Eamonn McCann - Fifty shades of hysteria
The incredibly filthy “Fifty Shades of Grey” has sold more copies than any other book in the world this year. And there’s still nearly half the year to go.
My interest in “Fifty Shades” was aroused by the sight of the first three shelves as you go into Eason’s throbbing with copies. Somebody has misread the market, I told myself. There’s nowhere near that many fans of female porn in Derry. Twenty-four hours later, I checked out Eason’s again and there wasn’t a copy left. This was a phenomenon which duty demanded I investigate. I have since read the book, in order to save you the trouble.
“Fifty Shades” tells the tale of 27-year-old Christian Grey, a devilishly handsome billionaire (aren’t they all?) who lures young graduate Anastasia Steele (no-one in real life has ever been called Anastasia Steele) into his world of double-kink bondage, reverse domination, free-form mush-mix and more. Anastasia abandons all hankering after sexual autonomy and bends to his will. Eventually, the pair get to like one another. And that’s about it, really.
Except it all happens again in the second volume of E. L. James’s trilogy, “Fifty Shades Darker”, and once more for luck in the third, “Fifty Shades Freed”.
Is the writing as bad as everyone says? Here’s a key moment - Christian’s exposition of the message/moral/meaning of his life and thereby, to an extent, of Ms. James’s work: “There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain. They are two sides of the same coin, one not existing without the other.”
Romance author Sarah “Smart Bitch Sarah” (that’s her own chosen ID) Wendell offers as good an explanation as any for the books’ soar-away success: “The themes of ‘Twilight’ are very much repeated: innocent heroine, dark, emotionally unavailable hero with a secret, isolation of the heroine from the rest of the world while with the hero, and the hero’s overwhelming ability to care for and provide for the heroine with limitless wealth. It’s a wealth fantasy as well as an erotic fantasy.”
But an even simpler explanation might do - that a book can achieve such momentum so suddenly that sales become self-sustaining - it becomes a phenomenon because it’s become a phenomenon.
A few years back, a dreadful piece of ill-edited hackery called “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” by a chap called Louis de Berniéres sold more than a million copies in Britain alone, despite being poorly written, badly structured, devoid of characterisation and altogether rubbish. But at a certain point in its trajectory, sales reached critical mass and took off towards the stratosphere. Hundreds of thousands of copies were sold because hundreds of thousands of copies had been sold.
Like “The Mousetrap” is still packing them in at St. Martin’s in London because it’s been packing them in for 50 years.
“The Da Vinci Code,” “The Kite Runner” and “The Slap” are more recent examples of bottom-class books that have topped sales charts.
Admittedly, “Fifty Shades” has the advantage of being filthier than any of these.
Anyway, that’s that. You don’t have to read any of this stuff now.
Which is not to say you should deny yourself the trembling pleasure of Ellen DeGeneres reading from “Fifty Shades” on YouTube. Or go straight to lives-destroyed-by-50-shades-of-grey
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Weather for Derry
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 12 C
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