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I Don’t Give a D***

I’ve wanted to put this nagging thing on my mind into words for so long and blog it up here but found myself not having the heart to do it. Now, I’ll be doing it for a thousand words or so. Watch out, you may not like it.

People have favorite writers, so do I. But most of the time they have “favorite people” whose works they just happen to read, or love to read. These “favorite people” have some favorable qualities or likable personalities that make readers adore them even more than their works. These qualities/personalities can be certain charming characters (inspiring, wise, sympathetic, or simply having a heart of gold), or they can be their sex/gender (“I read this book because the author is a woman” doesn’t seem to be a rare expression these days). I’m not accusing people of not having literary taste or something, but sometimes you just can’t help it, can you? Because when you think the books these “favorite people” produce are so great and inspiring you will go to the bookstore and spend what little money you have to buy them and read them enthusiastically till midnight, but when you finally discover that these “favorite people” are a******* (or that they use pseudonyms and are actually not the person you think they are) you will have a doubt and eventually stop reading their books no matter how marvelous they are. You may think that I’m merely talking nonsense here, but I was, and am, a witness to this nonsense.

Years ago, at least that I remember, a best-selling author had just released the English edition of his book under a huge literary publisher in the United States. After quite some time, a blogger put his doubts on his blog over the nature of the release, saying loud and clear that actually the book was published by a small press and not a big player. He also severely criticized the many changes occured in the translated version, pointing out that the US edition might have not been translated from the original manuscript but was merely an adaptation. The author went mad at the “accusation”, and at the blogger, too, of course, and called his lawyer straight away to sue said blogger. It blew up and went viral on the Internet. Everyone on Twitter were condemning him mercilessly and ceaselessly, calling him arrogant and some other names and swore to God that they would never, ever again read his books. I remember feeling disappointed. I understood that it was not the best attitude of an author, but I have to say that it was not the best attitude of a reader, either. People left him, but I stayed. I stayed for the sake of his work. I stayed because I knew he was not the only one to make such a horrible mistake, or the only one to try keeping a good image but failed. I stayed because I knew being a writer in the book industry is a complicated thing. Really, sometimes I wonder what people’s reactions will be if the gossip that J.K. Rowling is actually not J.K. Rowling is true. Will they leave her and promise to never read her books anymore? And what about those senior male writers they said always trying to get into young female writers’ pants? If this rumor proves to be true, and we find out who those male writers are, will we leave them, too?

Writers are not gods, they make mistakes and they sin. If you look at what they are more than you do what they write, you’ll only tear your heart apart because all human beings are sinful, we are all sinful. So I don’t think we should read books for the authors’ “outer” image, or for their sex/gender, for that matter. I know the campaign to read more female writers today is all about making balance in the book industry, since the literary world has been indeed ruled by men for so very long. I am a woman and I can understand the need to do so. But I don’t want to be a gender-bound reader. I want to read a book only if it’s worth reading. What if a book, written by a female writer, is badly written? People hail women writers but they diss E.L. James, and every romance writer there is in the book industry, for they think romances they produce are a bunch of crap. If you really think you should read more female writers, then you should read E.L. James, not despising her on every article you write. So, I do think we should appreciate writers more for their capabilities than their sex/gender, if this is truly about “gender equality”.

You may think I’ve gone out of my mind, but it’s just not in my nature to judge a book by its author. I don’t care if it’s a he or a she, and I absolutely don’t care if he/she is a complete a****** or a wiseguy giving you some spiritual enlightenment on social media. Most of my favorite writers are men and one of them (yes, that best-selling author) was damned by almost the entire readership for his incapability to put his arrogance in the right place. From what I read on online newspapers and literary magazines, I could tell that Orhan Pamuk is not a charming person, but I love his books because they can equally reflect the social/cultural issues in my country; and I do not adore Sapardi Djoko Damono because we share the same cultural background (as Javanese people coming originally from Solo) but because we share the same opinion about everything and anything and have the same sense of humor, too, as reflected in his fiction works. I like Isabel Allende not because she is a woman, but because her Tripartite are a bunch of masterpieces and could really speak to me. In short, I don’t give a d***. For me it’s their works that matter, not their personalities. They can go to hell for whatever reason and I will still read their books if those books are truly great and inspiring. As E.M. Forster put it, “I am more interested in works than authors.”

I realize that it’s totally pointless to address this issue on my blog. But I just want people to know. Well, whoever those who actually read my blog. And I do not wish for anything, for I know everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. And this is mine.

