Book review – Too many shades of parodies

2013-01-27 10:00

It is a truth universally ­acknowledged that a book in possession of bestseller ­status must be in want of a parody.

It’s easy to have a kind of love-hate relationship with book parodies.

I love them for that moment of instant joy at the clever title poking fun at the original, the funny picture on the front and the hilarious blurb you can’t wait to read to the nearest friend.

I hate them for what happens after the first few chapters, when the 250-page joke becomes as tired and beat up as Rocky Balboa just before he wants to call out for his Adrian, punch-lined to within an inch of his life.

And never in the history of ­publishing have there been as many instant parodies as with Fifty Shades of Grey.

It is the most gibed-at book of all time (and counting), not just for its astronomical sales, but ­because it’s so badly written it’s almost a parody of itself already.

The lesson of one of the most unexpectedly successful parodies is plainly: stick to the old bit of advice that brevity is the soul of wit. Fifty Sheds of Grey, Erotica for the not-too-modern male, was first written on Twitter and it doesn’t get much more brevity-inducing than being limited to 140 characters to tell your story, especially if your “story” is about the greatest love of all: the one ­between a man and his shed.

Because the jokes are kept short, with lots of pictures of sheds, it works well enough that the parody started outselling the original book over the Christmas period in Britain.

It’s sometimes really funny: “She gazed up at me wide-eyed from the shed floor and bit her lip seductively.Unfortunately, it was her top lip so she looked like a piranha.”

Sometimes it’s just punny.

Before you buy the book, take a look on Twitter first.

Most of the lines are already there; the book just attempts to bring them all together.

And while I’d love to declare that we’ve already seen enough lampooning of EL James’ BDSM disaster by now, I fear this is still only the beginning.

Fifty Shames of Earl Grey is about one man’s shameful secrets, one of which is going shopping at Walmart on Saturday in his pyjamas.

There is Fifty Shades of Chicken, a cookbook about all the ways you can truss up and punish a fowl: “Get it hot till its juices run clear.”

Another cookbook, Fifty Shades of Kale, is a tribute to eating cabbage.

Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland is apparently about a girl following a vibrating white rabbit down a deep, dark hole.

Please don’t ask me to explain that.

And if you can think of the ­colour, there’s a parody that uses it: Fifty Shades of Beige features Annis Thesia as the main character; Fifty Shades of Blue is a poetry send-up (not to be

confused with Fifty Shades of Black and Blue); and a Coupla Shades of Taupe is about the richest man in Arkansas, a fat old hairy guy who boasts having a working refrigerator and a private rickshaw driver.

There are already two books called Fifty Shades of Gay, one of which promises to “send you out to buy more Kleenex”.

And by the time you get to Fifty-Thousand Shades of Grey, the blurb offers: “Romance. Intrigue. Domination. Control. Subservience. Clarity. Epiphany. Release. Euphoria. This book contains

absolutely none of those things – it is literally the words ‘shades of grey’ repeated 50?000 times.”

And the best title of the lot is: Fifty Shades of Sparkling Vampires With Dragon Tattoos That Play Starvation Games. But the title is, sadly, the funniest part.

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