The Bookshelf: 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

50 Shades of something or other

50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James is not a good book.  In fact, it’s derivative crap in a plagiaristic sense… but (and you knew there would be a but), it is extremely entertaining.  If you are a married woman over the age of thirty, you may have already read it… if you are any other demographic, you probably haven’t… if you are male, you will probably avoid this novel at all costs. 

50 Shades of Grey began as Twilight fan-fic under the title Master of the Universe as penned by Snowqueens Icedragon… seriously.  I have no clue as to how it changed from Bella and Edward into Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey… but somehow Snowqueens Icedragon changed enough of the story and plot, as well as her name, to get it published as an e-book and a print-on-demand paperback back in June 2011.  The biggest difference (and the most significant) between Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey is that the protagonists of the story are not chaste lovers, nor are they supernatural creatures… instead, the male, Christian Grey, is a 27 year old billionaire with an extreme penchant for BDSM and Anastasia is… well, she is Bella… just a few years older and much more horny. 

I suppose I should mention that this novel is erotic fiction… now being dubbed:  Mommy porn.  And believe you me… it gets graphic… it gets dirty… and frankly, it gets to be a bit of a page turner that becomes difficult to put down.  Is the writing hackneyed at times?  God yes.  Does the basic structure of the character development mirror Twilight to an uncomfortable, how has she not been sued, degree?  Absolutely.  Are some of the decisions made by the main characters completely unbelievable and silly?  Without a doubt… but it is extremely enjoyable… dare I say, a guilty pleasure.

The basic premise is that Ana helps her roommate out one day by going to interview a successful businessman she knows nothing about and literally stumbles into his office.  He is Adonis personified.  Gorgeous, rich, charming, and powerful.  She is awkward, virginal, naïve, and helpless.  The book is told from her point of view, so we get to read every thought she has regarding the effect he has on her and her perspective as he begins to pursue her in what I imagine most people would consider creepy and stalker-like… but hey, whatever works right?

He begins his “courtship” by doing his best to warn her to stay away from him while at the same time making it clear that he can’t stay away from her (again, directly from Twilight).  Eventually, we get to the contract… the document outlining the rules of their “relationship”… he is the dominant, she is the submissive.  The rest of the novel dives into what exactly that entails and her constant battle between, “I can’t give him what he wants”, and “He is so hot and has such long fingers and I suddenly went from being a virgin who never once masturbated to an incredible sex goddess capable of multiple orgasms just because he looked at me”.

Somehow, this book managed to sell a whole mess of downloads… perhaps because no one has to be seen actually reading it, suddenly the e-book becomes relevant.  I recall a couple of summers ago when everyone at the community pool near my home had at least one of “The Girl with Numerous Issues” books in hand.  Now with the e-book, a lady can read trashy porn in secret.  (Progress!) This was the first e-book I read on my iPad outside of The Walking Dead comics… also the first “mom porn” I’ve read.  I am not the target demographic… but I am very open minded, and always interested in what Mrs. Blahg finds intriguing.  After a feature in Entertainment Weekly a couple of weeks ago, she began reading the book… then the second… then the third.  Yes, it’s a trilogy, starting with 50 Shades of Grey, to 50 Shades Darker, to 50 Shades Freed.  I am currently reading 50 Shades Darker… and magically enough, it’s even worse.

What exactly is it that has so many women, especially, as I mentioned earlier, married women in their thirties so freaking excited?  This isn’t the first romance novel or erotic fiction story… why is this capturing so much attention?  Perhaps the secret to that question lies in exactly what it is ripping off so blatantly.  Like Twilight, the female protagonist is awkward, self conscious, uncomfortable in her own skin, and blissfully unaware that she happens to be smoking hot.  The male is a complete figment of the female imagination… no man could possibly live up to the standard that Edward or Christian sets.  Noble heroes with a dark side… in the case of Edward, he’s a vampire who doesn’t want to be a monster and won’t shag the lady until they are married… Christian doesn’t make love, he fucks… hard (his words), but he also wants to feed the world and lavish the newly graduated Ana, who, at 21 has also never had a drink in addition to never having even kissed a man before, with gifts ranging from a new Mac Airbook to a new Audi.  Plus he’s hung like a beast… bonus.  Completely relatable combined with completely unattainable, with a dash (more a fistful) of the taboo throw in for spice.

When the taboo kicks in, the book is riveting.  There are plenty of moments of ummm… I don’t know about that… and more than a few moments of, ohhhh… that sounds good.  Are women looking for something they don’t get at home?  Is the attraction simply living vicariously through the novel?  Is it like driving past an accident where you simply have to look?  Whatever the reason… it is doing very well for itself despite its many flaws.

I will say this for Ms. James… she can write a good sex scene.  I don’t know what it’s like being a woman… nor do I know what sex is like for a woman… but I do appreciate the perspective.  And frankly, it is sexy as all hell.  The lover of literature in me is weeping… my inner 20 year horn dog is doing somersaults (that’s actually a joke at the expense of Ana’s battle between her inner goddess who encourages the spankings and floggings and her subconscious, the uptight Jiminy Cricket of her mind).

Overall… I can’t say I actually like this book… but I did enjoy it.  Sometimes I even enjoyed hating it… then again, this is not targeted to me… and if sales are any indication, there are plenty of women who are enjoying this story greatly.  So the next time you see a woman reading her iPad, Kindle, or Nook with a smile… she may be reading some female erotica and joining in an ever growing group of fans.  Food for thought…

Excuse me Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to flog me?
Cornelius J. Blahg

2 thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *