The first novel that we’ll read on Bad Books, Good Times is the one that inspired it in the first place, EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey. A current New York Times Bestseller that is apparently just 500 pages of sex scenes, there was no way we couldn’t start with this one.
When Anastasia Steele, a young literature student, interviews wealthy young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, their initial meeting introduces Anastasia to an exciting new world that will change them both forever.
I’ve always been fascinated with what makes writing bad or good. On the one hand, it’s incredibly subjective, on the other hand, there seem to be universal standards that, much like toothpaste, 9/10 people can agree on. Most people I’ve spoken to that have read Fifty Shades of Grey acknowledge the bad writing but are too compelled by the plot (and the plethora of sex scenes) to put it down. This I can understand, because as I’m reading the book, though I don’t particularly care for any of the characters, though the writing itself is filled with so very many of my pet peeves (which I’ll get to later), I want to find out what happens. And I’ll be damned if it doesn’t make me laugh out loud sometimes with how terrible it is.
I’ve heard bits and pieces about Fifty Shades from friends who have either completed or are in the process of completing this trilogy (using the word ‘trilogy’ makes me feel like I’m giving it unnecessary prestige, then again calling it a novel also seems to be giving it unnecessary prestige. Can I just call it a shitovel or a shitlogy?). I’ve heard about the abundance of sex, kinky sex, the control issues Christian Grey has, and that it was originally Twilight fanfiction, so basically I need to read Anastasia Steele as Bella Swan and Christian Grey as Edward Cullen. I also heard they say each other’s full names constantly, that EL James (or maybe just Anastasia, it’s hard to tell) doesn’t understand what a subconscious is, and that it makes you “google things”.
It’s almost too easy to make fun of Fifty Shades, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to do it, because who doesn’t like to get a good laugh from mocking the mockable? But I’m going to do my best to also keep an open mind and engage with the plot and characters and at least get something out of this drivel work, because I don’t want to go the easy way on this one. I don’t want to go into it just knowing it’s terrible and thus be inclined to hate every single line and word even if maybe there are glimmers of hope throughout it. So come, take a journey with me as I embark on my quest to read Fifty Shades of Grey with both an open-mind and a readiness to mock.
I heard two people talk about Fifty Shades of Grey before I decided I had to read this thing. The first was a good friend of mine at college, who told me, while we were up late
starting finishing final papers for a class we were in, that she read the whole thing in a weekend and it was one of the funniest things she had ever read. The second was a Facebook status from my old AP Literature teacher from senior year of high school, writing that she didn’t get what the fuss was all about.
I’m going into Fifty Shades pretty blind. All I know about it is that it’s 1) poorly written, 2) got a lot of sex in it, and, perhaps most tellingly, 3) it used to be Twilight fanfiction, and then the author changed the character names and got it published. Even that doesn’t tell me very much about this novel, knowing thankfully little about the elements of Twilight that lend themselves to fanfiction. So it’s, hopefully, a quick read, makes me laugh a lot (intentionally or no), and doesn’t make me too uncomfortable. Although, as Ariel mentioned, our friend who directed us to it told us that a fair amount of the sex scenes “made me Google things”, so that may not last particularly long.
And so we read the erotic New York Times Bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey, where I will mock it viciously, share how little I know about BDSM sexual subcultures, and try not to think too much about how my parents are probably reading this.