Column: James’ word porn outsells Rowling’s world of magic, should we be worried?

By Melanie Stone

Daily Illini, U. Illinois via UWIRE

“He grabs me suddenly and yanks me up against him, one hand at my back holding me to him and the other fisting in my hair.”

“It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Let’s play a game. Above are two quotes, one from “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James and one from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling. Tell me — which quote belongs to which British novelist’s bestseller?

OK. You win. The former excerpt is found in Chapter 15 of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The two series are literary opposites, yet “Fifty Shades” recently surpassed sales on Amazon for all seven “Harry Potter” books in the United Kingdom. Globally, James’ trilogy has surpassed 40 million sales.

I know. I know. Porn is outselling mystery and magic; Christian Grey is now just as infamous as our main man Harry is famous. I’m concerned, and I think you should be too.

Porn is a booming industry, arguably one of the biggest in the world. Our culture loves sex, and bondage is just another piece of the puzzle. Until “Fifty Shades” rose to fame, however, BDSM was not a household term. Thanks to James, chains and whips are now at the forefront of our minds.

Once you watch an X-rated movie or online video, you don’t forget what you saw. The human mind is a powerful tool; so powerful, in fact, that it permanently seals those images into our memory.

Much like visual porn, literary erotica will also linger in our minds. I still remember the chapter I read out of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and unless I suffer some sort of traumatic brain injury, I will never forget it.

I also still remember the adventures of Harry Potter, of course, but those engrained thoughts are far less toxic.

Nevertheless, it blows my mind that a book — a book made up essentially of vivid sex scenes intertwined with poor writing — can possibly gain more popularity than the “Harry Potter” series. After all, people live for Harry, Hermione and Ron. That series is more than just popular — it’s an empire.

This isn’t to say I’m a huge fan of either author. I have, however, read bits and pieces of both series, the more titillating of which I peeked at while waiting for my train one day.

And, oh wow — E.L. James doesn’t mess around. She describes each touch, every kiss and the entire scene using the filthiest language available. It’s word porn. But here’s the kicker: The simple syntax and dull diction is comparable to that of a seventh-grade girl. It’s hard to believe that in the U.K., “Fifty Shades of Grey” is now the most-downloaded e-book ever, a trend that will surely move to the U.S. very soon.

Bruce Handy, Vanity Fair deputy editor, phrased it like this: “The prose, which originated as ‘Twilight’ fan fiction, is functional at best, silly at worst, the characterizations are insipid, the plotting holds stubbornly to sub-college-workshop level.”

The “Harry Potter” books have received similar criticism when it comes to J.K.’s readability. Harold Bloom, a professor at Yale University, said, “Rowling’s mind is so governed by cliches and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing.”

But excessive adverbs aside, the “Harry Potter” books are filled with imaginative themes and a rich cast. The captivating story line attracts all sorts of readers, from middle-school students to soccer moms. “Fifty Shades,” aimed at an adult audience but often falling into the hands of young people, is simply sexy. And that’s that.

If the world is coming to poorly written erotica as our main form of entertainment, then we are in serious trouble. What if bondage becomes the norm? Already, the sex-toy industry has grown exponentially. On a bustling Manhattan street in early August, Trojan doled out 10,000 free vibrators in a span of two days. Then there’s those ropes and whips — Babeland, a chain of adult-toy stores, has experienced a sales increase of 40 percent since the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon exploded. Trojan and Babeland have E.L. James to thank for their wild success.

Here in America, we are privileged to read whatever we want. If we have that freedom, then we should choose with caution, picking books that will enrich and inspire us. Reading shouldn’t be an outlet for us to stimulate our bodies; it should be a way to stimulate our minds.

Read more here: http;//www.dailyillini.com/article/2012/09/james-word-porn-outsells-rowlings-world-of-magic-should-we-be-worried
Copyright 2018 Daily Illini