Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I'm Reading Now: Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy

All three of these books have been reviewed to death. I could go off about flabby middles, slow plots, and how they could have easily been combined into one, better book, but everyone else has done that. I want to talk about McDonald's instead.

I love to eat and I'm a dedicated foodie. My husband is a classically trained chef and I've eaten in some of the finest establishments in the country. I've also eaten at fast food restaurants, food trucks, and beach-side barbecue vendors. It's rare that I have a truly bad meal. Here's why: expectation and intention.

When I walk into McDonald's I don't presume I'll eat a five star meal. That would be ridiculous. It's a fast food joint and has no intention of being anything else. I imagine I'll get a burger served up relatively quickly and hot. I don't even expect a good burger, just a fast food burger. If I walk into a McDonald's and compare their food to the meal I had at that Michelin three star café in Paris, where the burger is made of filet, sirloin, and braised short rib and served on freshly baked brioche with an accompaniment of fries prepared in duck fat, that makes me a food snob. An unhappy food snob at that because the intent is completely different between the two establishments and I didn't moderate my expectations based on that information.

The Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy is the Big Mac of literature. I can already hear keening and the rent of clothing from my literary writer friends because I used the words "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "literature" in the same sentence. Listen, sometimes I like it rough. I want to annotate a short story by John Steinbeck, examine his style, note the metaphors, and scrutinize his word choices. It's part of studying writing and I love it. However, there are days when all I want is a little dose of low commitment "popcorn for the eyes." That's where books like Fifty Shades of Grey come in. And just like McDonald's, I don't open the cover expecting fine literature, I expect a standard romance with a little kinky sex thrown in. Because I moderate my expectations, I'm happy reading it.

My literary friends hold all books to the same high standards but they are missing the intent. Yes, some books are fine literature examining man's role in the world and other such lofty ideas. But some are just a story, a story of two people and their handcuffs, but just a story nonetheless. To expect a book to rise above the intent of the author is just as ridiculous as walking into McDonalds and expecting a five star experience. You'll be a disappointed literary snob.

This question is a big one for me as a writer. I want to produce a great stories that are engaging and that people want to read. Do I want to explore some existential corner of human existence? Sometimes. But other times, I just want to tell a funny, or sad, or inspirational story, a Big Mac story. Does this make me a bad writer? I don't think so, just a person who wants to connect by telling a tale.