Fifty Shades of Grey: My Rant on Crappy Books and the People Who Buy Them

Nothing gets my blood boiling more than animal abuse, religious fundamentalism, and crappy books. As someone who hopes to write novels one day, I get pissed off when mediocre writing gets an abnormal amount of hype, followed by movie rights and millions of dollars before I can even say “For the love of the Oxford comma!”

Right now, that hype is surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey (FSG), an erotic fiction trilogy by E.L. James. While I could discuss my annoyance over the excessive use of initials among authors–usually to disguise the writer’s gender in order to appeal Β to a larger audience (sexist much, publishing industry?)–I have WAY too many other things to rant about. Here’s an abridged list:

These crappy books are crappy Twilight fan-fiction. Why are people acting like this is an original story? FSG used to be known as Master of the Universe. James, or “Snowqueens Icedragon” as she’s called online, wrote a BDSM tale about Edward and Bella, but then decided to rewrite it with her own characters. Instead of a story about a billionaire vampire and a high school virgin, it has become a story about a billionaire mortal named Christian Grey and a recent college grad/virgin Anastasia Steele. I’m not accusing James of copyright infringement because FSG now contains no connections to Meyer’s equally crappily-written trilogy, but I’m tired of media outlets ignoring the fact that James is essentially a crappy book copycat.

These crappy books make real erotica look bad. I read the previews of FSG on Amazon, so I believe that I have enough knowledge to judge their literary merit. (Trust me, you don’t want to read more than that!) I have also read my fair share of erotic novels, and even erotic fan-fiction, and I am embarrassed for the writers out there who are actually good at what they do. Here’s an excerpt from the Tumblr “50 Shades of Suck:” “Oh my, the look he gives me could be solely responsible for global warming” (Freed, Ch. 2). And another one: “‘Hold tight, baby,’ he murmurs, and magically produces a foil packet that he holds in front of my mouth. I take it between my teeth, and he tugs, so that between us, we rip it open” (Darker, p. 194).

If you didn’t cringe and groan while you read those sentences, then you might want to re-evaluate your literary standards. But there are many more examples where those came from, so feel free to check out that Tumblr. If anything, the outrageous number of times that these characters say each other’s names is enough to turn me off, not turn me on.

These crappy books have created a sexist conversation. Look, I have nothing against BDSM. I believe that women can be submissive in sexual relationships without being submissive in other aspects of their lives. As long as people enter into consensual agreements, what they do behind closed doors is none of my business. However, I can’t stand how media are calling this trilogy “mommy porn.” I find this term offensive, because it implies that (1) the only readers of erotica are housewives and (2) women don’t watch actual porn.

Both of these generalizations are completely false. Women are sexual beings just like men, whether they have children or not, and to trivialize their desires is sexist. What women can do to fight this verbal misogyny is to discuss their sexuality in an honest way and battle stereotypes about sexual fantasies. Stop this romance novel versus hardcore video, gender war nonsense! You should be able to like, or not like, various expressions of sex without “The Today Show” cracking jokes about your preferences.

These crappy books have undeservedly made way too much money. Speaking of “The Today Show,” E.L. James was recently interviewed on the NBC program. The author even admits, “I’m not a great writer.” (As if we hadn’t noticed!)Β Jezebel discusses how James is just as shocked as I am about her books’ popularity. And yet, they are topping the NYT bestseller list, and people are already hoping to cast Chris Hemsworth and Dakota Fanning as the film’s stars.

It simply boggles my mind what books make money nowadays, while well-deserved stories go unnoticed. James is now a millionaire, while the rest of us aspiring novelists are considering lowering our standards to get published, or at the very least, adopting pseudonyms just so we can earn enough to pay our bills without sacrificing our literary integrity.

Granted, I realize that this blog post is only fueling James’ success with publicity, but I hope that my intelligent subscribers will recognize crappy books when they read them–just don’t pay for them if you do!

What are your thoughts? Do you love or love-to-hate Fifty Shades of Grey? Or maybe you have never heard of it? What other crappy novels get your blood boiling?

33 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Grey: My Rant on Crappy Books and the People Who Buy Them

  1. Awesome post, I totally agree with you! These books sound appalling, more so after reading those little extracts you included. It annoys me that these writers become millionaires and even billionaires with such crappy writing and stories. But there’s gotta be some karma in the world, surely. We can only hope πŸ˜›

      • Hahaha, either some tragedy is going to befall these crappy authors, or we are going to get insanely lucky/rich/someotherthirdthing! I’ll hope for the latter because I prefer not to wish ill upon people, even if they become rich from bad writing (also, karma, hahaha).