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Much Ado About Fifty

fifty-trilogy

I’ve restrained myself from reading 50 Shades Trilogy for so long, until the trailer for the first book’s movie adaptation came up on YouTube last year and I thought, while watching it, that the result will have to be great. And, seriously, I’ve restrained myself from writing anything about the books (no reviews, no articles, no nothing other than a little comments on Goodreads), until all people seemed to decide to make such a fuss about Fifty Shades of Grey and turn the Internet choke-full of their ramblings about it now that the feature film will soon hit the big screen in February.

Honestly, people. Why the fuss? Alright, I admit that I liked the books much (okay, lit snobs, now you can either smirk at me or get out of my way), but I just don’t think that we should talk and talk about it and overanalyze everything. Really, people are so making such overreacting comments that:

  1. the book poorly lacks literary merit (it’s a commercial romance novel, what do you expect?)
  2. it contains BDSM lifestyle and erotic, explicit sex scenes… and here I’m wondering why no one’s talking over and over about Tara Sue Me’s books? (yes, I sneaked into my sister’s ebook collection… yes, yes, I know.)
  3. it glorifies women’s secret, dark, sexual fantasies (does anyone read romances, at all?)
  4. it’s a shameful thing to read
  5. ..
  6. ..
  7. ..
  8. all those points above rolled into one.

So, why am I now talking about it here in my blog? You might be wondering what’s happening in my head. First, let me make myself clear: I don’t do romance. I mean, I don’t read romances… a lot. I do read them sometimes (aside from my romance-translating job), but it’s not the happily-ever-after ending that I seek for. In fact, I prefer a sad ending to conclude a story, a cliffhanger at the very least. When I read romances, I mostly seek for escapism. God, I need escapism. And if the story is so much to my liking, then it’ll be an added bonus.

So, when the first book, Fifty Shades of Grey, came out like three or four years ago, it was my sister who was so excited to read it, and became very much fond of it. Seeing her loving the book so much, I was like… “What is it actually about?” And then she told me… no, she talked and talked about it all the time that I got the point: just another fairy tale. So what? I’ve read several romance books at that time so I already understood that those mass market products actually contain a chunk of feminism, if you want to take women’s sexuality into account. But I seriously didn’t get what it was about the book that could drag so many people women into reading it, but I didn’t want to waste my time following the trend, either. The hype’s continued, and I kept avoiding the book. Until last year, when the trailer of the movie adaptation hit YouTube. Out of curiosity, I opened the video site and watched it. For a stunned minute, I thought, “Oh, okay. Looks great. The director must be a genius.” To be honest, the trailer looks so slick and shiny, in my opinion. And then and there, my curiosity got the better of me. I decided that it was time to read the book.

In a nutshell, I did read Fifty Shades of Grey, and its two sequels. And that’s it, I liked them all. I never thought I would. Well, if you just peel off the BDSM thing and the awkwardly written narrative, then you will get some nice, emotionally intense love story. I cannot say that I normally like Cinderella-fairy-tale kind of love story the way 50 Shades are, but there’s something more about the books that makes them so unbearably appealing to me. Perhaps it’s the witty email banter and dialogues, showing the reader that women can be as dangerously smart as they are plain. Or perhaps it’s the way the set of books boosts our morale. Well, I’m not sure about the statistics, but how many women out there who are constantly living in a shell of insecurity, hiding behind cosmetics, plastic surgeries, diets, and yoga just to get called beautiful? The mythically dashing, gorgeous, rich Christian Grey can make the ever-insecure Anastasia Steele feel beautiful and sexy without her having to do anything but staying plain (and smart). This is what 50 Shades do. In fact, generally speaking, this is what romances do: morale boosting. It’s important for us. It’s important for (most) women. If Catherine Anderson or Eloisa James or Sabrina Jeffries or any other romance writer does not get raved about the way E.L. James does, despite their best-selling authors status, then I’ll blame it on the lame promotion. Or the less than attractive title and/or cover. In short, I’d say that 50 Shades Trilogy has just the same quality/value as Jeffries’ A Dangerous Love or Anderson’s Blue Skies. And if people are still shocked or rambling about the erotic sex scenes 50 Shades have, then they should really try Stephanie Laurens (I had a very hard time translating her book, trust me). Or any other erotic romance, for that matter.

So, you see? There’s nothing to fuss about this Fifty thing. There’s no need to overanalyze it. I really think you should stop now, before the Internet explodes.

That’s all my own ramblings. I’m going to stop now, and get back reading Gone Girl.

 

Banner_OpiniBareng2015-300x187Note: This post is submitted into BBI’s Expectation-themed Opinion for January.