The most depressing thing about Fifty Shades of Grey (other than the relentless mangling of the English language, charmless characters and wildly irresponsible glorification of abusive relationships) is that in a strange way, it does do what the blurb promises.
Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.
I mean, I take exception to the ‘erotic’, obviously. I’ve sorted laundry more titillating than these yawnfests. And there are sadly very few laughs to be had. In fact, the e-mail exchanges where the main characters indulge in what I suspect a moron considers ‘witty banter’ just made me want to stab both of them repeatedly in the head. Also the only thing this book will really move is your bowels.
But obsession? Possibly. Possession no, although that does sound extremely nasty. If at any time while reading Fifty Shades of Grey you find yourself experiencing any of the following symptoms, please seek advice from your nearest Exorcist;
– dangling participles.
– loss of will-power/common-sense/ability to understand Thomas Hardy novels.
– flushing and/or lip-biting.
– unnatural tolerance to startling amounts of alcohol.
– severe outbreaks of exposition.
In a funny kind of way, Fifty Shades of Grey has stayed with me – sort of like a bad scallop or an reckless third martini. I wrote Fifty Shades of Neigh to wring some fun out of a book that just isn’t fun or funny. The current novel I’m working on – a tie-in to Summerland – has almost been hijacked by my serious objections to Fifty Shades of Grey, the things too horrible and heavy to write about in Fifty Shades of Neigh. Fifty Shades of Grey not only completely misunderstands BDSM relationships but also pretends that it is somehow erotic when a man controls a woman, right down to the food she eats and her private grooming habits. It features a man who believes that because he awakened a woman’s sexuality it means that he has some kind of ownership over her. It’s a creepy, disgusting book, based on the killer fantasy that if you only love him enough he’ll eventually stop hitting you. I wanted to answer all these things in fiction and so far I’m fairly pleased with the results. Of course, it’s very, very depressing to write.
Last November I got halfway through and couldn’t take anymore, so I switched to something lighter to give myself a break. Fifty Shades of Neigh was the result. I’m currently four chapters into the first edit of this new book, and months into a winter of discontent so deep that even a genuine son of York could only do so much to cheer frostbitten Britons up. It’s in these weird, depressive periods that I go frantically searching for laughs, so it’s likely that I will end up writing the sequel to Fifty Shades of Neigh.
Fifty Shades Fatter will probably be out in summer. (You know, summer – you remember. That time where it rains all the time, instead of more fucking snow.) I don’t have much written yet but I can tell you that Kate has taken up Cryptozoology as part of her career writing lying articles for supermarket tabloids, Jesús is cranking out Kindle porn and Teresa feels so guilty about ratting out her idiot daughter’s boyfriend to the authorities that she’s pulling strings to try and get Hanna a career in publishing. Crispian, meanwhile, is in a very different place than where he started out last time and Hanna is losing her already precarious grip on reality…
Crispian sits in the visiting room, denuded of his trademark hat and Hawaiian shirt, but even in his prison jumpsuit he is still compelling, still addictive as ever.
“Hey,” he says. “What brings you here?”
I stare down at my hands.
“Hanna, come on.”
I want to speak but the words that want to come out are all wrong – I want him back. My life has no meaning without him.
“Say something,” he whispers.
“Like what?” I daren’t look at him. If I look into his hot fudge sundae coloured eyes I will be lost.
“Anything. What are you thinking?”
My mind is a howling whirlwind of emptiness. My hands are clammy, my heart broken and my underpants are riding up the crack of my behind. “I have a wedgie,” I murmur, watching tears splash down over my wrists.
“Oh. Well, that’s…um…”
It takes all of my courage to look at him. I want him so much, but he hurt me. He said I was enough for him but I wasn’t – I never would be. The ponies would always come between us.
“Maybe you should e-mail me,” he says.
My heart stands still. “E-mail you?”
“Yeah. We can be e-mail buddies.”
I begin to cry. How can I be e-mail buddies with him when I want him so much?
Crispian leans forward. “What’s wrong? A lot of the guys have e-mail girlfriends.”
“Yeah.” He lowers his voice to its softest registers, fluffy and melting, like cotton candy. “You’re not allowed to send…you know…pictures, but there are ways to…uh…satisfy a man via e-mail, if you know what I mean.”
“Like…if I was your girlfriend?”
“Yeah. If you like.”
“But…we broke up.”
“I know,” he sighs. “I’ve been having flashbacks to my awful childhood ever since.”
“Because I left you?”
He nods. “It’s nothing to worry about, Hanna. I can handle my complex PTSD all on my own. Behind bars. You go – you have your own life to lead.”
Tears sting my eyes. I picture him, a helpless, barefoot child, thin and ragged like a Dickensian orphan. What happened to him in those dark days before he was adopted? He’s hinted at emotional damage before. “I’ll e-mail you,” I murmur, and stand up. Wow, it’s like I’m wearing a thong – how did they ride up so far?
“E-mail me?” husks Crispian, peering seductively up at me. “Or ‘e-mail’ me?” He fingerquotes in a way that he knows makes me weak at the knees.
“The second one,” I say, and when he raises an eyebrow back at me I can feel my Inner Goddess stir from her five day sulk. She sits up, runs her hands through her hair, giggles briefly and begins to bark like a dog.
Weird. She never did that before. Still, I guess it’s better than her calling me an asshole, which she used to do. A lot.
As I drive home she’s doing backflips and dancing the merengue. This is definitely unusual.
– I thought you didn’t dance?
i’m a dancey goddess whee. dancey prancey la de dah.
mackerel whisper to me in the dead of night. they sing of biscuits and dance to the music of ham.
– I’m really not following you.
follow follow follow follow we represent the lollipop kids. have you any ketamine, deirdre?
Oh God. She’s malfunctioned.
I haven’t. I’m fine.
– Oh my God. There you are. Where have you been?
– What? How does that even work?
I told you. I’m freelance. I’m a figment of other imaginations besides yours. Last week I was in the head of a lady who was nice enough to send me to Barbados, which is more than you ever did, by the way.
– Never mind that. Why are you acting crazy?
Me? Who’s acting crazy?
…like a rolling bagel in the hamster cage i breathe and fondle systems of fancy, whimsical pants…
I am grateful for the red light. My hands, on the steering wheel, are shaking. What in the hell is going on?
– Why are you babbling about mackerel, ketamine and pants? Are you doing this to annoy me? Like that time you took up mime?
My Inner Goddess raises an eyebrow. Oh. That – no, that’s not me.
– It’s not?
That’s your Subconscious.
– My what?
Your Subconscious. She’s been in here the whole time. Perhaps it would helpful if she talked in bold type from hereon in.
– No, no. No. You’re kidding, right? I never had a subconscious before.
no my only lonely single mind i know your tricks i know your treats i smell your feet and laugh
– This is not fucking funny. She can’t be my subconscious. She’s nuts.
Of course she is. She’s full time – no freelancing for her. She’s been stuck in your weird little noggin since the day you first figured out you existed. Twenty one years, give or take – small wonder she’s as mad as a box of frogs.
Oh my God. I have a second voice in my head. Voices. Plural.