A while ago, I started a site with my pro-writer/journalist friends A and N and K to ‘protest’ the emerging trend of sponsored writing.
Sponsoredlady.com was a more-or-less hilarious place whose overt aim was to praise free goods and covert aim was to encourage readers to reject the intrusion of capital directly into the relationship between them and the written word. For more on that, go here.
Anyhoo. A nice lady on Twitter asked me today where our all-time hit-kicker ‘Fifty Shades of Cray Cray’ had gone. Unfortunately, the Internet ate it because I was unable to pay the domain renewal bill as I am the sort of idiot writer who refuses to accept money to produce words in which she does not believe.
As it was a fairly popular post, I found it on the wayback machine and plop it here for your potential amusement.
Goods Received: Fifty Shades of Cray Cray
Cost to Sponsored Lady: $0, found on Internet
Payment to Sponsored Lady: -$500 in income loss due to live-tweeting the experience of reading
Let it first be plainly said, your reviewer is an enormous fan of wanking.
Arithmetic might be of help in reckoning the total number of times I have seasoned my fish. It is of no help, however, in extending that sum. Whatever the figure, it’s a lot. So much, in fact, that I sometimes run out of material with which to scratch the patch.
Therefore, it was with private hope I began the Fifty Shades trilogy; a BDSM blockbuster aimed at persons of my demographic who had run out of things to fluff their faps. Or, to use the language of the works, things to amuse themselves “down there”.
Always eager to deposit in the spank-bank, I picked up a stray copy of E L James’ strange shame left lying carelessly on the floor of the Internet. This should be good for a fiddle, I thought.
No stranger to vertical pleasure – nor to porn depicting edge-play – I prepared, as often I have before, to wank at my personal computer. Viz. I popped on some elasticised trousers and closed the curtain. Yes. The romance of self-love is dead.
It was during the first chapter that a clamp shut down my “down there”. Possibly for good. This is not even literary snobbery. This is my broken vagina talking. Fifty Shades constitutes not only a failure to use the alphabet; it is a collapse of all my climactic hope.
I do not understand how this “writing” is stirring to any organ save for the human gastrointestinal tract. This is not erotic so much as it is emetic. This is felt as soon as we learn the name for our heroine: Anastasia Steele.
Anastasia MotherFucking Steele; this is a name rich in sugar-vomit. Even Harlequin genre-romance disposed of this absurd taxonomy years ago. Why not just call her Jiggles St Faire or Cans McNally or Lady Vag Sponge-Worthington for all the veracity this stupid fucking joke-name lends to the text? And, if that were not sufficient nonsense, Steele’s room-mate, an aberration outstanding for being no sort of narrative device at all, is named Katherine Kavanagh.
Please note, the revulsion I feel for this “writing” is not based in morality. I believe BDSM practise to be both entirely legitimate and enormous fun. But as a novice Bottom, I can detect some very false notes and as a Queer, I am terribly annoyed by the way in which the taste for edge-play is seen as some sort of disorder.
Plus, as an English speaker, I just really want to hurt myself.
Yes, BDSM is medicalised in this awful book to which no learned eye should ever be affixed. The titular dom Christian Grey – oh, I know, why didn’t she just call him Cockington Jizz-Bisning – enjoys “dirty” sex only because he is, according to the text, “Fifty Shades of Fucked Up”.
Grey likes bondage because he is damaged by abuse; the heroine likes it chiefly because CHIRISTIAN GREY IS SUCH AN AWESOMLEY HOT GUY, WHOA. This is a topsy-turvy world where awesome turns to adverb and BDSM turns to sickness.
As with any consensual sexual practise, bondage is not evidence of a disease. Conversely, WANKING TO THIS BOOK IS EVIDENCE OF A DISEASE. “You’re very beautiful, Anastasia Steele. I can’t wait to be inside you.” I urge anyone who masturbated to this sentence to seek immediate medical aid. Medical aid and a copy of Strunk & White.
You will find no grist to the gynaecological mill in this place. That so many women have ground their corns into maize can only be evidence that my sex life is much, much spicier than I had previously thought.
Anyone even casually acquainted with actual sex will not be shocked into arousal by the, say, four or five extended pornographic scenes of the first volume. At one point, Billionaire Christian Grey and Jaunty Submissive Anastasia Steele violate State health and safety codes by fornicating at an International House of Pancakes. Then, there’s a bit of spanking and an unfulfilled promise of anal.
I did a word search of Part 2 – AKA Fifty Shades of Grade School Grammar – and the word “anal” appears just twice. DAMN YOU ANASTASIA STEELE! I was promised sodomy. I’m calling the bum-sex ombudsman if it doesn’t happen soon. But after one-and-a-half-volumes, whoa, I can’t go on. I’m afraid I’m done not being offended with this work.
