the corridor when I didn’t want 50 tittering teenagers saying ‘Mr Bennett’s called Gordon!’ and then shouting out ‘Gordon!’ at every opportunity.
The names are vastly improbable, in a kind of Dynasty-esque way. Who on earth is called Anastasia? What parent gives their child such a pretentious name unless they are either a) heiress to a small Russian empire or b) a chav or c) an aspiring wannabe upper-classer. And if they were called Steele, who’d call them Anastasia?! Christian Grey with his ‘gray’ eyes and gray suits. It’s all just a bit bleurgh for me. Even Krystle Carrington had a more probable name. In fact, come to think of it, the whole book reads like a Dallas/Dynasty sub-plot with one of the unbearably handsome yet sexually confused sons, like Adam or Stephen, or whatever he was called. Dack Rambo in Dallas had a more probable name.
Another of the highly annoying things is José Rodriguez with his improbable ‘Dios mio’ all the time.
And let’s not get started on what an implausible BDSM scenario it is.
In fact, the book references Jane Eyre a few times and I think this is the Mr. Rochester.
Frankly, I’ve always thought Mr Rochester was a dick. Any man who’d lock a woman in an attic deserves his house burning down. When Jane Eyre says ‘Reader, I married him.’ – never has a line disappointed me so. If she’d said ‘Reader, I took him to task for locking Bertha in the attic and stabbed him with a 10-inch fillet knife’… now that would have been a satisfactory ending.
I don’t feel quite so aggressive towards Mr Grey. He doesn’t lock anyone up – at least not without an NDA and a signed document as to who can do what to whom. And even then he doesn’t, at least in the first book. But he’s just so bleurgh, especially with his ‘feeder’ tendencies which all feel a little weird.
But one thing is true: you cannot accuse the Brontes of writing badly. E L James – not even in the same league.
So I read the first. It was titillatingly bad. I started the second but I’m never going to finish it, I can tell.
Now I know some of my friends like this book a great deal, and kept taking it to bed with them. I suspect maybe they need to get a Jilly Cooper or a Danielle Steele or a Jackie Collins if they want a good bonkbuster, and something with a black cover by Nexus if they want something more titillating. And if they want the romance? Why, Mills and Boon are still going strong!
It is kind of strangely fascinating, it must be said. It’s kind of like reading Samantha Brick’s stuff.
In fact, Ms. Brick says that, Heaven knows she’s not a prude, because she lives in France, but it’s not her cup of tea.
It’s not mine either. Not because I’m a prude (I don’t think most prudes would be much offended by the book… Judy Blume was more salacious) but because I like to read good writing. And this isn’t it.
So I’m sorry to those friends who’ve read all three and enjoyed them. Maybe you can explain the virtues of it to me. So far, it all feels a bit ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ to me. Like The Blair Witch Project – that other ‘so bad it’s laughable’ over-hyped sensation, I’m glad I’ve experienced it. I wouldn’t want not to. At least I can bitch about it with authority, unlike Ms. Brick.
I also take issue with the ‘hitting’ rather than spanking, caning etc. Hitting isn’t what happens in a BDSM relationship. Hitting is what bad men do. This is the problem with discipline – there’s a line between ‘punishment’ and violence. And the writer is confused about it. One is a wife-beater, the other is a perv with some less than vanilla tendencies.
This is part of the problem, though, because discipline is actually still punishable by law, even between two consenting adults, even with a contract, because some people don’t know the difference between punishment with a sexual overtone in a clear D/S relationship, and violence. And D/S isn’t about violence and brutality, not until you get to the far end of the spectrum with dominants who are just cruel. In 90% of the D/S world, the discipline is as pleasurable for the submissive as it is for the dominant, and in the real world, the sub is in charge because the sub is the one who can say stop. There’s a difference between the two that the writer hasn’t got. In fact, book 1 ends with her leaving him because he hit her. When I get into it, I’m not entirely sure I like the connotations. Either he’s violent and doesn’t care about his sub, or he’s in control and cares about her, in which case, the final events of the book would never have happened. Again. It’s improbable. Most violent thugs who can’t restrain themselves don’t have the wherewithal to be a dominant, because what sub would consent? If you know someone can’t control themselves, well, you definitely don’t want them spanking you or tying you to a frame and controlling your breathing through a straw!
And yet, despite this backdrop and heavily-hinted-at subplot, it’s strange for a book about submission that you can get to the end of it and not have had any actual submission. That’s like reading the Bible and not having anything about God in there. A bit disappointing.