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25 of 52 – The Bell Jar

Bell Jar

Bell Jar (Photo credit: Stephen Cummings)

I’ve just finished a book today that I’ve been meaning to read for a number of years: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

Esther Greenwood is at college and is fighting two battles, one against her own desire for perfection in all things – grades, boyfriend, looks, career – and the other against remorseless mental illness. As her depression deepens she finds herself encased in it, bell-jarred away from the rest of the world. This is the story of her journey back into reality. Highly readable, witty and disturbing, The Bell Jar is Sylvia Plath’s only novel and was originally published under a pseudonym in 1963. What it has to say about what women expect of themselves, and what society expects of women, is as sharply relevant today as it has always been.

I’m glad the book club I’ve just joined has chosen to read this book, since, like I said, I’ve been wanting to read it. I enjoyed the book, though I’m unsure whether it lives up to the hype that I held it to. There’s some good passages and it does explore societal expectations of women and Esther’s reaction to them, which of course is traumatic. I probably would have found this more poignant if I read this in my teens but now that I’m just (barely) out of them I didn’t always quite relate to the character.

I’m glad I read it though. I’m going to have to refer to some study questions to really have a think about it, but it was decent, easy to read, sometimes funny, oftentimes sad. I’d recommend it to those who are interested in depression.

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24 of 52 – *shudder* Fifty Shades of Grey

I gave in after weeks of seeing this around, hearing both good and bad, and after reading the first couple chapters for free and thinking unequivocally that it’s literary trash. I read Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.

When literature student Anastasia Steele interviews successful entrepreneur Christian Grey, she finds him very attractive and deeply intimidating. Convinced that their meeting went badly, she tries to put him out of her mind – until he turns up at the store where she works part-time, and invites her out.

Unworldly and innocent, Ana is shocked to find she wants this man. And, when he warns her to keep her distance, it only makes her want him more.

But Grey is tormented by inner demons, and consumed by the need to control. As they embark on a passionate love affair, Ana discovers more about her own desires, as well as the dark secrets Grey keeps hidden away from public view .

Yeah.. this is one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Possibly THE worst. I expected it too, after reading that first excerpt. And it’s apparently now being made into a movie.

I did want to be wrong about this book because despite how terrible it is, I absolutely LOVE that women are able to read erotic fiction, especially ‘taboo’ erotic fiction, in public! I can’t think of any other erotic book that has been so popular. There are few times that I go onto public transport that I don’t see at least one woman openly reading the book. Because it IS widely known to be erotica, and because I hate the sterilisation of sex within society, this really excites me.

Throughout the beginning I was constantly thinking, ‘This book is like Twilight, but with BDSM instead of vampires’. After doing light research on the book, I found that it is, in fact, a fan fiction of Twilight. It has the same weak characters and characterisation, same horrible inner dialogue, same general themes, and the stories both unfold in the same way. James uses many themes and phrases to the point of cliche and banality (e.g. ‘Oh my…’, ‘Holy __!’, ‘My inner goddess’, lip biting, obscure opera and classical music, etc).

I don’t mind erotica when it’s done correctly, and the sex depicted in this was just horrendous. Although the clitoris is sometimes mentioned, it isn’t the main part of Anastasia’s sexual pleasure. This is so ridiculous and unrealistic, as very few women ever orgasm just from PiV. And then I just find it strange that every single time Anastasia orgasms, Christian orgasms straight afterward. It’s just portraying really unrealistic sex, even it being a work of fiction. The great majority of the sex scenes aren’t even that arousing, and I have read my fair share of X-rated (fan) fiction to know. And I personally wonder how realistic the BDSM aspect of the relationship is, though because I have little working knowledge of the BDSM community, I can’t comment on that.

Despite all of this I did actually want to know what happened. I’m horrible, I know. But it just turned out to be hilarious and horrible and horrendous. Essentially, it’s the Troll 2 of erotica.