Tuesday, May 01, 2012

50 Shades of Grey

Let me preface this by saying if I had known this was TWILIGHT FAN FICTION, I never would have wasted the money buying it. This does make sense to me now, considering the lip biting parallel I drew (Kristen Stewart drove me NUTS in the movies). Also, it apparently started out as a blog, gained some fairly wide popularity, and was then picked up to be published as a book, which would explain the obvious lack of editing attention it received. 

If you haven't read the book yet, there might be some plot spoilers here.

At the end of Monday’s post, I mentioned the new book I started reading: 50 Shades of Grey.

Well, Monday night I finished it. I am SO confused. At the beginning, I hated it.

First of all, 50 Shades of Gray is about a soon-to-be college graduate, Anastasia (hate the name) who goes to interview an obscenely rich CEO in place of her roommate when her roommate suddenly gets sick with the Flu. The CEO is Christian Grey - a stubborn, condescending, and ridiculously handsome 27-year-old. Ana is clumsy, shy, and immediately bewildered by his presence. Naturally, they have some sort of chemistry which neither understands. After a week or so of knowing each other, Christian approaches Ana with an indecent proposal and Ana struggles internally for much of the book, trying to decide whether she is better or worse for agreeing to it. They fall in love, although Christian fights it because of his mysterious and apparently abusive past (although we never find out to what extreme he was mistreated). Obviously, there is more to the plot, but not much.

My biggest qualm was with the unbelievable dialogue and poorly edited narration.

I believe the author is British, and as an American who falls into the same demographic as her main character, I know the phraseology and expressions used are not something a 21, soon to be 22-year-old, would think and/or say. They’re clearly British idioms (like using “she’s not well” instead of “she’s sick,” or “can’t have” instead of “couldn’t have”) and that annoyed me. It continued throughout the book, but I think I grew accustomed to it.

Also, I can tell the author is going for some sort of moderately sarcastic and self-deprecating tone, but to me it fell short and felt forced.

But those were not the most irritating things. Many times I found myself wanting to put the book down and stop reading because of grammar issues, such as her constant use of “me” where “I” should clearly be. The first time I noticed was in this sentence, “she is more nervous than me!” Obviously, the correct way to say that is “she is more nervous than I!”

***edit***
Many of you are commenting anonymously so I can't address you in an email response. A lot of commenters seem to think that because this is a casual, laid back narration, the use of poor grammar is acceptable. I disagree - I use "I" in place of "me" in my everyday vocabulary, as I think the majority of educated people do.  If you're taught to make it a habit, using "me" sounds much more out of place than using "I." I do agree that it would probably be said, "more nervous that I was/am/are" instead of simply ending with "I." This is just one grammar issue that I've highlighted and I know I'm harping. The book is riddled with others.
Also, to the people who think I used the wrong form of the word "practice/practise," please see my response in this post.
***end edit***

Now, given the laid back pacing of the narration, I let it go as a stylistic freedom. But it happens often. And that drives me nuts – I hate reading a book and stumbling over sentences. Authors should know better than to practice poor grammar or ignore the basic rules of English.

And after I learn more about the main character, like how she’s an English major and a well read student (who appreciates the likes of Thomas Hardy, etc.), I just can’t forgive it. We also learn that she’s got a high enough GPA to qualify her for several prestigious internships at Seattle Publishing Houses (one of which she ultimately lands)…so if she’s going to be doing professional editing or something along those lines, then she should most definitely understand when to use “I” in place of “me,” whether she is thinking or speaking.

The two main characters are vastly underdeveloped. We never find out much about Ana - even she questions what her hobbies are. All we know is she doesn't like clothes or shaving her armpits. We know Christian suffered some sort of abuse as a child, which is why he is so aloof and prone to mood swings, but that's all. I don't know HOW IN THE WORLD a 27 year old is some sort of magical business tycoon, running his own empire and buying a girl he's known for 1 week a new Macbook, new phone, and NEW RED AUDI to replace her VW Beetle because it's "dangerous." Makes no sense. (Apparently in the orginal version, he is some sort of vampire - which explains his many years worth of knowledge and refusal to let her ever touch his chest. Thank goodness they removed this part because I would have immediately burned the book).

My last issue when I first started reading was the relationship between Ana and Christian. I knew it would probably develop a little bit further into the book, or into the trilogy even, but I personally struggled to connect with it. Other than his apparent dreaminess and irresistible good looks, I didn’t understand the appeal to the Dominant/Submissive relationship, nor the freaky S&M stuff they were about to get into. Sure, they have some sort of unspoken animal magnetism, but  that alone is not enough to fuel this entire plot. I don't think the author gives away enough about Christian's mysterious past, and his ridiculous cryptic phone calls annoy me - if they turn this into a movie, he will be a very difficult role to cast (personally, I was envisioning Ryan Gosling the whole time and I will absolutely throw a hissy fit if they cast Robert Pattinson). It’s not the type of “love story” I’m accustomed to or generally interested in, so I had trouble getting behind it. It didn't qualify as a love story to me until much later in the book maybe around the very last 1/3 or so, when he started giving her the "more" for which she'd been longing.

