Tag Archives: Fifty Shades of Grey

‘New Adult’ Fiction; What is the Point?

One of the many things that I love about recording The Readers every week, with Gavin of Gav Reads, is that it makes me think about (and in this case have a rant about) things that I wouldn’t expect it to. This week Gavin wanted to talk about the genre of ‘New Adult’ fiction, I have to admit I knew very little about it to be honest and so I went off and did some research. Having done so I have to admit that my main thought with it is… What is the point of ‘New Adult’ as a genre?

If we use the trusted source (my tongue is slightly tickling my cheek here) Wikipedia for a definition then it is “New-adult Fiction or post-adolescent literature is a recent category of fiction for young adults first proposed by St. Martin’s Press in 2009.St. Martin’s Press editors wanted to address the coming-of-age that also happens in a young person’s twenties. They wanted to consider stories about young adults who were legally adults, but who were still finding their way in building a life and figuring out what it means to be an adult.” What is all the more interesting/odd is that the age range for this new type of genre is according to several sources the age range of 14 – 35.

Now we will slightly gloss over my main issue that this is a genre simply created by some marketing people in a publishing house to sell more books which is no bad thing, until you see some of the quality of some of the books and the sort of stories they are. Snobbish? Maybe! It seems like a cash cow and one which I find a mixture of patronizing and perturbing.

My first concern is that the first book which has been published as a ‘new adult’ novel is Tammara Webber’s ‘Easy’, which starts with the protagonist of the book getting raped. I am aware this happens in the world and that younger people need to be taught the hardships of life (though in my day it was being taught about death by being bought a hamster or goldfish that would invariably pop it’s clogs in a month or two) but at the age of fourteen, really? This for me becomes all the more disconcerting as apparently the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trilogy has now, along with ‘Twilight’ but not Harry Potter, been put into this category. Do we really want anyone, not just girls, under the age of 18 reading books with graphic sex in them, regardless of the tin of S&M worms that come opened with it? Weren’t we all calling these books ‘Mummy Porn’ just months ago, now because we are so stupid forward thinking and ‘out there’ let’s pass it on to some youths. I am inwardly groaning as I type. I am not a prude but this does all just seem wrong.

The question is what next? Will the ‘Mummy Porn’ become a genre alongside ‘Tragic Life Stories’ (groan) and ‘New Adult’ (I have just seen how appropriate that title is for books that seem to technically be Baby Black Lace/Black Lace for Beginners), will there be a ‘Ready Meal for One/Spinster/Lonely Man in a Cardigan/Eternal Bachelor Fic’ to run alongside ‘Romance’? Will I be dashing to buy from the ‘True Tales of Animals Daring Do’s’ shelves? Will ‘Grey Fiction’ suddenly take off? The mind boggles, though if any of those do become ‘the latest thing’ I want royalties.

Also what annoys me about it is that those publishers pushing this genre are actually closing off a world of books to people rather than opening the eyes of many to more wonderful books. Are we all going to have to follow the same reading trajectory? You start with picture books, then children’s books, then YA, then NA, then ‘fiction’ and that is the only option? What happened to just getting to an age where you read what you want? For me, who is from a generation prior even to YA (yes I am that old), it was a case of reading from Robin Jarvis to Patrick Suskind, possibly via some Point Horror, because I just naturally progressed at my own pace in my teens. Are the ‘New Adult’ book police going to stop my 14 year old sister from her current read of ‘An Evil Cradling’ by Brian Keenan (no she really is) or make my 13 year old cousin stop reading Charles Dickens and C.J Sansom because apparently he isn’t ready for them yet, instead handing them ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ to have a think about as that is what they should be reading at their age? Erm, no thank you! It all seems preposterous to me. And what about YA is this defunct, down graded or what?

Is this 'NA' or is it 'YA' or simply just fiction?

Is this ‘NA’ or is it ‘YA’ or simply just fiction?

