Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"A young, naive invertebrate," or, frolicsome facts about the state of books, c. 2012

“Why is anyone the way they are? That’s kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate it? Do you like cheese?” --According to EW.com, that critical powerhouse, this quote refers to Christian Grey's odd preferences. And here I will confess that a. I do like cheese and b. that I have never so much as cracked the spine on 50 Shades. 
In answer to a question elsewhere: yes, this is what is called tongue in cheek, although mentioning body parts at all is somewhat risible in this context. Am I one of those angry folk? Not at all. I, like Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, simply observe the world's follies and hope to keep my equanimity and good cheer...
1. Comments on and discussions of 50 Shades of Grey are known as "critical reception." Those who discuss are called "critics." Some of them are angry. Some are tongue in cheek. Some are perfectly serious. Some prefer the Christian in Pilgrim's Progress, another book that has sold well over the years. Some have daydreams about Christian Grey and his enthusiastic but allegedly dumb sidekick, Ana.

2. Selling many copies now means a book is good. Selling fewer copies means it is bad. 50 Shades of Grey is the "fastest-selling paperback of all time." Therefore the ancient discipline of Logic tells us that 50 Shades must be a good book, and no doubt the accountants of the publishing industry agree.

3. Book rights to 50 Shades of Grey have been sold in 37 countries, according to Wikipedia. That's a lot. According to the aforementioned Logic, this book must be really, really (really!) good.

4. The book has hunkered down on bestseller lists around the world. People who read 50 Shades are called "readers." Logic says that there are many, many "readers" in the world, far more than I had realized before! This, too, surely must be good, right?

5. Librarians, those people who in times of positively yore had time to help other people to find good books, have sometimes refused to carry the book for various stated reasons but have been over-ridden by readers and people in charge.

6. As Perez Hilton and other major webbish pontificators note, author Brett Easton Ellis (American Psycho) tweets that he wants to do the screenplay.

7. Katrina Lumsden has rioted her way through all five (oops, no three--numbers are very important) volumes and posted her colorful thoughts on Goodreads. Among other things, she collects words. In the first volume, she finds the count on these words:
"Oh My" - 79
"Crap" - 101
"Jeez" - 82
"Holy" (linked to assorted surprising nouns) - 172
"Whoa" - 13
"Gasp" - 34
"Gasps" - 11
"Sharp Intake of Breath" - 4
"Murmur" - 68 "Murmurs" - 139
"Whisper" - 96 "Whispers" - 103
"Mutter" - 28 "Mutters" - 23
"Fifty" - 16
"Lip" - 71
"Inner goddess" - 58*
"Subconscious" - 82
    *i.e. the vagina of the protagonist, according to Katrina
    (though EW.com argues that it is a part of her psyche)
I am very glad that Katrina has read the book and has been anal enough to do all this counting for us. Also, she corrects prior mistaken analyses by pithy summations such as: "This is not a book about BDSM, this is a book about one sick, abusive man and his obsession with a young, naive invertebrate."

Oh my.

8 comments:

  1. I do not like cheese, and I have not read this book.

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  2. All the fun is talking about it without reading it!

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  3. Another cheese lover here, and non-reader of this book, I'm thinking this will not be a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, and other such high awards.... or will it, gasp?

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  4. The way things are drifting, it's hard to say what awards might pop up! Marketing may rule awards some day.

    Just bought some Amish-made mountainthaler at the farmer's market. Maybe it's time for a cheese break.

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  5. The disdain with which you use the word "marketing" is surprising.

    I suppose one could write and not market. As long as one doesn't like eating or a roof over their head.

    Even if sponsored by a single supporter a writer still needs to market to an audience of one in order to gain sustenance and roofing.

    I suppose what you mean is "inappropriate marketing" or "selling something that has no intrinsic value." I agree with that.

    But "marketing" has no more inherent evil than "medicine" does. It just depends on what the elixir is compounded from, who the doctor is, and what the patient is willing to endure.

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  6. Hmm, I don't disdain marketing--have to do a good deal of it myself. Imagine I might say that with me, the book comes first and is followed at some later date by the marketing. That's not at all clear with some books. :)

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  7. P. S. Did I even use the word "marketing"? Not so sure... I don't see it. But I definitely tweaked a few critics and so on.

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  8. So confusing talking back and forth on two sites!

    Two things: 1. the whole thing is a bit silly, a bit of a tease; 2. in a world where marketing comes before writing instead of after, the marketers might as well pass out judgment. Which is of course not a straightforward, serious idea either: just a commentary on the way of the world.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.