Warning: Content may be borderline spoiler-y. I will put the review behind a read more link below the image SOLELY because I’m trying to be considerate of those among us who want to read this dribble.
So I’m writing a romance novel. Sort of. But before you write for a genre, you have to at least read it. And additionally, why write something within a genre you hate, right? (It does make sense. I mean, if you want to write something good, you should actually like what you’re doing.) I want to write good romance, because I like good romance, but romantic fiction is an expansive field, so sometimes you have to dig through a lot of shit before you hit gold. You start at the popular stuff and burrow, hoping to find an entire t-rex carcass packed beneath the dirt.
I started digging and I hit petrified shit.
50 Shades of Grey became this INCREDIBLE phenomenon around April, and is a published work that originated as Twilight fanfiction. For my first fifty pages or so, I didn’t quite realize until some things (“Damn it, I was biting my lip AGAIN. For the BILLIONTH TIME BECAUSE LIP-BITING IS THE ONLY PHYSICAL ACTION I CAN PERFORM WITHOUT STUMBLING… most of the time.”) started popping up. And then the internet research said, “Oh yeah, by the way…”
Still, the publisher said the book “bore very little resemblance to Twilight!” Given that, I –tried- to put the story’s origins out of my mind, so as not to be biased in my reading.
I probably wouldn’t have bothered writing this if I had failed. I am definitely biased… because one of the most singular things E.L. James did well was encapsulate Stephanie Meyer’s loathsome, insipid characters within Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. (And let me just say: from the beginning, I did think the name “Anastasia Rose Steele” sounded stupid.)
I’m not going to give you my standard mile-long review where I pick over every point. Instead, I’m going to give you the niblet version: my tweets while I read the book. So just in case you missed all of them, you can now read the entirety of Sugarcunt’s #50ShadesOfBullshit tweets from start to finish. For the sake of brevity, I’ll remove my hash tag from these quotations.
Why writers should do research for their books, and avoid nonsensical clichés:
Wait, I’m sorry, a laptop with 32GB of RAM? HAHA. This woman is killing me. And “steel encased in velvet”? Shut up.
On Ana’s living habits:
Why doesn’t this bitch ever eat? Is that explained, or is it mentioned every 10 pages to encourage women to eat less?
On things that were cute before being repeated 40 times:
I liked the first inner goddess joke, but after ten, it’s old. She’s practically a secondary character.
Because I think she’s stupid:
You’re concentrating hard on putting a condom on him? Is that level of fine motor control too challenging, klutz?
On 50 Shades of Grey’s version of consent:
Pretty sure that liquoring her up to lower her inhibitions is not the same as getting informed consent… creep.
On a lack of realism:
What is this fixation with simultaneous, purely internal orgasm?
Reality check about a 50 Shades sex life:
And furthermore, since she comes so quickly and he goes with her, they only fuck for like five minutes. Hawt, guize.
The only tweet by another person that will be featured here. @Rliyen said:
@SugarCunt The Marquis de Sade wrote better porn.
My response to that:
@Rliyen I have masturbated to parts of 120 Days of Sodom. I have not masturbated to this.
On community reactions:
Bahaha, the most recent Goodreads review by Alicia. http://bit.ly/ed8jLw
On why colleges utilize TurnItIn.com:
On real love and loathing:
I totally get how someone can immediately and unconditionally fall for some abnormally clumsy whiner. </sarcasm>
On healthy relationships:
The blazing mutual jealousy in this relationship sure is giving me a healthy relationship model to fantasize about.
On women who apparently don’t want what they say they want:
“Damn control freak bastard.” BITCH YOU SAID YOU WISHED HE WAS THERE AND YOU KNOW HE FOLLOWS YOU. Which isn’t creepy.
On proving your love:
“I don’t think he loves me” You’re right, his emotional confessions & willingness to travel to see you aren’t enough.
On performing JRPG moves in sex:
“I can feel myself quicken.” What does that even MEAN? Your breath? Isn’t quickening a move in Final Fantasy?
On being cockteased by a book:
“Everything ignites inside me.” Bitch, unless you spontaneously combust in the next paragraph, shut up.
On déjà vu:
“He’s such an an enigma.” “I’ve never met anyone like you, Ana.” You two fuckfaces aren’t unique, I saw you in Twilight
On TWU WUV:
“I love this man, his passion, my effect on him, that he flew to see me and cares.” Ok, but what do you like about HIM?
On what I learned:
I don’t have to like him as a person as long as he pays attention to me. More lessons from
On torturing oneself just to feed one’s neuroses:
“Are we taking tens, hundreds, thousands [of sexual partners]?” Does it matter beyond fueling your neurotic jealousy?
On the protagonists’ stance on sex work:
“I’ve paid for sex, Anastasia.” “That’s nothing to be proud of.” Oh, FUCK YOU, you slut-shaming, stigmatizing cunt!!
