At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Man Makes a Point

Humorist Dave Barry is the god of reason. He's not the God, of course. But he's a decent minor deity when it comes to cutting through the garbage of what surrounds us.

Especially in the world of literature.

If you call Fifty Shades of Grey literature.

The first volume of the Fifty Shades trilogy, which highlights a recent female college graduate caught up in the world of sado-masochistic sexual relationships, became a best-seller for reasons that befuddle me. The first warning for anyone with discerning tastes happens to be that author E.L. James released all three volumes of the trilogy practically on top of each other (go ahead and laugh, that pun was unintentional). When all three books are put out within a year of each other, the whole storyline is satanically crappy.

What self-respecting British author denigrates the name of mystery writer P.D. James by calling herself E.L. James and putting this stuff out?

What British author sets a story in the Pacific Northwest but has the main character, who is American, refer to a backpack in the British way, as a "rucksack"?

Dave Barry--in his phenomenal article at Time Magazine--actually read the book...something I am unwilling to do as I am content to pick up detail secondhand for critique. Anyway, Dave has some other questions.

What author has a girl, in the twenty-first century, complete four years of college with no romantic relationships of any kind up to this point? Why does that girl complete college but not have a computer, not know how to operate one, not have an email account, and be pretty much out to lunch on how the Internet functions? Why are Ana's (the main character) exclamations so juvenile? ("Double crap!") Double crap? What is that?

Even Litany of Secrets went beyond that.

Naturally, she lands a job in the business world with such limited hiring potential. Of course. 

I have to be careful when criticizing other authors. I know the hard work that goes into putting a believable story together that still takes people away in an attractional manner. I just don't see that with Fifty Shades of Grey.

Every author is a work in progress, but one thing you don't do is give everything away in description or dialogue about your characters or the storyline. Make the audience work. Respect the reader enough to make sure you are giving clues for them to ascertain what's going on. Show, don't tell.

From what Dave Barry shares in his article, James fails miserably on this count.

So why am I so visceral about Fifty Shades when I can't play fair and read it in order to know what I'm talking about?

Because you don't need to go into politics to have the right to critique Congress or the President. You don't need to procreate in order to speak intelligently about what good parenting might be. And you sure don't need to do heroin to know it's bad for you.

There's a lot of great literature out there. There's even some good, worthwhile writing out there that--while not enduring classics--happens to be thoughtful, well-written fiction and nonfiction. Why people turn to garbage is saying too much about our society. 

I was at our local library while Lindsay was volunteering there last Monday. And there was a 60-plus year-old woman reading Fifty Shades of Grey. A woman in her silver years was ingesting an item with as much redeeming value as something between Hitler's dirty underwear and whale dung that sits at the bottom of the ocean.

I'm done with my rant. You need to laugh with truth now. Read Dave Barry's article. Do it now.

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