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Fifty Shades of Grey: A Gay Perspective

13 Apr

I decided to read Fifty Shades of Grey not because I wanted to, but because I wanted to find out for myself what all the fuss was about. And I think that’s what the majority of people have done. They are buying into it because the publicity machine has gone into overdrive and we are intrigued by gossip and juicy details. Just have to look at the bookshelves full of celebrity gossip magazines which pry into people’s homes and lives to know that is what satisfies the general public.
WE are morbidly inquisitive and concern ourselves with things that don’t really bother us. But at the same time, we make feeble attempts to be detached and reserved in our opinions. Such is the nature of the British public anyway.

But I digress. I bought Fifty Shades in a charity shop several months ago. At the time, I seemed to have been in a period of reading a number of trilogies – The Lord Of The Rings, His Dark Materials, The Millennium Trilogy. So I thought, why not read this for a bit of light relief? (pardon the innuendo)

I read the first one. Nothing really happens except Anastasia or “Ana” Steele, a shy, academic 22 year old virgin is attracted to Mr Christian Grey, a 28 year old handsome and incredibly “hot” multimillionaire or billionaire even? who wears sweatpants, jeans or pants “off his hips in that way” whatever that means and they have sex or a mild form of BDSM. He cocks his head, she bites her lips, she says Oh My! Holy Crap! Oh Shit and other such eloquent words a number of times. It’s all very repetitive and TAME. She’s a virgin for goodness sakes and doesn’t know anything different. He’s a control freak and seems to take advantage of her no matter what. Even when she wants “to talk”. HE distracts her with his advances and “her inner goddess” unfurls, purrs and demures. How on earth does she know about her inner goddess when she doesn’t appear to know anything about love, sex, romance or life in general when she is such a bookworm? But then, she also has a more disapproving character in her mind that makes her think twice about what she is doing. However, her “inner goddess” always seems to win and they have the most incredible hot, sexy and amazing sex which always end in mind blowing, earth shattering climaxes. He always makes her come first! Such a gentleman!

Then, it just goes on and on. He buys her expensive gifts, takes her on a helicopter named Charlie Tango, they wine and dine in top restaurants, buys her food and orders her to “Eat” or “Drink” or “Sleep” and she acts like a petulant teenager. He finds it alluring and a massive turn on when she challenges him and in between they declare their undying love for one another in nearly every other paragraph or page.

After Book 1 establishes their great sex life, Book 2 “Fifty Shades of Grey – Darker” provides more insight into the mysterious “Mr Grey” and more one dimensional characters and events. We find out a little bit more about his family and Ana is still trying to come to terms with her rich boyfriends’ lifestyle. For two supposedly intelligent, academic and ambitious young people, their use of language is very simple, they swear a lot and don’t really say much. Oh! And there are numerous emails exchanged that are more annoying to read than allow the reader more insight or excitement. Like two silly teenagers exchanging texts, the emails don’t hold any information of importance or which allow the story to move forward. Just more flirtations between Ana and Mr Grey.

EL James tries to create an enigmatic character in Mr Grey but he fails on all accounts. He’s just boring and we don’t even receive a description of his penis or the size of it. All we know is that he is an arrogant, power crazed, control freak who likes to be Dom with his Subs. He has a mysterious past which does not amount to anything amazing, horrifying or shocking. In this trilogy, cliché after cliché abound and with several “major or traumatic experiences” including the appearance of one of his “ex subs with a gun” scenarios, it just doesn’t flow well at all.

But wait! Book 3 ” Fifty Shades of Grey – Freed” is even worse. Why on earth I bothered with it, god only knows. After a whirlwind romance and three months of out-of-this-world type sex, they discover they really love one another. They even get married and have 2 kids! YES! Really! In between all that, if Ana decides she’s had enough or makes way to leave, Mr ‘I’m so proud me I don’t want to speak to anybody’, breaks down in tears and she does likewise. Oh, she is SOO in love her head is spinning and she doesn’t know what to do. Her former boss who tried to seduce her earlier on ( and she found him creepy) attempts to blackmail her but she shoots him as she attempts to rescue her sister in law. He ends up in hospital, she ends up in hospital, her step dad ends up in hospital. Mr Greys ex is also in hospital but let’s keep all that quiet for now…
Considering how divisive the gun laws are lately, Ana is acquiring a taste for danger and adventure, but she knows how to use a gun and mentions several times to Christian, that she would prefer it if he had a gun. This appears to be a bit of a paradox for Christian, who, who despite his needs and whims for excitement and “kinky fuckery”, is anti-guns.

