I caved into peer pressure once again (see The Starvation Tournament) and started reading E. L. James’ novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the book that is a huge hit among millions of women around the country and, by some act of selling souls to the devil, on the New York Times Best-Seller list.
I started it yesterday and only got a few chapters in before my constant eye-rolling made me lose my place in the book. In my opinion, it’s bad writing. The character’s inner monologue is forced and contrived, and her dialog between the other characters doesn’t match her first-person perspective voice.
For example: “…given that I foisted on you at the last minute…”
Foisted? what the fuck does that even mean? And then to use the word “crap” a total of six times in all the 23 pages I’ve read seems…out of place. If you’re going to whip out “smart” words like that, let’s utilize our thesaurus and find synonyms for “crap,” shall we? Cheese and crackers…
I feel like a douche for being so critical of this book. It’s a tawdry romance novel, which the fact I even considered reading it in the first place is nutty, but still. I understand this genre isn’t known for its Pulitzer Prize winning work, but good god. It’s insulting to me.
Why? Realize this novel’s demographic: women. Broken down further, probably stay-at-home moms between the ages of 25-45. It’s insulting because by using such poor writing prose, it’s implying that these women are uneducated baby makers who didn’t have time to go get themselves edgumicated at a fancy learning school, so therefore, they don’t care about how sloppily this novel is sluiced together.
I have an image how the pitch for this book went:
“Hi, I’m writing a series of three books. It’s about a rich, young businessman named Christian Grey and his befriending of a young, naïve woman named Anastasia Steele.”
Thank you, Vintage Books.
And I’m not being a prude here, either. I want to get to the sexy sex parts. I wouldn’t be reading it otherwise. But I’m scared to advance in the novel for fear that the sex will also be Ho-hum and dumbed down.
But sex is dumb, in a sense. Allow me to explain: it’s one of our most primal actions. The mashing boy bits into lady bits for acts of procreation. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. But the act of describing sex shouldn’t be dumb. Women should know that we are unique creatures when it comes to arousal as compared to men. Men can see a pair of lacy underpants and boom–hard on. For us women, it’s more cerebral and a process. It takes time for us to get turned on, or at least it does for me. If E. L. James rushes into the bullpen with her sex scenes, I’m afraid I’ll have to completely ditch the book and write my own goddamned sex book.
Welp, I threw in the towel. I was being hypercritical of this book and started keeping tally of all the cliché phrases used. Here’s my count when I finally stopped reading on page 81:
“ghost of a smile”: 4; the crap/holy craps! got out of hand and last count was 11; the Hispanic male character named Jose Rodriguez uttered the phrase “dios mio!” a whopping two times in as many pages; and using the adjective “devastatingly” to describe Christian Grey’s physical beauty topped off at seven; and finally, Anastasia Steele describing Grey as a “control freak”…I lost count.
I did, however, in chapter five, get a brief glimpse of the domination theme present. Grey and Steele were in an elevator and Grey “held both my hands above my head with one of his and pinned me against the elevator wall.” That’s kind of hot, I guess, but I couldn’t keep reading. I was speed-reading as it was, doing wicked fast skimming, searching desperately for any sort of torrid love scene, but if in chapter five we’re just coming to a little love in an elevator, I hate to think how long I’ll have to read to get to the pantie-twisting parts, so I stopped reading.
Oh, and I finally figured out what it was about the narration/character dialog that was driving me insane: E.L. James is a middle-aged British woman and was trying desperately to write in the voice of a 21-year-old American girl and was doing a piss-poor job of it. Her proper English littered with, what I can only assume is her small grasp of what American women really sound like. It was so forced and fake. Again, I feel very douchebag-ish for being like this with a freaking book, that truth-be-told, is probably going to be made into a movie and gross more money in the first hour tickets will be sold than I will ever see in my meager lifetime, which actually kind of pisses me off. Let’s applaud mediocrity in our liberal arts culture, shall we? Okay!
Now, as I was reading the book, I kept thinking to myself, “by golly Erin, YOU should write a trashy romance novel way better than this chick could,” so as an added bonus, I’m going to write my own snippet for your reading pleasure…and mine. I have a fondness for filth, as you all may know.
