Potted Terrific

I’ve always been a major fan of improv, and improv was exactly what elevated Potted Potter from kitschy to kick-ass.

Admittedly, I didn’t have high hopes for this show. I mean, two white guys riffing on a YA book about depressive boarding school teens beset by a nose-less psycho? How funny could that be? Plenty funny as it turned out, and mainly because the act  was relentless both in poking fun at the serious bits of the book and in playing up the exciting parts. QUIDDITCH!

In truth, the act was so improvisational that it could have been born in the common room of a frat house, with all the attendant whooping, vaulting over furniture, and make-shift props. Even better, it was peppered with enough pop-culture references that even the hipsters in the crowd were cheering. That’s a big thing, btw, since I can’t imagine anything more mainstream than a piece of work that has achieved commercial success in both its major incarnations.

Of course, because of the sheer volume of material that had to be crammed into the act’s run-time – “Seven Books in Seventy Minutes!” – a lot of artistic license had to be taken. An example would be the omission of many characters, despite those characters being both pivotal and immensely entertaining in the books and films. Loony Lovegood for instance, was nowhere in sight, as were … well, I don’t want to give too much away. The deviations from the books, however detracted not a bit from the over-all entertainment delivered by the energetic players.

Bottom line, Potted Potter was a hilarious experience, well worth the effort of going to see it.

Bared to You

Oh god no, not another cheesy sex book about a domineering super-alpha male and a girl self esteem issues.

As if Fifty Shades of Grey weren’t bad enough, Sylvia Day had to write her own trilogy of bawd: The Crossfire Trilogy, boasting titles like Bared to You – already out – Reflected in You, and Entwined with You – expected to be released October and December 2012 respectively. Talk about the industrialization of mom porn.

At least one blogger seems to have raved about it, so I’m suspending judgement until I’ve actually read the thing. But to be perfectly frank, I think I might be giving this a pass. If even a quarter of the buzz surrounding this book is true, then it really just is an escalation of Fifty. Considering that I nearly bled to death from eyes reading Fifty, I doubt I would survive BTY.

Still, I suppose one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so, we’ll see where I go with this. In the meantime, speaking of covers – just in case you missed the ideological relationship between BTY and Fifty, look at the cover art.

Neckties and Cufflinks. Get it? Both are items of male apparel. But where ties are pedestrian – no matter if they’re made of silk or whatever – cuff links signal a man of distinction, wealth, and taste. After all, men’s shirts with no buttons just button holes are not commonly sold ready-to-wear, and are more often in bespoke shirts. So, Gideon Cross – why do these novels all have such funky last names for their protagonists? – is apparently quite a bit more sophisticated than Christian Grey. Or at least that’s what the author wants to imply; a ridiculous game of one-upsmanship played out on book covers.

Fifty Shades

So I’m reading Fifty Shades of Grey because my best friend says it’s the greatest book she’s ever read. I don’t know. Before Fifty, she’d been reading mainly and young adult books, so maybe she’s set the bar really low. Not that I don’t enjoy YA books myself, but I wouldn’t exactly use them as a basis for a “best-ever” classification.

Anyway, to summarize this masterpiece of litrachur:

Apparently perfect – supernaturally hot, ridonculously rich, exquisitely well-mannered – man meets an insecure girl, just graduating from college. Turns out, the man is kinkier than Don King’s hair, and the girl, well the girl is a virgin who is swept of her feet by this powerful man who takes an interest in her. Along the way, she learns to deal with his overwhelmingly controlling nature and agrees to become his contract-bound submissive sex toy.

All that is established in less than a hundred pages out of five hundred fourteen. The last six pages contain a kind of denouement where … well, you might not have read it yet. Suffice it to say that the last six pages end the first book and set you up for the second – Fifty Shades Darker.

So, from page ninety-seven all the way to five-o-nine, all you really get is one sex scene after another. Normally, I wouldn’t complain. I love erotica. But E.L. James’ brand of slut is just cringe-inducing. It’s not that it’s exceptionally dirty or pervy – would that it were – but that it was completely hobbled by bad writing. Terrible writing, in fact.

“I don’t make love. I fuck… hard.”

What the, err, fuck, right? The writing stumbles along like that for more than four hundred pages. At times, I could’ve sworn that the Red Room of Pain’s best torture instrument should have been the book itself.

“I want you sore, baby,” he murmurs, and he continues his sweet, leisurely torment, backward, forward. “Every time you move tomorrow, I want you to be reminded that I’ve been here. Only me. You are mine.”

Now basically, this is the kind of fuck talk that only comes up in the imagination of someone who has never been talked dirty to for real. It’s articulate, descriptive, and to be very honest about it, requires the kind of mental concentration that just won’t exist if you’re truly being fucked … hard. And maybe that’s where the allure of Fifty Shades of Grey lies.

Fifty Shades is dirty sex without the dirt. Pure orgasmic bliss, devoid of squeaking bed springs, uncomfortable wet spots on the sheets, and the sense of emptiness that comes crashing down on you once you’ve regained your senses and all you have is a cold, soft, and slimy cock sneaking out of your cunt. The novel enfolds Ana Steele – and by extension, the reader – into this nearly perfect cocoon that she pays for only with mutually agreed upon debasement. Better yet, this dysfunctional fantasy world provides an almost fool proof termination clause. Now who wouldn’t like that?

The key to reading Fifty Shades, I’ve discovered, is not to approach it expecting to find good erotica. You won’t. At best, you’ll find pre-Stoya porn. And if you don’t know who Stoya is, maybe it’s best that you do stick to Fifty Shades.

Neither should you crack the pages thinking that you’ll be treated to the kind of incisive psychological tour into the dynamics of a Dom-Sub relationship. You won’t find that either. The characters are barely fleshed out, their relationships are two-dimensional, and the situations they find themselves in are as real world as the Jersey Shore. Even their e-mails test your suspension of disbelief. I mean, really, in an exchange of emails, who bothers to change the Subject line?

Instead, ease into it with an open mind, devoid of all the stylistic preferences and maturity you’ve accumulated over the years. Fifty Shades of Grey, for all that it pretends to be sophisticated, is really just a sugary romance that depicts a world where men, women, and their relationships are uncomplicated. Men like power over things and girls, and girls like things and powerful men. It is a respite from the real world where sex is never free, and no one has the luxury of being young and stupid anymore.