Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sex Slave Book Readers

"By late May, more than ten million copies of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy, an erotic romance series about the sexual exploits of a domineering billionaire and an inexperienced coed, had been sold in the United States, all within six weeks of the books’ publication here. This apparently unprecedented achievement occurred without the benefit of a publicity campaign, formal reviews, or Oprah’s blessing, owing to a reputation established, as one industry analyst put it, “totally through word of mouth.”(1)
In democracy any role is as good as another. You can choose freely, but every choice in fact reduces freedom. Every role has its proper partners it acts on stage with. Something inventive could be done with offstage characters, but that would mean obscuring our identity, and identification is essential to the reputation making stability of specialized society. Money, being like social role a transferable promise to pay (2), is a means of hiding from our democratic but freedom loving selves that in our free choice of role we are limiting our social opportunities. The seemingly infinite wealth of the billionaire can buy the cooperation of those in dissenting roles, and the willing slave gets free of the entire project of social role choice, hands it over to the rich master who taking charge of all roles is free with them all. The master's money buys for the willing slave an image of freedom in the vicarious participation in the master's unlimited choice of role. The billionaire only needs make a start for he and his slaves to be reassured. Every dollar in his account has someone's name on it.

Nabokov's "Lolita" sold 100,000 copies in the first 3 weeks of its American publication, an unprecedented achievement for its time, though 50 Shades Of Grey vastly improves upon it. Unlike the other self absorbed seducer in that book, Humbert Humbert has to rely on bribes and threats. Yet the two books, our time's best seller with its pedestrian writing, and the bygone days' professor of literature's virtuosity, are strangely similar. This was Nabokov's joke, what he called his love affair with the English Language and Romantic literature. Humbert Humbert didn't have the sadistic billionaire in the other book's money to inspire willingness in his victim. What he had instead was his apparently unlimited skill with language, and though Lolita is his victim she's not the victim of his seduction. Because of the inexperience of childhood she cannot consent in any meaningful way, bought with money or anything else. The reader is Humbert Humbert's victim, made willing slave by language. Language like money can extend everywhere, potentially can persuade anyone, can redefine incompatible social roles into compatible. At least while we read we don't find our own social role, and the disgust someone in that role must feel for what Humbert Humbert does, more important than any other role.

(1) The New York Review Of Books
(2) A Society Of Money