50 shades of drivel.

Dear friends,

I’m going out on a limb here for more reasons than I will enumerate, with the Top 2 being 1) I’m more comfortable being a cheerleader than a critic and 2) I love a bandwagon as much as the next blogger even though this particular one makes me cringe, but . . . I spent the last few days reading the book pictured above.

Let me for the record state I didn’t buy said book (thank god). Friend handed all three to me and said “Enjoy!”

Let me for the record state I have never read a bodice-ripper in my life, so I’m not familiar with the romance genre and therefore have no context by which to evaluate this title. If you are a romance fan (or maybe I should say erotica fan . . . are they two different genres or simply two ends of the spectrum?) I invite you to enlighten me.

Let me for the record state I had no idea what the book is about because I’m primarily a non-fiction gal and I hadn’t picked up on the buzz.  I think I had heard the word “porn” used about this book, but I had not heard “BDSM.” So, yeah, I walked in blind.

But now let me state this: I know good writing when I see it and I’ve seen (savored, actually) volumes of it in my lifetime. I like to think I’ve even strung together a decent phrase here and there. I was NOT shocked by the sexually explicit narrative. But I was absolutely floored that such horrid writing, meager characterization, ridiculous dialogue, bad grammar, and page after page after page of repetitive and cliched imagery could be strung together, sold to the masses, and rise to the top of the Times list. Holy cow . . . I’ve apparently been out of the popular fiction category for a long, long time.

I was talking to another friend who has read it and she said “I like good smut as much as the next middle-aged married woman, but I think the most disturbing thing is that it’s porn, bad porn, written on a 4th grade level. That’s just wrong.”

We joked I would title this post “See Dick and Jane F*&$.” But that’s just wrong, too, so I refrained.

I get how filmed porn turns out the way it does. But I guess I thought if you were going to the trouble to write porn, there’s an advantage to doing it well. I told Mr. Mom that to my way of thinking, a narrative template for porn that could be wildly successful involves a happy marriage, an attentive husband, AND sexual fireworks.  Maybe I should write that story and see if I can get as rich as James.

By the way, on my beside table right now in various stages of completion are:

  • In one person by John Irving (literary fiction)
  • The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking (science non-fiction)
  • Griftopia by Matt Taibbi (non-fiction social criticism)
  • No impact man (non-fiction activism)
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy: an experiential approach to behavior change by Hayes, Strosahl and Wilson (academic psychology text)

Add “50 Shades” to that pile and it’s pretty easy to figure out which one isn’t like the rest.

So, really, I shouldn’t even say a word. This book is out of my league.

But it did prompt a bit of soul-searching, which the best and worst of popular culture always does for me. Mostly my inner dialogue was something like “Really? This is how millions of women want to be entertained? No wonder my blog hits are so low. What happened to nobility and writing with the power to uplift and improve, as well as provoke? Where are our better angels?

This summer, it seems, they’re in the smut aisle.

With gratitude {for the real-life formula that beats contrived fiction any day},

Joan, who thinks maybe Mr. Mom is on to something when he asserted that 25% of males 50 and older suffer from ED so it’s no wonder 50 shades is a chart-topper


  1. Don Hill says:

    Henry asked, ” did they do IT on a mountain? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha .”. D&H

  2. Henry, you low-minded fella you! They did not. But I do know a couple that did 😉

  3. Thanks for reading 50SofG for me, now I don’t have to bother. I too had wondered at the phenomenon, but not to the point I was prepared on any level to actually read any one of the seemingly very popular (or at least very frequently mentioned) trio.

    You made me curious, and though there are a few new nonfiction books they didn’t yet have when I checked last? A quick title search reveals my local library already stocks nearly two dozen copies of various formats of the 50 Shades franchise (all of which are checked out I might add, plus there is quite the reserve waiting list).

    Best part of all? The library has at least a handful of the “large print” versions (also all checked out) for those whose literary libidos are still writing checks their eyes can’t quite cash. Mr. Mom may be on to the truth behind the trend. Those who can….do….. while those who cannot……read (IF they can find their glasses I mean).

  4. Maridel says:

    Daisy Buchanan going in a rapture over Jay Gatsby’s shirts has always been my idea of romance writing, which is probably why I’m a popular culture illiterate.

  5. I have no interest in reading this book for the very reasons you state (I’m not against erotica or porn or whatever but I am adamantly against bad writing!). I am saddened that such a poorly written book could make it on the best seller list. Next a book in text speak will be on there! Jeez.

  6. meigrowstall says:

    I’m glad you wrote this review! I’ve seen this book at the top of a few lists for hot sellers, but had the feeling it might be crappy. Aside from not being interested in reading someone’s ridiculous fantasies, I sincerely don’t like having to read bad writing. A story should inspire you to think about life, truth, or reevaluate yourself – it shouldn’t leave you thinking, “Wow this is terrible. I could write better than this.”


  1. […] as much as you can. There’s so much to be gained, even from cheap fiction (okay, maybe not 50 Shades of Drivel), amateur poetry, weak news reporting, propaganda. The worst, most lazy, most hateful writing tests […]

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