That said, as this is a rather one way set of thoughts on the genre I have recently got a ‘New Adult’ book, though it was just in ‘Fiction’, from the library in the form of ‘Dare Me’ by Megan Abbott. I thought I really should try one of the books from the genre I am writing off a) to see what I make of it b) see if really it is just fiction or YA under an addition unnecessary pigeon hole c) because Jessica of Prose and Cons Book Club (who I love and wish blogged every day, no pressure) loved this tale of crazy evil cheerleaders and it might be a laugh. I will report back, I might end up eating my hat, or I might find out this ‘New Adult’ tag is just a bonkers new genre that need not be, we will see.

As you might have noticed this subject has brought out the rant filled part of me, which you can actually here in the last section of The Readers this week, and I could go on all day. I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on it. Regular readers of this blog of course, but also some of the NA lovers out there and maybe even some of their authors. So what do you think about NA, am I just being a grumpy old git or what?

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Two Lovely Bookish Bits to Share…

I was going to do a post on ‘funny ladies’ today but I thought I would share with you two bookish bits and bobs that I have discovered in the last twenty four hours and wanted to share with you all as I thought you might enjoy them.

The first is a wonderfully heart warming story of a man called Guanlao (or Nanie by locals) in Manila who because he loved books so much, and had rather a lot, decided that he would leave some outside with a note saying ‘free to read’. Now if you did that round my way you would either never see them again for dust or possibly find them sat outside soggy in the rain (Autumn seems to have arrived). However much to Guanlao’s surprise people borrowed them, brought them back and added to the collection. Now he has a public library of his own which now looks like this…

You can read the story in full here (and a big thanks to Polly, who I wish would get blogging again, for sending it me). I think it is a wonderful, wonderful story of a wonderful man and how books do have a real power. I could go all deep but I shall refrain.

Now that your hearts are feeling all warm and fuzzy, hopefully, I thought I would share something with you which I found on YouTube by chance yesterday and made me almost cry with laughter. Here is Ellen DeGeneres trying to read for an audiobook of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, it is pure brilliance…

Isn’t that hilarious? Anyway hopefully that has brought some bookish joy into your days as it did mine. I am still thinking about that man and his public library; it is so inspiring I almost want to do something similar. Don’t you?

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Un-Reviews #2

Earlier in the year, in fact so far back I was still in my twenties (starts weeping), I started what I thought was going to be a rather regular new feature of Un-Reviews. A series of posts where I could discuss the books I didn’t finish and, without being harsh or mean (though possibly wry), I could explain why I didn’t get on with the book and couldn’t finish it. I have discovered, more surprisingly than I thought, that I either a) keep reading the books I don’t initially like b) don’t start many books I don’t like, because this is the second of these posts and its some months later. Anyway let’s get to the three books in question shall we?

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

I have to admit that I wouldn’t have read this book if I hadn’t bought it for The Beard’s mother as she so politely asked and as there was a few days between its purchase and seeing her I thought ‘well I should really give it a go’. Only twenty pages in and I was thinking ‘this prose is not for me’ but also ‘I don’t believe a girl like Ana could exist’. For those of you who may have been to Mars in the last few months and so don’t know what the book is about Ana, a fresh graduate and seemingly importantly a virgin, who by chance meets Christian Grey a man who likes to domineer in more than just his business ventures and with whom she starts an S&M relationship with. I admit I was intrigued by Christian and in another authors hands why he was into what he was could have been really interesting but for me this book, and the totally unbelievable Ana, were just written for the sex bits, which I of course went on and rushed to and found mildly titillating the first time, then boring and slightly offensive the more I read. If you won’t take my word for it here is the review of The Beards mother sent via text…

“Managed two thirds of the book, was very badly written, trite and totally without humour. As erotic as DIY shopping, with maybe a few more uses for the items those shops stock. Jilly Cooper in her heyday far more erotic. Can’t for the life of me think why it’s become so big, but once it starts its self perpetuating hence why I wanted to read it. There that’s me done, have passed it onto John [her husband].”

The Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle

I feel slightly mean writing about this one as the publishers very kindly sent it me (the publishers of Fifty Shades said they sent it but it has been lost in Royal Mail, see even postmen are reading it) as it was set in Florence and so would be ideal for my trip. I could see why they would think so as the story is a thriller set in the 1940’s, when Italy was invaded by Germany, and then in the present when an aged partisan is killed by being shot and having filled himself with salt. The crime element of the book and how it was connected with the past almost made me read on past page one hundred and something but sadly the author seemed to have a tic which just grated on me. Too many similes, way too many, I think in one paragraph I counted six ‘likes’. It became so noticeable it took over from the prose and I started to sigh a lot. When a police procedure gone embarrassingly wrong and was compared to ‘like grannies disco dancing’ I decided enough was enough. A shame as it had a lot going for it.

Ancient Light by John Banville

I have been told by so, so many people that I must read John Banville (Gran is a big fan) and so as everyone was saying it was a dead cert for the Man Booker I thought I would give it a try. I don’t know why this book didn’t work for me, for a start I really liked the prose in many aspects, I just didn’t get hooked and was longingly looking at other books on the TBR. This tale of Alexander Cleave (and his wife’s) grief was intriguing as was how Alexander consoles himself in the memory of an affair he had with his best friend’s mother when he was younger, but something wasn’t there. Maybe this just wasn’t the time for me to read it? Since I have put the book down I have learnt that the narrator is also in ‘Eclipse’ and ‘Shroud’ and so maybe subconsciously I felt I was missing part of the story, would I go back and read those books, hmmm, I am not sure. I liked something about the prose though so maybe I should try one of his other books instead, any recommendations?

So those are the latest books I have started but been at a loss to finish for various reasons. What about all of you? Have any of you read these and managed to get all the way through, if so what am I missing?

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The School of Whoredom – Pietro Aretino

What I think is interesting with the whole phenomenon of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is the fact that it seems to have opened up the whole debate of reading erotica amongst the masses. What I also find funny is the fact that some people think this is the first time such a book has been written. It seems D. H. Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ and the furore that caused has been long forgotten, not to mention Anais Nin or even Pietro Aretino, a name not many would say they know and yet is the man who it is believed wrote the first erotic novels back in the 1500’s. I have been reading his books for the last few years and like Nin and Lawrence yet unlike E. L. James (from the small amount I read of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ before giving it up and away) story, prose and characters are as important to the books as the erotica is.

Hesperus Press, 1535 (republished 2003), paperback, fiction, 99 pages, kindly sent by publisher

I am rather confused as to whether ‘The School of Whoredom’ is the first or the last in the series of three novella’s (the other two being ‘The Secret Life of Nuns’ and ‘The Secret Life of Wives’) featuring the wonderfully forthright, blunt and no nonsense Nanna. Either way it is a tale of Nanna advising a young woman, this time her daughter Pippa rather than Antonia (who does get a mention), in the art of whoredom and how to be the perfect courtesan.

Initially this may seem like a simple excuse for the author to write something sensational and a little bit vulgar and, if I am being honest, there is something about those qualities that make it so readable. As the book has dated it really isn’t that shocking, though I seem to remember I was a little shocked at ‘The Secret Life of Nuns’, it is more slightly titillating and then more of a fun romp than anything else as Nanna explains all the skills you need as well as all the wiles. However the more I have thought about this novella the more I think that Aretino actually depicts society and people in Italy at the time he wrote it in the 1500’s and that is what makes the book all the more interesting and more than just a bit of historical raunch.

As Nanna advises Pippa on what her clientele will want she also tells Pippa all about them. Initially there are the different ages of men, then the different walks and positions in life these men have and finally how different men from different parts of Italy will also differ and yet have things in common. This, along with her insights and experience in the world of the courtesan, really does give conjure up the atmosphere and life at the time. I found it quite fascinating.

One of the things I have always loved about the series is Nanna. As all three of these books have been told as a two woman dialogue you really feel like you are eavesdropping on a very private conversation. Nanna makes it all the more entertaining with her exaggerations, dramatics and rather saucy sense of humour. She really is one of my favourite characters in literature (and yes I would say these books are deemed literature) and one I am definitely going to miss now I have read all three.

“Nanna: Pippa, though I make people believe you are sixteen, you’re twenty clear and plain; you were born just after the end of Leo’s conclave, and when all Rome was shouting ‘Balls, balls!’ I was screaming ‘Oh God, oh God!’ And it was just as the arms of the Medici were being hung on the door of St Peter’s that I had you.”

