Fifty Shades of Shite

Posted: April 12, 2012 in Review

I had a look at “Fifty Shades of Grey” on Amazon, courtesy of their “look inside” facility. This does not include the dirty bits.

It’s written in first-person present tense. Or rather, it is over-written in first-person present tense. “I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror.” “I roll my eyes in exasperation.” People tend to scowl at themselves and roll their eyes for these reasons. Present tense is hard to sustain, but I think it will probably work in this case as a self-obsessed stream-of-consciousness.

The dialogue is poor. The exchange between Ana and Kate at the start is lazy exposition, when Ana has already agreed to do the interview. “Of course I’ll go, Kate. You should get back to bed. Would you like some Nyquil or Tylenol?” Pointless empty words.

The overwriting continues, breathless stuff covering all sorts of self-obsessed and trivial details. But we miss a description of a “stunning vista” of the Seattle skyline. What does it look like? That Space Needle thing and all that? The headquarters of the global enterprise she visits is a “huge twenty-storey building”…. Twenty storeys is tiny in Seattle. The tallest building in Seattle is seventy-six storeys. The Alaska Building, completed in 1904, is fourteen storeys, the Smith Tower (thirty eight storeys) was the tallest until 1969, and there is not a building in the Top 25 tallest in Seattle that is less than thirty storeys. A modern architect would not dream of designing a twenty storey building in a world city centre, at least because it would not be economically viable. So all Ana would see is a sea of other office windows, and certainly not the Sound or any of the other things we do not actually see beyond the “stunning vista”. This is incredibly lazy in an age of Google and online mapping, and an insult to readers expecting some “city” alongside the “sex”… writers need to convincingly describe both places and people.

We find out (and don’t really care) that Ana prefers curling up with a “classic British novel” yet we don’t know which particular novels she favours, which could provide an insight into her personality… we are inside her head, reading her thoughts FFS! Austen, Bronte, Dickens, Lawrence, Greene or Christie? Ana strikes me as someone who prefers leaving “classic British novels” lying unread on her coffee-table and instead reading… err… this sort of shite!

Ana rolls her eyes a lot, including “at herself”. She must look like a bloody lunatic!

EL James is not a *bad* writer but, to be honest, most people could string together this sort of thing. However, she is certainly not a *good* writer.  “Leather chairs” and “spacious” repeated within three or four lines. Not acceptable. She seems to have a thing about white leather. And the laziness, and the lack of credibility….

Ana somehow knows nothing about the man she is visiting (after having somehow parked effortlessly in downtown Seattle). Has she never heard of Google? Doesn’t she have an internet phone thing? Companies plaster the details of their CEOs all over the internet. What bollocks! She even knows generally that he is a famous entrepreneur at the start of the story… or rather she claims not to have heard of him but knows all of this. It is unconvincing and a fairly lame device to set up her surprise at his relatively young age.

The interview is unconvincing rubbish. Grey is a CEO in charge of some company that employs forty thousand people and does something or other, but we are not exactly sure what. It invests in manufacturing, telecommunications, farming and apparently feeds the world’s poor. This is just laziness – the author should have treated the company as a character rather than just a backdrop. Ana’s anxiety is somehow replaced by passion which leads her to stray from the question sheet with some fairly impertinent questions. I’m uncertain how the question sheet relates to the dialogue (questions being prepared in ignorance of the answers) and also Ana’s own questions.  Now, this is supposed to be the focal point of the first part of the book in terms of the conflict between the two main characters. It should have been written and rewritten a few dozen times to bring various strands together and set up the next sections of the story. To cap it all, the “Are you gay?” question is completely ridiculous.

I started off this review with low expectations, anticipating a tongue-in-cheek response poking fun at James’s writing. It is worse than that. The book is just lazily written crap. This illustrates the hypocrisy evident in publishing. Ebooks are frowned upon by the publishing giants as not worthy of seeing the light of day, until a horde of people eagerly download the lowest common denominator… then the dollar-signs spring up with a big “ker-ching” and the publishers happily hand over big-money advances to publish… this sort of shite.


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