Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or maybe like me, running around like a drunken cowgirl trying in vain to lasso your children together), you’ve heard of the book Fifty Shades of Grey. I didn’t learn about it until a few of months ago at a dinner with girlfriends where my dining companions regaled me with a brief synopsis of this modern literary marvel. In short: it’s about a 27-year old Seattle billionaire with sado-masochistic tendencies and his quest to dominate a young, virginal (of course) 21-year old girl. You know, your typical girl meets boy, boy woos girl with non-disclosure agreements and contracts regarding usage of nipple clamps, girl falls for boy, boy spanks the crap out of the girl kind of love story. Is there any other kind?
And since then, the book and the two sequels have become seemingly ubiquitous, making appearances at book clubs, Saturday Night Live skits, countless newspaper articles, television pieces, and as punchlines to every late night talk show hosts’ jokes. Well, last week, I finally broke down and decided to buy the damn things to see what the fuss was about with the intent of blogging about it. So really, it was purely for, ahem, research purposes.
Normally, I would borrow the book from the library. But I decided to forgo this route after reading a New York Times article stating that Fifty Shades was the most popular book in circulation in the Hennepin County library system with over 2,000 requests as of May 21st (we’re apparently a bunch of pervs up here in the tundra). So off I went to Barnes & Noble to purchase the first book in the trilogy. Yes, I know I could have easily downloaded the book to my iPhone or iPad but I still haven’t embraced the e-book phenomenon yet. Call me old fashioned, but I like to have my books about BDSM in good old paper, thank you very much.
I went to the bookstore when my sitter had the girls because the last thing I wanted was for my two-year old to bring the pyramid display of Fifty Shades books tumbling down while I inconspicuously tried to grab my own copy. Or for my six-year old to practice her newly acquired literacy skills by reading aloud the back cover for the store’s benefit (“Mommy- what does ‘erotic’ mean?”). I circled the counter with my book in hand, wondering if I should buy other books along with it so that the store clerk wouldn’t think I wasn’t a total light weight. Maybe Anna Karenina? Fifty Shades AND Tolstoy? What a Renaissance woman! Or perhaps a bunch of children’s books too? But then they’d probably think I was a pervert AND a pedophile. So, in the end, I just slapped the book on the counter, kindly declined their offer of a gift receipt, and high-tailed it on home for some summer reading.
Well, I ended up getting through all three books in the span of about a week. What can I say…I like to see things to completion. Believe me, plowing through them was not an easy feat given that Katie was constantly grabbing the books out of my hands, asking me to read it to her while also enquiring where the pictures were….thankfully, my versions were unillustrated. And there was a lot of skimming involved– I mean, do I really want to read every single word regarding genital clamps? Uh, no thanks.
And the verdict? Well, Tolstoy this is not. In fact, these books make the Twilight books (which I also read) look like Jane Austen. But, really who am I to judge? E. L. James is published, and I am not. She and generations of her descendants can live off the royalties from the books and the inevitable Hollywood adaptations while I’ll probably be eating Beanie Weenies straight from the can in my dotage. However, I can’t resist a few notes to the author…maybe some minor tweaks for future editions?
Spoiler alert– I do give away some of the oh-so intricate plot lines so don’t read on if you don’t want to know.
Perhaps a thesaurus? The authoress has some favorite words and she likes to use them…a lot. Case in point: the word “gasp.” The main characters, Christian and Anastasia, spend a good portion of their time gasping. They are so awe struck by each other’s beauty- the dark penetrating eyes (his) and locks of flowing hair (hers) that every eight paragraphs, they must gasp. And that’s just when they are clothed. They gasp while drinking coffee/tea , they gasp while talking, they gasp while eating…frankly, I’m surprised no one had to come and do the Heimlich on them. I’d (gasp) appreciate (gasp) some (gasp) verbal (gasp) variety.
Dialogue schizophrenia The main characters in the book are supposed to be twenty-somethings living in Seattle. And yet, they alternately speak like Eddie Haskel (“Holy Cow!), a southern good old boy (“mighty fine”), and a Queen’s loyal subject (“lovely,” “keen,” and “smartly dressed,”). Has the author ever come in contact with a twenty-something American? Has she seen Jersey Shore?! As my college lit professor would say: verisimilitude!
And speaking of verisimilitude He’s a billionaire CEO of his own privately held firm and yet seems to work less than a 40 hour work week. They meet, fall in love, break up, get back together, get married, foil a blackmail plot…and a kidnapping plot…and a murder plot…and break down all his psychological issues AND get pregnant within a five month time period. Oh, and renovate a house. Really?
New nickname Anastasia’s pet name for her true love is Fifty. She refers to “my Fifty” or longingly sighs (or gasps), “oh Fifty” in all sorts of ways throughout the book. All it did for me was to imagine Christian Grey as this:
Pass the VitaminWater, please.
Less is more I know this is supposed to be an erotic novel but really, must they be SO bunny-like in their extracurricular activities? All it does is desensitize you to the material which I am sure is not the author’s intent. Another scene with a vibrating butt plug? Ho hum. <YAWN>
So other than the unoriginal writing style, the poorly developed characters, the totally implausible story line, and the offensive idea that all women want to be dominated by men, these books are a winner. Seriously, I haven’t laughed this hard since Seinfeld went off the air.