I admit I did it. I fell prey to the craze and wandered into the bookstore to pick up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. I waited as long as I could before making the purchase because I did not want to financially support the enterprise, but alas, I was in need of an immediate beach read, so I caved.
I wanted to see what all the hype was about. Even though I hadn’t watched TV or picked up a newspaper (even an electronic one) in an embarrassingly long amount of time, I’d become privy to the fad. Everyone was talking about it; half of my friends, or their mothers—were reading it; facebook was blowing up with status updates about it, so I had to see what the big deal was.
For those of you who have been living in an isolated van somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness, the basic gist of the book is: girl meets boy (technically, a virgin college senior meets a really hot rich man); rich man says “I’m no good for you,” which only draws in the young woman “like a moth to a flame,” right into his kinky playroom of S&M devices; and the girl falls in love with him and struggles to determine whether or not she should sign a contract stating he is her master and she must follow his rules for at least three months (subject to contract renewal).
The summaries I’d been given before I bought it were along the lines of, “There’s this creepy, controlling man who makes the main character put kegal balls in her vajajay and fetch him water, or else he punishes her,” and I wondered what else must be going on to make this a #1 New York Times bestseller.
So, I bought it, expecting an “I can’t put it down” quality, and instead I found myself wanting to put my fist in my mouth and bite down like a rabid dog at the thought of continuing. It wasn’t that I found the book bad in the, “seriously disturbed sexual practices” way, but rather in the “how did this author get published?” kind of way. I know a lot of people enjoyed reading it and I mean them no disrespect, but I just couldn’t go through the experience without letting my voice be heard.
Therefore I have compiled a list, a la David Letterman:
Jenny’s Top 10 Reasons Fifty Shades of Grey is a Literary Turn-off.
10. It’s dedicated to Niall, “the master of my universe.”
If that doesn’t already make you want to roll your eyes (NO! NO! Don’t roll your eyes!), then proceed.
9. E L James writes in cliché.
She may as well have written a screenplay in which a repairman/police officer/delivery man comes to the door on a hot day only to find a glistening blonde in her underwear, fanning herself and feeling lonely. She’ll moan, “I’m so hot. Is there anything you can do?” and he’ll say, “I’m sure I can fix the problem—I am good with my hands,” and she’ll think, I bet that’s not all you’re good with, etc. etc.
8. She’s repetitive (and redundant!) She’s repetitive (and redundant!)
Twice in two pages, she gets “interrupted from her reverie,” and then again later in the book. Twice Anastasia refers to something as the “understatement of the year,” which is technically impossible unless the latter replaced the former.
Also, does Ana have a problem biting her lip? Or rolling her eyes? Or taming her hair into a ponytail, for which she’s always in need of a missing hair tie? How many times must she figure out, as if by revelation, “Christian wants me and I want him? Oh my. I affect him? Wow.” I want to beat her over the head with one of the overpriced gifts she refuses to accept. Then there’s Christian: he smells like body wash; he runs his hand through his hair; he’s going to bite her lip if she doesn’t stop; he says “Good girl” with annoying frequency. The list goes on.
7. Two chapters begin with Anastasia inside of a dream.
Please see #8 and #9.
6. James’ sense of time.
Grey and Ana place an order at a restaurant, and two lines of dialogue later, the waitress is delivering food. Has the author ever been to a restaurant before? Has she ever spoken before? Does she understand that there is no magical port where waitresses go to make food and drink appear in less than ten seconds?
5. Anastasia is never hungry.
This is not a complaint about James’ writing style as much as it is a complaint in Ana’s credibility as a human being. How can she NEVER have an appetite? She’s had twenty-three orgasms in one night, but all of a sudden she’s too nervous to eat? Puh-lease.
4. The ridiculous factor.
Grey gives Ana a laptop, and she constantly refers to it as the “mean machine.” “Let me fire up the mean machine.” “Let me check the mean machine to see if Christian emailed me at my very own email address.” SPEAKING OF: what college senior has never had her own email address? Even if she’d grown up in the Amish boondocks of Pennsylvania, she would have at least had an email account from the university.
3. The inner goddess.
The inner goddess is an imaginary internal character referenced throughout the novel, usually in the midst of a sex scene or serious conversation, with excessive personification. “My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.” “My inner goddess has stopped dancing and is staring, too, open-mouthed and drooling slightly.” “My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently.” “My inner goddess is spinning like a world-class ballerina, pirouette after pirouette.” Ana’s subconscious works the same way, but is more of a prude.
2. The cheese factor.
[In the midst of giving a BJ]: “He’s my very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle.”
“’Are you hungry, Anastasia?’”
“Not for food.”
[Grey tells Ana he’s going to make love to her “as a means to an end”]:
“I flush…oh my…wishes do come true.”
“He looks at me appraisingly. ‘Well, you get an A in oral skills. Come, let’s go to bed. I owe you another orgasm.’
Orgasm! Another one!”
[Upon reading a letter from him]: “Make our agreement a year? I have the power! Jeez, I’m going to have to think about that. Take him literally, that’s what my mother says. He doesn’t want to lose me. He’s said that twice! He wants to make this work, too. Oh Christian, so do I!”
[For once, Anastasia actually eats something, and does so quickly.]
“’Eager as ever, Miss Steele?’ he smiles down at my empty plate.
I look at him from beneath my lashes.
‘Yes,’ I whisper.”
AND THE NUMBER ONE REASON WHY FIFTY SHADES OF GREY IS A LITERARY TURN OFF IS…
1. Attribution insanity!
Someone must have scarred James into thinking she must NEVER allow a character to say something because it’s always a: murmur, mutter, whisper, beg, gasp, breathe, chide, whimper, stutter, groan, yell, stammer, order, bark, groan, OR no attribution at all. HEAVEN FORBID one of her characters “said” something.
Therefore, I have come up with the 50 Shades of Attribution Challenge!
I challenge you, if you read this book, to underline every time someone whispers something. I won’t even open it up to murmurs, breathes, utters, etc.—just “whisper.” And think about it, really think about it: how often in life are you whispering? And would you ever whisper the sentence: “Is that all you want me for—my body?” (Whisper it to yourself right now and see.) No one does that! Yet the whole book is riddled with whispers.
NOT TO MENTION: At one point James writes that a waitress whispers!
“Is there anything else I can get you?” she whispered.
Have you ever had a waitress whisper to you? (considering she’s not sitting on your lap gyrating, and is actually a waitress). No. NO. Because people don’t walk around whispering unless they’ve lost their voice, or are in church, or are trying not to wake people in a communal sleeping arrangement.
While on the beach, a wave drowned my chair, my towel, and my copy of 50 Shades of Grey. My inner goddess was last seen leaping up and down, fist pumping into the sea.