Shades of Erotic Literature

FiftyShadesA friend of mine sent me this picture.  It is not in the United States.  That would be a stoning offense despite the fact the book is in piles at my local Costco.  My first thought when I saw it was why did a book that is almost everywhere need a poster in a busy public thoroughfare.  My second thought though, was why does a book this badly written need more advertising?

Now, maybe it is because the book was written by a women, and the subject is just a bit risque, that it qualifies as Erotic Romance rather than porn.  After all, even if there was not a single curse word in it, if it had been written by a man, it would never have seen the light of day, been labeled as porn and only sold in back rooms to guys with trench coats.  But, since it was written, originally as Twihard fan fiction, it is Erotic Romance.

But even that, to me, is a stretch.  At more than 100 pages in, it is clear that it is a romance.  And a bad one at that.  The main character, Anastasia, is a simpering, weak, unsympathetic character who is made weak-kneed by a twenty-something telecom tycoon with very few characteristics to flesh out why his is so charismatic.  Had this stayed in the Twihard world, it would have been obvious vampire charm (and a little sparkle), but in the real world of today, it is difficult to understand why anyone would find him attractive at all.  It would have been better to make him a 40+ captain of industry.  That would have at least been realistic.  But maybe it is because I am a guy, and one who generally is not impressed by anyone under the age of 50.  And generally, unimpressed by most people in general.  Oh, Zuckerburg is an important man, with lots of money, but he does not impress me, nor would I describe him as charismatic.  The real stumbling block for me though, besides the simpering Anastasia, is the simply horrid writing.

Again, maybe it is because I have tried my hand a writing a story or two, but I find James’s writing style to be erratic.  Stilted, unstructured, difficult.  In some cases, I wonder if the editor even bothered to glance at entire sections of the book.  It does not read like someone tried all that hard to do it right.  And yet, the story is flying off the shelf.

I have mentioned Anastasia, and described her as simpering.  Well, frankly, she is.  She is the antithesis of the modern woman. I think that Helen Gurly Brown probably would have sat her down and told her to grow a pair.  She has no backbone and one wonders how many men she has swooned in front of before Grey finally ties her up?  Literally.  Or maybe she is the archetypical submissive.  I don’t move about much in those worlds, so I cannot say with authority, but I can say, that I do not know a single woman like that.  I would be hard pressed to say anyone does.  Even my weakest female character, Stephanie, is not that…well trivial.  I know that a story needs to have a great transition, from beginning to end, for the character to grow through the telling, and I guess if you start with nothing, you only have one direction to go, but is that not cheating?  Taking the easy road?  What woman actually can see herself in this story?

I am briefly going to touch on the erotic nature of the novel.  Or rather, I am going to hypothesize that it is not as erotic as it is romantic.  As I said, I am only 100 pages into it and the most scintillating thing they have done is have coffee together while Anastasia simpers.  That’s it.  That is not erotic. Oh, you can write a scene in a coffee shop that is highly erotic, without the characters getting naked.  I have read them, I have even tried to write them, but again, James is missing the boat.  Maybe it is a girl thing again, but she is all but running out of the shop the entire time.  It baffles me.  I have read more erotic Nora Roberts books, and by that I mean the ones that are not flagged as erotic!  Heck, I have read more erotic young adult novels than this one.

Maybe, once I get through more of this, I will come back and say whew, that was a hot novel.  But somehow I doubt it.

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