I nicked that heading from mate Rick Drew, who points out an ‘article’ (i.e. reworked press release) in the Daily Mail mentioning that the combined total global sales of EL James’ porn trilogy is already 20 million. The books are now selling at a rate of one million paperbacks and ebooks per week. According to the Mail, James has the best-selling Kindle book of all time because women are too embarrassed to buy pornography in shops. I guess online porn hasn’t been invented in the Mail’s weird world.
Sales of the first – I have trouble typing the word ‘novel’ here, so let’s say ‘collection of short words’ – have overtaken the Harry Potter books and the Da Vinci Code. It’s easy to mock the former Twilight fan-fiction hack, so I’ll take that opportunity: Judging from her photo she has possibly been gender-reassigned, which places her in a good position to write about tying up submissive women. My two big problems aren’t related to James – which are not of interest to me, any more than a set of decent jump-leads are to James’ heroine, unless she eyes them with a view to being lashed to a post – but with the publishers.
There is a balancing line between art and commerce. The need to sell books has always been tempered by the desire to create excellence. There’s not a publishing house that doesn’t champion its stable of past great authors. But Mills & Boon is not a traditional publishing house. They don’t have a pedigree of excellence to worry about. They know they peddle wish-fulfilment trash for bored mums, and have now taken the inevitable step of moving into pornography.
So who will now ape them? The major publishing houses, who’ll want a slice of the action. How many professional writers are about to lose their contracts because some marketing chimp points out that major publishing houses should be hiring fans instead?
My other problem is that the ubiquity of the books can only make men think less of women, who are showing they crave domination over the exertion of independence and free will. Maybe my attitude is outdated, but having grown up in the era of Gloria Steinem and Germaine Greer, it feels disappointingly retrograde.
The movie’s on its way of course. I’m hoping Kristen Stewart plays the lead.