So, without further adieu:
Filthy Shades of Grey, by E. E. Zulkoski
*names will be changed to avoid any legal hassles
**I shall start off at a part I found the most interesting
***read my blog more and tell your friends!
Alex Gray’s offices were immaculate; a towering structure of concrete and steel looming over the downtown area. The building had to have been thirty stories, if not higher. I couldn’t see the top of the building from my spot on the sidewalk out front. With a deep sigh, I heaved open the heavy glass doorway leading into the lobby where a striking woman sat behind a massive oak desk.
“May I help you?” she asked in a smooth Southern drawl.
“Uh…”I suddenly forgot what I was doing here, but quickly regained my composure and said, “Elizabeth Barker to see Mr. Gray, please. I…I have an appointment.”
The woman glanced down at her appointment book, running her finger along the ivory page and stopped at what I assume was my name.
“Ah yes, Ms. Barker. Mr. Gray is expecting you. If you take the elevators to the twentieth floor, his office is there. Just walk in and Cassandra will be able to assist you.”
“Thank you,” I say politely and make my way to the elevator. The stainless steel doors whoosh open and the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen standing in the back and off to the side.
Jet-black hair, sparkling hazel eyes, a strong jaw line. He was dressed impeccably in a black button down dress shirt, a grey tie that was knotted perfectly, and dark gray slacks, pressed so well the pleat running down the front seemed like it could cut me if I touched it. And I wanted to touch it; I wanted to touch him, to lean close to what I know is a hard-muscled body with perfect skin. I know I gasped as I entered the elevator and the man gave me a half-smirk in reply.
“Twentieth floor, please,” I choked out. I couldn’t keep staring at the man, so I made a great production of fidgeting in my purse for my phone, rummaging around the inside, praying to God that my tampons wouldn’t spill out onto the elevator floor.
“Twentieth floor, huh?” the man spoke. His voice was smooth, deep, and burrowed its way into my brain. “Going to see Mr. Gray, I presume?”
I chuckled lightly, “yes, I take it he’s well-known around the building.”
“Well, I do own the entire thing, so yes.”
Oh. Shit. This man, this gorgeous specimen was Mr. Alex Gray. I dropped my purse to the floor and as promised, a lonely tampon rolled out and stopped against one of his impossibly shiny Italian loafers. Dear God, please let the elevator catch fire and swallow me whole now, I prayed. I was beyond mortified, and even more so when we both bent down to pick up the tampon. I caught a whiff of him and could smell everything from his aftershave to his hair gel. I want to wake up next to this man in the morning and have my own toiletries next to his on the bathroom sink.
He reached the tampon first and slid it slowly and deliberately into my hand, lingering for a few seconds for it to be polite. His touch was warm, and I could feel something happen.
The next thing I knew, he reached forward for the emergency stop button on the elevator, pushed it, and the contraption screeched to a halt. The once fluorescent lights turned a warming red and a voice came over the speaker.
“Mr. Gray? Is everything alright? Do I need to call 911?” asked the woman on the other end.
“No, Rebecca. Everything is fine. Thank you. If I have any meetings after the one with Ms. Barker, please cancel them. Thank you.”
“Yes, sir,” Rebecca said and vanished from the elevator.
Alex Gray then took my hand in his and brought it to his full lips, taking my index finger into his warm mouth, sucking on it slowly. I had dropped my bag somewhere between all this and stood there dumbfounded at this man and what he was doing, but I didn’t want him to stop. I inched closer to him, and he grabbed me by the small of my back and brought me closer to him. I could feel how hard he was against my thigh and I gasped again, but this time was because I had taken my free hand and was feeling him through the fabric of his pants.
I slowly undid his belt and unzipped him and stuck my hand down the front and grabbed on to him, and started to stroke him. His hands were roaming all over me, grabbing my ass and kneading it with intensity. His hand then traveled up my side, taking its time as it did so, and finally, he reached my breasts. He stopped sucking on my fingers and his mouth had a new course: my nipples. I could feel his hot breath through my blouse and my nipples became hard as Alex Gray teased them, tugging and biting them.
See? There you go. I could go on, but you know, I think I should procure a goddamned book deal with Satan first.