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Fifty shades of … grump

Inexplicably, it has become a publishing phenomenon.

Like Twilight did.

I really like what author Stephen King had to say about Twilight.  Have you seen it?  He said, “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”

I really can’t comment as I didn’t read the Twilight books and I haven’t seen the movies.

The author of Twilight is supposed to have had a dream, and when she woke up she wrote what is now Chapter 13 of the first book.  It grew from there.

An inauspicious beginning.

I am generally suspicious of books that take the publishing world by storm – I have read the Harry Potter series, but not Twilight, not The Hunger Games, not The Girl with any kind of Tattoo.

And I haven’t read Fifty Shades of …

Except for the excerpts available from Amazon.

I thought I’d see what the fuss was about.  I wish I hadn’t bothered.

You know how repetition is great in children’s books?  Susan Gannon, writing in 1987, claimed that “repetition is one of the most familiar features of children’s literature. It clarifies the structure of narrative for young readers, and helps them to remember what they have read. It adds rhythm and the mysterious charm of ritual to the simplest of verbal formulas. It offers the pleasure of extended suspense and delayed gratification to even the youngest audience” (p. 2).

But it’s one thing that rubs me up the wrong in writing for adults. The writing gets so boring, the author appears unimaginative, and I’m left wondering why this book has become a best seller.  The female lead, a stumbling, bumbling young thing (oh, for goodness sake, pick your feet up), “sprawls” into what’s-his-name’s office (who does that?) only to find that what’s-his-name is some sort of demi-god who came off the set of a Robert Palmer music video (except in the video all the clones have dark hair).

Here’s what another reviewer found (I wish I’d read this before I read the excerpt): “And oh, the repetition…and the repetition…and the repetition. I’m convinced the author has a computer macro that she hits to insert one of her limited repertoire of facial expressions whenever she needs one. According to my Kindle search function, characters roll their eyes 41 times, Ana bites her lip 35 times, Christian’s lips “quirk up” 16 times, Christian “cocks his head to one side” 17 times, characters “purse” their lips 15 times, and characters raise their eyebrows a whopping 50 times. Add to that 80 references to Ana’s anthropomorphic “subconscious” (which also rolls its eyes and purses its lips, by the way), 58 references to Ana’s “inner goddess,” and 92 repetitions of Ana saying some form of “oh crap” (which, depending on the severity of the circumstances, can be intensified to “holy crap,” “double crap,” or the ultimate “triple crap”). … She “blushes” or “flushes” 125 times, including 13 that are “scarlet,” 6 that are “crimson,” and one that is “stars and stripes red.” (I can’t even imagine.) Ana “peeks up” at Christian 13 times, and there are 9 references to Christian’s “hooded eyes,” 7 to his “long index finger,” and 25 to how “hot” he is (including four recurrences of the epic declarative sentence “He’s so freaking hot.”). Christian’s “mouth presses into a hard line” 10 times. Characters “murmur” 199 times, “mutter” 49 times, and “whisper” 195 times (doesn’t anyone just talk?), “clamber” on/in/out of things 21 times, and “smirk” 34 times. Christian and Ana also “gasp” 46 times and experience 18 “breath hitches,” suggesting a need for prompt intervention by paramedics. Finally, in a remarkable bit of symmetry, our hero and heroine exchange 124 “grins” and 124 “frowns”…

That’s a lot of repetition.

A lot.

Too much.

It annoyed me.  It annoyed a lot of people.

My question is: why didn’t it annoy more people?  Why didn’t it annoy everyone who read the book?  Who went on to read more than one, because apparently, there’s more than one?

Apart from the repetition, the other thing I didn’t like about what I read was the detail.  Do we have to know that they walked down the street and waited at the corner for the man to go green before they could cross?  It’s so pedestrian.  Writing that goes into that much detail about really mundane things says to me that the author is unsure of how to build tension.  Without tension there is no story (I am a drama teacher still).  I don’t know if any tension was created in the rest of the book, but I didn’t become interested enough in the bit I read to want to find out. That’s poor writing. “I can’t imagine what fans are comparing this to when they describe this as “good”(Amazon reviewer, with whom I happen to agree).

So, the upshot is, as my fingers move slowly across the keyboard, clicking the ‘a’  key before moving on to press the ‘s’ key and then pushing the space bar to create a space between one word and the next, then clicking the ‘m’ key before moving on to press the ‘y’ key and then pushing the space bar to create a space between one word and the next … the upshot is, I won’t be buying the book and I’ll be left wondering why it has become a best seller and why (when there is so much other material around in the genre – just look on any service station magazine shelf) the movie rights are expected to cost $5 million dollars.

I know I sound like a grumpy old lady (oh, don’t they drive you mad!) but that’s what happens when I read poorly written, repetitive stories, that try to cross Pretty Woman with a men’s magazine (and don’t do it very well).

It isn’t literature.

I’m not even sure why it’s read.

Author:

I like to travel and take photographs. I like to blog about both.

