Sunday, April 29, 2012

Don't critics get the horn?

There's a book at the top of the best sellers called Fifty Shades of Grey. I haven't read it but I want to to because lots of people have told me it's rubbish. They can't agree what's rubbish about it. Joanna Biggs in the Literary Review said it was "insanely badly written" while Jenny Colgan in The Guardian thought it was "eminently readable". The reason these people and lots of others have gone out of their way to point out its shortcomings - through think pieces in the big papers and waspish exchanges over Sauvignon Blanc - is that it's what when I was at school they called a Mucky Book. Nowadays they call it erotica. Its purpose is to give people the horn, just as the purpose of house music is to make people want to dance.

This all seems straightforward. So straightforward that I've never been able to understand why people who've been to university in general and critics in particular always claim that while things like this give the rest of us the horn, it doesn't have the same effect on them. Oh no. They always pretend they find it funny, which is pretty condescending of them when you think about it.

They were the same with The Joy Of Sex, Nine and a Half Weeks, Bouquet Of Barbed Wire, Pirelli calendars, Madonna's Sex book, Emmanuelle, all the rest of the salacious phenomena that the rest of us went out and bought, watched, read or at least stole surreptitious glances at in our millions. It might have the rest of us walking like tripods or squirming in our seats but it simply doesn't make a dent in the steel pants with which these people's critical acuity has apparently armoured them.

It doesn't make sense. Even the most in-bred food critics can appreciate a McDonalds once in a while, can't they? Not everything in life has to be run through the same elevated filter. Some things in life you're just supposed to feel. Or is it possible that they did feel it and they're not telling the truth about what they felt?


  1. I brought this for my girlfriend as part of the Spanish St Georges celebration where you give flowers and a book, literally killing one bird with two stones, one a romantic Spanish statement and two I also knew she’d secretly like its content. Her verdict was it was gloriously trashy and completely enthralling. It makes me question whether the ability to right mass appeal literature that EL James or Dan Brown knocks out with such gusto is just as much a talent as writing a book worthy of much beard stroking by the booker panel such as Julian Barnes trades in. Apply it to other mediums however it falls down, I have not a fucking clue why the wider public thinks Olly Murrs has any talent and the films of Jason Statham regularly make me wish to put my foot through the telly. I always lived by the cultural maxim “never be too cool not to enjoy yourself” and I think this applies to EL James and her arse whippingly racy books.

  2. Again, Mr Hepworth bangs the nail on the head with his trusty hammer of...erm....horn. As a bookseller, I haven't seen a book disappear of the shelves this quickly since the True Blood series. It's also being sold to a really wide variety of people. Had to smirk the other day though when a septegenarian bought it for her reading group. "Well Doris, I did prefer the restraining stuff to the things he did with her arse.....what do you think Marjorie" Should make for an interesting debate!

  3. I've grown weary of this detached pose adopted by some literary critics, who seem to imagine themselves dispatching Wildean asides from some Wimbledon umpire's chair as they gaze down upon the hoi polloi and their George R R Martin novels. I don't trust them or their opinions because I don't think they're being honest.

    Nobody writes: "My erection was so complete that it accidentally knocked over a large pile of weighty manuscripts that I am researching for a biography
    of Gustav Mahler. The hard on was of such staying power that I could have confidently employed it as a baton with which to conduct said composer's 90 minute long 3rd symphony had it not been more gainfully employed pleasuring my wife. Thank you E L James, if that it your real name."