JULY 10, 2012 12:27PM

Fifty Shades of Double Crap

Rate: 8 Flag
(This is a book review of the best-seller, Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, a pen name for Erika Leonard, who because of this phenomenon was included in Time Magazine as one of 'The 100 Most Influential People in the World.' It is an S and M erotica novel, also known as smut. Be warned.)

So I read it, or most of it anyway. And though I hate to sound pretentious, it's the worst shit I've ever read. It is complete literary rubbish. If Fifty Shades is considered art, it's the lips and assholes (I mean this figuratively as in art's refuse, and literally as in literally, and I think there's a pun about a hot dog in there). It's atrocious, vapid, juvenile, and the only four letter word that was missing was 'plot.' That being said, I still made it through ¾ of the book.

Someone might at some point in my past have called me a book snob. And they might be semi-correct. But I think I should get a plaque for completing AND thoroughly enjoying the Twilight series, just to broadcast the fact that I am no high-minded intellectual. A more mortifying confession is that I read the Janet Evanovich books, both "One for the Money" and "Two for the Dough" about Stephanie Plum, female bounty hunter and unlikely badass. I've read Dan Brown (and had to vomit only a few times), and even once read a book by James Patterson about a spider or something. And I do know who Kay Scarpetta is. Sometimes brainless activity is a perfect way to kill some time.

“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity,” tsks Thoreau, making me feel guilty for reading terrible books and not watching squirrels more intently.

“Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think,” counters a Chinese proverb. Take that Thoreau, you nature-loving gorgeous man you! You do not get to be the Keeper of Acceptable Forms of Time Wasting.

“We cannot waste time, we can only waste ourselves,” says another admonishment which makes me feel middle-aged and kind of fat and an overall damn shame.

“Regret for wasted time is more wasted time,” (I seize this one and put it in my pocket, as I know for sure I'll need it later).

“Work! Work! Work! What else have you got to do?” says Leader of the Walking Dead, Queen of Drudge, and internationally recognized most repulsive woman that ever was, Suze Orman.

“Death twitches my ear. 'Live,' he says, 'I am coming.'” says Virgil, and I feel the ever-tightening noose, and I begin to panic.

“If you don't drink and you don't smoke, you don't live longer, it just feels like it,” say lots and lots and lots of people who experience this exact same life, in an unrelated comment that seems to fit perfectly at the moment. Cheers.

I had plenty of reasons for and against reading my friend's most recent recommendation of Fifty Shades, and had originally decided against it. But then she started baiting me, see below her insidious mind-bending.

These were our texts over several days during a ceaseless game of Scramble:

Her: This book has turned me into a sex-crazed maniac.

Me: I don't need any help there, thanks.

Her: OMG Molly, I'm like a 17 year old girl. I cannot get enough of this book.

Me: …

Her: You HAVE to get this book.

Me: I have too much to read right now.

Her: Whatever. Just get the book and let me know.

Me: …

Her: Have you gotten the book yet?

Me: No! What the hell?

Her: Get it. Today.

Me: Ok, Ok, Ok. Downloading now. $10 effing dollars.

Her: It's so worth it! Wait until Chapter 8!

Her: Haha! I noticed I haven't heard from you in a while.

Me: That's because I'm at the pool. (This was a half truth. I was at the pool READING the book.)

Her: Get to reading and text me later. I swear just thinking about that book does things to me.

Me: Why are the Hogs playing? It's summer.

Her: They are in the college world series, my sports friend.

Me: Someone else told me that but I thought they were making fun of me because the world series is baseball right? Jeez.

Her: You'll never learn. Give it up.

Me: This book has absolutely no literary merit. I'm having to choke it down and spend most of my time feeling indignant. The sex better be phenomenal. Can't I just skip to Chapter 8???

Her: Yes. I did not recommend it for its literary merit. I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on Christian Grey.

My thoughts on Christian Grey:

Oh my. First of all, I was at the pool, and the Kindle Fire for some ridiculous reason doesn't have the technology to enable the reader to see it in the sun. What is mom porn for if it can't be read at the pool?? What an inconsiderate piece of technology! I couldn't see a word, no matter the angle or distance. So I covered myself and my kindle with my t-shirt, making a little tent of darkness so I could see the screen, and every “Mamma?” was met with a sharp and quick facepalm. Unfortunately, it was 102 degrees outside, and 114 and climbing in my little tent.

(Luckily it was just my friend Monica Korba. She could tell I was having a Fifty Shades moment. I can't imagine what tipped her off.)

“Oh my!” says our modern day damsel in distress, as she falls headlong into his high rise office. She says “Oh my” no less than 54 times throughout the book. Christian Grey is competent and cool and very very rich and watches her unaffectedly as she fidgets and feels mousy and is unable to control her speech. The author's intent is to make this youthful virgin also witty and wise and enigmatic. Of course she is none of these things, she is vacuous and uninteresting, as if her very lifeblood is cliched cliches. She sounds remarkably like Bella Swan, the only difference is that she's always “squirming”. Even her mother sounds like Bella Swan's mother. And her best friend Jose is dark and handsome, exactly like Jacob, and infatuated with Anastasia (yes, her name is Anastasia).
In the first chapter, I seriously began to wonder if the author was a teenager imagining the big magical world of grown ups, where mortgage pays itself and life is all about helicopter rides and driving around in “the Merc” (the Mercedes) and “putting the pedal to the metal” and saying, “crap” and “Double Crap.” The About the Author says she has two kids and a husband,  but I have serious doubts. No one with two kids and a husband could possibly be this shallow. No one over the age of 22 could have written this book. iCarly has more depth. And no one gets through marriage and kids and comes out so juvenile, so cleanly simple. You don't just skip away with bouncing breasts and a mind full of Skittles. Real people with real spouses and children are haggard, their shirts stained with the remnants of thwarted expectations and lost dreams. They are stricken beauties, their merit earned by a spunky spitefulness over and against life's underlying horror. Whereas the depth of tragedy in Fifty Shades is like the episode when Jessie gets addicted to speed in Saved By the Bell.

