Fifteen Howlers From Fifty Shades of Grey

I recently re-read Mark Twain’s epic smackdown of James Fenimore Cooper’s dreary 1841 novel The Deerslayer which Twain ends with this barrage:

…it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are — oh! indescribable; its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language.

Fifty Shades of Grey came right to mind. The book is a marvel–but not the way I imagine the author intended. It reads like a first draft teenage fever dream. It would make a superb primer for creative writing students in how not to create character, how not to set scenes, how not to do sex writing, and how not to write prose. Yes, it’s a best seller. So what? Brilliant marketing and karma did that, not quality.

Like The Deerslayer, it’s often very funny, unintentionally so. Here are fifteen terrific examples, though going to fifty wouldn’t be difficult.

1–My subconscious has found her Nikes, and she’s on the starting blocks.

2–His lips quirk up.

sheldon-2.jpg3–A frisson of trepidation mixed with tantalizing exhilaration sweeps through my body, making me wetter.

4–Each one is kissed and nipped gently and my nipples tenderly sucked. Holy crap. [the author’s italicized words, not mine]

5–My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently.

inner goddess

6–He looks so…hot.

7–I can feel myself quicken.

8–I slice another piece of venison, holding it against my mouth.

9–And I come, my orgasm ripping through me, a turbulent, passionate apogee that devours me whole.

Crocodile-and-Snake10–I rub my wrists reflectively–two strips of plastic will do that to a girl.

11–I know that lurking, not very far under my rather numb exterior, is a well of tears.

overflowing12–He kisses me passionately, forcing my lips apart with his tongue, taking no prisoners.


13–My subconscious is staring at me in awe.

staring14–He lays still, letting me acclimatize to the intrusive, overwhelming feeling of him inside of me.

15–I glower inwardly, walking away.

I have to sign off now because my subconscious just found its missing car keys.  But what are your favorite howlers from Fifty Shades of Grey?

Lev Raphael is the author of the comic Nick Hoffman mystery series and many other books which you can find at Amazon.

26 thoughts on “Fifteen Howlers From Fifty Shades of Grey”

  1. “It reads like a first draft teenage fever dream.” Okay, *that* made me howl. I don’t know how you do it, Lev. Life is just too short for me to read FSOG, but thankfully I have you to do it for me, and get out of it what I need!

  2. Well, I have to say that as a child I devoured the entire Deerslayer series (of which there are 5 books) and loved them. They do have good characters and wonderful descriptions of scenery going for them. As for Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ve never gone near it, and the lines you quote read like entries for the worst-written, most cliche-filled story contest. And I’d caution anyone against slicing venison or anything else against their mouths. That is not safe. Brilliant illustrations, by the way. Perhaps they should have been in the book. They might have livened it up, but I doubt they would have saved it.

    • I remember enjoying Cooper when I was a kid, but you have to admit, Twain’s piece is funny, no?

      I’m glad you liked the photos!

  3. I read books on Audible.
    I’ve purchased hundreds over the years.
    You can return books that you don’t like.
    I’ve only ever returned one book.
    Fifty Shades of Grey.
    Enough said.

    • Thanks for the kudos (kudo?). Twigs would only be used for beating. And then they’d be designer twigs. Louboutin: red underneath.

  4. Someone had kindly left the book behind at my hair salon and I skimmed it while waiting for my color to take, laughing so hard I nearly fell out of my chair. Has anyone actually counted the times Christian “cocks his head to one side”?

    • Yes! There was a reader-reviewer on Amazon who actually listed the many times certain phrases and words were repeated. They clearly worked her last nerve. As for me, I think “cocks” is a really unfortunate verb to use in a book like this.

  5. Was the holy crap comment on #4 from you or actually taken from the book? My favorite line was the one about the venison. I pictured an SNL skit of a seduction scene gone terribly wrong. The pictures you added were brilliant, by the way.

    • The holy crap was actually from the book–the internal monologues are priceless. You read and you think: “Is this a satire? It has to be.” I’m glad the photos were fun for you.

  6. “My subconscious has found her Nikes, and she’s on the starting block.”

    That goes on my Meaningless Metaphor All-Star starting five.

    That’s right up there with “If it weren’t for that horse, I never would have spent that year in college.”

    • All the way through the book we get these bizarre comments about “my subconscious.” Setting aside the bizarre image (which is hard to do), how could the narrator possibly know what her subconscious is doing? Someone needs a Psych 101 course.

  7. Now I understand why the movie was savaged by the critics. How could anyone make a decent film out this source material?! Love the pics!

    • Did you read Anthony Lane’s review of the movie in The New Yorker? It was a minor comic masterpiece. So glad you enjoyed the pics. They were fun to add.

  8. Brilliantly done, Lev. I am in awe: you spent enough time with the text to actually excise those gems. I haven’t had the pleasure. Or the pain. And I refuse to consider it.

    It reminds me of Allan Folsom’s The Day After Tomorrow, a 1995 Little, Brown title. They spent millions on it, even inserting the first chapters in Publisher’s Weekly. I read it and thought it was a joke, so I gave it to an author and friend over a dinner we were having with several other mystery authors and booksellers. She began to read it out loud over dessert and coffee, and I thought we’d fall off our chairs or at least snort coffee through our noses. At the very least, the first sentence should have been entered in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

    It was

    • Thanks! I succumbed to morbid curiosity after all the PR and then found myself drawn on and on in disbelief. It’s awful in so many different ways, and then I realized it was a source of fun for a blog or two, and the more than that, I could use it as a teaching tool. The sex scenes are atrocious and when I teach a workshop in bad sex writing, I’ll take one of them as a prime example. Luckily I was reading this without food or beverages present.

  9. I’m not sure what it was about “10–I rub my wrists reflectively–two strips of plastic will do that to a girl” that I found absolutely hilarious, but needless to say there is now tea all over my laptop. Note to self, do not drink a cuppa when reading anything concerning Fifty Shades as it’s bound to end in disaster.

    • I think it’s especially hilarious because it’s so off-kilter. The tone is satirical and sophisticated and she’s a naif. The incongruity got me, and likely got you, too.

    • I read it for research purposes: I was truly curious to find out if it was as badly written as I’d heard. It was worse.


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