  2. Not going to lie, I love how many times you use the word crappy! I’m glad knowing this book isn’t worth reading, and I hope no one I respect in the acting world gets cast in this movie, although I’m sure that’s whats going to happen. I love how the own author admits she doesn’t think she’s a great writer, I think authors should stand by their work and be proud and to call it there’s, weather people like it or not. If the author doesn’t even like her own writing how does she expect me to? At least lie and be great-full that you, of all the great writers out there, you and your crappy book won the lottery will be a crappy movie and you are now rich.

    • Well-said! I’m glad you liked the repetition! You’re right, writers need to have confidence and believe in their skills, otherwise why should I? I’m on a mission to save people, one crappy book at a time! haha!

  3. I haven’t read FSG, and now after reading your post, I definitely will not. πŸ˜›
    One of the books that made my blood boil was “The Monk who sold his Ferrari”. I could not understand what the point of the whole book was…I’d rather read The Count of Monte Cristo again. πŸ˜€

  4. I once read that in order to be a successful writer you have to write as if you are writing to 12 year old children. I am uneducated and some of the things she wrote, even I rolled my eyes. But that was not the reason I didn’t like the books. Her main character, Anastasia got on my nerves so badly. I stopped reading 4 chapters into book 2. Which I only purchased because book 1 ended in the middle of no where. If you can recommend any good erotica, I would appreciate it.

    • Thanks for subscribing and commenting! Kudos to you for reading as much as you could–you’ll save other people from crappy books! I’ll do some more research on good erotica, and perhaps devote a blog post to it in the near future. In the meantime, I take recommendations from all genres, so feel free to share your favorites! πŸ™‚

  5. Book Club Babe:

    I hope that you never come across a crappy book that combines animal abuse and religious fundamentalism.

    I had never heard of Fifty Shades of Grey but your article piqued my interest and sent me off to the local Barnes & Noble to sneak a peek. What I found, sadly, is that the romance novel section seems to have overwhelmed traditional literature and non-fiction. My quick look at FSG indicates that it is actually better written, at least in some parts, than a random selection of romance fiction. Nevertheless, it is not something that even a seedy old man like me would buy. Personally, I’m at an age where, if I could write something that bad and get it to sell, I would take the money and run (or, in my case, slowly shuffle).

    • Thanks for commenting! That’s great that my post inspired you to check out these books for yourself! While I agree that there are many crappy romance novels available in your local bookstore, there are also hidden gems out there (or at least books which are so fun that you’re willing to excuse their less-than-Pulitzer quality). Of course, you’re more than welcome to recommend your favorite books–who knows? They could be my next reviews!

  6. I can’t seem to get around the fact that it’s Twilight fan-fiction either. From the snippets you provided, I can honestly say that I’ve read better fan-fiction writing that wasn’t trying to get published for a profit.

    Seems that everyone’s heard of this, but no one has heard of those truly great gems buried in the stacks of books at the bookshops or on the shelves at the library… it’s a shame really.

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  8. Sadly I live I a world where most people I know read crappy poorly written books. These books exist and are popular because people have an aversion to thinking. They read drivel this because it’s an easy read. I remember Oprah saying to Toni Morrison how difficult her books were. She found she had to read a paragraph several times to fully understand it. Morrison replied, That my dear is reading.
    Most people I know do not have that kind of intellect to persevere through such literature. I did read 50 shades, the first book. No I did not pay for it. Because I also read twilight, I can say this book is worse. Neither books are well written but romanticize dominant males. That is the appeal. I find comfort that these books will never win a Booker Or Pulitzer Prize.

    • Thanks for subscribing and commenting! I agree that good books are worth the challenge of reading them, and it’s too bad more people don’t rise to that challenge. Luckily, it seems that all my wonderful followers have good taste! πŸ™‚

  9. I find it infuriating when anyone says they actually think this is a good..nay..GREAT book. It is fifty shades of banal stupidity. I had to force myself to finish it in order to be fair and able to properly critique it. It was alternately boring and offensive. Funny thing is..if a naive college graduate who had never even touched herself said she wanted to get married..everyone would be like “oh no! your too young!” But tie her up in the dungeon room and spank her and suddenly everyone is on board? And this is the best thing ever? It is truly irking that in 2012, arguably the year of our evolutionary leap in consciousness, that this is the collective choice of the masses. They are obviously putting too much fluoride in the water. People have been dumbed down beyond my comprehension.

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