There are several attempts to inject some tension, drama and tragedy but the threads don’t really flow and we are left bewildered and confused. The two main protagonists tend to contradict themselves. One minute they declare there undying love for one another, consumed with passion, love and lust. But when Mrs Grey declares to Mr Grey that he is pregnant – bearing in mind at that point they are married – he shouts something along the lines of “we’ve known each other for five fucking minutes. I wanted to show you the world and now…Fuck. Diapers and vomit and shit!” Oh My. She doesn’t actually say “Oh My!” at that point but I thought I’d throw it in as she might as well have said it, she says it so often…That’s indicative of the type of language used throughout this tale of poor virgin meeting big shot yet oh-so-sexy Mr Grey.

This trilogy is similar to Dan Browns Da Vinci Code and The Blair Witch Project. It’s not the novel, film or the writing that is great. The stories aren’t even memorable to be honest. What they have behind them is great PR machines. They are in over drive and we have fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

Fifty Shades of Grey is as dull as dishwater and I think, a crime against literature. No wonder it’s finding it’s way into the charity shops in the last few months. The fad and fuss is nearly over. I thought is it one of the worst trilogies I’ve ever read or THE worst. I’ve decided it’s the WORST one ever! It just irritated the hell out of me and I can’t wait to get it out of my house and into the charity shop. I may just even give it to my friend who said she would like to read it. I know she wouldn’t but she’ll keep it on her bookshelf to make her seem more “current and topical”. It may make its way into the discount stores or bargain basements and in a few years, we’ll be asking what was all that out!? We’d forget about it because they’d be another Fifty Shades of book out there that’ll be making headways. But next time, I’ll make sure I’m definitely not at that gravy boat to all things Grey in more ways than one!

The Learned Kat

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: A review

1 Apr

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“The Circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it…It is simply there, when yesterday it was not” 

So reads the blurb on the back cover of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

I was intrigued. I turned to the front cover and was still unsure. I opened the book and skimmed through several paragraphs. I turned to the cover again. I was swayed by the Edwardian/Victorian feel of the image used and decided this was a book worth reading.

So, I sat down and read it. I enjoyed the imagery, the introduction of many characters, the game/challenge or competition that was set up. The premise of the novel is that two young children, Marco Alisdair and his counterpart Celia Bowen, are chosen to be trained, mentored and taught how to be inventive with the use of magic. As readers. we are drawn into a whimsical world of fantasy, magic and beautiful illusions. We share the same thoughts as the performers, followers of the Circus known as “rêveurs”, who all dress in black but are distinguishable with a dash of a red item like a red scarf, rose, umbrella or handkerchief and other speculators who do not quite know how the magic of the circus exists.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect.  The initial objective appeared to be that Marco and Celia, with their respective mentors, experience and training in their own separate arenas and not knowing of one another for years, would eventually meet and it would culminate in an explosive end game. However, that was not meant to be…

It seemed to lull me into a false sense of security: with the unexpected death of two of the characters, I thought the novel would become a murder mystery. However, as the story unravelled, it appeared to change direction and the language appeared to be stilted and more contemporary in style. It seemed as if Erin Morgenstern was rushed by her agent to try and end the novel or find some sort of resolution. Two thirds of the novel flowed really well, the style of writing, the plots and sub-plots, the use of a diverse range of colourful and interesting characters and the dream like quality of each circus tent. Even having “followers” of the circus appeared to be a social statement on our perspective or views on the world of “celebrity”. That was all read in good faith. Then, when I was hoping or expecting a great climax, a love connection is made between Marco and Celia. The Night Circus becomes their way of symbolising their love, devotion and commitment to one another without having to be in each other’s company. That’s when I thought the novel became a little twee and saccharine in content and substance.

