February 15, 2015

"The remaining subclauses of this clause 15 are to be read subject to this proviso and to the fundamental matters agreed in clauses 2-5 above."

From a list of "50 of the most absurdly hilarious lines" demonstrating "the sheer enormity of terribleness encased in" "50 Shades of Grey," which sounds like it's got a fair amount of contract law in it and isn't quite as horribly bad as people seem to like to assure us it is. Not that I'm going to do a new Gatsby-project-like series on "50 Shades of Grey," even though 28% of you said I should:



These poll results are quite puzzling. "No" only gets 40%, so "yes" has 60%, but it's split between 3 options, with "50 Shades of Grey" getting the most and yet much less than doing nothing and less than the combined — and equally split — option for something other than "50 Shades of Grey." I should have included more subclauses, provisos, and fundamental matters.

Then, I got the idea of trying to find 50 sentences from this blog that would (appear to) demonstrate the sheer enormity of its terrible absurd badness, because that's a game you could play with any writer's work, including the work of Wm. Steven Humphrey, the writer of that "50 Terrible Lines" list, who begins with the sentence, "It still shocks the crap out of me when I realize how many people are still unfamiliar with the sheer enormity of terribleness encased in E.L. James absolutely awful book."

Oh, still? Really? Crap has been shocked out of you over some unspecified period of time that we should care about? And you wrote "still shocks... people are still...." That's "still... still..." Humphrey, you twit! You pose condescendingly and scoff at people who might only be enjoying some textual candy, and you repeat the word "still" in your opening shot?

You know, in the "Gatsby" project, many of those "Great Gatsby" sentences, isolated from context, looked pretty absurd, but we had confidence in the author and we didn't feel hostile to him for his success. We were on his side. We could take those sentences and play, really have some fun. There was no point in getting snobby or condescending, even when it seemed objectively ludicrous like: "The prolonged and tumultuous argument that ended by herding us into that room eludes me, though I have a sharp physical memory that, in the course of it, my underwear kept climbing like a damp snake around my legs and intermittent beads of sweat raced cool across my back."

32 comments:

YoungHegelian said...

Someday, someone, somehow is going to have to explain why such an obviously awful work of fiction that spawned an obviously awful movie made so much damn money.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to channel rh on this one and say "Ladies, you've got a lot to answer for here".

Then again, what with the size of the het-male directed porn market being what it is, maybe we've all got a lot to answer for. With the male porno market being fragmented by fetish as it is, we'll never see a break-out title such "50 Shades".

The Cracker Emcee said...

FDo a Suttree project. You could grind that one for years.

St. George said...

Try reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Crichton, Alistair MacLean, or a half dozen other top pop writers. Most of their stuff is ghastly.

Even "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is unreadable thanks to Hemingway larding it up with 'thee's and 'thou's.

And Faulkner? Compare the short version published in The Sat. Evening Post (?) with his unedited long version. Yikes. 'Absalom, Absalom"? Good luck with that!

hugh42 said...

I would like to see you examine Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman.

Maybe you could determine why we don't have scientists or writers of his ilk. We lost something somewhere, apparently a sense of freshness and wonder at the world.

His examination of science education in Brazil is fascinating.

traditionalguy said...

Do Gatsby again. That was one of the best times we had with you drawing out intelligent commenters. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. I think Meade said that.

Beldar said...

My main objection to that book was more that it's deeply shallow, rather than that it's badly written (also true) and hopelessly sexist (also true).

Eustace Chilke said...

I couldn't read it. I tried. (Public library copy. No coin directly out of my pocket to satisfy my curiosity.) The author fell into a honey pot. She must feel like she won the lottery. I hope she's self aware enough never to attempt a follow-up.

chickelit said...

The remaining subclauses of this clause 15 are to be read subject to this proviso and to the fundamental matters agreed in clauses 2-5 above.

The above-captioned text is best read in a familiar voice. I give you Fifty Shades of WFB.

rhhardin said...

Derbyshire reports that critics panned the movie. Nobody has visible genitals, they complained. Everybody is dressed stylishly, on the bright side.

rhhardin said...

Derbyshire also reports on the SI swimsuit issue that the model pulled down her bottoms to reveal the foothills of the mons veneris, leading some to say it's pornographic.

Rather tame charms, I think, by community standards.

I always liked the name Venusberg, though, which shows up variously in Germany.

rhhardin said...

In my ongoing survey of romantic comedy DVDs, mostly PG13 and a minority R, there are very few breasts and none that help the plot.

The only sex scenes that helped were in Anne Hathaway in Love and Other Drugs, where it's comedy.

