I must confess I've slated popular books in the past without actually having ever read them, basing all my criticism on preconceived notions. Around the time Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code came out, I decided I ought to perhaps take a less blinkered approach and try to objectively read said literature in order to more fairly argue my point.
Although The Da Vinci Code explores subject-matter I'd rarely been drawn to, is no linguistic master piece and is rather predictable at times, Brown's breakthrough novel is certainly a page-turner. It's short cliff-hanger filled chapters make it easily digestible, clearly appealing to action film fans who need a quick hit without investing too much of their concentration or time.
Twilight was the next hugely successful series I decided to read before I'd already formed an opinion. Back in 2008 when I was travelling, I came across a copy of Meyer's first novel in a book exchange, documenting Edward and Bella beginnings. I'd somehow managed to miss the hype around the series and read this blindly. I almost immediately found Meyer's first person narrative irritating thanks to the infuriatingly whiny tone of her female protagonist. In a rare exception to the rule, for this reason, the Twilight films are actually more enjoyable than the books, although laughably bad at times.
Having been bombarded with what seems like years of “mummy porn” features, I finally recently completed Fifty Shades Of Grey. I'd been told to be amazed at the lead having any lips left at the end of the book so audibly laughed at repeated descriptions of Ana munching on said lips. I wanted to hate Fifty Shades but found myself transported to my more romantic teenage years and reminded of a trilogy I read written by one of the Sweet Valley High series' regulars, Caitlin: Love Trilogy by Francine Pascal.
Yes, Fifty Shades is badly written. There are times I dismayed at exactly what E.L. James' editors were up to allowing her to blatantly overuse certain words and write a lead with such irritating linguistic characteristics. Ana Steele unrealistically reacts to any vaguely surprising events described in the novel with a series of stock exclamations, including, “Holy cow”, “Holy shit”, “Jeez” “Double crap” and “Oh my”. I can't say I've ever met a 21 year-old who repeatedly churns out such mild interjections. Maybe that's because I'm not American where the "novel" is set?
And I'm not even going to delve too far into James' infuriating tendency to repeatedly describe Ana's vagina as her “sex” (Come on! Even D.H. Lawrence was more inventive in Lady Chatterley's Lover and he was writing at a time his content truly shocked.) or personify Ana's inner thoughts through references to an “inner goddess” or her sub-conscious (“My subconscious is frantically fanning herself, and my inner goddess is swaying and writhing to some primal carnal rhythm...” ).
In addition, I can't say I ever recall meeting anyone who bites their lip quite so much as Ana (I can't quantify this but there's an amusing Amazon review that manages to). Better still, though, are her hero's chiding reactions to the lip-biting. In response to Ana's supposedly sexy lip nibbling, Christian Grey is described on several occasions thinning or narrowing his lips ("pressed his lips into a hard thin line...") and somehow looking sexy. Testing out this rather puzzling facial expression, I attempted to look alluring while thinning my lips and the results were pretty hilarious.
Fifty Shades is predictable, repetitive and badly written at times but like Brown's Da Vinci Code knows the power of hook chapter endings. It certainly doesn't deserve to be on any “Essential Reading” lists but has at least given me a mood-lifting thought for any occasion. If you're ever feeling down, try to look sexy with thinned lips and look in the mirror. Or even better, get someone else to try...