I know, using ‘50 Shades’ in the header will pull in all sorts of innocents looking either for more clips of lascivious lustings or critiques of same. Sorry. I consider it payback for having searches on this book permanently in my internet history and available to David Cameron, should he feel moved to inspect my homework. Which is still better than having it in my library, and that was a close thing.
‘50 Shades of Grey’ (‘Gray’, if you have the US version. Lucky you) is selling by the forest-load and getting the film industry in a tizz so I went for a look. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? It took a couple of minutes to see that the poll was divided into five star and one star ratings, and only a little longer to determine which camp I was in. You can read some of the reviews here, and there is another here. I haven’t carried out an analysis, but my impression is that the more articulate the comment, the more likely it is to be negative. Positive comments seem to come largely from people who, in their on-line postings at least, seem to be as linguistically impoverished and unskilled as the other lot claim the ‘50 Shades’ author, E.L.James, to be. No surprise then, that it has wide appeal when literacy is such an issue in our education systems, time is at a premium, and appealing to the common denominator is the most effective way to optimise sales.
You can’t knock that; everybody is entitled to have something accessible to read and that keeps them entertained. At least they are reading and that’s good news. The question of standards, taste, quality is multi-layered. Some of it is subjective – what you like is your business and telling you your preferences are not high falutin’ enough gets no one anywhere. The scaffolding though, is technique, skill, grammar, punctuation, vocabulary – all those tools good writers use to make whatever they write, readable for its audience. Even trashy content can be well-written trashy content.
So, to put my own cards on the table, I have read samples of this book. I found it to be conceptually naive, and soul-shatteringly badly crafted – a teenager’s idea of romance (with a lot of being slapped around) that must have Mills and Boon shuffling up the sofa to avoid association. Other reviewers talk about repetitiveness, coyness of language, the limited range of its vocabulary, and down-right laughable sex scenes.
So how did it nearly get in my library? Fact is, I don’t know and Amazon can’t explain, but my receipt for a kindle download listed the book I had purchased - plus ‘50 Shades’, for which I had also been charged. Did I miss-click? Doubtful – I had the title and the author of the book I wanted, went straight to that page, and made a one-click purchase. No clicking around, no other pages upon which to make an unwitting hit, and nothing on the subsequent notification either. Amazon gave me an immediate refund and sucked the item back up the tube. But for a few hours it was a purchase, it was on my Kindle, and it registered as a sale. I wonder how many more times that has happened.
So, has your kindle ever been possessed by a phantom purchase? I’ve had a word with mine about going shopping on its own and I suggest you do an audit of yours – who knows what it’s been up to!