Oh, there is one carnal thing that really did appal me; so big ups to you for that, Missus James. In a scene that depicts a little-known peccadillo, Christian Grey “sensuously” removes our plucky heroine’s sanitary-wear.
“He reaches between my legs and pulls on the blue string… what! And… a gently pulls my tampon out and tosses it into the nearby toilet.” Sensuously.
What do we even call this? Kotex-play? Of course, like nearly everyone, I’ve had a bit of crime-scene sex and regretted it only in the laundry. But eroticising the actual tampon? I thought only Crown Princes were permitted to do that. But, to quote our protagonist, “whoa…is this really happening?”. Apparently it is. Jeez. Whoa. HOLY MOLY.
We have bad sex and we have an entirely embarrassing Thomas Hardy leitmotif. Just as Michael Cunningham won the Pulitzer with his nod to Mrs Dalloway, James wins my Grand Prix de scorn with her lumbering references to Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Co-ed Anastasia Steele is a Literature major, dontcha know.
A Literature major whose specialty is the Nineteenth Century novel; which makes her prose all the more confounding littered, as it is with ellipses, unforgivable repetition and the word “whoa”.
Whoa. Please consider this soil sample from the poison tundra of Shades “My mouth goes dry and desire blooms in my body… whoa.” Whoa appears 17 times. In Part One of the Popular Bondage & Delicatessen series, the word “jeez” appears 81 times.
Jeez, could I feel any more self-conscious? Jeez, he remembers how I like my tea. Jeez, I’m a quivering, moist mess, and he hasn’t even touched me.
THESE ARE ALL ACTUAL SENTENCES WRITTEN BY AN ACTUAL HUMAN WOMAN. Our Anastasia is impenitent also in her use of “inner goddess”, “holy crap” and “Anastasia Steele”.
The lyrics to Who Put The Bomp (In-The-Bomp-A-Bomp-A-Bomp) are more finely crafted than the passages of Shades. There are Home Hardware catalogues more gripping and plugs of cold snot more arrestingly erotic. Also – and this is just a quibble but one that has given me a rash from all the head-scratching – why does Handsome Billionaire Christian Grey give Plucky Co-ed Anastasia Steele a fucking BlackBerry? She is clearly the sort of douche who’d prefer an iPhone.
Also, why does Salty Sadist Christian have “lips that quirk up in a smile” seventeen fucking times. Also, why is everyone cocking their head and smiling?
He smiles a dazzling, crooked smile, his head cocked slightly to one side. He cocks his head to one side, and I see a trace of a smile. He cocks his head to one side and gives me an artful smile.
Head-cocking and smiling. Are these supposed to be people or Labradors at Crufts?
Oh. And another thing. How does anyone become a young billionaire in the United States of America via onshore manufacturing and why does the Marvellous Master say something as flagrantly ignorant as in Chapter 10 (by which, might I add, they have done it JUST ONCE and NOT EVEN with restraints) “The Pinot Grigio here’s a decent wine, it will go well with the meal, whatever we get.” Now, I’m no fucking sommelier but I know for damn sure a fruity, dry Italian with notes of grapefruit is not doing ANY favours to red meat, game or fish with cream based sauce. Pinot Noir is a much better one-size fits most varietal. Jeez. Whoa. Holy Moly. Why the fuck didn’t she do some Wikipedia?
Apparently a moist nation-state of mamas was too busy furiously knocking the top off frustration to give half a shit for detail. Or sentences. Or a book that didn’t actually insult them by describing the taste of the hero’s cock as “my very own Christian Grey flavor popsicle.” THIS IS AN ACTUAL SENTENCE WRITTEN BY AN ACTUAL HUMAN WOMAN.
Oh. I should mention. As Christian Grey is Terribly Cultured, his favourite film is The Piano. For some reason, I found this uproariously funny. I just genuinely hope that no one tells Jane Campion as she seems like a nice lady and would probably be devastated by such unfortunate news.
It’s SO AWFUL. Actually, it’s almost seductively awful in that Showgirls way. It’s a rare example of Susan Sontag’s unintentional camp; the author is clearly unaware of the dazzling kitsch she’s produced. If you have a reading group who likes to laugh at stupid people doing clumsy things, it’s an indispensible artefact.
“You have such a captivating, sexy ass, Anastasia Steele,” says Billionaire BlackBerry Gift-Giver Christian Grey. Perhaps I will have the words “You have such a captivating, sexy ass, Anastasia Steele” tattooed on my captivating, sexy ass. And change my name to Anastasia Steele.