If you only know one thing about Fifty Shades of Grey — well, one thing besides that it’s a wildly popular BDSM novel with a film adaptation due out Friday — it’s probably that E.L. James’ bestseller isn’t very good. Critics, when they deign to consider its literary merits, haven’t been kind; a few years ago, it even became a common pastime for journalists and talk-show hosts to make celebrities read its notoriously awkward sex scenes aloud.
Fifty Shades of Grey is a fantasy e-book by author E. L. James. It tells the story of a British sex goddess who speaks through the body of an American student named Anastasia Steele. As a result of her possession by this goddess, Ms. Steele is afflicted with OCD, sociopathy, British usage, occasional bursts of alliteration (“cold, clean, and clinical”), profound confusion over the usage of hyphens (“mega successful”), and uncontrollable sexual urges. Over the course of the novel, the goddess who inhabits Anastasia Steele will attempt, repeatedly, to push her frame beyond its earthly limits, sometimes through BDSM sex. The book is a surrealist, psychologically disorienting fantasia, so don’t worry if you miss certain telltale signs in the opening pages.
Chocolate! Flowers! Little beady-eyed bears holding plush hearts! No, put down your sugarcoated wallets: these are no gifts for the culture connoisseur you so ardently adore. Instead, why not earn your kisses with something a little more creative, a little more interesting, and (probably) a little more useful? Here’s a selection of romantic and culturally relevant V-Day gifts for your plugged-in sweetie. You’re …Read More
Last month, Austin drone-pop duo Soft Vision released a striking 7″ called “Feel It Coming On”; its B-side was a song called “Willy Loman,” named for the protagonist of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Now the harmonious synth act, comprised of Kelly Winchester and Bradley Barr, offers up the opening track to their self-titled debut EP, out next week on Acoustic Division’s new pop counterpart, Hi-Definition. It, too, finds its inspiration in one of 20th-century literature’s famous working-class families: D.H. Lawrence’s 1926 short story “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” Flavorwire is pleased to premiere the song, below.
Back-to-school time is upon us, and for many, that means reading for pleasure will give way to burning through that syllabus. Classrooms, especially high school classrooms (college classes are becoming so weird and specific nowadays that you could read just about anything in them), suffer from the “classic effect” — which is exactly what it sounds like. Not that there’s anything wrong with literary classics, and they definitely should be read, but there’s so much more out there. And when you consider the fact that one-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives — well, it would be nice if they had a little more to go on than The Great Gatsby. After the jump, find a selection of books you’ll (probably) never read in high school, but should still read, and add your own favorite anti-schoolbooks to the list in the comments.
As Valentine’s Day (not to mention yet another cold night) approaches, you may find yourself in the mood for love. But what if you don’t? Never fear, because all you have to do is pick up a book. Yes, reading is sexy — especially when you’re reading one of these books, which range from literary fiction (with, ahem, some notable scenes) to famously romantic plays to “highbrow academia porn” to real literary erotica. …Read More
Travel writing is a glamorous but difficult genre. To a reader it’s an easy sell: you get to go to fantastic places and see unusual things without spending the money. But for a writer, getting your tone right can be tricky. The speaker’s narration of the exotic wonders of the place they’re visiting can quickly turn condescending and even racist. Only the most skilled writers can toe the line. Like, you know, Steinbeck. In this list, I’ve observed the following parameters: no recent blockbusters, as many of the world’s regions as one could possibly fit, and steering away from the older, 19th-century popular travel books unless there was something particularly remarkable about …Read More
Some people get flamed by standard-grade Internet marauders, like Republicans. It is my lot in life, however, to get flamed by incensed Georgette Heyer fans. Yesterday, I posted a list of 40 “trashy” books that included, among the likes of D.H. Lawrence and Shirley Conran, an example from Heyer, and promptly the comments were filled with protest. The complaints vary. Some people feel I was too quick to classify their favorite book — the Outlander series, or else Heyer’s Black Moth itself — as “trash,” which they understand as an insult. Others are upset that I would dare put Nin and Lawrence on a list of trash, I guess because Nin and Lawrence are branded as “literary” and “serious” even when they are writing what at least Nin openly admitted was work-for-hire that she considered inferior to her Diaries. (More on Lawrence in a bit.)
First things first: the history of the novel is already tangled up with the notion of “trash.” Peruse the great 19th-century realist novels — particularly Jane Austen’s, say — and you’ll catch characters insulting each other’s reading habits. But there are a lot of reasons to read other than intellectual elevation. Relaxation is one; keeping up with what everyone else is reading is another. Here are 40 of the greatest trashy books written in the last hundred years that, if you’re not looking for perfect prose, will surely decrease muscle tension over a weekend, or on …Read More