Like everyone not living under a rock or in a very, very deep hole, I have heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, and like most people, I have not read it, except to thumb through the first few pages at the bookshop (or, for the more timid, skim the “Look Inside” sections on Amazon) just long enough to confirm what has been widely reported about the trilogy, namely that it is, indeed, nothing but straight porn masquerading as literature due to its inexplicable yet immense popularity, and poorly written porn at that.
This made me wonder how some people define success, and whether it really is possible to have a truly popular, profitable, literary work. Or if it is necessary.Is this possible...
Aside from introducing sheltered housewives to the concept of anal fisting, I doubt this trilogy will contribute much to the world at large. What it will do, and indeed, has already done, is make Ms James a very rich woman. And if Ms James’ intention was merely to add some welcome titillation to the long, dreary hours of housewifery, and perhaps generate a little coin on the side, then I would say she has succeeded in spades, as well as the occasional gimp mask and ball gag. (NOTE TO READERS: I do not actually know if those items appear in Fifty Shades, as I have not actually read the books, I merely wrote them for comic effect. I did, however, Google them to make sure they existed and were spelled right and, oh, my god…! Really, I advise you never to do that. Trust me, just don’t.)
Anyway, if Ms James is humming merrily to herself all the way to the bank, and is happy that she has taken the title of fastest-selling series away from Harry Potter then I wish her well. But all I can see, when I read about the books, is the constant reference to their quality, which is not good. I, myself, would not be happy with that....or is this all we can hope for?
I am currently making revisions based on the suggestions of my publisher and I can feel the doubts creeping in. The manuscript came back to me marked up with numerous comments about passages that make no sense, awkward phrasing, exposition in the wrong place, etc. And it makes me wonder if I shouldn’t just chuck the book into the virtual paper shredder and start on a new one.
Yes, I am making my way, comment by comment, through the editorial suggestions on my manuscript, but what if that isn’t enough? What if I actually make the book worse? What if there are bits of the book the editors missed that are also rubbish? I do not want to put a book out there that is going to cause people to arch their eyebrows and think, “My, this is poorly written.”
I’m not saying I need my modest book to become a best-seller, or be touted as great literature; I just want it to be good. I want people to read it, and enjoy it and not think about how it is written other than that it delivered an entertaining story. That is worth more than money to me.
It wouldn’t matter to me how popular it became or how much money it made—if reviewers and readers merely pointed out how poorly written it was, I would have to throw away my laptop and take up some other profession. Manufacturing nipple clamps, perhaps; I think there might be a rising interest in them soon.