Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Fifty Shades Trilogy...Not quite What It Should Be

 I have been working on trying to keep up with everyone else out there in Bookland (not an easy thing to do with so much new material out there), so when I saw a partial review of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E.L. James (the latest hot thing going) I thought I would get right on that and see what all the fuss was about.
I don't like to see reviews before I have read a new book,  I'd rather find out about it for myself, make an unbiased first impression and then read what other people think of it ( there is a lot of entertainment value to be had with that, I promise).  I have also always had an issue with the reviewer who just basically sums up the whole book for you and writes maybe a sentence or two about what they thought and if they liked it or not.  I dislike even more the people who read those kinds of reviews and decide not to read the book because of it.  It's not only really tedious to read such reviews but frustrating as well.  How could anyone but myself really know if I would like something or not?  It's ridiculous (and unfair to the author).
Since Twilight by Stephenie Meyer was mentioned in the little snippet of  review I saw, I thought that I would do this properly by going back and re-reading the Twilight Saga (along with all of those other little tidbits of writing you can find on her website here: Stephenie Meyer ).  I really recommend that you do this first before delving into Fifty Shades because it really will enhance your overall entertainment value (trust me).  In a way, reading through the trilogy was like an I-Spy book for adults... a spot the Bella, Edward or someone else from Twilght reference, as well as lines, words that stick out, and behaviours (don't worry... I won't point them out for you, it really is loads of fun to find them all for yourself!).  You won't have to wait long!  The very first Twilight-isms are in the opening paragraph. 

Like Twilight, I have re-read this trilogy a few times now... for the same reasons.  While I liked the story, there is something I am struggling to understand, and haven't quite figured out yet.  I need to know why these books are such a huge success.  It is a fascinating study.  I can see the basic lure  in each story, and if I go to what I think of as the best romantic story there is (in my opinion), Pride and Predjudice by Jane Austen, I can find similar elements there as well (we all know Meyer did borrow from Austen in this regard as well as other authors for each of her books using them as an underlying theme for each book, though not taking directly from them as E.L.James did).  We have our first impressions (that essential first meeting), the main issues/predjudices to overcome and then the reward of our two lovers finally getting together and the satisfying conclusion of living happily ever after.  These are the basics, and I love a good romance.  In my life I have been fortunate to have already read some really beautiful  love stories, with great characters that were intelligent and interesting personalities, and intensely romantic ones both of which are beguiling prerequisites for a good romantic novel, so I have some high expectations for what I consider a well written romantic novel.  Twilight wasn't written for adults, I think that critics forget that sometimes, and I haven't agreed with most of the complaints against it.   As far as relationship literature goes, Twilight is on a higher level compared to the Mills and Boon tripe that I read in my teens.  I like Twilight for this reason as it not only features good, strong characters with good morals, but also does a push for classic literature.  I cannot help but wonder how many girls out there after reading Twilight went out and read their first ever Jane Austen novel? 

Fifty Shades is the 'grown-up' version of Twilight (and a badly summarized version,) with lots of stuff taken from Twilight but arranged in different order from the original... a trick I used to do in school when I had to write a summary on something and my teacher would say "in your own words" so I would just mix the order up to make it seem like it was my own work.    We don't have vampires, or other mythical creatures, instead we have a porn book (though I am extremely grateful that James decided on some more tasteful alternatives to the usual 'cock and pussy' labels because I probably would have put the book down after the first couple of chapters), with a BDSM theme.  I must say that I am worried about this, because young Twilight fans out there will want to read this, and I hate to think of someone like my niece or my friend's daughters reading this.  Easy access to the internet means easy access to this.   Which leads me on to my next concern, the quality of the writing involved.  After my first read through I was really puzzled.  There are so many mistakes in the text!  It was my husband who informed me that this was deliberate, that the publishing company who bought these books did not want to change it in any way (because it was so popular the way it was).   This really has me worried.  What will this do to the standards already set in place in the publishing industry?  What will this do to future literature?   I heard that when E.L. James was asked about this issue in an interview  she responded by saying that great writers like Mark Twain and William Shakespeare didn't use editors.  What does this mean?  Does she think that she is as great as them? Is she arrogant or just ignorant?  Or both?  I don't really think that she meant it that way, and I suspect that she has been getting lots of questions about the quality of her work... it's just a really unfortunate choice for a rebuttal.   I suggest that both Shakespeare and Twain did a great deal of self-editing, that they did a great job of it, and that it is not really a relevant statement to make about works that were written in past centuries, and that in this century there are established standards, requirements, and procedures which are more appropriate to today's works of literature.  It's also really unfair to established writers who have done the hard work and have earnt their success.

Lastly, I want to say that I did like this story.  It has great potential to be one of those great romances in a modern setting.  I wish that this trilogy of books had been edited.  There is too much there that really isn't necessary (let's cut out 95% of the sex okay? ...and those long strings of one word sentences, I mean, come on!) is just annoying and slightly painful (and not in a sexy BDSM way).

  I am reminded of a quote by C.S.Lewis: "Don't use words too big for the subject.  Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very', otherwise you'll have no words left when you want to talk about something really infinite".

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