This morning I sat next to a woman who looked like she lived in Fraggle Rock, and who was reading Fifty Shades of Grey on her Kindle. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, nor am I one of the astonished husbands who have felt the physical benefits of it, but as far as I can see it’s very badly written porn. It’s full of phrases that usually only Barbara Cartland at her doziest and pinkest would have attempted. People “stagger round in disbelief” rather than “stagger round in a state of disbelief”, which makes Disbelief sound like a town. Then they sort of take a pill and have “large swigs of gin” (haven’t we all?). The poor female protoganist, who appears to be addicted to various forms of sodomy and humiliation experiences as couple of biological impossibilities ; “My heart skipped a couple of beats” she says. Really? Then aren’t you dead? If you’re not dead yet, surely the next sentence will finish you off, when you write that “inside I melted” at the hands of Christian Grey. Melting insides isn’t good, especially for the kidneys.
Apparently a virgin, having discovered there is nothing on the telly that night, decides to sign up for a long series of sexual humiliations instead. Then again, it is set in Seattle, which is probably the most boring place on the planet after Morecambe, so it doesn’t take a violent leap of the imagination to think that being tied up and denied an orgasm is a pleasant way to spend a Tuesday evening in these godforsaken places. There is also, as other ladies have told me, a vast amount of copy and paste going on with the text : “and then he took my bra off and then he said lie down and pretend to be a gerbil and then I said okay because I’m addicted to cruel men who have thorns instead of personalities…” tends to appear at least five times. And then there’s sequels : Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades In the Kitchen, Fifty Shades in Bridlington on Sea, Fifty Shades in the Hammock etc etc. That’s two hundred shades already, and still it shows no signs of slowing down.
Isn’t it time for a more appropriate Fifty Shades with London 2012 approaching and the Underground being festooned with hot pink signs telling everyone where to go? Perhaps a plot where the female protagonist is tied up and forced to watch the 1000 metre hurdle, or where she only gets to play with his grey tie if and when she has observed the synchronised swimming. Then he forces her to watch tennis (gasp!) whilst Boris Johnson’s mesmerizing voice plays in the background advising her of travel delays in the Waterloo area. It seems that this Fifty Shades of Oy Vey is particularly interested in the Waterloo area. Many female friends have been unable to leave their Waterloo area alone since they took up reading it and I’m not talking about the Bakerloo Line. I watch really old ugly people reading Fifty Shades of Griege and I worry about their pacemakers. I’ve seen a lot of very ugly, old people reading it and it puts me off. I am waiting to see my first nun reading a copy in a train carriage. I worry about the effect it has on monks. But then I suppose I just worry about monks full stop.
For every woman who adores the book, there is another woman to whom this book is depressing. It’s not only incredibly poorly written but mildly unsavoury, they report. Never mind claims of sexual shock, it’s worse than that, it’s a really badly written book. Those concerned with the equality status of a woman in a man’s world find this book depressing, worryingly. When is it going to be the woman’s turn to hold the whip for a change? The generation reared on Nancy Friday compilations of the 1980s and 1990s find this book a mite pale and repetitive. That’s because these women over 40 are far harder to shock with salacious literature than those under 40. This is a book which is polarizing opinions amongst women, and for that it is interesting. Mainly people are reading it to see what the fuss is about simply because the rest of the herd is reading it too. Men are, in the main, frightened by it. As with most forms of escapism, the benefits mean different things to different people. But the levels of obsession certain women obtain with the male character is astounding. One woman I know had become so involved with the utterly made up Christian Grey that she was dreading going on holiday with her own husband, and going back to the real world. Perhaps Christian Grey is nothing more than the provincial-friendly, naked sex equivalent of Donny Osmond. There’s something very banal about the total domination of this book in the markets. Must it be bland in order to be popular with all? Accordingly, something’s gotta give. Must it be, Fifty Shades of Beige rather than Fifty Shades of Grey in order to be so popular? Aren’t human beings essentially into different sorts of sexual fantasy? I’m not sure the infrastructure of the country can take the strain. I think the first thing to go will be the bedsprings of Britain, currently weeping for mercy under the strain of Fifty Shades of Grey inspired shagging. You mark my words, dearest readers. The only business that will provide a profit growth for this quarter in our recession will be John Lewis, as thousands of exhausted and confused husbands are forced to buy new mattresses. That and the sachets you buy at the chemist which contain cranberry extract for bladder infections.
What’s astonishing about this trilogy isn’t the revelation that filth sells. We knew that. We knew that twenty years ago when it explained the popularity of “Noel’s House Party” in the early 1990s. It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone, as Mr Thomas Jones reminded us. In the absence of somebody who is – hell, I don’t know, three dimensional – perhaps Christian Grey is a suitable, imaginary lover. Many forms of escapism are met and …er…appreciated with vigour by reading folk in this country. Plus, many of those who read this book don’t read. People I know who haven’t picked up a book in twenty years are reading it. Therefore, being woefully under-read they are easily impressed. Some of them would, of course, be equally impressed if you’d shown them a copy of “Noddy Goes to Toytown” or be just as likely to be excited to orgasm by reading “Delia Smith’s Cookery Course” : “Turn the page! TURN THE PAGE! I want to know what happens to the Apple Crumble AFTER you bake it at 180 degrees for 25 minutes! This is a great book! Where is the CUSTARD! Oh YES CUSTARD!!!!” A little reading, or indeed a little knowledge, is a dangerous thing. But you can’t stop stupid people making bad reading choices. I tried, and although I have fond memories of that afternoon spent with David Cameron helping him read through my Snoopy Annual 1982 to help with his reading, he went straight out and bought a copy of “The World According to Clarkson” afterwards. You just can’t help some people.
Of course I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Shite – what do you take me for? A complete wanker? Not likely. I vastly consume improving books that don’t involve nipple clamps. There’s nothing that a touch of Nancy Friday wouldn’t cure. Anyway, I don’t see a problem with reviewing a book you haven’t read. My father did it on the Booker panel once (don’t tell A S Byatt). Enough Fifty Shades of Dross. I am going back to do some serious early 20th century classic reading. Now, where did I put that copy of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”?
Please return to The London Bluebird if you enjoyed this. Of course, if you’re too busy enjoying Fifty Shades of Grey you won’t be reading (or indeed getting out bed) for a fortnight, in which case you might get bedsores. It’s your own fault. This blog is updated every Thursday. TUNE IN NEXT THURSDAY FOR A NEW CHAPTER ON ANOTHER ITALIAN ADVENTURE AS THE LONDON BLUEBIRD WILL BE REPORTING TO YOU FROM PERUGIA.