Fifty Shades Astray
There’s no way this book should have sold 100 million copies, but it did. There’s just no way this should ever have been made into a movie, but it was. What does it tell you about a society fixated on what has become known as Mommy Porn, when there are so many very good stories being told and waiting to be told?
I don’t begrudge the author, E L James for her success. In fact I salute her. She, like most of us others, started as a self published author. She found a voice which reached a receptive audience. Good on her. But all of her success has come at the expense of the many brilliant stories nobody is reading. Fifty Shades is by many accounts a poorly written book with little to offer the literary world beyond its explicit gratuitous sex. Critics labeled it “badly written”, “dull” and even “a sad joke” (Quoted from Wikipedia)
I picked up the book one day when browsing in a local book shop (now closed) and was amazed at how terrible the writing really is. I only read a chapter and that was enough to confirm what many were saying.
But this is going to get me in to some trouble with fans for saying it so I won’t labor the point, except to say Why? Why has such a poor example of literature become the most successful book of our generation? Does it say as much about readers as it does about our incessant fixation on the sexual act? Would such a book have been largely ignored a generation ago?
I don’t get it! I really don’t. On the one hand I applaud a self published author for achieving far more than any other. On the other hand I just don’t understand why there is so much interest in what is essentially a story of protracted and prolonged sexual depravity and lustful self indulgence.
That such a book has been so popular actually makes me angry. Not just for me as an as-yet-undiscovered author, but all those other similar authors who actually do have some interesting stories to tell and are far more articulate and practiced in the telling.
As for the title, well, now that at least is smart. But it too probably tells us more about the readers than it does the book or the author, for it appears there are fifty shades of grey in pretty much every aspect of modern living. Wrong and right, black and white have all but vanished. Anything is the go in these confused and confusing times. Perhaps even James herself didn’t intend the title to have a broader, deeper meaning beyond merely pointing out the risky behavior which deviates in several ways away from what might be considered normal human intimacy and the sexual experience. Perhaps James herself has never worried about the implications of a title which tells us more about the beliefs and morals of the readers than it does about the subject matter of her book.
If you look around us, there are shades of grey in everything, education, family, race relations, religion, politics and relationships. But my grandparents and their grandparents before them would beg to differ. They will tell you that there is no grey. Grey is an invention. It is an accident of combining black with white and seeing what mix of colors might result. But it doesn’t matter what ratio you use, when you mix black and white, you only get various shades of grey, no other colors and this is the point of my article. NO COLOR.
In stark contrast to this modernist thinking in a humanist society, our parents and grandparents looked at the world not through grey colored glasses, but through a lens that saw black as black and white as white. The confusion of grey is ultimately a modern phenomenon, which stems from a shared consciousness which asks too many questions and answers nothing.
It’s interesting too that many of the stories our parents and grandparents read growing up, or even as adults, were about seeing the world in black and white and like those old Rankarena televisions that were so central to living room life in the fifties, this black and white view of the world had become central to pre and post war thinking. But with color came a whole new view of things and suddenly the black and white world faded and became many shades of grey mixed with color on our television sets, in our homes, in our beliefs and in our way of life.
Fifty Shades represents a thinking that approves of anything and everything. It suggests that there is no black or white and so long as you are complicit and comfortable with your own decisions, you should be free to do anything. Little wonder many around the world have been intrigued by this idea that you can abandon or disregard the voice of reason inside each of us and throw caution to the wind to see where you will be taken, with little to no regard for where you might end up, nor what impact your choices might have on others.
Self published authors the world over have also been seduced by the idea that there is a receptive audience and have delved into the erotic tales of intrigue, sexual violence and deviancy, eager perhaps to grab some of the crumbs of success falling from the writing desk of E L James.
As for me I resist. In fact I go the opposite way, towards a more wholesome and ultimately more meaningful form of story telling. I am proud of my classic style, which harkens back to a more pure form of tale telling. I love the classics. I grew up reading Huckleberry Finn, David Copperfield, The Lord of the Rings and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The authors of these great books were my guide for how to tell stories which stand the test of time. Stories that people come back to again and again. They were stories where there is no grey, only black and white, tales which stand in stark contrast to the misty, murky worlds of modern story telling where all the shades of grey only serve to confuse and corrupt our thinking.
Fifty Shades of Grey indeed. But I say, Fifty Shades Astray! For we have now strayed far too far from purist fiction, from the indomitable spirit of the innocence of narrative of which the great writers strived to perfect and to which we will all one day return, when the intriguing shades of a world of too much grey no longer teases and excites us and we long instead to return to a far more honest and simple form of story telling.
Copyright©2015 Paul G Day.