I have observed the reaction to the success of E L James’ ‘50 Shades of Grey’ with fascination. Can’t say I’m surprised, however. I’ve been around a bit and I’m big enough and hairy enough to know how people can behave. For the most part, this is nothing more than sneering and snobbishness.
I do wonder how many of the nay-sayers have read it. Not many, I suspect. At least, not more than a passage or two, to confirm what they already know; this is a terrible book, terribly written. How can it have sold so many copies? I blame the hype. Etc.
I’ve not read it either. It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea. But I have no problem – none whatsoever – with the author’s success. I wish her only the best. Seriously, has she killed someone… or dined on kittens? Perhaps people are so enraged because this is the death of literature itself?
In a conversation on Twitter yesterday (which I backed out of), I made a comment that people liked the book and it made them happy. It doesn’t really go any further than that, does it? Sure, a large percentage of sales will be down to curiosity, based on the news of its success, but that’s how hype works, folks. I understand the book was already selling thousands of copies before the media got a hold of the story anyway, hence their interest in it. But if the concept of hype puzzles you or annoys you, you might need a reality check. Or more time away from the internet/TV.
OK, perhaps the book is badly written (I have no idea) but so what? Really… so what? For the people sneering (mostly writers, I have observed), how the hell does it affect you? It’s probably safe to assume those who read ‘50 Shades of Grey’ are unlikely to be in the market for your work. So don’t worry, your ‘tightly plotted prose’ and ‘brilliantly realised characters’ are perfectly safe. And the book isn’t dragging the publishing industry through the mud, is it? A single book isn’t going to topple (or significantly boost) an industry that’s going through so many changes right now anyway.
E L James was rejected by agents and publishers alike when she first sent the manuscript out. She invested her own money in editing and a decent cover, and word of mouth (the best hype there is) did the job instead. Now those same publishers want a slice. This doesn’t necessarily mean the industry was mistaken regarding the book’s quality, or the author’s ability, but they sure as hell were wrong about what the public want.
One responder to my ‘people like it/the book makes them happy’ comment stated yesterday that she would prefer people to be happy reading better material. Fine. But perhaps those who read ’50 Shades of Grey’ will make that very decision for their next book. They might not. They may never read another. It’s not up to us to judge or enforce.
Another responder claimed my argument was shaky, saying ‘heroin also makes people happy’. What the f**king f**k? I understand that heroin (up to a point) makes people happy… but it’s not harmless. Far from it. Books about soft porn/erotica aren’t addictive and don’t kill people.
Anyway, this last response was why I had to back away from the conversation. My cousin, who would have been 40 this year, died of a heroin overdose when he was 19. I only wish he had been into something as innocuous as ‘50 Shades…’
Keep quietly creating, folks. Don’t sneer. It’s beneath you.
The content of gust blogposts do not necessarily reflect my views (although they often do) and are the views of the writer alone. Fancy being the next Thursday guest blogger? Drop me line at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @stevyncolgan.