A Brief Fit of Pique

I have to get this off my chest.

Right now there are, count ’em, three volumes from E.L. James’ vile, puke-stained series Fifty Shades of Grey at the top of the bestseller list.

Let me remind you folks:  this “author” honed her chops on Twilight fan fiction and has, apparently, graduated at the head of her class when it comes to derivative, amateurish, abysmally written gutter trash.  Reading the first five lines of any offering by Ms. James immediately reveals her paucity of skills, the crudeness of her prose.

I would never have believed it was possible that popular fiction could sink any lower than Stephenie Meyer…but then along came Amanda Hocking (ptui! ptui!) and, now, (God help western civilization) E.L. James.

Am I supposed to draw comfort from the fact that an unheralded talent can still score a lucrative contract from a venerable publisher? Should I holler and celebrate because at least two of these authors come from the independent/DIY/self-publishing world, same as l’il ol’ me?

Sorry, but that’s not the case. I’m embarrassed by the success of authors as horrible and sub-literate as James, Hocking, et al.  I’m embarrassed to belong to a society where the printed word has become so devalued and compromised, this kind of crap is not only published but gobbled up by a public whose brains have gone soft and fatty from all the junk food we take in through our eyes, mouths and ears.  We immerse ourselves in trash, refuse to task our minds with challenging artists and works, seek escapism the way a junkie craves the needle.  The mind is a muscle and ours’ have gone flabby, resisting even the lightest exercise.

Video games, comic book movies, books written for an intended audience with a mental age of fourteen…all part of a decline, the barbarians at the gates garbed in corporate robes, enticing us with baubles, buying our delinquent souls with the equivalent of beads and flim-flam.

I shudder to think what the next step down the evolutionary ladder might be, how much lower literature can sink.

What comes after E.L. James?

That’s something too terrible to ponder…


  1. Crissy

    Are you embarrassed that society around you is has so many soft brained people or that you believed your college professors when they told you what it took to write a best selling novel?

    And has it occurred to you that some people spend all day using their brain at work and want to rest it with an easily read novel?

  2. Cliff Burns

    Never went to college, Crissy, I developed a love for reading and writing at a young age and never lost my conviction re: the power and promise of the printed word. There are many exceptional writers who can be read for entertainment purposes (John Irving, James Crumley and Michael Connelly are three authors who come to mind just off the top of my head) and these artists do not cheapen their talents with inept prose, derivative plots and stock, formulaic characters.

    The Stephenie Meyers, James Pattersons, the vampire porn and zombie splatter writers, are an abomination on a literary tradition that extends back to Homer and their “literary efforts” have all the appeal and passion of a coil of horse dung left on hot asphalt. You can do far, far better than the likes of them.

  3. Thayer Berlyn

    What you are fighting against is the celebration of mediocrity that has unfortunately become the norm. The pursuit of excellence is no longer emphasized and has not been for close to three decades. Prose and story are no longer partners in the dance. A literate society is an uppity society. It’s all very political. It is not that these writers of unrefined composition are not fair to good storytellers, it is that they, themselves, and their audience have no greater expectation. It is difficult to accept and I sympathize with your position, but to coin the Zen phrase, it is what it is…regardless of its bitter taste.

  4. Cliff Burns

    Yes, it’s hard not to feel like Canute against the tide but as someone who reveres the printed word I cannot just sit back and watch these crude, half-bright dingbats wreaking havoc on the English language.

    The shades of Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges and, now, Carlos Fuentes, would never forgive me.

  5. Pingback: Fifty Shades of Grey in the Media - LATERS, BABY!

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