Some people may be rather shocked or disappointed that I have chosen to include a review of a book like ‘The School of Whoredom’ on the blog, but to be honest as the whole world is discussing the Fifty Shades series I would like to send you in the direction of some erotica which has deeper characters, finer prose, a sense of irony and some historical context. You get all of those and a good titter too with this series and with each one being under 100 pages you don’t have to get to page 131 for the, erm, action to kick off as it were. Plus I am pleased Fifty Shades has got erotica out there more, I mean why should you be ashammed to read it? Go on; give them a whirl I say!

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50 Shades of Posh Porn…

I am still in the midst of sorting out my new lovely laptop and transferring everything from hard discs or my old laptop if it can stay on for two seconds. However today I have been out and about to cheer me up (I didn’t get the job I went for because they didn’t feel I read enough ‘literature’, more on that in a day or two) and went for a trip around Formby. It has two book shops and loads and loads of charity shops, so I was in heaven. I did laugh though as why it is when you have a specific book in mind on a charity shop trawl it is fated to be the only one that none of the ten, yes ten, you go in have. Nor did the two new bookshops, drats. Anyway, having a pub lunch I saw this in the paper and had to share it all with you…

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I loved this article for several reasons. One is the fact that I think Victoria Beckham is a bit brilliant and have for years, there’s a wryness to her that I really like. Two, I never thought that I would hear her talk about books. Three, she bought one for her mum, and I bought it for my possible future mother in law, so that makes us peas in a pod doesn’t it? Four, that this book has really had everyone talking about it! Will Kate, Camilla or Queen Liz be seen with a copy peeking out of their purse at some point, maybe the Olympics closing ceremony?

Anyway it entertained me and was bookish so I thought I would share it with you all.

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Fifty Shades of ‘Oh I Say’…

I can’t not talk about it any longer, I have to finally admit defeat to what seems to have become the literary sensation of the last decade, let alone the last week or month, which is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. Everyone is talking about it (by the sales week on week it seems they are also all buying it) and when I say everyone I mean everyone. Get ready for a little, and rather funny, Fifty Shades story that happened the other day…

On Sunday The Beard’s Mum and Dad, who are in their late sixties, took us both out for dinner as part of The Beards birthday week treat (he was 41 on Wednesday, send belated wishes, he’d love it) and what a lovely dinner it was. Between mains and dessert The Beard and his Dad left the table. His Mum and I were chatting when she suddenly leaned over and said ‘Si, I was wondering… You couldn’t get me a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey could you?’ I think it was one of the very few times my jaw has almost hit the floor and I have been speechless. We caught each others eye and both started laughing and I said ‘of course’ and more laughing ensued. It was at this point that The Beard and his Dad came back and asked what we were discussing, when they learnt what it was I thought The Beard was going to faint from a mixture of shock and awkwardness. I have to admit I was oddly touched his Mum felt that she could ask me, anyway…

Since then I haven’t stopped hearing about the book be it on Woman’s Hour (I feel no shame I listen to this as a male), my Aunty telling me all her friends (housewives in their forties) are reading it but she’s not and Gran said when I saw her on Thursday (she can move her left thumb, minor progress but promising) that the nurses are talking of nothing else. Ha!

Well today whilst supermarket shopping I saw this…

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Well I went and caved in didn’t I?

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Not for me though! I will be taking it as a gift tomorrow for The Beards mum when we go round for dinner (and to see how Oscar copes there as he will be visiting while we are in Italy, then I will get her the other two as a thank you for cat sitting, ha) as I know she nearly bought it at another supermarket the other day ‘but too many people were watching’.

I am pondering if I should read it. I’ve been a little snobby about it, and in hysterics reading it aloud to The Beard in the kitchen just now (he’s even more horrified I’m giving the book to his mum after those extracts) but can I judge it and roll my eyes (or give people a dirty look when seeing them buying it) without having read it myself? What do you think?

I also wondered about your thoughts, be they good bad or indifferent, to the whole Fifty Shades debate! Have any of you read it… Dare you admit it? Do tell…

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