I had heard two things that people are saying about this book, one about content and one about the writing itself, the style, quality, etc.
The content is about sex, people had said, and the detail that I had heard was that it involved somebody being tied up, or somebody tying somebody up, and what proceeds from there.
About the style I had heard that it was not very good, that it was poorly written in some way or other.
I have not read the book in its full entirety, to be candid, but I am sure that it is about sex, and that it does indeed involve somebody being tied up and somebody doing the tying, which may or may not be the same person (I don't want to give away any more spoilers than I must, in case you haven't read it and plan to).
I am also sure that it is not written as badly as some people are saying. Perhaps these critics have been unduly influenced by its popularity, for it has sold untold hundreds and hundreds of books.
Some people simply assume that any popular book is not well written, but there are many popular books about which that is simply not true, as we all know.
On the other hand, there are books which are indeed poorly written, and they may have sold hundreds of copies, and those sales are certainly not because it is not well written, but because it has likely tapped into the zeitgeist of the time, which Fifty Shades of Grey appears to have done.
It is certainly written well enough to be understood by its multitude of readers, for they have bought it and I have not heard of crowds of hundreds of people pounding on bookstores to return the book because they could not understand it.
So we can say that much.
And I have not heard anybody who liked the book saying that they liked it because it was poorly written. I think I remember one person who liked it saying something about "Maybe it's not War and Peace, but I haven't read War and Peace."
As I say, I have not read too much of the book, but that it has tapped into the zeitgeist is clear.
Having not read the entire book, it is difficult for me to say what part of the zeitgeist it has tapped into, but it either may have something to do with the sexual aspect of the book, or something to do with the many things that underlie sex or a book about sex, such as communication, social conflict, power relationships, gender questions, childhood issues, or many other related or even unrelated issues.
It is the strangest of times that we live in, so it is likely that anything that is extremely popular taps into that strangeness, either as a means for people to enter more deeply into that strangeness, or as a way, perhaps, to avoid that basic strangeness by entering into another parallel or non-parallel strangeness.
That there is nothing wrong or bad about sex is one thing that perhaps the book has tapped into, even sex of what was once considered a questionable variety, behind closed doors or not. That facet of the book's popularity is neither good nor bad itself, but merely the way that it is, although we ought to keep an open mind even about that.
Sex is almost always interesting, but there has to be something about this particular book which reaches beyond even the general popularity of the topic. There is almost always a moral aspect of books about sex, or perhaps all books, so that this book may tap into that, but in a way that is not obvious but rather subtly suggests morality as a consideration, or transcends it by immersing it in the characters' non-consideration of it.
So, it cannot be as badly written as some say, and it is about sex, and it is extremely popular among those who bought it and like it, and it taps into something about the zeitgeist of our time and place---we can safely say all these things about it, with complete objectivity.
As I say, I have not personally read it, or bought it, or even seen it laying around on a table, but I wonder about the title. It doesn't sound like a book about sex, or if it does, I would think it would treat the subject with moroseness, from the title. It conjures up somebody on an ocean liner in the fog, having had tied-up sex and then perhaps jumping or falling off the ship, accidentally, in the afterglow perhaps.
However, I have not heard anybody say that it is morose, or anything about any scenario akin to the above ship scene. I'm sure that the title makes much more sense once a person reads the book, which I, unfortunately, have not.
If I did see it laying around on a table, I would certainly pick it up and look into it and see for myself, which I always like to do, rather than take anybody else's word for anything, especially with that title. There are many many books about sex, and about tied-up sex, I would imagine, but which of them has accomplished what this book has accomplished?
Therefore, I think it is the strange and mysterious title that is the secret behind the book's popularity and success. If it had been called "Fifty Shades of Tied-Up Sex," or "Zeitgeist Sex," or "Fifty Shades of Orange," I don't believe it would have achieved what it has achieved.
As I have stated, I have not read a word of the book itself, not by choice but by circumstances, for I read very little to start with, although I have nothing against sex or even tied-up sex, per se, but the title is certainly well-written and evocative, in and of itself, and suggests something profound about the spirit of our age and time. Whether the book attached to the title lives up to that title, I cannot objectively say, from what I have heard.
Monday, August 6, 2012
Posted by Richard Martin.... at 1:20 PM