The sex scenes were graphic and the author is no doubt very good at articulating what’s happening between the sheets/in the shower/in the red room of pain. While very detailed and somewhat grisly at times (thanks for letting me know when he pulls out her tampon), they never made me uncomfortable, which I was warned they might.  They did seem to get a little bit repetitive at times. OH she's biting her lip again, Christian wants to nail her...how surprising. OH he wants to spank her but she doesn't know if she wants him to do that...how surprising. OH he won't let her touch his chest so she keeps prying him for answers about his past and then he gets angry...how surprising. I definitely preferred the more natural sex to the Dominant/Submissive stuff - those scenes seemed to me to be the rare times when I saw Christian break down and I was able to understand how this might actually be more than just a trashy novel. And I was very pleased by her omission of the word "throbbing." I don't think she used it once.

At first I was angry because I kept thinking, "I guess all it takes to be a New York Times Bestseller is a poorly written novel riddled with unnecessarily graphic humping." I rarely jump on board with the book crazes sweeping the nation. I’m a snob, I know. But if I’m going to dedicate days to reading a novel, it needs to be worth my time – I need to enjoy reading it instead of fighting the urge to pick it apart in my head. It really has been a long time since I've read a normal book (and not an English literature assignment), so maybe I'm just out of habit. I started the book on Sunday evening and finished it after work on Monday - so it was definitely an easy read. I wasn't really into the story until it became clear to me that Christian did in fact have feelings for Ana, so naturally when she leaves him at the end of the book, I was a bit perturbed.

All in all, I have to say I liked it. I wish the book had started in the middle and carried on for quite a bit longer than when it ended, but I guess that's the point of having a 2nd and 3rd book.

Anyway, that's my take on it. I know a lot of people enjoy this series and that's fine - yes, I could have quit reading at any point and would not have been the worse for it, but I wanted to be able to write an accurately opinionated review. If you disagree with me, who cares? I'm sure plenty of people in history have hated books that I love. 
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26 comments

  1. I've heard many reviews about this..I may pick it up.

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  2. I agree wholeheartedly with you! I love/hate this book. Its a horrible plot, poorly written and unbelievable on all accounts. However, I will still be ordering book #2. The author got me curious about book 2 and 3.

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  3. I appreciated this so much. I have similar issues with novels so often and kind of think to myself, "am I a snob for hating this?"

    I have heard a lot about these books too but they're not the type that interest me and like you said, its just another poorly written narrative with a lot of sexy time. An ultrasound tech told me she heard women saying it was changing their marriage and "intimate" times. What?

    Anyways, whenever someone is annoyed by the same things as me I usually recommend the book "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides. It is so beautifully written and I still consider it the best book I've read to date. You should look into it if you need some literary redemption (he wont the pulitzer!)

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  4. Beautiful post and blog!:) Would you like to follow each other?

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  5. I read books one and two, and I'm terrified to pick up the third - mostly because I'm afraid that someone will see me reading it in public. It's horrible writing, you're so right, and it's okay to be a snob about it. Some of the sex scenes were fine, but mostly I found their trysts annoying, short, and strange. No one, I don't care how rich or kinky, has O's like that. It's just not natural!

    Anyway, spot on review!
    xoxo
    jackie

    http://perchedup.blogspot.com/

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  6. I wholeheartedly agree with your review. I found it annoying as you did, but I must say I got hooked on the romance a bit earlier then you. I am reading book 2 now and am enjoying it much more. Plus the fact that my girlfriends are all reading it makes it fun to chat about over lunch.

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  7. I have a degree, and I teach, and I know for a fact I do not "speak" the way I write which may or may not reflect grades I earned in college. I felt the author was dead on writing how she did, because in fact young 21 yr olds do talk like that (poor grammer and such) Just saying! :)

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  8. Ha, the narration in the book did make me laugh, but I was still obsessed with all three. Why? I have no idea!! All I can promise is that the second and third book provide a bit more insight to Christian's past...

    xox!

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  9. I swear if i hear the words "clenched deliciously" 1 more time in the book I will scream!

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  10. This is a book to be scorned. It seductively pulls you in and then puts across the message that pain and humiliation makes sex better!!!! Ladies don't get conned. I read "sexy" graphic books all the time, I don't need to be beated and feel pain or read about it. A real sick book with a bad message, telling women to let thier man dominate them. Yuk!

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    Replies
    1. I totally agree Jackie!

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  11. No, it wasn't the best written book out there but come on....its fiction, fantasy... it really isn't about a D/s relationship. Its more of an erotic love story. I loved all 3 books, couldn't put them down... I took them for what they are.. mindless fiction to get lost in... just sayin.

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  12. I didn't find the erotica that erotic and I agree that the writing is poor. "He smirked at me. 'Are you smirking at me?'" Someone.smirks on every page, and when they're not smirking they're clambering, and I'm getting sick of that Icarus metaphor

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  13. If you are writing a stuff Charles Dickons style book then you would say 'the same as I' and not 'the same as me'. This author is going for the every day dialect and therefore her grammar is perfect. And the 'I' which you so demand to be placed within the book would have been stupidly out of place.

