There has always been the cry– all the best writing is dead. Readers have been dumbed down. Literature is dead. I have to agree with Dame Gail Rebuck’s recent comment, “It’s the power of books. People aren’t dumbed down–it’s a fallacy”.
There is plenty of serious writing out there. There is also loads of fun writing, beach reads, mysteries, romances, the fact is…there is something for everyone. Not every book written has to affect change…but even those that at first look as if they are mental fluff have the power to change conceptions, perceptions, and social norm. Everyone loves to complain about the quality of writing in Fifty Shades. It’s true, it is not great, but it is not supposed to be great literature. One of the reasons, this book has sold millions is simply– freedom. We may criticize the character’s choices and ponder as to why this book sold so many copies. But it was the first time this form of erotic writing was written for women from a woman’s point of view, and sold and widely read openly. This kind of writing for men was sold in brown paper, or in the back of book shops with misleading titles often bought with a wink or a nod. Magazines well up high the top shelf of any corner shop and Bobs your uncle, your bit of porn along with a pint of milk and some ciggies. This kind of writing for women? It was out there, but you had to search it out in some shady areas and in comparison to men’s erotic writing, almost non-existent. I remember when Shades first came out, being mildly shocked to see my waitress reading it at work, women reading it on the train, in hair salons, stuck in the back of baby prams, and why not?
I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve been on the tube, or train, only to have to stare at some man ogling the Page Three Girl. I used to shake my head and think, my god, you are old enough to be her grandfather. The Page Three Girl over the years showed more and more, till there was nothing to hide. It was sold in mainstream shops, read in public place, and I never noticed a single man blushing when caught staring at those images. So if the chaps on the tubes and trains are a little perplexed, a little embarrassed to see all this mommy porn out in the day light…well…fair play.
So good writing is not dead. It’s out there, but like it always has been, targeted to a specific audience who will buy that particular kind of book, be it the fabulous historical fiction of Hilary Mantel‘s Wolf Hall, or the rather shady writing of E. L. James. The choice is always yours, only now we have the freedom to purchase a little bit of rubbish, or thought-provoking writing in the same clean well-lit shop.