Thursday, May 24, 2012

How Quickly We Forget

I'm having a downright good giggle over this whole Fifty Shades of Grey business. Basically, a naughty trilogy with roots in an actual Fan Fiction spin-off of the Twilight series, it is about as well-written as a grocery list—but running up the charts nonetheless. Because of its steamy sex scenes. From what I can tell from the excerpts I've read online, it's not for its prose or particularly in depth examination of male/female relationships, sexual or otherwise. Yeah, yeah, there's some noise being made about how women everywhere are awakening to their own desires because of this book, but I call shenanigans. There's nothing earth-shattering about any of this. It's porno for the Harlequin Romance crowd—sexual politics lite, with an eye towards riches and stardom for the author, who was lucky enough to have hitched herself to a good PR team.

I'm not sure I could read the entire series, actually. What with the impossibly insufferable heroine with the impossibly insufferable name of Anastasia Steele and the impossibly titled "mega-industrialist" Christian Grey doing all kinds of naughty things to each other while Anastasia examines the meaning of it all in a string of insufferable internal dialogues rendered in unbelievably badly written prose. It's like the ghost of Ayn Rand met the ghost of Judith Krantz, whipped together a pitcher of martinis, pulled out a pack of smokes, and decided to have a rollicking good laugh.

But what really gets me is, the public outcry, the banning of the trilogy from libraries and bookstores. Not because it's so badly written (which would be justifiable), but because it's so dirty. Geez, Louise, people! Doesn't anyone remember Xavier Hollander? Erica Jong? Jacqueline Susann? These women not only wrote dirty books, they wrote them rather well. Back in the 1970s. And they were on my parent's bookshelves, right out there in front of God and everybody, and no one went screaming for the hills or ended up in Sexaholics Anonymous because of it.

What a nation. On the one hand, overstimulated and hyper-sexualized, addicted to cartoonish levels of sexuality via the porn industry—on the other, continually waggling a finger of outrage in the direction of any little whiff of impropriety.

Then again, is it possible to deal with sex—in a book, on film, in photographs—in a way that isn't cartoonish or trite or downright eye-rolling? Isn't it all, at some level, nothing more than porn?


lx said...

One of the refreshing things about living in Germany for a while was that nudity and sexuality are openly treated as normal facets of human life. Just a matter of course on TV and advertisements.

Buzz Kill said...

This is that series written by a housewife, right? And a not-so-good-looking one at that. I'm convinced it's the liberal media that makes a big deal out of this stuff and causes the furor. Game of Thrones (on HBO - I love this series) is a bunch of battles intermixed with medieval porn and no one is making a big deal out of it. Same thing with the Spartacus series on STARZ (gladiator porn and violence that makes Goodfellas look like Sesame Street) and not a peep from the media, but I don't think that was based on a book.

Hopefully, this will cater to the prudish housewives and professional women of America (read - The Mrs) and help out the bored husbands that have to watch Game of Thrones and Spartacus because their wives are sleeping.

moi said...

lx: My cousin used to send me her old Brigitte's, the German equivalent of America's Seventeen magazine. I was amazed by what it featured in there . . .

Buzz: I'm reading Game of Thrones at the same time I'm watching it on television and while I think both are terrific and well done, I do have a bone to pick with HBO. The book is not nearly as sexy. So while I'm not a prude about it, I do find it rather puzzling. As if the filmmakers don't have enough faith in their material to just tell a story without tossing in a gratuitous threesome every 1.5 seconds.

I used to keep up with Spartacus but then S.B. fiddled with our line up and we no longer get Starz. Boo. The eight-pack abs are go and I really enjoyed watching Zena-what's-her-name chew the scenery.

grins said...

I guess I'm from a generation that attaches a lot of shame to sex. I absolutely cannot stand romance novels, soap operas or much of anything of that genre. I remember my grandparents being shocked at the Smothers Brothers.
Even so, I'm still a dirty old man.

Pam said...

Nine amd 1/2 weeks. I rest my case.

czar said...

Then again, is it possible to deal with sex—in a book, on film, in photographs—in a way that isn't cartoonish or trite or downright eye-rolling? Isn't it all, at some level, nothing more than porn?



If I sent you a book to add to your summer reading list, would you actually read it? Yes, it's mostly about sex. And you'll be cracking the Merriam-Webster's throughout. And it was written in 1934, and along the way the author decries a lot of the stuff that Moi is still decrying today.

moi said...