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  14. I have to say if people didn't like what they were reading then why did they keep reading? I liked it because it was easy to read and get lost in. It was a complete break from all the 'haughty taughty' lit I'm bombarded with at uni. Oh and as someone just completing their degree in English and as a tutor, the grammar was fine because it was reflecting how that person would speak. If people walked around speaking properly to perfection then we would all sound nuts.

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  15. I loved this book. I found myself dreaming about strawberries and cages and long haired chicks!

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  16. I think it the author clearly establishes that Ana was a faithful student of classical British literature. So maybe she's also a fan of British culture and those idioms are just a reflection of that, or clever set up for the author to explain them away. The book was entertaining. I've had some mind shattering orgasms, but I've never had sex as frequently as Ana & Christian for anything longer than a 3 month period. What humans could keep that up? That being said, I'd love a 4th book from Christian's perspective, Teddy's perspective or even Taylor, Mrs. Jones or Prescott's perspective. I simply love the story & the characters. It's not the best written, but it has heart & it's interesting. I dated a very wealthy man once & she did get some of those issues spot on. He didn't turn out to be my knight in shining armor, maybe because I wouldn't submit!

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  17. I read this in half agreement and half bewilderment. I loved this book but had parts in which I wanted to throw it away. I was frustrated with Ana's whiny intrusive ways. She wanted more and for the first time ever he was agreeing. Yet she was over induldging in the more...she should have been taking smaller steps and shown more understanding of his personal deep issues. This said the critique of the authors used of "me" instead if "I" made me laugh the rest of the way through this article. I am an amateur writer, and even I know that when creating and living through a character you become that peson. The story is told through their eyes and in their own words. What person on this planet walks around referring (in their own head) to themselves, or anything for that matter, in proper english? You're lucky some of the internal conversations and descriptions didn't contain the words "LOL" and "FYI" etc. Give another 10-20 years into the future and that may be proper english!!! Let up, it's not a novel that will go down in history sitting next to "Emma" however it holds it's own in it's own genre. Smile and have fun reading it :)

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  18. It is very poorly written, the heroine has no personality and very limited vocabulary. Her constant use of the phrase "Oh my..." really annoyed me! I would actually try to mentally blank out the words where I can. Every chapter she trips over herself and needed to be rescued and every other sentence from Christian is "don't bite your lips, you know what that does to me"...I am struggling to finish it off and honestly I don't think I will bother with book 2 and 3. This reminds me too much of Twilight (quality wise) which I stop reading after the second chapter. How can a book this sh*t be so popular?

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  19. Might be a British English thing but we would either say “she is more nervous than me!" or "she is more nervous than I am" not "She is more nervous than I". Because the latter statement does not really flow off the tongue and would probably be associated more with a posher accent / old English

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  20. Not sure how you can preach about grammar when you write "to practice poor grammar" when it should be "to practise poor grammar" - use an "s" not a "c" when it's a verb. The irony. I couldn't read the rest of your artical after that.

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  21. Despite the flack this book is getting, I sincerely hope it opens up the market for erotic fiction. I've epublished a book called "Anything For Georgetown And Other Stories" on Smashwords.com. It is a collection of four stories that focus on the fetishes of spanking and tickling. The title story is about a teenage girl at a Catholic school. She's a bit of a bully, and a princess. She has wealthy parents, she's gorgeous, and to earn even more money, she hosts strip shows for the boys at her school. She is dying to get into Georgetown, and the new guidance counselor at her school is freaked out by her behavior. He is also an alumni of Georgetown. He promises to get her into her dream college if she gives up the strip shows, her slutty behavior, and quits bothering other students, AND agrees to be punished "his way." Which is lots of spanking and tickling. I posted excerpts on short-fiction.co.uk and they've received nearly 20,000 views. When I uploaded the first part of "Anything For Georgetown" when the story went live, it was being viewed at the rate of once per minute. One comment said: "Sensational! A well-crafted story, beautifully written." My fiction isn't the "he shot his hot love juice on her huge jugs" type of writing. And unlike "50 Shades" this is NOT fan fiction. This is totally made up, from my imagination. You can try out 20 percent of my book at Smashwords.com. It's also available at Barnes and Noble.com. You can get it now on Smashwords for only $2.50 through the end of July. Also available here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/86128

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  22. "Artical?" The pot calling the kettle black.

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  23. I see no problem with the 'me' instead of 'I' issue. Your grammar isn't a worry when you think compared to when you write and this isn't Ana's journal, it's her thoughts. And i've heard a lot of complaints about the British idioms in the book, but as I'm English I had no problem with them! I know that it's trashy in places, but goddamit I really enjoy it anyway!

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  24. I liked this book too but the British idioms really bugged me. I'm reading book 2 now and while I'm enjoying it even more than book 1 so far, the British dialogue continues. Instead of going to THE hospital, they go "to hospital" I don't mind British dialogue, I read a lot of British authors and enjoy it, it just needs to be set in England then.

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