It’s VERY easy to criticize the writings of others, and while I try to keep such things to a minimum, the recent success of Fifty Shades of Grey makes it almost impossible not to go a little snark raving mad on the subject:
NOTE: Possible spoilers ahead in this post, although I can’t imagine not being able to figure out the entire plot within the first couple of chapters.
- Product Placement: Really, does every aspect of one’s life need to be associated with a specific brand? Did Volvo, Saab, and Twining’s Tea pay author E.L. James to mention them over…and over…and over again? [Sidebar: Nothing wrong with Twining’s, but it can hardly be classified as a “fine” tea and reading Ana’s smug comments about “inferior teas” made her seem even younger and more stupid than usual.]
- The Title: actually strangely apropos for another reason, besides a play on words about the hero’s name/eyes*/personality issues: ANYTHING–even erotica–described in such endless detail, becomes pretty gray after a while. Who can even distinguish between pages and episodes when it’s all exactly the same except for a few titillating descriptions of products and positioning. The old maxim that “all cats are gray at night” is never more true than here! [Sidebar: for a slightly more interesting take on the topic, check out The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, written by author Anne Rice under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure.]
- Character Development: Slim, at best, and everyone in the entire series is a caricature of HERO/DISNEY PRINCESS/VILLAIN/SIDEKICK/EVIL QUEEN. Really, Ms. James, can’t we have some reason to care about these folks?
- Skim Factor: I read each of the three books with increasing speed. By the end of the third, I was speed-skimming to see how it came out, which was almost exactly as I expected.
- Gazillionaire Factor: Christian Grey is painted as a driven, almost-workaholic type who’s good at reading trends, etc. If he’d been a truck driver or a teacher or software programmer–with a more normal paycheck and a supervisor at work and a more mundane wardrobe–would he have been as interesting? Of course not! Since this is escapist fiction, it’s okay to have him be a gazillionaire, but a more average man who indulged in such “activities” is usually branded a freak, not an erotic entrepreneur…
- Inner Goddess: Ana’s IG has to be the most irritating version ever. Almost as irritating as Ana herself–hey, wait! They’re a perfect match. They deserve each other!
- Lame Writing: Aside from the erotic aspects of the story, the author indulges in way too many adverbs (a freshman-level writing problem) and relies on telling things in excruciating detail rather than allowing the reader to understand the situation through skillful writing that leaves *something* to the imagination.
- The Relationship: Several reviews indicate that while erotica is the hook for the book, what many readers love is the intimate emotional relationship between Ana and Christian. Are you kidding me? How can a troubled control freak and a whiny baby have any sort of meaningful emotional relationship? They’re about as interesting as a light switch: On, off. On, off. On, off. On.
- The Big Switcheroo: Christian’s been practicing his little games for a number of years without incident. All of a sudden, after meeting the incredibly irritating Ana, he changes his entire M.O. and never really looks back? Again, this is escapist fiction, but when it wobbles so far off the tracks of reality, it loses what little credibility it might have had.
- Wasted Days/Wasted Nights: I resisted reading these books for quite some time, then finally borrowed them from a friend. I’m grateful I didn’t spend $$ on them, but I sometimes wish I could redeem the time I spent reading them…
On a more positive note, kudos to E.L. James for having produced a series of self-published books that should keep her well-to-do for the rest of her days–and movie rights that should keep her entire clan well-to-do for generations! Gotta admire that–she found a way to tap into something that a huge number of people wanted and were willing to pay for, and for that she gets an A+. (Her writing, however, gets a C-, and that’s being generous because I admire her effort!)
*I’ve never met anyone with truly gray eyes. They are SUCH a device of fiction that it’s hard to believe anyone has them, but I’ll continue to be on the lookout…