Fifty Shades of Grey-mania

by Angie Hilbert
( February 7th, 2015 )

Fifty Shades of GrayThis is not a review of the book: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James because I only read about 35% of it. I didn’t find the content objectionable, though it might have been—at least others have found it so. But you see, I like stories that explore the taboo, twisted, and offensive. The first 15 to 20 shades that I read were just too weak in the delivery to disturb my imagination. It didn’t get in my head or under my skin the way good “objectionable” literature should. I didn’t find the writing terrible either. Others have written scathing reviews of the style, voice, and repetition but I didn’t think it was all that horrific. I could have given it a good hate-read if it had been awful enough to disparage. It wasn’t. Sure, it had all the basic, errors made by mediocre, new-writers but It wasn’t horrible. I didn’t love it. I couldn’t hate it. It didn’t grip me so I just put it down. That’s all.

Except that’s not all! Somehow there are Fifty-Shades-of-Grey everything! And not just your predictable tee shirts, shot glasses,  and bondage kits kinda “everything” either, but EVERYTHING everything!

Fifty Shades of Grey wine ... Fifty Shade of Grey nail polish ... And for the pre-reader, you have Fifty Shades of Grey teddy bears and Fifty Shades of Grey onesies!

Of most interest to Wander~Readers, are the tour and hotel packages (most in Portland and Seattle, where the book takes place). There are a lot of these popping up, especially now with Valentine’s Day and the Fifty Shades of Grey movie about to be released. Some of them are pretty classy (with a price tag to match). For an authentic experience try the Fifty Shades of Oregon vacation package which lets you and your lover spend 6 nights and 7 days living like Christian and Ana.  Including luxury lodging, transportation, dining, wine and even a shopping spree! Or maybe you’d prefer the No Grey Area package at the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle which includes the use of an Audi R8 Spyder, just like Christian’s and a helicopter tour (no word on if your call sign is “charlie tango”).

For the fiscally conservative bondage enthusiast, you can find one and two night packages at many hotels. Try The Heathman in Portland where Christian and Ana spent their first night together. If you find your budget tighter than Christian’s knots, just bring home the Fifty Shades of Grey Gift Basket and take your valentine out to see the movie. The trailer is more emotionally engaging than the book started off to be (and I NEVER say that!)

For Wander~Readers who want a literary themed romantic get-away, you might do better avoiding the Grey experience altogether and try an Outlander valentine at Glenlaurel Inn or a Game of Thrones getaway at Ravenwood Castle. (Like 50-Shades, Outlander features a romantic lead scared by a sadist’s brutality and Game of Thrones has just as much forbidden romance and violence.) If you have your heart set on a dark modern romance set in the edgy and ambiguous world of BDSM, may I suggest Nine and a Half Weeks by Elizabeth McNeil? It also comes in an excellent movie form and the story was a real groundbreaking exploration of feminine sexuality.

Are you a Fifty Shades of Gray fan? What’s the attraction? What am I missing?

What are YOUR Fifty Shades of Gray Valentine’s Day plans?

Read ~ Write ~ Wander

~Angie

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Be “THE HELP” by Kathryn Stockett

by Angie Hilbert
( January 19th, 2015 )

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett has been around for a while. If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead and get a copy. It’s just as good now as it was when everyone was reading it in their book clubs and talking about it on TV. I gave it a re-read recently since Martin Luther King Day and the Columbus to Ferguson march had me thinking a lot about civil rights and how far we’ve come since the 60s.

The Help is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s and it includes one of my least favorite tropes—the writer as protagonist. Once you get through the obligatory “how hard it is to get published” cliché the real plot sneaks in and takes over. Instead of just being about another writer finding her voice (and a publisher) it becomes about voices used to being silenced speaking up and telling their story.

We (and by “we” I mean people pale enough not to not be confronted by it every day of their lives) like to pretend that racism and prejudice is behind us. But I would argue that in spite of fifty years of civil rights progress we still institutionalize and perpetuate many forms of racism.

“Do you ever wish you could… change things?”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help

In The Help, Skeeter co-authors and curates a collection of stories from the lives of black maids in Jackson, Mississippi. While the stories expose cruel and racist practices, the do far more than that. For most of the women, it is the first time anyone ever listened to them. It’s not about the racist culture of 1960 Jackson, that’s just the setting. It’s about creative, dynamic, loving, hating, striving women—women that have been unheard and silenced too long.

“....we ain’t doing civil rights here. We just telling stories like they really happen.”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help

Columbus to FergusonA few weeks ago, I had another opportunity to hear stories like this. I attended and marched in the Columbus to Ferguson demonstration and protest. While Columbus, Ohio today is not nearly as racist as Jackson, Mississippi in 1960, there were still some uncomfortable similarities.

“...I want to speak!”
― Activist, Columbus to Ferguson demonstration

Before the March to the Columbus Police Headquarters, we met and organized at Goodale Park. There, protestors took turns sharing their stories of what it was like to be black in Columbus. There were many white allies at the rally too, but organizers requested that those voices, traditionally ignored or silenced would have the floor this evening. It was a beautiful demonstration of how important it is to listen to someone’s story and not assume you know what it is like for someone else.

 

“...I want to read what you’re thinking.”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help

still marching 50 years later

I would encourage white allies to re-read The Help then use it’s example to be the help. Perhaps the best way to finally overcome racism and prejudice is to follow Kathryn Stockett’s example in The Help and provide a platform for people to tell their stories. More importantly, to seek out and listen to those stories. Education, explanation, and advocacy will only ever take us so far. Perhaps we have already come as far as we can that way. To really make it. To make racism and prejudice a thing of the past, we must listen to the stories of others.

Read ~ Write ~ Wander

~Angie

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Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding

by Angie Hilbert
( December 30th, 2014 )

Painter of SilenceHere is something for wander-writers to ponder: What if you had no words to think with or communicate? What if you had to tell your stories in pictures and facial expressions? What if you had no language? Could you even write about someone in this predicament? Georgina Harding did in her novel, Painter of Silence.

Painter of Silence is told from the point of view of Safta, young Romanian woman and Tinu, the son of one of her family’s servants. The two do not share a romantic bond, but have been friends their entire lives. They understand one another. Which is surprising since the man was a deaf-mute from birth with no understanding of functional language. Words mean nothing when letters have no sound. They are only shapes. Tinu’s only language is art.

Luckily, Georgina Harding is a beautifully visual writer. Her prose waxes lyrical and is the kind of languid reading you savor on long winter nights. It’s not a quick read. It’s a deep and absorbing read. The characters soak into you and haunt you they way they do when you look at a master-painting.

What wander-readers will love:

There are many WWII stories told from German, British, French, and American points of view. This is the first novel I’ve ever read about the great war told from a Romanian perspective. Painter of Silence was a unique look at a story I though was already well-explored in literature. Seeing how the war affected Romanian lives and landscapes was stunning. When it’s experienced through the eyes of a man with no way of understanding what what was happening or what it meant was deeply moving.

Read ~ Write ~ Wander

~Angie

 

 

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