In 1956, the great Vladimir Nabokov wrote a short piece he called ON A BOOK ENTITLED LOLITA.
Apart from being a beautiful piece of writing in itself, he explains the seemingly unexplainable success of Fifty Shades of Grey.
You see, when he tried to find a U.S publisher for Lolita, all four he submitted the manuscript to completely misunderstood the work, some not even finishing reading it, and labelled it “pornography”, not mummy porn, but nevertheless, it’s certainly strange to hear Nabokov’s work labelled as anything like the pedestrian work of E.L James.
So here’s the relevant parts of Nabokov’s words.
‘… the term “pornography” connotes mediocrity, commercialism, and certain strict rules of narration. Obscenity must be mated with banality because every kind of aesthetic enjoyment has to be entirely replaced by simple sexual stimulation which demands the traditional word for direct action upon the patient.’
‘Thus, in pornographic novels, action has to be limited to the copulation of clichés. Style, structure, imagery should never distract the reader from his tepid lust. The novel must consist of an alternation of sexual scenes. The passages in between must be reduced to sutures of sense, logical bridges of the simplest design, brief expositions and explanations, which the reader will probably skip but must know they exist in order not to feel cheated ( a mentality stemming from the routine of “true” fairytales in childhood). Moreover, the sexual scenes in the book must follow a crescendo line, with new variations, new combinations, new sexes, and a steady increase in the number of participants (in a Sade play they call the gardener in), and therefore the end of the book must be more replete with lewd lore than the first chapters.’
So, casting my eyes through the above, I see the words mediocrity, commercialism, banality, and copulation of clichés. Fifty Shades certainly hasn’t much bothered us with style, structure or imagery, and to apply the words sutures of sense to James’s plot would be more than flattering.
The only difference between these Shades tragedies of literature and Nabokov’s suggestion of what constitutes a basic commercial pornographic novel is that in the Shades books the protagonists are faithful to each other. Which the TrendyPornMummies love. The simple twist that made it right for our times, and ok for every mindless mummy to love.
Comment as nicely or nastily as you like below, then please never speak of the above-mentioned books here ever again. Except for Lolita, which you should feel free to mention here and anywhere else you please, every day, forever and ever and ever. And we’ll live happily ever after.
Wanna argue about it?
Or better still, tell me which other great writer has advice for us on how to write the next MegaBestSellingPieceOfCrap???