The furore over that very mediocre trilogy of S & M chick-lit Fifty Shades of Grey continues unabated. I have to fess up to damning the work without having read it or at least without having got as far as Mr. Grey, our entrepreneurial sadist – I mean hero, demonstrating his artistic sensibilities by playing the piano half-naked to our 21 year-old virgin heroine (NB Reality Check: she lives in urban America, goes to University, isn’t pig-ugly or a born-again Christian …Go figure as they say). I have only read the first few pages of book one free of charge on Amazon and, as they’re devoid of dirty bits, I can’t comment on the novel’s erotic charge but I do know that I don’t want to buy a book that begins, “I scowled with frustration (no, not that kind – the poor girl is having a bad hair day) in the mirror. Damn my hair – it just won’t behave…”
In those first few pages there’s a lot of hair, some of it “strawberry blond” some of it in “escaped tendrils” because this is a book for women and we all know that, apart from submitting to sexual and psychological violence with great alacrity, we women are dominated by hair concerns. I don’t see the point of my pursuing any possible titillation because nothing dampens my ardour quicker than descriptive clichés or stereotypical assumptions about us gals. I also object, in a world where so many women suffer real abuse, to a story which reinforces the tired old notion that we all love it and collude with it. I know that the range of sexual experience and stimuli is huge, disorderly and totally un-PC but I’d like to see that explored with fresh ideas and language.
What’s most interesting about the Fifty Shades of… phenomena is just how lucky E.L.James was to get it published. Like J.K. Rowling (should we all adopt initials by the way?), who was writing about boarding schools and wizards when we had all been advised not to by pundits, publishers, commissioners, James wrote what she fancied writing and, by chance, someone saw the potential and got behind the book. It all goes back to writing what you’d like to read not what you perceive the market to be. NB there’s no point embarking on your saga of everyday torture now – there are a thousand wannabes at it already; write something you believe in, that way, even if it never gets published, you’ll have written something meaningful.