Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate
July 26, 2012
So the other day I decided to download the audio-book version of “50 Shades of Grey,” the No. 1 New York Times bestseller. Hello – as an aspiring novelist, it’s practically my job to stay up on popular fiction. I have to familiarize myself with what’s out there. Even I have to make sacrifices sometimes.This book and its sequels have sold almost 20 million copies since it hit the shelves in April, putting it on par with bestsellers like “Harry Potter” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Film rights were sold to Universal and Focus Pictures, and according to the Chicago Tribune, sex-toy sales have risen by 65 percent since the book’s publication.This book has quite literally set the world on fire, especially beneath the belts of bored, suburban women who clearly needed an excuse to give bondage a try. It must have never occurred to them to go out to the horse barn and borrow some of those riding crops for indoor activities. What a lovely idea.I enjoy listening to audio books on long bike rides, so I cue up the iTunes and put in my ear buds and start pedaling up the Rio Grande Trail toward Aspen. By the time I get to Woody Creek, I want to throw the iPhone into the river because I’m so pissed off that this piece of crap (to borrow one of the author’s favorite words) is the No. 1 national best-seller in recent history.”It takes awhile to get to the sex scenes,” my friend Carly warned me.Still, seven chapters in, and so far, all I’d heard was really bad writing. When I say bad, I mean really, really bad. You are a bad girl, E.L. James. You ought to be punished.I know I’m not writing Pulitzer Prize-winning literature myself, but still. I actually try to be good, as in the opposite of bad. As in I don’t need to be spanked or hit with an instrument that was made for a large animal.I try to describe things in different and unusual ways. I try not to repeat words or phrases too often and am very aware of my sentence construction. I like to think metaphors and analogies are the backbone of good writing. I try at all costs to avoid clichs or comparisons I’ve heard before. The whole idea is to come up with something unique but effective. So when I hear lines like, “His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel … or something,” I want to throw up. I think James should be handcuffed to her bedpost and forced to take a writing class online for exposing the world to such bad writing. By the time I get to the top of Heart Attack Hill, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard the description “I blushed scarlet.” It would actually be a great assignment for a ninth-grade English-composition class to have to write 10 different analogies for blushing. I bet a bunch of 15-year-olds could do that.Speaking of 15-year-olds, the main character, Anastasia Steele, is a 21-year-old college graduate who thinks like a high school freshman. She has thoughts like, “I can’t believe I said that. Ground, swallow me up now,” and slang I hadn’t heard since eighth grade like “crap,” “holy crap,” “holy hell” and “double crap.” The plot pushes slowly and predictably forward when Anastasia falls for Christian Grey, a rich, powerful CEO who, as it turns out, is into S&M. We are supposed to believe that somehow this attractive 21-year-old is still a virgin who has never been kissed. (At least not down there. Holy hell!)Fifty miles and four hours later, I’m so mad this book is a big best-seller I could hit someone. I wonder where I can purchase a whip in El Jebel.Still, I have to press on. I’m practically handcuffed to this horrible book at this point, just trying to get through it. Two bike rides up to Ruedi and one long run later, I finally get to a sex scene that is mildly stimulating, which is kind of amusing since I am listening to it while I’m out for a run. If only all those men driving those big trucks with those powerful boats all chained up to them knew what was going on, they’d probably become even worse drivers.So I start reading at night while my husband is asleep. In order to save time, I skip right to the sex scenes. I have to get through this torture somehow.I get to the part where Anastasia is deflowered and then agrees to become a sex slave and be treated like a kinky circus animal. It so doesn’t turn me on or make me want to tie my husband up, er, I mean wake him up – at all.Even though I stayed up until 1 a.m. reading until my eyeballs started to bleed, I still don’t get why this book is such a big deal. Hasn’t anyone ever heard of Pornhub.com? I mean, you can get this stuff on the Internet, and you don’t have to suffer through a horrible, badly written book to get to the good parts. It’s hard to believe we’re this repressed or that we need to be told what to fantasize about or that we need to be told to fantasize, period. Like, “Honey, forget our wedding registry. Let’s save up for some kegel balls and a pinwheel instead.”And what does it say to me, the aspiring writer? Forget about being funny or clever. I obviously just need someone to whip me into shape.I don’t know what’s worse torture: reading the book or writing about reading it. I better go out for a run and find out.
The Princess is tied up and can’t respond to email at this time. Stalk me on Twitter @aspenprincess.
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