…depresses the heck out of me. My default rule is to refrain from making negative comments about books whose authors are still alive. I forget the circuitous chain of logic I employed to arrive at that conclusion. I had my reasons, I suppose. Anyway, I have to make an exception for the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, because it is a phenomenon, not a book. It’s more of a cultural event, a macro-comment on the sensibilities and tastes of our culture. A milestone on the road as Yeats’ rough beast slouches off toward Bethlehem.
Yes, I did read the first chapter sample available on Amazon (no, it does not contain any of the BDSM/erotica elements). The writing is dreary at best. Countless numbers of books overflow with dreary writing. That’s not the point. What’s important is that this book (which, for all intents and purposes, is merely a thin guise of plot and character crucified upon an ungainly superstructure of withered anti-love) enjoys the number one spot on the Amazon fiction chart. For weeks. Months. What does that mean about modern American culture? What does it mean when our culture celebrates a story that revolves around the destruction of love?
Ah, you say, but the story actually is about love. No, it isn’t. It only is if you’ve redefined love to fit some post-modern, progressive ideal of love that is based in narcissism.
It sounds like you’re being rather judgmental, you might then reply to me.
Yes, heavens above, yes, I am judging taste, ethics, virtue. So sue me, but it’s unavoidable. Do you think it’s possible to waltz through life without making value judgments? We all make value judgments, every day of the week. You might choose to ignore the fact that you’re making them, but that has no bearing on the reality that you are making them. Face up to it. Even if you sat in front of a TV all day long, eating snacks and existing in reality show solitude, you would still be making judgments on certain things (the nature of existence, the value of your life, the role of diligence, perseverance, hard work, etc–inaction is action, isn’t it?).
Rome was ultimately known by its circuses, not by its refinements and achievements. The artists and performers and musicians always lead the way. Down or up. Stasis does not exist. They are the cultural canaries in the coal mine. If you switch on your headlamp and shine the light over toward the bird’s perch to find a wizened little creature that resembles more of a buzzard than a canary, hunched over and glaring at you as if you were its lunch, then its time to consider whether or not you should be in the mine.