That's probably what it always has to be in movies if it's going to work.

rhhardin said...

Oh and practically no romantic comedies show any insight, just formula difficulties that don't follow from anything. No dramatic structure.

Some nice moments in Bullock, The Proposal ("Give me your hand.."), and the Hugh Grant speech at the end of Two Weeks Notice to win Bullock back.

It's a very nice portrayal of how the woman wants to feel and how the man wants to feel. Curiously, the actors in the commentary didn't much care for the scene. That's why there are writers. Occasionally a writer slips in insight in.

chickelit said...

rhhardin wrote I always liked the name Venusberg, though, which shows up variously in Germany.

I always got a chuckle out of the Cave of the Mounds logo which shows up locally near Madison, for similar reasons.

robinintn said...

I don't understand why the sentence is awful. Especially for a sentence in a contract. I don't have the context, but it seems to say what it means pretty clearly, which is damn useful, and somewhat rare, in a contract.

Steve said...

The funniest film scene of contract negotiation is from Night at the Opera, with the Marx Brothers. That scene was intended to get laughs, but this one may have done so unintentionally. Take a look:

Marx Brothers - The Contract Scene - Chico and Groucho - https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6u8AgUXPpLM

Anonymous said...

I tried to keep that free-form vibe alive after the project stopped.

It didn't work.

Perhaps I will be a ghost.

Laslo Spatula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Let me rephrase.

I love what Althouse does, and continues to do: she surfs on waves of the Present that I enjoy everyday.

The Gatsby Project, though: it lived out of the time of the ever-present Now. It made me feel like a bipolar schizoid like me could join the party, and I felt like I could see and touch the balloons.

I'm not funny anymore, for different reasons.

Neither is Laslo.

chickelit said...

Well beta spatula, that was funny.

I'm glad I get all comments emailed to me.

Laslo Spatula said...

Thanks, chick. It is always cool to see under Batman's cape.

I am no one in particular.

chickelit said...

Laslo Spatula said...I am no one in particular.

No spatula -- you're a comedic genius.

chickelit said...

Every bit as much as Titus was once a great commodic genius.

Beldar said...

@ robinintn: The sentence quoted in Althouse's post isn't awful, but neither -- purely as a matter of critical legal prose writing -- praiseworthy.

This is flabby writing by either a lawyer who lacks confidence, or a lawyer who thinks he ought be paid by the word, which often amounts to the same thing.

If your legal prose is tight, you don't have to warn people that "Hey, this clause modifies that clause." And this sentence is on, or over, the border of being so general and broad as to probably be useless. (We can't make a more, um, penetrating assessment of this turgid legal prose without the full text of all he aforementioned clauses.

Also, real lawyers wouldn't, or shouldn't, say "clauses," but "paragraphs" or "sections"; I can't recall ever, in 34 years of practice, seeing "clauses" used as an internal referent in a well-written contract.

dustbunny said...

Yes to Gatsby, no, no, no to 50 Shades. Naked Came The Stranger would be more interesting than that.

averagejoe said...

"Pale Horse, Pale Rider" by Katherine Anne Porter, a novella about a young newspaperwoman who falls in love with a soldier during the influenza epidemic of 1918. Porter was a great storyteller and her writing shines with her creative genius.

sdharms said...

It is impossible to over-estimate the unimportance of this topic of discussion to me.

tim in vermont said...

Even "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is unreadable thanks to Hemingway larding it up with 'thee's and 'thou's.

Oh cripes. He was relating conversations in Spanish into English. Not trying to invoke the King James bible. Thee has a different meaning than "you," how should he have written it. "Robert Jordan, when speaking to his comrade in arms and friend, used the familiar, even intimate version of "you" in Spanish..." Or he might have counted on the education of his readers to avoid "larding up" his prose and to communicate the concept with a maximum of economy.

tim in vermont said...

I am no judge of the quality of popular writing. I tossed aside The Hunger Games after the first paragraph. Obviously I was wrong. There is clearly some element of quality I am missing.

Aussie Pundit said...

50 Shades is the book people love to hate, or love to show how sophisticated they are by being better than that.

The writing's fine. It's standard romantic fiction.

However, I voted 'no' because I just don't like the project itself, regardless of what book you use. I find the contrivance a bit forced - that are expected to look for wisdom and meaning in things that were designed to be just a small moving part in a larger machine.

Sam L. said...

Go ahead. I need another post to ignore.

Rusty said...

I think we should do one on; "What would the administration be like if Valerie Jarret were actually a hamster."

chickelit said...

Rusty said...I think we should do one on 'What would the administration be like if Valerie Jarret were actually a hamster.'

That might actually get the Administration in gere.