Sunday, 1 July 2012

Fifty Shades of BBC Radio Berkshire

Last week I'm sitting in my office happily minding my own business writing various blog posts, short stories, tweets, and occasionally glancing at my novel.  You know, the usual stuff.  I had been dealing with some difficult phone calls all morning long and I was feeling a bit low.

The phone rings mid afternoon and the man on the other ends announces that he is with BBC Radio Berkshire and my friend, the indomitable Melanie Gow, is doing her usual stint on The Culture Show.  The show had run into a slight glitch in that they were discussing the publishing sensation that has become the Fifty Shades Trilogy and non one in the studio had actually read the books.  they wondered if I would be willing to weigh in.  And, Mel knowing me the way she knows me, knew that I would have read all the books.

She was right.

For those of you living in a cave or under a rock, Fifty Shades is a series of 3 books, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed.  A young virgin (22) just graduating from university (already unlikely) meets a very, very, very rich older man (27).  Ok, not that much older but don't spoil this for me.  He proposes that she become his submissive to his dominance in a somewhat twisted contract of employment which would clearly never hold up in an employment tribunal.

Ana, aka young virgin, is appalled but cannot resist the smoldering, good looks and charm of Christian, aka twisted sexual deviant.  I won't be giving anything away when I say she looses her virginity to him and a whole lot of other things.

The buzz and hum of the media is marvelling at how this series of books has broken all publishing records.  10 million copies sold in 6 weeks?  The author, E.L. James, has crushed every record set, although critics are saying she can't sustain the sales to break some of the long standing records of the Harry Potter series.  I say, oh, just watch her.

The media has gotten themselves all worked up over the fact that, first off, there's a lot of sex in the book and, secondly, the sex is graphic.  Woop de doop, I say!

Now I won't lie, the sex scenes are titillating.  But they are also fascinating.  I suspect that most readers like myself, don't know all that much about bondage, submissives, dominance, and being tied up.  I suspect very few readers have a sex life that resembles anything like the sex described in the book.

So the media just needs to calm themselves down.  This is a bit of escapism.  That's it.  We all read the Twilight series and none of us wanted to become vampires.

These books are not under any circumstances high literature.  They are poorly written and repetitive.  In fact they are so repetitive, I found I could scan entire pages and not lose the plot.  I could just jump to the juicy bits.

E.L. James started this series as a fan website for the Twilight series of books which was a very chaste series written as it was by Stephanie Myers, a devout Mormon who believed girls should not have sex until marriage.  Bella certainly didn't have sex with Edward, the vampire, until they were married.  There was a lot of kissing going on but little else.  I reckon those books would have been a lot better if Bella knew what sex with a vampire was like before she promised to love, honour, and cherish forever.  And with a vampire, forever is a long time.  The Twilight series wasn't a well written series either.  But no one got themselves into a twist.  And he was a very much older man!

Besides, the Fifty Shades trilogy is, after all, just a romance series.  I getting ready to spoil the whole series here so if you haven't read the last book and don't want (or can't guess) how it ends, stop reading this paragraph.  Ana successfully breaks through Christian's sexual deviance and together they resolve the incredible damage done to his character by the sexual abuse of an older woman at a young age.  He learns to love in a gentle and respectful manner.  Ana also learns to have a bit of fun and engage in fantasies.  They meet in the middle as two adults with a very fulfilling sex life.  Which I reckon is really all most readers would like.

In the fast-paced, mundane world of school runs, ballet shows, full time employment outside the home, grocery shopping, sports days and Friday nights sat in front of a television until you fall asleep because you're too knackered to even consider a marathon night of mind blowing sex every night of the week, these books are fun to read.  And might even lead to 10 minutes of "well, that wasn't so bad" sex with the one you love.

So, jump down from that towering pedestal of judgement on which you are comfortably perched and let me read what I want to read, for whatever reason I want to read.  

My only criticism is not aimed at E.L. James or the books.  I do have a problem with where and how these books are being sold.  I don't want my 8 year old daughter picking them up off a table at the front of the store and flicking through it.  I'm not going to dictate when children should be allowed to read these books.  That is up to the parents.  Could the publisher please put a paper ring around the books which would prevent them from being flipped through in the book store?  That way my daughter will only find the books on my iPad and read it at home.

I didn't get a chance to say all this on the radio.  But if you missed it or was wondering what I was on about, if you did hear it, now you know!

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