There was an interesting editorial in The New York Times‘ regular Room for Debate feature last week. In particular, I was drawn to YA author Matt de la Pena’s part of the debate, where he quoted author Franz Kafka’s assertion that a book should wake us up with a blow to the head. He concluded that folks – due in no small part to their gerbil-sized technology-addicted attention spans – are mostly reading crappy, non-literary fiction in lieu of books that force them to think about and face their inner melancholy. And why? Because readers prefer a mindless escape, and ultimately, a way to reach a deeper sleep. No blow to the head needed, thankyouverymuch.
I doubt Kafka has read – unless he’s been reincarnated as a middle-age New Jersey housewife – the bestselling, taking-the-world-by-storm-oh-my-god-they’re-going-to-turn-it-into-a-movie Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I do, however, wonder what part of his body would be struck should he miraculously be able to read it. His head? Maybe not.
Anyway, Pena’s editorial was timely, as I had just put down the first installment of the trilogy – 200 smutty pages into it – to let my English major, William Faulkner and Edith Wharton-loving mind breathe for a moment and read something smart, like the paper version of the Times…my Sunday guilty pleasure.
Little did my innocent mind (almost as innocent as the 22-year-old narrator Anastasia Steele’s virginal world-view before meeting Christian Grey – sadist extraordinaire, billionaire mogul at the age of 28, and apparently the most gorgeous man in the world) know at the time is that it would get shamefully sucked into the 50 Shades trilogy, much like Anastasia gets sucked into Christian’s orgasmic world of exotic sports cars, helicopters and spankings. This series became my guilty pleasure for six painfully insufferable yet pleasurable days. I stand here (relieved? embarrassed? assessing my woefully inadequate sex life and bank account?) done with all 1,500 delicious, horribly written pages, replete (yes, that word is used like 6,000 times in the last installment of the trilogy) with insipid dialogue and a wildly implausible plot line. Yes, Kafka, this trilogy lodged a much-needed escapist blow to my head (and perhaps libido) – a blow that I must confess left me awake and alive, yet stupid (I feel like I just smoked 42 joints back to back to back and had part of my frontal lobe removed).
Speaking of libido, I can’t not talk about The Sex – which sometimes is “vanilla” (Christian Grey’s word, not mine), while other times borders on law-breaking S&M fantasies played out in the “Red Room of Pain” – that has every Christian group and stodgy librarian’s puritan panties in a wad. (And let’s NOT get started on the feminist outrage over this book; it takes two to tango – Anastasia knew what she was getting herself into.)