WELL, I’ll be darned. While I thought Kindles and other e-readers were all about convenience, space and portability, others are not so high-minded. In fact, I’ve just discovered the devices could well be the reason for the sudden upsurge in what’s been called “mommy porn” – with one book in particular leading the charge.
Fifty Shades of Grey, a gasping tale of badly written S&M “erotic romance” by one EL James, is apparently such a runaway success with middle-aged moms that it’s about to be made into a film, according to America’s National Public Radio. And, apparently, it’s mostly thanks to the advent of devices like the Kindle, which mean no one can see what you’re reading ….
Having taken a peek on amazon.com to see what all the fuss is about, I can tell you the writing’s truly dire – “the real heart-fail is that I don’t know if he is truly capable of love”, etc – the names are corny, with a “heroine” called Anastasia Steele whose lover is named Christian Grey (get it?), but the tale is apparently really rude.
I decided to see if this secret side of e-reading really was a trend or just a marketing ploy for the book, only to discover that, according to the Guardian’s Antonia Senior, phenomenal e-book sales are definitely being driven by “downmarket” fiction.
“Kindle-owning bibliophiles are furtive beasts,” avers Antonia. “Their shelves still boast classics and Booker winners. But inside that plastic case, other things lurk. Sci-fi and self-help. Even paranormal romance, where vampires seduce virgins and elves bonk trolls …. There is a literary snobbishness at play here, clearly. Reading has always been a competitive sport. Why else would anyone have read Ulysses?”
Good grief! It could make for a whole new way of vetting potential friends or lovers, couldn’t it? No longer is a furtive scan of their bookshelves enough to check out whether they’re right for you. You’ll have to demand to see what’s on their e-readers.
My own Kindle collection must make for very dull reading by these new standards. Typical of the 76 titles stowed on my favourite toy are The Man Who Planted Trees; Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the 20th Century’s Biggest Bestsellers; and Madame Bovary.
The “raciest” — only in the sense that one of the characters races around in a Cadillac — is probably Elvis and the Dearly Departed, a silly but strangely absorbing murder mystery which I bought because of its quirky title and first line: “Elvis has just peed on my shoes, which is my life in a nutshell.”
Elvis, in case you’re wondering, is a dog.
Of course, now that I think about it, there are other unexpected consequences of the advent of the e-reader, too.
As website cracked.com points out, you can’t hide a gun in a Kindle, you can’t doodle on it while you’re reading, and you can’t perform other important tasks with it, like stabilising a table, killing a spider or breaking up a cat fight. – Stevie Godson
(A version of this column first appeared in the Daily Dispatch)