Random Musings: Why I read


Why do we choose to read books? Perhaps we wish to learn, to gain empathy, to escape. As a reader it is possible to climb inside the pages of a book and imagine ourselves living a different life in a place beyond our dreams. There we may find love, become somebody elses hero, enjoy the adulation that will never be experienced in reality.

I have read that when the ‘Grey’ books were first published they proved particularly popular amongst middle aged women. There was speculation that these readers wished to live out fantasies when their own sexual lives had gone stale. Despite being a member of this demographic the phenomenon is beyond my comprehension. Having watched the film (I have not read the books) I cannot understand why anyone would desire such experiences.

I understand that desires are as individual as each person and would not wish to limit or condemn whatever others choose to read. When I am offered books to review I will always state that I do not enjoy romances. I try to avoid stories which involve a woman requiring a man for fulfilment, or a man using a woman as arm candy and to service his physical cravings.

A romantic plot thread can be written with depth, humour and originality without descending into lengthy detail. As ‘Pride and Prejudice’ demonstrates, suggestion can be a powerful device. My antipathy is not towards the background to a mutual attraction but towards the reason for the intimacy and the way it is described. I have written of my dislike of gratuitous detail before, here.

Yet this was not always how I felt. When I was in my late teens I devoured easy to read romances by the dozen. Through my twenties I read books involving peril and rescue which often ended with the handsome hero taking his beautiful conquest to bed. The stories have not changed but I have. My life experiences have darkened my views and I now look at that couple and extrapolate their future. In my eyes, happy ever after is Icarus before his fall.

If books are an escape from reality then perhaps our choice of book reflects the place to which we each wish to travel in our dreams. Some look for the heady excitement of a new romance. As a mother of teenagers I fantasise about being held in some regard rather than contempt.

I enjoy books involving strong characters who can hold their own against attacks on their being, to read of relationships founded on mutual respect rather than outward beauty. My heroes can stand alone against the world; they do not require another for fulfilment. When their life presents a trial they do not blame others or look to them for a fix. They appreciate their moments of happiness but can move on.

Books offer a window to the world and I choose to avoid voyeurism. I seek out varied settings that I may expand my learning of other cultures, the characters thoughts enabling me to empathise with why people think as they do.

I read more fiction than non fiction because I also wish to be entertained, to immerse myself in a story as if I were there. I rarely travel and have few people interested in conversing with me so perhaps this is my way of experiencing life.

What do you choose to read and why?







Film Review: Fifty Shades of Grey


Fifty Shades of Grey. The world and his wife (most especially his wife) are talking about it. I am reliably informed that the source writing is painfully bad. Having not read the book I do not feel qualified to comment.

Now there is the film chasing box office records and, once again, I was unable to join the conversation. Over the weekend I mulled the possibility of rectifying this.

The pros:

  • I would be educated in a popular phenomenon;
  • Watching the film would take less time than reading the book;
  • Jamie Dornan;
  • A bad film can be entertaining if viewers are ready to laugh at it;
  • Once watched I would feel free to express my opinion.

The cons:

  • I would be adding to the viewing figures thereby encouraging film makers to do this again;
  • I would be using time that could be better spent watching and supporting another film.

In the end the decision was made by my family. It transpired that they too wished to join the general conversation. I am amused that this of all films became a family outing. We haven’t laughed together as much in quite some time.

So, what did I think?

The first thing to note is that there is a lot less sex, violence, bondage and control in Fifty Shades than there is in Game of Thrones. All that pencil chewing, lip biting and undressing may be titilating to some (as Christian remarks, Ana does have a lovely body) but it is hardly shocking in the context of a large chunk of popular, post watershed viewing fed directly into our homes. What the GofT men do to women, indeed what Jamie Dornan’s character in The Fall did to his victims, is much more hard core than anything done in this film.

My second observation is to second all those commentators who have criticised the clunky dialogue. It is as corny and stilted in places as I was led to expect. It made us laugh out loud.

In some ways it reminded me of the Austin Powers movies. Replace the sixties technicolour with smouldering shades of grey (even the opening cloud sequence came across as contrived) and what is left is a supposedly hot, desirable man who has women falling at his feet when it must be obvious to all viewers that he is anything but.

Fifty Shades may not deliberately mock itself but it is ridiculous. The artful lighting and angles highlighted robotic, repetitive characters. They did not match their back story. The plot, such as it was, had too many holes.

As an example, Christian Grey is a rich and successful businessman, a self confessed control freak, yet his mother is able to walk straight into his home unannounced. What twenty-something year old bachelor is going to allow that? And what mother, allowed such access, wouldn’t have sussed out the red room on her first visit? Mothers notice locked doors and are a lot more savvy than their children are ever likely to comprehend.

I finally see where the Twilight link comes in although it was hard to pay attention with the distraction of The Contract. I’m sure that a few drinking games could be played around that. Perhaps this explains why staff appeared with wine at the mention of butt plugs.

So yes, it was dreadful, but the question has to be was it dreadful enough to become cult viewing? Despite our amusement I doubt I would choose to watch it again.