There is no escape from the Shades of Grey. The books are all over Amazon, the news, the review sites. A commenter at agent Kristin Nelson’s blog confessed that she and her friends had inhaled them:
I’ll man up. I read the hell out of it. All three installments in two and a half days. 800,000 words. BOOM. Just like that. I think I gave it four stars on Goodreads or something.
And here’s why: I couldn’t put it down.
True, it’s technically a mess. It’s randomly punctuated. The dialogue is all over the place. The characters are bipolar. The sex is vanilla. Typos abound (at one point Christian stared at Ana like “a bacon in the night” which made a weird sort of sense, actually). Ana has this really weird habit of doing figure skating jumps off gymnastics apparatuses. And it started out as fanfic, which I get the impression I’m supposed to be all up in arms about. But holy cow. Do you know the last time I read that many words in such a short period of time? Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Here’s what I think people don’t understand: Good hardly ever factors into popular or entertaining. People aren’t going to youtube, for example, to watch someone do something meaningful or profound. They’re going to watch some guy stick a lit firecracker up his bum. I would rather see Sharktopus than The English Patient. That’s just how I roll.
So there’s something to be said for things that are a little bit campy. I’m a little bit campy. So are my friends. When I got to the point in the book where I realized it was going to be one THOSE stories (I didn’t see a lot of Twilight in 50 Shades, but it totally read like “crack-fic” fan-fiction), the first thing I did was go on Facebook and tell two of my friends, “Hey, you have to read this.” Because it was absolutely the kind of book they would love. And they did love it.
Nine copies sold between the three of us. We all felt like we got our money’s worth. Not because it was good, remember, but because it spoke that little spot in our hearts that loves those kinds of stories. The fact that it was kind of poorly written just made it that much better.
And I can’t explain why that is. I don’t know why this book, with its myriad of flaws, the least of which being its word count, held me captive in a way that other, arguably “better” books didn’t.
Well, who can argue with that?
This is the culture we live in, it’s useless to deny it. People would rather see Sharktopus than The English Patient, they would rather eat a homogenous, heat-lamped McBurger for $.99 than a plate of seasonal roasted asparagus for $5.00. They’re not after nutritional value or beauty or subtlety, they’re after cheap, government-subsidized non-food that tastes the same every time you eat it. Give ‘em your dollar, snarf it down, look for more. This is where we are.
This is the zeitgeist.
Any other epiphanies for a Sunday morning?