There is a new assault on literature and it comes as a direct result of the garbage that passes itself off as a book series called Fifty Shades of Grey. After tremendous sales of the book series, adult fiction publishers are looking at the classic literature of the past for their way to big profits in the future. Rather than writing fully new works of fiction, the publisher will take existing classic novels such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and insert numerous sex scenes where the original author had none.

I fully understand that the expression “Sex sells!” has much validity especially in a world where people can click a link on their smart phones and get a dose of Wuthering Heights with sex scenes added in seconds — but just because you can do it does not mean that you should. In this case I think that the classic works of literature should be left undisturbed, so that people can read them as they were written.

In a way it is somewhat like taking the original novels and passing them through a sort of disgusting sex filter and making what was a good work of literature into pornography.

This is not the first time works of literature from the past have been modified and republished for a modern audience. Indeed, some may point to modern republications such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters as some of the reworkings that were the beginning of this trend. One of the issues that I have with these works is that they are, at their heart, completely derivative and require nearly no effort from author other than taking well written books and then inserting their own twist on the source material.

What can we expect next — Sherlock Holmes and the Werewolves? Another major issue that I find with these sorts of books are that they of course are relying on people knowing the original books. Did you like Sense and Sensibility? Well you will absolutely love it now that we have added sea monsters? Were you fond of Pride and Prejudice? It is so much better with zombies!

I can’t help but think that this is not the direction that we should be headed as far as writing goes. Taking good writing like Jane Eyre and turning it into erotica is just about as degrading as any CNN Grinding Seven Year Old performance or awards for so-called adult movies being given freely on Showtime. We need to rise above this and write good literature that elevates the spirit, not drag it down into the mud.

12 Comments

  1. I think it’s funny the original “Shades” is referred to as “mommy porn” on some internet websites.

    This re-casting of classic works as sex novels is disturbing. It sort of feels like what the mainstream movie industry did to Abraham Lincoln by recasting him as a vampire killer.

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      1. Yep! It’s all about repackaging an old product to sell again as something new. Booksellers have learned this from the music industry with all the compilations of previously recorded songs put in new wrappers.

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  2. Maybe it’s the beginning of another strand of postmodernism in literature; the equivalent of what in music is called a “remix” or a “cover”. Doesn’t sound so bad to me. It’s not as though these “sexed up” versions of older novels are replacing the originals; you can choose to read either, or both. Maybe this will become a completely new type of literature, in the way that hip hop became a completely new type of music.

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  3. Thanks for writing this, really. This _50 Shades of Grey_ification has been bothering me for a bit now. For a long time now, there has been high and low level writings. Works of ‘art’ and works that made fun of the works of art. But the difference is that there was something achieved. (I may get blasted for thinking that 50 Shades doesn’t achieve much–BDSM, and BDSM in literature certainly isn’t knew, just look at the 18th century). I worry that we’re destroying the art of literature not by lack of production — certainly there are exemplars of stories and language being produced right now. But because we abandon them because we don’t value the art itself (insert rant on education). It took Flaubert 5 years to write _Madame Bovary_ — not because he was lazy, but because he paid that much attention to every word, every sentence, every sound. Given that the last decade has seen the “Remake” and “Reboot” as industry standard, I share your fear that the next thing to hit the shelves is going to be a version of Frankenstein where his parts play a whole new role.

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