And it was difficult reading because my repugnance wanted a partner. (This desire as far as I can tell is a distinctly human characteristic.) Outrage begs a playmate. When you say, can you believe that she used this word yet again? Or does she really think the reader is going to tolerate that disgusting little dangling carrot trick (no pun)? Or is this the laziest writing, the most preposterous premise, the most cliched piece of triple crap? These pages don't deserve to be toilet paper! You want someone, anyone to agree. I mean when you live in a world where 20 million copies of this have been sold, setting new records and beating Harry Potter, you could very well be the crazy one.

And since reading is a solitary activity, I will share my repugnance here and hope to move you to similar outrage. See below.

“He's so freaking hot.” (She says this about 8 million times. And this was presumably written for people of age. I think you have to be at least 18 or 21 or something to buy it … but the sentence is further evidence that she's really just an oversexed 14-year-old dreaming of Bieber. I wonder if she could have saved space by using text lingo. OMG, he is so fkg HOT, OMG, OMG, WTF!)

When “his erection springs free.” SHE says, “Holy Cow!” (I'm not kidding.)

“I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be the color of the Communist Manifesto.”
(She blushes more than she squirms. And she squirms more than she breathes or thinks or eats, and she orgasms more than any of it, all of these corporeal activities are dictated by Grey. I guess there are only so many ways to describe blushing. This sentence has the added bonus of establishing our heroine as an intellectual. I guess that's what it's for?)

“He presses his mouth into a hard line.” (Please read this book. Just so you can be astounded by the number of times she uses this sentence. It's the primary filler amidst the smut.) “He cocked his head to one side.” (This is Christian Grey's reaction to everything from a ringing phone to using his flogger.) (Hmmm, maybe she's brilliant. Repeating “hard” and “cock” for subliminal influence? But she is never subtle. Never. Not one time. So I can't even give her the benefit of the doubt.)

And there is just so much more. However, though I can turn purple with outrage, there has to be some value to it. Some value to someone, else it would not have been so wildly popular. This is a comment I found on FB:

Actually, if u just skip over the racy parts, it is a great story of overcoming obstacles, building trust and learning to love someone. I think it would have been a great read without the sex, however the controversy is what made it so popular....I read all three in a weekend...when you get into the psychological aspects of the book rather than the sex, you can see all the struggles and growth that both characters go thru emotionally. Just my opinion...

Um, come again? Skip over the racy parts? And the book is about overcoming obstacles, building trust, and learning to love someone? By her account, if you remove the racy parts, it's reduced to a Jehova's Witness' pamphlet. But maybe she has a point. There is a romantic undercurrent; Anastasia trading her submission for bits of intimacy on his part, tit for tat. And so he does divulge, after the author alludes to Grey's mysterious brooding, that his mother is a “crack whore” (is there anything less original in the whole entire world?) Perhaps this is where the author has stuck gold: creating a character who needs care-taking and understanding (many women love to do this), who at the same time wields a flogger (many women apparently love to do this too.)

And though moms always insist that men are most attractive when they are unloading the dishwasher or changing a diaper, I think Fifty Shades reveals that this is not the full truth. There is something else, something beyond feminism, glass ceilings, the domestic division of labor, and the desire for a loving and equal partner. Perhaps the author sheds light on something primal, archetypical even, something to do more with the way we're made rather than the way we'd like things to be. Whatever it is, apparently 20 million women are screaming for it (or reading it quietly on their Kindles, facepalming their kids). For my part, the jury's still out, and I may be forced to endure the next two in the series for “research.”

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Proof that anyone can get published. My turn!
“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” -- Bertrand Russell. Or John Lennon.

Sounds like "The Bridges of Madison County" phenom all over again.
"You don't just skip away with bouncing breasts and a mind full of Skittles. "
I'm rating youfor that line alone, although the entire post is great. Haven't read it. Doesn't sound like I'm missing anything.
I'm still holding out on this series - I have several friends who have said 'you gotta read it' - but these are the same friends that don't read on a regular basis - hhhhmmmmm
I did not read Fifty Shades, but I am absolutely certain that there are many best sellers that are much worse. R
Fun review.

Don't understand how people can read (a) horribly written stuff, and (b) stupid S&M stuff (which doesn't sound much like what real-life S&M people do, which I find stupid too. Different, uh, strokes.
The best review of the book I've read. My treadmill and I are all for brainless reads. While clopping along on a loudly whining belt I can't handle four-syllable words. But I think I'll skip this book. I like my literary porn either within the pages of actual literature or condensed into a couple of satisfying paragraphs.