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Fifty shades of smut

June 29, 2012

VINING

 

AUSTIN VINING
Associate Editor

 

A midlife crisis is inevitable for most people, and while most cope through spending tens of thousands of dollars on new cars and other extravagancies, one woman is making money from the sudden success of midlife crisis fan-fiction.

 

When No. 1 New York Times best-selling author E. L. James climbed her way to the top by writing a spin-off of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, she said she never imagined it would achieve the notoriety it has and it is not hard to see why.

 

While the main character Anastasia Steele is often depicted as swallowing, the book leaves some readers wanting to spit.

 

In an interview with NBC’s Michelle Kosinski, James said, “I did this in a very undisciplined kind of way. I’m a very undisciplined writer. It’s very kind of raw, and I’m not a great writer.”

 

These statements become blatantly apparent after skimming through the first few pages of her novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It blows.

 

The thing that bothers me the most is James’ utter disregard of connotative language. In the supposedly sexiest scenes of what is being labeled “mommy porn,” James manages to throw in words that release some of the built up sexual tension by making the reader feel awkward.

 

Take this pull out: “My insides practically contort with potent, needy, liquid desire.
 Desire—acute, liquid and smoldering, combusts deep in my belly.” So much is wrong with this.

 

When I hear about someone’s insides contorting and combusting, I immediately think they have a stomach virus. Then there’s the word “belly.” Nothing is sexy about the word we teach children who aren’t ready for the term “stomach.”

 

James labels herself as a very undisciplined writer, which is further strengthened by her excessive grammatical rule breaking. One of my biggest pet peeves is a unique-to-the-author, repeated phrase.

 

“Half-led half-carry” is the repeated phrase that jumped out at me from Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.” However James’ phrases have Collins’ trumped. Repetition of phrases such as “My breathing hitched,” and references to Icarus flying too close to the sun shouldn’t be used excessively in such a short novel.

 

Another no-no committed by James also deals with excessive use. This time adverbs are the culprit. J. K. Rowling, author of history’s best-selling book series on Harry Potter, is also guilty of the naïve writer’s crime. One can rarely find the attribution said without some sort of modification on her pages. She has done well, and so has James. Maybe the rules need some hard modification.

 

The novel is deeply penetrated with clichés. A mundane girl falls in love with a perfect man with unruly hair. The traces to “Twilight” are too obvious and too many.

 

If poor literary talent has not been the biggest criticism of the book, its seemingly anti-feminist views may be.

 

The web is littered with views from those who think James’ prose is derogatory to women. Frankly, I am surprised people would so thoroughly read a novel that upsets them so badly.

 

If these critics would lift the veil of ignorance they would find few ties to their complaints.

 

In the world of Bondage and Discipline, Domination and Submission, Sadism and Masochism, (BDSM), a sexual preference usually involving some sort of master and slave combo, gender is not an issue.

 

“Fifty Shades of Grey” focuses on a male master and a female submissive. Couples participating in BDSM range from male masters and male submissives, male masters and female submissives, female masters and male submissives and female masters and female submissives (what a mouthful). In the novel James writes about Grey, the dominant, who was once a submissive earlier in his life while involved with a cougar.

 

I never thought writing my first column would end with trying to figure out how to clear my search history, but thanks to Fifty Shades, I am currently in the process.

 

Austin Vining is a junior journalism and political science major from Minden who serves as associate editor for The Tech Talk. Email comments to acv001@latech.edu.

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