Friday, 19 June 2015

Fifty Shades? Just wish I'd thought of it first!

I have a confession. I haven't read Fifty Shades of anything nor the most recent addition to the oeuvre, published on Wednesday. And I've no intention of doing so. Life's short enough already and the list of books I want to read but haven't is a long one. (Oo-er, missus!)

But... (not that kind, the one he (Grey) spanks or imagines spanking. Or so *ahem* I'm led to believe). No, the big but (one 'T') for me is the reaction to the book's success in the media. I'm both fascinated by and ever-so-slightly jealous of it myself. It's a literary phenomenon. It was a self-published phenomenon. And the reason? Is it all some clever PR ploy? Some mind-altering marketing plan? No. People - it seems - like reading the books. And so they buy them. Simple. 

When I say people, of course, I necessarily exclude the seried ranks of critics, columnists and polemicists who have with such alacrity dissected the latest E.L.James offering so scornfully, with such unremitting superiority and pomposity. There really is a feeding frenzy among (jealous?) critics. The Telegraph's Kat Brown was quick off the mark on Thursday morning with a piece entitled 'The Worst Lines from the new Fifty Shades book'. Next came an entire bandwagon of by-lines - Libby Purves in the Daily Mail ('dreary, pointless, nasty'); Jenny Colvin in the Guardian ('creepy beyond belief') and Bryony Gordon (Torygraph again) describes the book as 'badly written and about as arousing as the diary of a sex offender'.

These frantic attempts to rubbish the books are fascinating, as well as a little dangerous for their authors. Has anyone ever read a Libby Purves novel? Has Bryony Gordon ever written anything better than a snidy bit of journalism (and I include in that her 'Wrong Knickers' memoir of a lost decade of drink, drugs and promiscuity)? And has Jenny Colvin sold as many books, even counting those written under her many pseudonyms?

I doubt the combined readership of each columnist approaches the numbers reading - and buying - E.L.James. And I suspect Miss James isn't especially bothered, as she counts her cash, what the critics write.

But someone may be. Her millions of readers - who are even now finding their tastes ridiculed - might be a tad annoyed. Perhaps they'll be too busing reading - and enjoying - Grey to notice, but the nasty hatchet jobs prove how snobbish, jealous, and predatory the publishing industry can be. And in what contempt it holds that strange, overlooked commodity - the reader. 

And people are reading. Reading it all. These days, thanks to Amazon's Kindle and other eBook editions you can tell! (I only get Kindle loan payments if people borrow - and read 100% - of my books.) So people aren't buying Grey or the prequels to admire on their shelves (unlike that other great - and unexpected - bestseller, A Brief History of Time).

Yes, they're reading it. And they're enjoying it. They're reading it because they like the story (overlooking how it's written, maybe - and putting us precious 'authors' firmly in our place); they're reading it because they believe the characters (or can suspend their disbelief for long enough to enjoy them) and they're reading it because they want to know what happens.

It's that simple.

And I wish I'd thought of it first!

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