At the end of the first chapter of the latest publishing phenomenon,”Fifty Shades of Grey,” I stopped reading and thought of never opening it up again. That meant kissing off the $9.99 I paid for the e-book edition for my Nook.
It was that poorly written.
I came onto “Shades”, by E L James, a woman, late in the day. Actually it was late yesterday afternoon when I read two Tweets by my favorite contemporary author, Simon Mawer.
In August, Mawer wrote, noting that “Shades” had outsold the Bible in Britain: “A triumph of civilization and literary taste.”
And earlier this month, citing a news article about torching copies of the book in a bonfire: “Are these people idiots? They’ll have to buy the damned book in the first place!”
I had to have this book.
Critics, I read, are torn. Is “Shades” erotica? Or is it porn? But most are united on one aspect. It’s writing at its worst.
And torn too, it seems, are librarians. Some refuse to put it on their shelves. Others seem forced by demand to do the opposite.
As a contrarian, I pushed on. Nothing could gain as much popularity and be as bad as I was led to believe. Could it? I began Chapter 1.
The basics. Written first person, in the view of the central character, Anastasia Steele. Setting Vancouver, WA, and Seattle. Plot: Steele, or Ana, is subbing for her sick roommate, Kate, as interviewer of a young and dashing CEO Christian Grey at his office.
Ana stumbles to the floor as she enters the room, “blushes” a half-dozen times or more in the presence of this god-like man, feels surges of hotness that she can’t explain and refuses to believe what any normal human in her place would believe, that Mr Grey is infatuated with her.
The plot is without logic. That a guarded and busy CEO would give an extraordinary amount of time to a student newspaper reporter’s proxy and to cancel a meeting to prolong it, well, as a former reporter myself, it just seems highly implausible, pure fantasy.
And James needs a competent editor.
Surely an editor would change the over-wrought “I ignore my pang of unwelcome sympathy.” And certainly a change of “my own feet” could be shortened to “my feet.” And what college student says “Holy Cow!” anymore? Maybe back in the Fifties, maybe.
If someone had shown me a copy of “Shades” written out on a laptop, I would’ve discarded it immediately as not worth my time. It is like reading a high school term paper penned by a dreamy 16-year-old girl in an era when 10-year olds are getting pregnant. If I had been the author’s English instructor, I would have given the first chapter a C grade, maybe a B minus. James got the spelling right anyway.
To my credit I plowed on. And I’m feeling rewarded. Soon I discovered the author has a good sense of timing. Now at page 55, not a single sex scene. But James is building toward one. The attraction between the heated Ana and the reserved Christian is at the tipping point. It is best not to rush things. Not even sex.
So I’ll see how much further I can get. To the first sex scene at least.
There has to be a logical reason, has to be, “Shades” is riding so high on the New York Times e-book bestseller list all these weeks, though it was conspicuously absent from the latest top 15 in hardcovers. It rests at No. 4 now, 29 weeks on the list. Two other of James’s trilogy, the more recent “Fifty Shades Freed,” and “Fifty Shades Darker,” are Nos. 1 and 3. Can 10 million book buyers be wrong?
Amazing, simply amazing.