There are elements, characters and scenes which don’t really add anything to the narrative but are stitched together to carry it along.

I liked the overall reading experience of the novel, the manner in which scenes are created or depicted, the way it captured my imagination  and the writing style. But I was left feeling disappointed with the eventual culmination of the tale, the resolution of the two main characters. and the  ending of The Night Circus.

Saying that, I would still keep it in my book collection.

The Learned Kat

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht

11 Mar

This book was recommended by my local book club, the Bearwood Bookworms. I wasn’t too sure about the choice made as we’d only finished reading The Leopard (Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa) and someone had mentioned The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga).

There seemed to have been a big cat/feline theme going on…

I requested a copy from my local library and when I got home, I started to read it:

A young female doctor goes in search of her late grandfathers’ last resting place and his personal belongings. She describes her relationship with her grandfather, who was also a doctor, and the associated memories of him. This is interspersed with him telling her stories of his youth and his subsequent meetings with “the deathless man”.

The tiger of the novel is a relatively tamed species, which is kept in a zoo that the young doctor frequently visited with her granddad. manages to escape from a bombed zoo and in its attempt for survival, prowls the land in search of food and shelter. It is in one village that the tiger is seen, and “hunters” are dispatched to kill it. Unbeknownst to the local villagers, a deaf-mute woman, who also happens to be an “Outsider” finds a way to feed and care for the tiger. This leads to speculation, alienation and fabrication.

The story is interwoven with characters from different eras, but at the same time, the themes of desperation, survival, dying/death, fear and quality of life remains. There is uncertainty, trying to draw out fact from fiction, the question of cultural identity and the role of compassion and humanity in times of destruction.

I wouldn’t say he was a central character, but because he appears several times as a “constant”  throughout the novel, the “deathless man” has to have a mention as a very clever literary device. To me, the deathless man is symbolic of what the old doctor had known for most of his life: death which is known and unknown. For most of his young life, the doctor had either seen, heard or witnessed death. It was his experiences that drew him to try and help people and keep them alive. But it was also his knowledge of observing the signs and symptoms of death,  dying and the search for salvation that seemed to allow him to have pleasant conversations with the deathless man. Having the figure of the deathless man in the stories seemed to make the doctor, although sceptical and angry at the initial meeting, begin to develop  a relationship of some sorts over the years. Sporadic meetings allowed the doctor to question why the deathless man would come to him and what he gained from his visits. I think the deathless man represented the doctors own conscience, as he would look around during the war years and would question the futility of it all. It was at these times that the deathless man would appear and they would either argue or wrestle with what may be the consciousness.

The deathless man offers hope and preparation, not fear and uncertainty. He is a quietly strong, confident and practical being. In his own way, like the doctor, he offers salvation, resolution and peace. Maybe because the doctor has seen so much death in his time, that is why he would not accept it in a “lifeform!” It makes it more tangible and “real”. It is there, waiting and ready for everyone no matter what the circumstances.

Relationships are explored, either superficial or deep, loss and love are prominent in the telling of the search for the grandfather. Friendship, support and understanding are also key issues which Tea Obrecht explores with passion and instinct.

Having won the Orange Prize for Fiction 2011, I can now fully understand and appreciate why. The author draws you into a story within a story. Descriptive, seamless and enchanting, Obrecht relates the horrors of modern day wars with the wars of yesteryear. It was similar to The Book Thief ( Markus Zusak) and The Diary of Anne Frank but told through the style of The Arabian Nights. Full of sadness, melancholia, dark humour and shocking endings for some of the characters, it combined fables and folklore within communities bombarded by war, death, segregation, religion, superstition, fear and possibly ignorance.

My initial uncertainty was unfounded. It was an engrossing, page turner and at the end, I was overcome with the desire or wish to see this novel turned into a film. Every bookshelf ought to have a copy.

The Learned Kat