Book nerd nitpicking:
You spelled Alexandre Dumas’ name wrong. Don’t reference classic literary works if you can’t spell that shit.
(It is worth pointing out that I am human, so amusingly enough, I let my phone autocorrect “classic” to “chaotic,” and posted without proofreading, so I had to post a revision tweet.)
Speculation on the author’s experience with spankings:
Six belt hits were too much? She’s been OTK’d! I don’t mock the limits of others, but has the author EVER been belted?
(Now, your belting and open-handed spankings CAN and probably WILL vary depending on the whims, fortitude, and sadism of the one inflicting them, as well as your own pain limitations, but really… I was out of patience with this bitch and this book.)
And that’s the last of them. One thing I forgot to bitch about (but constantly grumbled about as I read) was the repetition of “50 shades of _____” in the book. Much like the “inner goddess” thing, it was okay once or twice, but when you see it every three pages, you want to call the author and say, “YOU ARE NOT THAT GODDAMN CLEVER.”
It was a shame, because one or two things in the book, I did like. The classical music choices were good. (Consequently, I was enraged when a sound clip of Thomas Tallis’ Spem In Alium on Youtube pretty much only involved comments talking about the book.) The classical literature choices were good pieces. And in the beginning of the book, when Christian presented a written D/s contract on which he said he was willing to negotiate, I really had hope for the book and its message about kink. In fact, the contract made me expect some quality kink. (Cocktease.)
Jezebel published an entertaining article composed by Katie J.M. Baker, written in the voices of Christian and Ana that give an overview of a New York Times article about the 50 Shades phenomenon, which includes a bunch of women invading hardware stores, finally visiting Babeland, buying ties, and whispering conspiratorially in offices, churches, and preschools.
Babeland is now using 50 Shades to showcase their bondage section. They have an entire 50 Shades bondage SECTION including a 50 Shades Book and Bondage Kit and a 50 Shades “Indulge Your Fantasies” kit. They’re also carrying the book. All of these things are amazing marketing decisions, and quite frankly, some of the toys they’re pimping are fantastic too. <Insert shout-outs to their Satin Bondage Kit, bondage tape, and my Luna Beads.>
But let me be honest: I am boggled by the hype. E.L. James has supposedly been listed as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people IN THE WORLD. Upon reading that, every neuron firing in my head spattered inside my skull. I’m pretty sure my hypothalamus almost ate Manhattan.
I could bitch about this book for hours. I could write you a short story featuring me popping a lengthy squat over its pages and the reasons I’d do it. I could speculate about why people eat this tripe up (the same reason they eat up Twilight), but I’m long-winded at best and repetitive at worst. Pope Alexander has a pretty good theory that I will leave you with, which was posted in the comments of the aforementioned Jezebel article:
My theory is that it’s porn for the 99%. That sounds goofy and gimmicky, but what I mean is that it’s the ultimate fantasy for people who feel very lost or very uncertain right now. Here is this deus ex machina of a man who comes out of nowhere, is physically perfect, has endless amounts of money, yet is very young and essentially begs you to let him take over all control of your life. No more worrying about anything. You have no money troubles, you make no decisions and he forces you to eat three square (and expensive) meals a day.
The sex is a huge part of it, but the feeling of ultimate and complete security is, I think, the real reason it’s resonated with so many people.
Okay. I’m not leaving you guys just yet. One more thing. Seriously. Why. WHY? Why do people read it and LOVE it? It is not a great book. My desire to yell at inanimate objects and write this review fueled my completion of the story; my desire did not. Far better a book is the one I just started – The Spymaster’s Lady, by Joanna Bourne. I do not have faith in E.L. James’ technical proficiency because of 50 Shades, but if her characters had well-developed relationships, multiple dimensions, and if she took a look at some of Bourne’s writing advice (my favorites are the Best of the Worst 100 Writing Mistakes), she could likely, at the very least, spin a page-turning story you wouldn’t hate yourself for reading. Because let me be honest: if you are at least technically passable – your writing level above fourth grade, your spelling and grammar decipherable or better – and you have a good story, I will read it. I do not consider Laurell K. Hamilton to have an incredible technique, but I devoured the first 10 books of the Anita Blake series because the story interested me. I stopped reading Anita Blake around book 14 or 15 when I felt like the story was dropping out. I’ve recently picked the series back up from the beginning, and I still like it, despite the fact more of Hamilton’s writing flaws stand out to me now more than they did a decade ago.
So why is this book so great? I did not think the story was utterly compelling. The characters bore me. Christian Grey is Edward Cullen with lots of money and kinky desires, sans vampirism. Ana Steele is Bella Swan with slightly more dialogue. If I hadn’t slogged through the first two Twilight books, I wouldn’t have made that comparison, but I still would have hated the characters. Stand up, 50 Shades fans. Convert me to the dark side with something other than baked goods.