Grins: Ooooo, I hate romance novels as well. But there was a certain kind of chick power lit of the 1970s and '80s that I really enjoyed. Scruples, Other Side of Midnight, Once is Not Enough, anything by Jackie Collins. Or maybe I was too young not to know any better. If I went back and read that stuff today, would I cringe as well?

Pam: Yes. Good point!

Czar: I can't make any promises, but it sounds promising!

czar said...

Wait. Reading back . . .

Threesomes are gratuitous? I always thought they were more in the realm of imaginary.

czar said...

PS: I do remember in eighth grade when a member of our class stood up and delivered a book report on the Happy Hooker. I think the teacher took about as much of it as he could tolerate under the guise of academic freedom and intellectual encouragement, and then cut him off.

Boxer said...

Hey! It's set in Seattle so my entire City is super HAPPY.

er, no not really. We'd prefer to be known for our coffee not kinky sex stuff.

May I say? ZZZZZZZ. But, apparently, the market for sex toys has increased because of this book and I say AMEN to Capitalism at it's best.

Now, the Happy Hooker. THAT was a book.


moi said...

Czar: They're unicorns!

Czar II: Ah, the '70s. Sniff.

Boxer: You should READ some of the excerpts. The writing is excruciatingly bad.

I wonder what will happen, when readers everywhere also start having conversations with their quivering inner goddesses? Oy. 2 the Vey.

Karl said...

Good afternoon Moi,

I must confess ignorance of these books. I haven't heard of them. Nor am I likely to read them.

The stir that was caused by the Happy Hooker was most entertaining. So many people are afraid of their own sexuality.

@ Buzz: You are your own best chance to vanquish the prudish. If you find the television boring and the Mrs. alluring, turn off the TV and take the initiative.

Ah, the seventies, freedom, frolic and unicorns. What a wonderful time it was.

moi said...

Karl: And disco. Let's not forget disco!

Grumpy Granny said...

I love to write sex scenes. I've been told I do them rather well. I'm not sure I'll be able to read those books, tho G wants to and more power to her if she does. I, too, just can't get into the "romance" genre. I like a good story that has romance in it (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, for one), but not just as an excuse to cobble a flimsy story around a bedroom scene or two (or 20).

Writing about sex is like writing about any other subject. It can be wonderful, okay or down right ugly. Just like sex itself. Eye of the beholder and all that.

I personally thought Judith Krantz' "Scruples" was a really fun book--not because of whatever sex there was (I don't remember that) but because of the evolution of the main character. That's what sticks with me even though it's been over 20 years since I read the book. So, for me, that's good writing.

Just two cents from a granny who still likes a tingle now and then. :-)


moi said...

GG: Hello and welcome to Moi's blob! I loved Scruples, too. I don't think there was any overt sex in it, but it was very much "of its time," in that power to the chick lit way that seems to no longer exist. I used to participate in National Novel Writing Month and with my first book, a satire, I found myself writing a sex scene for two of my characters. Totally out of the blue, but it was fun. And funny. But generally, well written sex scenes are few and far between. One of my faves was in Atonement. Not a book I particularly liked, but the scene in the library was brilliantly done.

K9 said...

funny. when I remember books I pulled off the parents shelves, the one that comes to mind is "none dare call it conspiracy".It started early, Moi. Well just being on the same planet as the Twilight series embarrasses me so I will walk around this one like a crab on tiptoes. But you are correct in identifying the schizophrenic culture that encourages a female sexuality that is as free as a males, and then punishes when the challenge is met. Women arent men, and never will be. Women gave up their critical role as the gatekeeping civilizers. Men used to have to have some things going for them to get laid!

Pam said...

I haven't read them nor probably will read them, unless I stumble across a volume, then I might not want it second hand, wink wink wink. But yes, all the hoopla definitely made me think it was just this generation's version of 9-1/2 Weeks.

moi said...

K9: Well just being on the same planet as the Twilight series embarrasses me: Bwahahahahaha!

Most modern literature--dirty or not--is embarrassing. No one is writing anything that's either fun OR deep. It's all so . . . small.

BTW, S.B. and I were moving furniture and boxes today in prep for new carpet. My junior high/high school diary fell out of one box and he dared me to read sections of it. Talk about embarrassing. OMG!

