Fifty Shades of Twilight

Recently, every employee at Random House was awarded a $5K bonus, owing to the success of a particular series of books–The Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy by E. L. James.  I had heard many things about the books–the erotica mostly–and was wondering about all the hype.  My writers group got together one evening and read the first chapter.  We couldn’t bring ourselves to read much further–it was a lesson in how not to open a novel, how not to engage the reader, basically–how not to write.  It was, as one Amazon reviewer observed, like reading something written by a teenager (and a not terribly literate or educated one at that.)  In addition to the poor writing, the plot is disturbing on many levels, not least of which is the fact that it revolves around yet another older or more experienced man  who stalks, isolates, and takes over complete control of a young girl.  Hmmm.   Why does this ring a familiar bell?  Perhaps another teen series in which a whole generation of ‘tweens became convinced that a guy following, obsessing, stalking, isolating you is equal to romance.  Really?  Twilight enjoyed the same phenomenal success and I am still scratching my head.  Now, is this just sour grapes on my part, because I am not(yet) a published writer?  Maybe on some level, but a much deeper concern for me is the future of publishing and the American Readership (capital letters on purpose).  Is the publishing industry pandering to the lowest common denominator of the reading population, unwilling to take a chance on anything that may not be a “commercial success?” How many novels appearing on the NY Bestsellers display an author’s name in larger print than the title?  And how many of these books have you picked up, started reading, only to realize part way through that you’d already read it?  All I’m saying is this: we need the fun “twinkies for the brain” books, like we need those kind of escapist movies and other forms of entertainment.  But we also need the literature, the more challenging book themes, the “heavy lifting” of the intellectual writer, and sadly, these books will not fly off the shelf and make the publisher a bundle.  If things continue in the manner as they have lately, these books will never make it to any shelf.

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