Whatever floats your goat…

I have at last decided, I am not going to read any of the Fifty Shades trilogy.

And I really want to. It genuinely pleases me that books of that kind (I would call them erotic fiction, but having read excerpts here and there, that would be an insult to the rest of the genre) have rocketed into the bestsellers’ lists, developed a stronghold there and have become such a talking point. Even Phillip Schofield has said they’re good – or at least, the fact that they exist is a good thing (I used to fancy him when I was a lot younger). Even a few days ago, every third woman I saw on the train was reading a Fifty Shades book – I thought the hype was mostly over by now. But apparently, it persists.

And I don’t normally get taken in by hype. If everyone’s telling me that something is amazing, for some reason even I can’t quite explain, my instinctive reaction is to think “it can’t be that good”.* It’s why I’ve never seen The Hangover. Or The Notebook. It’s why I do not find Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper or Ryan Reynolds attractive in any way. And this reaction doesn’t come from a hipster-ish need to shun whatever might be drifting merrily down the mainstream, however much my friends want to think so. I just seem to have this default setting that makes me think, “if everyone thinks it’s that good” – whatever it is – “then the thing in question can’t be trying hard enough”.

*Things I’ve been wrong about: (500) Days of Summer (it really is that cute. Don’t watch it with your significant other, though; you might come over all, like, feeling-y or something). Razorlight’s first album. The Civil Wars. Reel Big Fish live. That’s kind of it.

But back to the matter at hand.

Like I said, I want to read them. Or rather, I want to want to read them. (I also really want to make a terrible pun about reading them so I can join the mass debate, but I won’t.)

I know I’m not going to put myself through it though, purely because of how they’re written (I don’t want to say “badly”, because hey, who’s the published author, me or E.L. James?). But the clumsy, wince-inducing prose style and the incredibly irritating narrator will infuriate me to distraction before I find anything vaguely erotic about the books. It’s a shame, because really, there is so much potential there: the naive, wide-eyed young girl being seduced and corrupted by the complicated – and by all accounts, rather bossy – mysterious (and conveniently rich) man… We’ve all had that fantasy, right?

Anyway… It’s a shame, because I think in the hands of a more skilled writer, the books would have been truly great. Seriously, what’s the whole “inner goddess” thing about? (If I get bored while dandering about in town, I duck in to WH Smiths and read a few lines, wince, chuckle and wander off again. Thinking about it, I’ve probably read a fair bit of the first book through doing this.) I don’t have an inner goddess, I don’t think. If I do, she’s socially awkward and terribly indecisive, so if you find that remotely sexy, I’m your girl. I want to support the Fifty Shades cause – for want of a better word – because it seems to have got many, many women talking very publicly about what they find hot – an area of conversation that I don’t think it’s too controversial to say, has previously been dominated by men. (And speaking of being dominated by men… oh, it’s too easy.)

I didn’t want to give this too much of a feminist slant because, let’s be honest, that sounds rather dull. But it seems that part of the reason Fifty Shades has become so talked-about is because it’s essentially mainstream porn for the girls. Which we haven’t had, really, up until now. (Not that I’ve looked.) Guys have had it easier in that respect for quite some time. Already, Fifty Shades is spawning copy-cat stories – it’s like Twilight all over again – and while these bandwagon-jumping tales might well be worse than the wagon that came first (God forbid), hopefully this means that erotic fiction will maintain a presence in the best-seller charts for time to come. Or will at least prompt people to seek out the better-written stuff. Like Anais Nin, or Erica Jong. Or even when Sarra Manning gets two of her main characters in a bedroom. Or, as you’re on the internet, try that.

So – not that I can really conclude with anything useful, as I’m on the fence myself – I wish I could switch off my word-geekery and rattle through the trilogy, because I’m nothing but in favour of erotic fiction. But it really, really kills the mood when the choice of words makes you cringe. It’s like having someone talk dirty to you in a strong Birmingham accent – just kind of wrong (oh God, please no-one take offence) …I think I should go before I say something worse…

I must quickly explain the rather odd title of this entry – a few nights ago, I was joking around with a friend and said something along the lines of “Well, the wildest night I ever had involved dwarves and the sacrifice of a goat…” (Funnily enough, this is what’s known as a lie.) To which he responded, “Whatever floats your boat, I guess!” I couldn’t resist saying, “Don’t you mean… goat?” Heavy groans all round.

Here, have some Tim Minchin:


My favourite verse starts at 2:19. It’s the work of a genius (well, almost).

And I’m listening to these guys’ new album, but this song is one of my favourites by them (and probably one of my favourite songs ever). They’re very good live.


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