Commentary

50 shades of best-selling ‘smut’

April 22, 2012 

Well, dookie.

If I’d known all I had to do was write “smut,” as Aunt Verlie likes to call romantic fiction, to make millions of dollars and have THREE best-sellers on the “New York Times” list at the same time, I’da ditched this whole humor gig a long time ago in favor of more heaving bosoms and male releases and the like.

Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t write anything like the steamy stuff churned out by London housewife and mother of four Erika Leonard, whose “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy has, overnight, become the kind of publishing phenomenon best compared to stories of sparkly vampires living in the Pacific Northwest or a pale lad with a lightning bolt on his forehead.

Because I am Methodist, I have only read excerpts of the first book.

OK, technically, I read enough excerpts to make up the whole book but only for research purposes.

When a writer has three books sitting all in a row at the top of the “New York Times” list, I have to know what she’s doing right.

Because this is a family newspaper, I can only tell you that “Fifty Shades of Grey” involves a mind-numbing number of episodes in which the female lead, Anastasia (what? You were expecting Misti?) claims to have been “splintered” and “shattered.” Yes, there is a whole lot of splintering and shattering going on up in here, thanks to the ministrations of the male lead, Christian Grey. He is every bit as believable as his name. Which is to say not very.

Critics haven’t been especially kind and there are a few parts that are downright laughable in the midst of trying to be hot. Early on, Anastasia claims that Christian makes her blink so rapidly that, she says, “my eyelids are matching my heartbeat.” This made me laugh out loud. Because, really, who does that? And if Christian notices this during an embrace, wouldn’t he ask, “What’s up with your eyelids? They’re starting to freak me out.”

The dialogue is far from pitch-perfect. Anastasia, a 22-year-old innocent waif (for the first 50 or so pages anyway) uses the expression, “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” Yeah. That’s how college students talk in Seattle. I expected her to scream “Jeepers!” during all the splintering and shattering.

That said, it’s hard to argue with this kind of publishing success.

Rock hard, as Christian might say.

He is given to prancing about in his “altogethers” as Aunt Verlie calls one’s birthday suit, and he has a nutty little bondage habit that is the heart of the whole trilogy.

He makes Anastasia sign a contract that she will submit to his every carnal desire, agree to the use of instruments of torture and eat only foods he has pre-approved. Say what?? Look, domination’s one thing; Domino’s is another. I’d just say, “Deal breaker. Oh, and put your pants back on.”

www.celiarivenbark.com

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