To avoid disappointment let me begin by saying this is not a post reviewing Fifty Shades of Grey. I have not read it and am averse to commenting on books I have not read. I have no intention of reading Fifty Shades of Grey, not having yet completed the complete works of Anthony Trollope, also a romantic writer. I simply lack the reading time. Amazon lets a reader “look inside” and the prose on display in the 2013 best seller is not promising.
So after writing this post I shall return to the romance and intelligent prose of The Bertrams.
Nor is this a post comparing the message of the Bible, a book I have read, am reading, and mean to go on reading to Fifty Shades of Grey.
This is a much simpler post: today (as on most days) the Bible is the book most googled and Fifty Shades of Grey is second.
Here is a prediction: in a decade the Bible will still be a top google and Fifty Shades of Grey will not be. Some part of my soul relaxes when I realize this easy truth. The message of the Bible is always there. Good books come and go, few of those endure. Bad books come and go, and they mostly vanish utterly.
Even pretty-good books are googled less and less until they fall into a niche having only a prayer of suddenly becoming “cool” again. The Shoes of the Fisherman was the “controversial” best-seller of 1963, the year I was born. At the moment I write the novel ranks 478, 848th on Amazon in paperback, pretty good for a fifty year book, and remains pretty good reading.
Sample the prose of the 1963 and 2013 best selling books on Amazon and you will discover: fifty years ago best-sellers had more complex sentences, larger vocabularies, and were made into very different films. There is also something sad about the controversial nature of the books: Shoes of the Fisherman “humanized” the Roman Church, and a few readers feared impiety. Fifty Shades of Grey? Surely the greatest controversy it could have bred in its audience would have been containing even a hint of piety.
But unless this post sells a few more copies of Shoes of the Fisherman it will remain in relative obscurity. The Bible will keep selling: selling to critics, selling to believers, selling to scholars, selling to the superstitious, selling to the rational. This says nothing to me more than this: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Google the reference!)
Jesus was right, of course, but today it is easy to forget this truth: the Church of Jesus Christ is always losing, just to some new idea, tyrant, or fad. The Bible always competes with some new “best-seller” and rarely does the “best-seller” escape the shadow of Biblical culture. The book may react to it, reject it, defy Biblical law, but it is always aware of the Bible. In the West of the world, the Bible, the stories of the Bible, are so deeply embedded in makeup of the West that attempting to remove the Bible would leave pockmarks, caverns, and holes where culture was.
Worry is a temptation and American culture is sick enough to merit worry, but there is good news as well.
The best selling erotic story of 2013 will be Song of Solomon.
And that will be true in the West of the world in 2063.