Monday, March 4, 2013

Frustrations with Fifty Shades of Grey


I’m halfway into paragraph one and I’m already annoyed that it sounds like fanfiction.  Which, of course, distracts me and makes me wonder why exactly fanfiction sounds like fanfiction.  Is it too many adjectives?  Is it the use of an extremely self-indulgent first person?  Is this symptomatic of modern fiction in general?  I don’t tend to read much contemporary fiction because I don’t usually like the overly plot-driven, shallow writing style.  But it’s not like none of the older stuff I read isn’t full of adjectives and in first person – I just finished Villette yesterday; it has both of these characteristics in abundance and yet it’s marvelous.  And another thing.  If I didn’t know that Fifty Shades of Grey was originally written as Twilight fanfiction, would I be accusing it now of sounding like it?  There are plenty of these highly insecure, Mary Sue-type heroines in the novels coming out these days, which I worry is symptomatic of a very sad trend towards insecurity in our culture today.  But then again!  Lucy Snowe is one of the most depressed, anxious, and self-loathing women in any of the classics I’ve read so far.  So maybe it really does come down to depth of writing style and content.  Charlotte Brontë had Lucy muse on Truth and Reason, letters and communication, performances both on a stage and off it, and a trip to the backyard garden or to the attic might take a whole chapter because of all the self-reflective commentary.  In the first paragraph of Fifty Shades of Grey, Ana is brushing her hair and violently complaining about her appearance, and generally sounding like she’s got no capacity to withstand any real difficulties in her life.  All this discussion of submission and mantras and control seems artificial, forced, and trying too hard on the author’s part.  It's irritating when insignificant objects or actions are described in such exaggerated terms.  It makes supposedly adult characters sound like they're fifteen.

And the above paragraph on E. L. James’s first paragraph is longer than its source material.  Sigh.  Reading this book might take a while.

4 comments:

  1. Oh, you are brave! I decided from sentence-long excerpts that I'd read enough! I appreciate your intelligent assessment; always very interesting to hear a thoughtful take on a pop culture phenomenon!

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    1. I'm not sure how thoughtful I'm managing to be...unfortunately, my response has been more frustration and annoyance than any real analysis. But I do hope to post about this book a few more times.

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  2. From everything I've heard, I know this book is definitely not for me, but I appreciate your thoughtful and intelligent comments on it nonetheless.

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    1. I honestly don't think it's a book for me either, but it's gotten so much commentary in pop culture that I want to be informed. It's kind of dreadful; I really wouldn't wish it on anyone.

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