A couple of weeks ago, “Seattlepi” reported that an erotic book publisher, Total-E-Bound, inspired by the success of recent phenomenon “Fifty Shades of Grey” has decided to rewrite the classics of Austen, Bronte, Doyle and several others to include BDMS scenes similar to those in “Fifty Shades”.
Now I must clarify that this article is not a review of E.L. James’ book. Frankly, it was so poorly written that I found myself unable to read through the first half. This is simply an examination of the far reaching effects that this borderline plagiarized piece of fiction may have on literature and our lives in years to come.
As recently deceased author of “Fahrenheit 451” Ray Bradbury put it, “The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.”
In his prophetical novel Bradbury wrote about a time when books were illegal. Firemen like his main character, Guy Montag, were employed to burn them. Empty headed and thereby gullible, the people of Guy’s time feared those whose ideas were informed by literature. I call this novel “prophetical” because the destruction of literature did not begin with violent censorship, but familiarly with the rewriting of classic literature into highly sexualized digests.
George Orwell’s “1984” expresses a similar message of literary caution. In his novel, the powers of real literature were annulled not just by their rewriting but by a reconstruction of the entire English language that completely removed meaning from words and literature that had previously been a central part of an informed society.
I don’t want to claim that Total-E-Bound is bent on destroying the world through creating a completely mindless society. As their founder Claire Siemaszkiewicz expressed in an interview with “The Daily Mail,” they are only trying to “enhance” the previously considered great novels such as “Pride and Prejudice” or “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” by adding in the “missing” scenes (i.e. graphic sex scenes) that authors like Jane Austen and Jules Verne were apparently not insightful enough to include.
And maybe this isn’t a big deal. Maybe these few classics being destroyed won’t lead to the complete breakdown of society, or a generation of violent bloodthirsty children who are more than willing to betray their parents who don’t really care about them anyway, or a people whose only thoughts and ideas are given them by a power hungry dictator, or homes whose central features are massive TV screens that are never turned off (oh wait). But maybe it is a big deal, and without the likes of Orwell and Bradbury around to warn us as it happens we have to remain attentive to its occurrence and guard the wisdom these authors have passed down to us.
So how do we go about doing these things? I would suggest we start by turning off the “talking walls” and reading true literature.