Book Review: A Ridiculous Book for Sad Ladies: Who Is Reading “Fifty Shades of Grey”?











As any fan of American Horror Story, GCB, RuPaul’s Drag Race, or anything on Bravo knows, guilty pleasure entertainment can be a totally satisfying experience. Stumbling upon a great crappy movie like Ticked Off Trannies With Knives on a Sunday afternoon is one of life’s greatest gifts as far as I am concerned.

I’m a bit more picky about what I read, especially since books are expensive even in e-reader form, and I am the worst about remembering to return those I’ve borrowed to the library. Recommendations from the New York Times or Entertainment Weekly might inspire me to download a book to my Kindle, but that thing is usually not charged when I need it, and I have a backlog of 8 or 9 books I can’t recall why I even wanted to read.

A couple of weeks ago I started hearing buzz about a new book from a tiny publisher and new writer dazzling women all over the English speaking world with its scandalous erotic content and fun storyline. The Huffington Post talked about it and apparently women everywhere were poring over it on the subway and on airplanes and sharing with their friends. Yesterday on the Today Show’s best hour, Hoda and Kathie Lee talked about it, with Hoda twitching in her seat and Kathie Lee turning up her nose at its risqué nature indignantly. So I went ahead and took the plunge, so to speak. I downloaded Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James and started reading immediately.

The last time I read anything so beloved yet horrible was Twilight, which I read half of then left on a chair in an airport. I didn’t learn until today that the ridiculous and juvenile “Fifty Shades” began as Twilight fan fiction, but that makes perfect sense to me. The plot involves a virginal college senior who falls for a handsome young wealthy entrepreneur and is instantly swept up in his world of BDSM sex and mystery. The writing is truly awful; this poor girl refers to her “inner goddess” and people drink white wine on nearly every page. Even the characters’ names are just ludicrous: Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, the latter calling himself “fifty shades of fucked up” at least three times before the 250th page.

I guess I found the book a bit offensive, but not because of the sado-masochistic sex (which was mostly just silly), more for the misogyny, abusive relationships disguised as fun sex play, and the aforementioned abysmal writing. I tried to imagine who these women are who are loving Fifty Shades of Grey so intensely, and rather cruelly decided they were overweight, in their fifties, and reading it in their mini-vans waiting on kids or dry cleaning or something equally mundane. Today I read the EW cover story on James (a pseudonym…even she knows it’s shit I suppose), and discovered she is a woman who also fits that description, so, um, yeah. There you go.

The book was bought by a division of Random House for seven figures, and James sold the movie rights to Universal Focus Features for a rumored $5,000,000. It is available as an e-book and comes out in paperback in April, and is sure to be snapped up and dogeared by lonely spinsters and middle-aged undersexed housewives for many days to come. I have to confess I stopped reading two-thirds of the way through, but what I did manage to read was lousy enough to be certain Fifty Shades of Grey is not in the LEAST my thing.

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