To see Fifty Shades or to not see Fifty Shades…

For me it was a no-brainer, of course I saw it. I saw it Saturday night, opening weekend. Here’s why…

I have always loved to read. I was that kid who gave books as birthday presents (if you got socks from me, that was my mom’s doing). I’ve always loved bookstores, I kind of feel like I could live in one – less fattening than Willy Wonka’s place, but with a similar allure.

While I was in grad school I needed a job. I had narrowed it down to either the record store or this small bookstore on the Upper West Side called Barnes & Noble (this was 1992). If you read my last blog you know how that turned out, but I’ve always wondered what would’ve happened if I had chosen B&N. Since my life veered toward the music business after working at HMV, I used to wonder if I would’ve sought a career in publishing had I chosen books.

Anyway, skip ahead to post-baby #3 around 2007; I could barely complete a sentence much less a book. The books I was reading up to then I’ll call “book club” books; mostly popular fiction, (NOT Oprah books – too depressing), some non-fiction and/or the occasional classic. But I was on a self-imposed moratorium from reading those books, they were too exhausting; one word and I was spent.

Then came Twilight. It was just before the 4th book of the series was released so press on it was everywhere and, being the lover of pop culture that I am, I thought I’d try it. To say I couldn’t put it down sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not. I walked around with those books like they were attached to my hands. While I was reading the last one, I remember Mia incredulously asking, “You’re STILL reading that black book? ” (All 4 are black.) “Yep, go watch tv.” Definitely didn’t win Mother of the Year that year.

That book/series has gotten beaten down for everything under the sun but I didn’t and don’t care. I’ve read many esteemed works of literature that didn’t grab me, so the criticism doesn’t bother me. I realize it’s not for everyone, as I said before, taste is subjective. I have many highbrow friends who would never read those books (and probably are hating this particular blog). But if I feel it, then it works for me. And I felt those books.

First, they have vampires – I’m a sucker for vampires. Between Interview With The Vampire and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (one of my all-time favorite television shows), I was in. Next, to relive that feeling of first love, when it’s all-consuming – who doesn’t want to feel that again???

After I finished them, I didn’t know what to read next. I still wasn’t ready for the book club book. My mother-in-law passed along some romances and I went through them like water. Don’t judge. When you are still carrying baby weight, not feeling so hot and are exhausted, those books are FUN. (Even when you aren’t any of those things, those books are fun.) Plus they are usually quick reads, which always provides a sense of accomplishment. I mean, I enjoyed The Fountainhead but I wouldn’t say it was quick or fun.

For me, the Twilight series was like a gateway drug. I used to poo poo those cheesy paperbacks with the muscle men on the covers.  Now, a whole new genre opened up to me and I loved it. (Though I do prefer a more stealth cover, I feel no need to advertise.  Thank goodness for the iPad.)  And to those who say it’s like reading porn, um, no comment.  Listen, I have been told it’s good to get out of my comfort zone every now and then.  I agree, I just do it through books.

I fondly refer to this genre as “trash,” and thusly, there is “good trash” and “bad trash.” Even I have my standards, I do try to avoid bad trash. Good writing is still good writing no matter the genre, and bad writing is unreadable. It is possible I have a different set of expectations for my good trash than I do for my book club books, which is why Fifty Shades of Grey did not offend me and why I liked it. Obviously, my sensibilities are not so delicate and I’m not expecting Pulitzer Prize quality work; that probably helps.

In romance novels there is almost always a formula; an, often innocent, girl attracts and is attracted to the bad, often wealthy, boy; a Beauty and the Beast scenario. The S&M angle here was just another way to travel that journey. Because I liked the books does that mean I want to try S&M? Not particularly. I also don’t want to climb Mt. Everest or be a spy or travel back in time for a hunky Scotsman (well….). Books are entertainment, an escape. (I’m not going to go near the abuse complaint because that isn’t how I read it. Mr. Grey is a guy with issues and Miss Steele helps him out with those issues – the girl fixes the damaged man and he loves her forever. You didn’t read all three books? Sorry, I just blew the end for you.)

Did I like the movie? Yes. Again, tempered expectations. I was unsure about Ana’s casting but I was pleasantly surprised. I thought Dakota Johnson was terrific. They successfully filmed a seemingly un-filmable movie. And Jamie Dornan is smokin’. Are critics going to like it? Of course not, but it’s not for them. Is it going to make a lot of money? Yep. And I’m thrilled about that because I have read many, many terrific romance novels that would make better movies than some of the crap that gets released and costs millions to make.  (And don’t forget to check out Fifty’s soundtrack, there’s some really good stuff there.)

I’m not out to woo anyone to the dark side. This is definitely NOT what I would’ve chosen to write my 2nd blog about but here we are. And since we’re here, I have a list! This is my good trash list, or at least some of the authors I love. I know this isn’t for everyone, so I won’t be too detailed.

Linda Howard – great with suspense. My faves are Cry No More, Cover of Night and All the Queen’s Men.

Mary Balogh – the Queen of historical romance. I love the Huxtable quintet, especially First Comes Marriage.

Lisa Kleypas – she’s terrific at historical romance, too (the Wallflowers series is great, the best being It Happened One Autumn). She’s dabbled in contemporary romance but the only one I really loved was Smooth Talking Stranger.

When a book makes me chuckle or laugh, I think that’s the greatest thing ever.

Julia Quinn – very witty historical romance. I enjoy all of hers, especially When He Was Wicked.

Rachel Gibson & Christie Ridgway – both are really funny writers of contemporary romance. Gibson’s It Must Be Love and Ridgway’s First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage are super.

Nowadays I’ll alternate between a book club book or two and then a (hopefully) good trash book, it keeps things interesting, like a reward for good behavior!

Ok, time for…

Song of the blog:  This is my current favorite song, Robert DeLong – “Long Way Down.”

Television and movie blogs coming soon. Thanks for reading!

Julie

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