Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Reviews: 50 Shades Series by E.L. James or Oh My (Insert Dramatic Ellipsis Here)

By Laura A. Lords

Oh my…where to begin? Fifty Shades of Grey  is a sensation that has swept women across the country away into a hedonistic gallery of sexual romance. Alas, I am perplexed. E L James has taken it to mind to tackle an entire community of people (the BDSM community) and get it devastatingly wrong. She slapped an erotic romance label on the front of it, attached a wonderful ‘Mature Content’ warning, and it became a New York Times Best Seller.  Perhaps perplexed is not the right word. I shall take a page from James’ own writing technique and resort to my thesaurus… I’m bewildered, confused, confounded, baffled, stumped, stymied, bamboozled, and stupefied. Well, that wasn’t nearly as exciting. James must have a much more extended version than I do, for the novel is full of odd, out-of-place words that never  show up in normal conversation, nevertheless, the snarky comments Anastasia and Christian favor.

What’s more, I’m convinced that while I’m envious of James’ comprehensive thesaurus, I can’t imagine she bothers to use it much. It has come to my attention that Kate should simply be named Tenacious Kate. For the first half of the book, it is really the only way that character is ever described. I can feel that poor inanimate being, screaming inside James’ head, “There is more to me than this! I’m not this flat…and boring!”

Perhaps it isn’t an extensive thesaurus, but simply a weird word of the day calendar that James has propped up on her desk. It is probably sitting atop her BDSM for Dummies book. This book, she obviously never cracked. I won’t even get started with yet another young female lead character who proves to be such a terrible role model for today’s young women. Let’s simply say that the concept of Anastasia “fixing” Christian’s sexual preferences is abhorrent, ridiculous, and offensive. This is a lifestyle choice, and it is consensual. It is not some kind of disease to be treated or worked through in therapy. I would think by 2013 our society would be more capable of understanding that everyone’s “Inner Goddess” doesn’t exactly want the same things.

As far as Christian is concerned, no self-respecting Dominant, or one worth his salt at least, would take a virgin in as his submissive. The idea that by sleeping with her before hand and participating in “vanilla” sex (along with a detailed contract of terms and items that young Anastasia wasn’t even familiar with) makes this kind of relationship okay… is detestable. This is abuse of power. It is emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. James dedicates pages to the contract itself, tosses in Anastasia’s claims at love, and suddenly makes it seem like this is perfectly acceptable. Of course, Anastasia is simply attempting to “cure” Christian of his screwed up ways, so hey, what’s the harm?

Oh my… I seem to have gotten off on my own little rampage here. Let’s put the counterfeit BDSM issues back into its closet and simply talk about the writing. Aside from boring, flat characters who receive little in the way of descriptive qualities and conversation that is meant to be snappy, yet is full of intense language even a “bookie” like myself has to look up and refresh herself with…the novel is full of three things: “Oh my”, “Wow”, and the ellipsis. I barely can recall a paragraph that went by without one of these terms or pieces of punctuation being used.

Then you have sentences like these,
“Saturday at the store is a nightmare. We are besieged by do-it-yourselfers wanting to spruce up their homes. Mr. and Mrs. Clayton and John and Patrick – the two part-timers – and I are besieged by customers.”

I get it. The store is full. I understand. However, “besieged”? Really? And obviously so much so that James felt the need to use the word twice in the course of two sentences. I read that and immediately an image of strong Viking raiders came to mind, banging their battle axes and hammers against the door of a small town hardware store. Hey, they need their paint swatches too. It was, certainly, the most vivid image the book was able to draw for me; which is sad considering it had absolutely nothing to do with anything actually happening in the book.

I could go on and on about the issues I have with this book. As I said before, I haven’t even tackled the wonderful role model these characters give us. No, I will leave that as it is. There’s little to be done for it in a world where characters like Bella from Twilight  are revered so highly already. Female role models have headed downhill at a rate faster than my opinion of these over-sexed Harlequin romances.

I’ll leave you with this. No one has an “Inner Goddess”. If you’d like to test that theory, hang a few mirrors up and check out your next ‘O’ face. There is nothing God-like about it. Secondly, the childlike renaming of genitalia simply makes it seem like ‘vagina’ is a dirty word. It isn’t, so renaming is as “ there ” (and in italics at that) is just juvenile. And finally, take it from the internet. There is better smut online. Better written smut and it’s free. Go forth and find good smut.