Books and Authors

Seriously, the Worst Book I Have Ever Read

SPOILERS!

I wrote a couple posts some years back about the worst book I have ever read and the absolute worst book I have ever read.

Well, I managed to read something that makes those two look like shining literary achievements: the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. The only reason I read it was to blog about it here, and yes, it is just as terrible as everyone said it was.*

I’m not sure who thought it would be good to actually publish this book and elevate it from the ranks of terrible fanfiction. Someone with a sick mind or a crazy sense of humor, I suppose. I didn’t make it all the way through the Twilight series, but I was heckled into watching all the movies, and I could tell right away that Fifty Shades is Twilight fanfiction. I intensely dislike fanfiction, but that’s an unpopular opinion that I won’t get into here, and that was only a very minor reason why I hated Fifty Shades so much.

The reason I hated Fifty Shades is because it is about abuse and mind control. Our poor naive main character, Anastasia Steele, hardly knows enough about the world and about sex to consent to anything, much less the craziness she is subjected to by our hero (villain?), Christian Grey.

If someone has to get you to sign a contract to be with them, that relationship surely cannot be good. If you are a person who never cries (as Anastasia supposedly is), then the relationship surely cannot be good if you’ve been crying daily since you met the guy. If the guy repeatedly says, “You have a choice to sign the contract,” then constantly shows up and seduces you, thus weakening your emotional resolve, you don’t really have a choice at all, and surely, this relationship cannot be good. If the guy refuses to give you space, gets wildly jealous at the slightest overture of chaste friendship from a male friend, tracks your location remotely, buys you grossly expensive gifts that you have no hope of ever repaying him for, and even admits to you that he is “fifty shades of f**ked up,” then the relationship is blatantly not good for you and you need to run away faster than you ever ran in your life.

By the end of the novel, Anastasia realizes this and ends her relationship with Mr. Grey. I was happy about this, but at the same time, I realized that this is a money-making series. I’m sure that the other books have her realizing how depressed she is without him and running back to him. I don’t have much intention of reading these other books, but I can guess what happens based on the plots of other romance novels: Anastasia manages to “fix” Mr. Grey, get to the bottom of his messed-up past, and turn him into a kind, compassionate man.

Reality check: This would never happen in real life. People’s fundamental deep, dark issues cannot be “fixed” by a romantic partner. A guy like Christian Grey needs a long-term therapist and possibly even a stay in a psych ward. He needs to understand that one cannot run a true relationship like a business contract. I can only hope that the readers of Fifty Shades are mature enough to understand this.

What I learned from reading this appalling excuse for a romance novel: nothing of any use. It only reinforced my prevailing belief that people are weird, and sometimes the weirdness is so extreme that it should be hidden and never shared.

*Interestingly, all three worst books I’ve ever read are romance novels. I don’t dislike the genre, but I like romance better when it is embedded in a different plot, not as the main plot itself.

Books and Authors

Crazy Uncle Steve

Caution: This post may contain SPOILERS!

Ever since I had my son, reading books has not been quite the same experience as it was back when I was blissfully childless. I used to read all kinds of stuff where terrible things happened to children, and it didn’t really bother me much because, obviously, it’s just fiction. Now when I read about terrible things happening to children, my teeth are set on edge and my eyes fill with tears. Yes, it’s still just fiction, but after I had a child, something in me softened and it is very easily wounded. (Fellow parents, have you experienced the same thing?)

Anyway, so why did I want to read Stephen King’s The Institute when the plot involves children being brutally punished? Because I am a die-hard Stephen King fan. That is literally the only reason. That soft spot in my heart was repeatedly stabbed (or slapped or electrified by a zap-stick) by the horrors I read about in the book, and yet, I still kept reading because the plot was just that addictive.

I want to say I enjoyed the book, but I also didn’t enjoy it because of that. I also came to the uncomfortable conclusion that one of my favorite authors is getting a little crazy in his old age. He insulted President Trump not just once but four times, and a few of his other liberal viewpoints came out when politics didn’t have much to do with the book’s plot or the characters’ motivations. I just rolled my eyes, the way you would when one of your coworkers or family members makes a political statement you don’t quite agree with. OK, crazy Uncle Steve. I get it. You hate conservatives and wish Trump would jump out of a plane without wearing a parachute.

Also, I wondered what went through King’s head when he wrote some of the torture scenes. He’s written some gory, nauseating stuff before, but I don’t think he’s ever written about the misery of children at this level. I’m not sure the book would have been published if it had been written by someone else. (Similar to It. Had that sex scene in the sewer been written by anyone else, the book would never have seen the light of day.)

The Institute also contained a bit of hypocrisy. If King thinks guns are so terrible and bad, why did he have his protagonists use guns against the enemy? If King believes that torturing children is an awful, terrible thing (like any sane person would), then why does he also believe that abortion is OK? I don’t really want to know the answers to those questions, but it did make me worry about King’s mental health.

Will I read other books by crazy Uncle Steve? Of course. I’m a Constant Reader.

Books and Authors

Reading with an 8-Month-Old

Before my son was born and in those hellish 3 months after he was born, I read to him. But it was like reading to a brick wall because all he cared about was eating, sleeping, and crying if he wasn’t having enough time doing the former two. Experts (I have no idea who these “experts” are) say that children should be read to as early and as often as possible, and I like reading, so I followed that advice. I literally read everything out loud to him, including parts of adult books I was reading. He didn’t even blink at some of the bloody scenes. Did I scar him for life? I’m not sure, but I guess it’s better to be scarred from a book than a movie.

Now that he’s 8 months old, the reading might be paying off. He’s actually somewhat interested in books. However, they have to be board books. If it’s any other kind of book, the first thing he tries to do is tear the pages out and eat them. Even lift-the-flap books are a bad choice because the second I look away, his gooey hands return to the flaps and try to rip them off. The next thing I know, the flap would be in his mouth and reduced to a pasty mush.

Most of the board books my son has are about farm animals and the noises they make. I don’t really understand why it’s so popular for kids to read about farm animals when they most likely will never live on a farm or visit one for any extended period of time. The most exposure they will get to farm animals is probably petting zoos at the state fair.

His favorite book of all time is My First Touch, Feel, and Play! which describes a bunch of anthropomorphic animals and their playtime, and parts of the book have different textures, so he can feel something besides paper as he attempts to destroy the book by pulling the flaps off (yes, this book has flaps). He seems to enjoy the textures, because he will run his hands over the book and stare at it, simultaneously coating the pages in drool.

I never thought reading could get more fun. I still don’t exactly understand how they learn by ripping books apart and chewing on the pages, but… whatever it takes, right? 🙂