A Tale of Two Novels

Last week I did it.  Much later than everyone else, admittedly, but it is the action that counts. I decided to find out whether my friends– many of them writers – are literary snobs or just jealous of one E.L.James’ success. So I decided to read Fifty Shades of Grey. I am undoubtedly jealous of E.L.’s instant internet success so I was never going to buy any of the copies of the trilogy even though they were retailing for KSh200 (that’s about R20 to you South Africans) each on the street. So I did the next best thing. I borrowed my neighbour’s copy. I had promised myself that I would read it to the end. And if it turned out not to be as bad as my friends claimed, I would even secretly read the other two in the trilogy.

It was the longest five days of my life.

I get that university students nowadays are supposed to be vacuous. Really, I do. But if the book’s heroine was as much a fan of literature as the writer wants us to believe, surely she could find another word besides ‘hot’? Every page had the word ‘hot’ on it, whether in describing Mr. Gray, the sex they had, the borrowed dress the protagonist wore, or Mr. Gray’s house. How hot were the descriptions? So hot they left me cold. I was, however, grateful to myself that I took time to read Fifty Shades of Grey. I was thankful because I had been suffering from a low self-esteem after a rejection of one of my manuscripts by an agent. Fifty Shades of Grey raised my esteem back up and indeed, put me in danger of being egotistical. My thinking being, if a lot of people were stupid enough to read and recommend that book to anyone, there may yet be hope for my better written manuscripts.

Every once in a while I encounter someone who says smugly ‘I don’t read books.’ And I get them a book that will result in smug non-reader becoming an avid reader. Fifty Shades is that book that would result in an avid reader deciding that they will no longer read contemporary fiction. But I am made of sterner stuff and Fifty Shades was not going to put me off all the writers of my generation.

A few days later I received a copy of Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls. This fast-paced thriller of a time-travelling serial killer set in Chicago shows that Cape Town residing Beukes did a lot of research about the city of Chicago throughout the years. But fortunately for the reader, Beukes does not bog us down with trying to show off how much research she did but instead weaves the details effortlessly into her narrative. The book was a page-turner and were it not for my pesky child who claimed he was hungry – why he could not eat at the neighbours, I do not know – I would have finished the book in one sitting. Instead I finished it in two. When I was done, I wanted to step outside and tell everyone I encountered to buy The Shining Girls.  But it was two in the morning and I was not likely to meet anyone. So I wrote a status update on Facebook instead.

So thank you Ms. Beukes for The Shining Girls.

And Ms.-Whatever-Your-Real-Name-Is of Fifty Shades – no more ink to your pen. Stop writing, dammit. Your book sucks.


7 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Novels

  1. Absolutely true !!!!!!!!!wat a honest n absolutely refreshnig true perspective ……….Zooks u r a literary giant !

    • Hi Amisha,
      You are too sweet. Literary giant? No-one can accuse you of understatements:-).
      I’m off BB but please email. I want to run something by you. Love to you and Josh.

  2. Hi Zukiswa

    I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey, blame it on peer pressure, and it turned out to be one long boring grey story. I read the first one and thought I was being harsh, going on the premise that I’ve never written anything before so shouldn’t be so quick to judge. So, I read the second book, didn’t make it past 15 pages. That book reminds me of a really bad amateur porn movie.

    But that put aside, other than your blog (Amen) it is really hard to find your contact details on the net. It is 3:30am here in Joburg and I’ve just finished reading your book ‘The Madams’. I love it. On so many levels, for so many reasons. A disclaimer, I am no walking library ie I don’t read very much, but your effortless story telling pulled at my heart strings. Thank you for sharing your talent and skill, you have impacted my life. With regard to Thandi, Siz and Lo and the lack of champagne, cheers to heaps more of amazing writings.

    • Than you KMM but I beg to differ and indeed I am more available than beyond the blog (facebook anyone?)/ I am glad you enjoyed The Madams. I would be glad to know who your favourite madam is and perhaps throw an invite to the next book launch in August?

  3. But no! EL James MUST go on writing! She provides invaluable free therapy to all writers who genuinely care about the craft. In moments of struggle, defeatism, rejection, all they have to do is read a couple of pages of Fifty Shades to be reminded that:

    1) Market success has nothing to do with literary excellence

    2) I write better than the bestselling novel of all time. I will NOT give up!

    and their future output will be saved for humanity.

  4. I am a little late in commenting on this post, however I am glad I am not the only one who found 50 shades plain boring. I thought that for me the timing was not right maybe if I had read the book when I was in a more happier mood I would have enjoyed it but then again two attempts no. I even posted an article on my blog just sharing my thoughts around the book and how I could not get what the whole hype was about.

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