Pam: Nah, nah, 9-1/2 weeks has more class. I've already read all the cringe-worthy parts on line. So I guess the only point in going cover to cover would be to laugh even MORE. Or, cry.

czar said...

A few years back, a bar in NYC -- and elsewhere, I believe -- would have Cringe Night, where people would bring their diaries and read them in front of the crowd. The worse, the better.

In my case, thankfully, there are about fourteen spiral-bound notebooks that should be sufficiently composted now in a Florida landfill.

BlazngScarlet said...

Ok, here's my $0.02.

I just read the last book in the "trilogy".

The writing is excruciatingly awful.
The characters and the writing is 2 dimensional, predictable and DULL.
Oh, and yes, the NAMES!
Pretentious much?!
As for the "steamy sex" writing?
Completely lacking and again, predictable.
I have friends in the "lifestyle" and they would be HORRIFIED to read this trash that she passes off as a Dom/Sub relationship.
I've read steamier sex scenes IN Harlequins when I was 11!
I, like you, call shenanigans and major bullshit (sorry for cussing).
All my work friends have lost their minds over this series, and honestly, I DON'T GET IT!
It's a ROMANCE novel ... and a very BAD one at that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I need to rinse my eyeballs with pure, undiluted vodka to erase the film of CRAP that this "phenomenon" has left.

*steps off soap box*

moi said...

Czar: Hmmm . . . That gives me an idea for a post--thanks!

Blazng: Well, I suppose my thanks for your taking one for the team so we don't have to might not be QUITE in order here, but I'll give it anyway. From what I read of the sex scenes, I was all, "Huh?" too. Steamy? More like dopey. Now go do that vodka rinse and find yourself a vintage copy of Once is not Enough. You'll feel better.

BlazngScarlet said...

I had to read them all .... I can't start a series and NOT finish it.
No how awful it is.

I hear the movie rights have been bought and the search is on for Christian & Ana ... but I believe the movie has already been made; "Pretty Woman"
Ok, so Ana isn't a hooker, but Christian is Edward; ruthless businessman who takes over companies and is into shipyards.
Edward Lewis.

Off for more vodka ....

moi said...

Blazng: Ah, yes, the ol' ship yard tycoon. Right up there with the tobacco plantation and steel mill magnates.

foam said...

I became aware of this book when I first started ordering a few books online via my iPad a few months ago. It kept popping up as a best seller .. So, I also read the excerpts and decided it was not anything for me. I don't mind reading about sex but I didn't particularly think it was well written. I got impatient while reading it.

I agree with you about the game of thrones. I had read most of the books before the series came out. There's way more sex in the series. Actually the same goes for tru blood, a book series I read before the hbo series came out.
Sex in the books is only indicated at.

moi said...

Foam: I watched the first season of Tru Blood and then got sick of it. A friend read the books and said the same thing you did. It's a fine line, writing sex scenes. Unless the author is writing straight up porn or erotica, it always seems so "tacked on."

Pam said...

Just stopping by to check on you. Watched the news for the first time in ages and have heard about the NM wildfires. Hope all is well with you and yours and best wishes from here!

moi said...

Pam: Thanks for checking in. Thinking of you all, too. The fires are far to the south of us, but we have days when the wind is just so and it becomes nearly impossible to breathe outside. Terrible. But same as it ever was. I was hoping for a wet summer--all of the sturm without any of the drang, but we'll see.

LaDivaCucina said...

Moi, I agree with you about the hypocrisy of our over-sexed society. I don't think the "liberal" media gives two hoots, isn't it always the religious fundamentalists of the right that blather on over these things? Ick.

In any case, it's pure pap and I'm highly disappointed to see, er, "learn" that some of my friends whom I thought to be avid readers and educated, squealing and posting with delight over this book like a 16 year old virgin dying to get her cherry popped.

I've read a few pages and could go no further, it's juvenile and incredibly
gushy and repetitive. I've read articles pointing out how many phrases the author uses again and again and again....boring. Also, the author has no idea how things really go in the sub/dom world and is using a lot of creative license, especially when it comes to her knowledge of the local geography. She has none.

I agree with you wholeheartedly about the steamy books of the 70's. I just find it SAD (but typical of our let's-glorify- mediocrity-reality-show-loving times) that so many of my friends are not very well read but find this crap exciting or entertaining or well written. We are doomed.