Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fifty Shades, Suits & A Certain Mr. Renner

As we near mid-2012, I find multiple sources of inspiration for a new blog entry. :)

First, a novel which is receiving tonnes of media attention, not unlike the Twilight series which had hordes of teenage girls ( and quite a few women ) lusting after vampires and werewolves.

I came across the Fifty Shades trilogy a few weeks ago, via an encounter so fleeting I have no clear memory of it, except a hastily scribbled book title on my to-read list.

The second time was much clearer - an article in Time magazine, in which editor-at-large Belinda Luscombe practically lambasts author EL James for her poor literary style and horrendous description of copulation.

Bad review notwithstanding, it was enough to send me scrambling for the nearest bookstore the next day. Believe it or not, family-friendly Popular stocks the stuff, albeit in a discreet corner where only the desperate or resourceful can find it. :)

I've been reading the first part - Fifty Shades Of Grey - for about a week now, and concur with Luscombe on many counts. Though I don't write about romance novels much on this blog, I used to devour them during my formative years in secondary school and junior college.

Barbara Cartland, Julie Garwood and Judith McNaught were personal faves, but more hard-core fare from the likes of Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins and Harold Robbins also featured prominently, even while in primary school. ( Yes, mum, you should've locked your cupboards. :))

James' work pales in comparison to these well-established authors. The plot is simplistic and requires major suspension of disbelief. Aside from Christian Grey, the other characters grate on my nerves. And yes, for someone who has 700 romance novels in her attic, James' sex-act vocabulary is in dire need of a thesaurus' assistance.

So why do I persist? I've hit the 300+-page mark and show no signs of slowing down. I stay up way past my bedtime, and frequently surf the Internet for casting rumours - Ryan Gosling for Christian? Lily Collins for Anastasia?

This is the magical effect of the hype phenomenon, also credited for the success of Twilight, a 4-book series which is pretty awful but somehow made bestseller lists and broke box-office records when it became an equally awful movie franchise.

I've read all the novels and watched all the films, so I'm not hypothesizing here.

Hype isn't always a good thing, but the curiosity it generates can be intoxicating. Perhaps it's basic human instinct that makes us yearn to be part of something bigger, something everyone's talking about. We don't want to be left out or labelled ignorant. We don't want to be alone.

For me, hype results in a rather reckless compulsion. Once I start reading a book, unless it's a total train wreck ( best example: Thomas Harris' Hannibal Rising, blech ), I can - and must - finish it.

Like most romantic tales, Fifty Shades pits a virtuous girl against a worldly older man. She's all wide-eyed innocence, blushing under his "intense gaze". He enjoys making her squirm, but she demonstrates her own capacity for seduction despite her inexperience. Any of this sound familiar?

My last foray into the world of romance was 4 years ago, when I ploughed through all 4 Twilight books, which made my head spin, and not in the best way.

Fifty Shades, I'm happy to report, fares better. I don't think I can tolerate another dose of teen angst, though I'm tempted to read The Hunger Games at some point.

If you're wondering about the "sexual acrobatics" everyone's talking about, rest assured that it's actually pretty mild. I don't know what happens in Book Two, but Fifty Shades Of Grey is plodding along at a leisurely pace, and the S&M action is maybe a 3 on a scale of 10.

( I've read hard-core stuff in the past. Don't ask me how I got it. :))

Anyway, I wish James the best of luck in her career. I think she'll improve with time, and I am always supportive of someone who shares my own love for writing, no matter what form it takes. ( Thank you also for the Twitter message, which was a most pleasant surprise! :))

More to follow as I progress...

Here's a long delayed review of what I consider to be one of the MOST AWESOME TV shows I've come across in a long time.

I literally chanced upon Suits while watching Smash on local cable. The latter ended and I had nothing else scheduled, so I decided to give it a go.

I'm so glad I did! The pilot blew my mind into another galaxy, and I've been hooked ever since.

Don't be fooled by the dodgy premise: a sharp senior litigator in a top law firm hires a new associate, knowing that he never even went to law school.

Patrick J. Adams' star is rising as he infuses Mike Ross with a lovely mixture of intelligence, charm and innocence.

But it is Gabriel Macht who steals the show - and my heart :) - as Harvey Spector, a tough but fair mentor who dispenses nuggets of ruthless advice, yet displays intermittent moments of compassion and guilt when Ross appeals to his conscience.

The script is top-notch ( you need large doses of caffeine to keep up! ), the acting superb, the humour classic ( laugh-out-loud moments abound! ), and the cases absolutely fascinating.


Last but not least, a little homage to Jeremy Renner, whom I've been paying a lot of attention to in recent months.

The Avengers is a fun movie, and deserves to reap huge profits. But I am not a comic book fan, and although Robert Downey Jr. is 3rd on my list of favourite actors, I went to this film because of Renner.

I have no idea if his portrayal of Hawkeye is faithful to the source material, but he blew my socks off, and the opportunity for a spinoff should not be missed!

Can't wait to see him in full action star mode in The Bourne Legacy. :D

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