Georgina Guedes

Fifty shades of whatever

2012-07-12 15:09

Georgina Guedes 

I am not one of the people who has bought or read the 20 million copies of Fifty Shades of Grey in circulation around the world today.

In case you've been living under a rock for the past year, Fifty Shades is a trilogy about a young girl who gets involved in an S&M relationship with an older, powerful man. Since I haven't actually read the books, that's about as much as I can tell you, other than it's the fastest selling paperback of all time.

I consider myself to be fairly well read, but it's not literary snobbery that's keeping me away from the series. I've been known to curl up with a trashy novel as often as the next girl, relishing the escapism contained in simple prose and happy endings. 
I also think of myself as fairly liberal-minded, so I'm not staying away for fear of being offended or horrified by what's contained in the hardcore soft porn story of Anastasia and Christian's relationship.

What does hold me back from rushing out and grabbing my own copy of the book is that it apparently started life as online Twilight fan fiction. It was criticised for being too raunchy, and removed by its author, EL James, then re-realised as the first Fifty Shades novel.

When I said I am not a literary snob, that was true, but I am a linguistic one. I only managed to get about a page and a half into the first Twilight book before the stilted and off-target language compelled me to put it aside. So to learn that EL James was a fan, and then created her own, sensual fantasy world, didn't make me want to rush to the shops with a fistful of money to own this masterpiece.

By all accounts, Fifty Shades doesn't just give the English language a light spanking; it trusses it up and beats it silly with a truncheon. And that I imagine, with a fair deal of conviction, is what will turn me off the series.

In my younger days, I worked on a publication that covered all things to do with the internet. Every year, one issue was dedicated to sex, which, if you know the statistics of how much of the internet is devoted to sex, was a moderate frequency.

It was usually our best-selling issue. It was also the issue about which we received the largest number of complaints, despite the fact that the sex section was contained within sealed pages that clearly stated what the contents would be.

Every year, I rolled my eyes at the furious missives we received from people who had been warned that they might be offended, opened the sealed section and were offended.

Given with this line of reasoning, I chose not to read Fifty Shades, not to avoid offence at the raunchy sex, but to protect my eyes from the mutilation of the language inescapably bound on its pages.

Then I started to second-guess myself. I know the heights of rage that I am propelled to when my daughter greets a meal that she has not tasted with a heartfelt “yuck!”, and I was aware that I was doing exactly that to EL James's offering.

So I turned to my old friend the internet and searched for an excerpt, just to confirm my suspicions. What I read was exactly what I had anticipated. It was as if someone gave Stephanie Meyer a frontal lobotomy, then set her writing for the adult market. 

When I got to the line, “I'm tied, literally, to my bed...”, I gave the whole thing up as the bad idea that I always knew it would be. “Literally”? Does she even know the meaning of the word? Should I literally carve the definition into her forehead? Thanks, I'm done.

On the beach, in the bath or in my bed, I'll be getting my literary kicks and kinks from some other book.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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