18 thoughts on “Fifty shades of … grump

    1. No worries Melissa. Despite my grumpiness about the poor writing in the few chapters I read, many others have read it and enjoyed it, so don’t let my review put you off if you’re in the mood for a story about a stumbling college student and a demi-god. 🙂

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  1. Don’t blog on something you haven’t read is my opinion! Try recording everything you say/blog and see how many words you repeat…. It’s part of what makes us unique and familiar to our friends/relatives (they can imagine what we might say, even if we weren’t there!) I loved Anastasia’s inner goddesses viewpoint/conflicting thoughts and at $10 dollars a book, found all three books valuable and though-provoking entertainment!

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    1. I just want to point out that I only commented on what I had read. In the four chapters I read, the repetition and poor quality of the writing struck me and meant that I wasn’t inclined to read any further. It was this I commented on.

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  2. I also read all three books – actually in the space of two weeks in the last school holidays, between uni semesters. I agree, the books aren’t well written and they are repetitive, however, for me they were easy reading, a glance into what was for me an imaginary world, and a welcome break from academic uni reading. At times, an easy read with no need to analyse, is exactly what I’m looking for…..

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    1. Thank you for your comment Andrea. It puts another perspective on the question of why we read what we read, and the need for escape into a book … sometimes it doesn’t matter what that book is. Happy reading 🙂

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  3. Once again great writing Sharon, I thoroughly enjoy reading your blogs. I’d like to offer a different perspective on this. I too was incredibly skeptical to read this book, however I have read all three in the series. When I first started it, even then I thought I wasnt going to be able to read the whole thing. Yes there is a lot of repetition in the first book and in all honesty it annoyed me at times too, but I, like many others, got completely sucked into the story. The second and third book are a lot better than the first. It is erotic, yes. Not nearly as erotic as some have described though. I have also read twilight and loved those. I like these stories, simple as that.Thats not to say I dont like other wonderful books too. I understand that a lot of people dont want to read this book and believe it to be literacy rubbish (one of these is a friend of mine) thats fine, dont read it. It’s hard to have an opinion of something that has not been read though.
    Just my two cents worth from having read the books and having an informed opinion. Hopefully there are some others out there who have also enjoyed the books and I wont be left as a lone soldier here. LOL.

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    1. Hi Kylie, I’m a bit surprised that no discussion has taken place about this series on the MyLO unit!! It’s the kind of book that will lead to a lot of discussion, and we could focus on all kinds of things (although not the subject matter perhaps), but the language features, and the way the author positions the reader. I’m sure that would take all the fun out of reading it though, so I won’t recommend that we do that!!
      I don’t mind reading a wide variety of books, but I do dislike poor writing. I don’t think there’s an excuse for it, given that each author has an editor, and that’s supposed to be his/her job. So I’m not commenting on the subject matter, just that the poor writing turned me off.
      Perhaps I just need to get over myself! 🙂

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  4. I can’t understand, in this day and age, why it is seen as somethng so incredibly risque and provocative?!? A sex tape can get you instant celebrity, a fascination with smut texting a bevy of women has you anointed a legend and a frisky prince romping nude with a bunch of buxom lovelies is treated as a joke. So why does this book seem to be viewed as so terribly risque?

    It can’t be said such a book is original! I can remember reading ‘The Story of O’ and ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ and ‘Lolita’ – well, what can you say?

    I think this is so successful because it is “Noice…it’s unewsual….it’s different’ and can be bought at any good book store such as Big W or Target for less than ten bucks …………. instant ‘cool’!

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    1. Hi Wendy … I can’t comment on the risque nature of the book because I didn’t get that far. I guess it’s the same for everything we choose to read/view/listen to. Some people like to listen to Country music while others will only listen to classical; some people like to read Playboy while others would rather read Smith (the journal); some people enjoy watching horror films while others are into French cinema. So it’s horses for courses I guess.

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  5. well said Sharon…as usual! I too have read reviews and decided not to bother going any further and am also very suspicious of something that takes ‘the world by storm’. There are too many other things I WANTto read!

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  6. I was equally baffled by it’s acclaim, Sharon. I started reading it – even suggested it to my book club – until I got about 2 chapters in and realised just…how…bad it was. However, I have come up with theory as to the cause of it’s popularity – People become hooked on trash.

    They read 50 Shades for the same reason people religiously watch Neighbours, Home and Away, Days of Our Lives and all the other nonsense, no plot drivel that makes it onto our TV and theatre screens. So, what is the actual name for “that thing that makes people love crap”?

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    1. “Real life” is the name for it, I think Jen. Our lives are so hectic and busy and there’s a war on somewhere and children are dying of hunger somewhere else, and the coffee at the cafe isn’t terribly good and so we need an escape. This is one reason why people escape into books. And from what I read of it, this book doesn’t require much intellectual activity … but I imagine it’s good for escaping into. I heard someone the other day describe their baby as a ‘Fifty shades’ baby. She hasn’t had it yet, but it’s possibly not something we need to dwell on!!

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  7. I have not read it. I will not read it. Do I need to follow suite? I don’t think so. The only discovery I made was that friends that do not normally read all of a sudden are! Sterotyping I think its called. Thanks for sharing, thought I was the only one that saw red.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Ingrid. I guess we all like different things and if poorly-written, repetitious erotica (supposedly, I didn’t get that far into the book) is your bag, then you’ll enjoy it, but if it isn’t then it’s probably best to leave it on the shelf.

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