Thursday, July 26, 2012
Fifty Shades of Embarrassment
It began two nights ago around midnight. The house was quiet and dark. My husband was asleep. The pets were curled up in their respective nooks. I was still wide awake and ready to find something new to read. I had just finished a fun book by I Love Lucy's creator and head writer and I wasn't quite ready to delve into my book club's next selection. I was in the mood for something light and engaging with a good story.
One of the benefits of having a Kindle is that you can either borrow certain books for free or you can download a sample of a book before committing to buy it. I looked through the ones available for borrowing and nothing really caught my eye. As I clicked my way back to the Kindle storefront, I saw Fifty Shades of Grey. I knew little of the book except its bestseller status and that women everywhere were swooning over the main character. Normally I do some research on a book before buying it. I figured that downloading a free sample (about 10% of the book) would tell me enough of what I needed to know.
Even though the writing wasn't superb, the story was riveting . Naive college girl interviews high-powered billionaire businessman on behalf of her sick roommate who needs the interview for the university paper. Billionaire businessman is relatively young and dashingly handsome. He comes to her rescue more than once after they meet and she is amazed at his interest in her. Wow, I thought, this almost sounds like a modern-day Jane Eyre, with the powerful elusive man taking the awkward young woman under his wing. This has promise. The sample ended, but it held my attention enough to want to buy the whole thing. Good summer reading, I thought, and if I get called in to jury duty this week I'll have a book to read. I continued on, investing more and more in the characters....and then I fell asleep.
The next day I woke up and had a productive day, eager to get back to the book. During a Facebook check-in I mentioned what I had started reading. I suddenly had several "likes" and offers from different people to lend me the entire series. I did have one warning, however, that the book was very racy and mildly pornographic. This was news to me, so I went online and did a little more research. And, yes, my friend was right. The book dealt with sexual subjects that I had zero interest in reading about. I thanked her and decided to keep reading a little further, but this time my shields were up.
A mixture of emotions went through me as the book quickly took a turn from riveting to revolting. I'm not judging others who have enjoyed it, but I did not. That, to me, isn't entertainment and it has no literary value. I quickly went from shock, to revulsion, to anger and disappointment. Angry and disappointed because I had started to care about the characters. I also felt misled and embarrassed. Misled because this is a book that has made its way into mainstream literature, which I don't think it is, and also because it touts itself as a love story, which I also don't think it is. This is a book about sex. Clearly not the same thing. I'm not sure why I felt embarrassed, but I did.
Again, I'm not judging anyone who finds this book enjoyable, but I could not handle the subject matter. After getting through one graphic scene, I decided I had had enough. I erased it from my Kindle and iPad, annoyed that I had spent ten dollars on a book I knew I would never finish. I just wanted to get as far away from it as possible.
So what was the lesson? I guess the experience was a reminder that we live in a world where questionable things can easily masquerade as something acceptable. But we all have a choice to make about the kinds of books and media we allow into our home. In this instance, my choice was to move on.
I know, what a prude, right? Thank you. But I'm the one who has to live with myself. So, lesson learned.