A Question of No Taste

I wonder if any of you get frustrated by the people who insist on slagging off books that they have never  or don’t intend to read?  I am not talking just about FSOG here (alright I am) but it could be any book where the author has enormous success with what seems like very little talent. I don’t mind any book being critiqued on the basis that it is not well crafted or a good representation of the genre but there are some people out there that are scathingly critical without being informed about either the work or the genre.

I just received this in my inbox from another blog that is about reading 50 shades. http://iread50shades.wordpress.com. Now the blog itself is not bad.  The author has made some efforts to read the book although there are points where they have obviously skimmed through rather than taken in the finer details.  I can live with that.  But then they get comments from their readers like this one.

Good for you. I can tell you from the dustjacket of the second book – I can never resist reading the blurb for a terrible book! – that she spends book II trying to track down his ex-lovers out of some “burning jealousy”. Jeez, is this bitch crazy, totally insecure, or just plain stupid? How can anyone like these books? They say it’s “Mommy Porn”… who are these mommies?

She can tell that from this?


Now, anyone who reads my blog knows that I don’t take the whole thing too seriously and I like to read blogs that slam FSOG, written by people who a) are funny and b) have gone to the trouble of reading some if not all of the book(s) – still disappointed that Dave didn’t keep reading but that is another story.  I would be the first to admit that the writing is not great.  But hells bells, it is a particular genre, people!! These books have a style all of their own. They have a target market that, generally speaking, want the fantasy.  And to top it off, they are not as easy to write as everyone seems to think.

The romance genre can have some great plots and themes but ultimately they are character driven, and they concentrate on the two protagonists almost to the exclusion of all others.  That is damn hard to do and sustain over any length of time.  Not all romance books have explicit sex, but erotica does.  Even then there are degrees of explicitness within subgenres of erotica.  Then add into the mix that FSOG is written in present tense – for three books! I will repeat, first person narrated, present tense, three full length novels worth!  And not even by the character that is having the biggest development and journey!

Ana is sweet and a virgin and all that but quite frankly it is Christian that goes through the biggest change, and not because she wants him to  – the next person who criticizes the books because ‘we all know we can’t change another person’ will get my virtual foot through their face computer screen!  Christian changes because he wants to deserve her loveHE WANTS TO DESERVE HER LOVE!! He knows he has creepy stalkerish issues – the poor guy is trying his best and he makes fucking mistakes – get over it people! It is part of the story! Or is that too real for you?

Another forum that is heating up is on the Fan Fiction (no fantasy going on there, folks!) website itself.  This was posted recently:

The problem with your argument is that most people don’t THINK about what they’re reading; they just accept what they see. And being an informed person is being realistic about the people in the world. Most people don’t using a discerning logic when it comes to what they read. Like the people who think everything on the internet is true (I’ve met people like that). Or think that ‘Pretty Little Liars‘ is the way women and life should be.

Now I am sorry, but as a reader I find that just a touch condescending.  But if as an author I have to heavily lace everything with reality then I think I might slit my wrists.  Apparently the Kardashian’s are reality and I refuse to write that shit.  I read these books, this genre because I don’t want reality.  I want a healthy dose of unattainable alpha male (see gratuitous body shot of Hugh Jackman – a girl can dream).

I like to imagine that SuperGeek has all the qualities of my heroes (the closest he actually gets is the nice set of Ginsu knives attached to his knuckles) – nobody has all the qualities of these heroes (including Hugh if Debra Lee Furness is to be believed), that is the point!  So again, if I have to read from someone who has not read the books that this is setting the feminist movement back fifty years then the screaming and wailing and burning of bras will begin and trust me nobody wants that.

I am sorry that girls as young as fourteen might be reading FSOG, I really am.  I have seen them in classrooms reading it and felt uncomfortable.  But to think this is going to taint their view of relationships forever is ridiculous and quite frankly is an insult to young women.  I read Go Ask Alice and Valley of the Dolls at fourteen and I didn’t rush out and do drugs or sleep with strangers.  On the other hand my fifteen year old Mini Me is reading Les Miserables but disappointingly she has made no effort to start a revolution.

I love a good feminist rant, I love that I have choices that my mother and grandmother never had.  I want my daughter to feel empowered and for all girls to have the opportunity to make their own choices and be informed, hopefully by a well-rounded education.  I don’t want to give up erotica and romance books to get that!  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be swept off your feet, rescued, nurtured and cherished above all by a significant other.  There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting that from a fictional hero.  I married a man who does that for me as best he can and I try my level best to reciprocate – it’s called marriage and communication.  Nothing magical in that.  However, I don’t have an expectation that he will become my fictional hero and most of the women who I have encountered in the substantial romance readers and authors network worldwide (if you don’t believe me then go look at the numbers) are not sucked in by the fantasy either.  We love it in the same way that we might want to play imaginary games as children, or act in community theater, or take part in online games.  It is an escape from the real world.  I don’t want a large dose of reality to escape into with my fiction.  I am sorry that it is not  serious literary fiction that holds up a mirror to reality but I actually want UNreality.

Please, please, please people.  If you are going to critique FSOG, if you are going to have a go at the romance genre in general, can you do it from an informed position?  Don’t assume that  because you have read a bit of Dostoevsky that you are automatically the arbiter of good taste.  You may well be, just don’t assume we will agree.