The Obligatory Fifty Shades of Grey Post

greyEvery once in a while, a book will pop out of nowhere and get all kinds of mega media attention.  Usually, this is limited to Nicholas Sparks’ novels in which the heroine (and sometimes the hero) usually dies, but this time out it’s linked to a novel that is, unmistakably, a romance.  With an HEA and everything.

I’ve read the book – the first two, in fact – and, excuse me, if I just don’t see what the Big Deal is all about.  Fifty Shades of Grey flirts with BDSM, but isn’t really, since the focus is on how “wrong” the hero is for his obsession and it seems to me as if the BDSM lifestyle is diminished increasingly throughout the first two books.  I haven’t read the last one, yet, but I’d be pretty damn surprised if a BDSM-lite HEA isn’t involved.

Now, for the eleventy-seventh time, I’m not knocking BDSM, but it’s just not my thing, okay? But the BDSM in this book is of the ultra mild variety so, if any of the masses out there are reading it for their secret BDSM thrill, the truth is there really have to be books out there that can more effectively satisfy that desire.

So, why the Big Deal?  From the Today show to Dr. Drew, the book is getting the kind of press a publicist could only dream about.  And more.  Honestly, I don’t get it.  As far as BDSM goes, there has to be better out there.  As far as romance goes, I know there’s better out there.  The only explanation I can come up with is that the author just happened upon one of those cultural moments where her book just hit.

So, I can’t join the tsk tskers as Dr. Drew did on the Today show on Monday. I wouldn’t want anyone under 18 to read it, but for responsible adults, hello, what’s the problem? I also can’t join the fan club.  I thought the book was largely okay – far from the best I’d ever read and far from the worst, too.  As for the BDSM message, it seemed to me that it was all about the hero being too damaged to love so he sets up these contracts with a series of women.  How the heroine goes from potential contractee to lover is the gist of the story.

See, it’s a romance novel.  A flawed, not very good one, but that’s what it is.  The absurdly young billionaire and the naive, young college student.  Just like a million HPs.

As for the fanfic aspects of the story, I honestly didn’t really see the connection to Twilight beyond some superficialities.  The author clearly wrote her own story and it’s hers to sell to the movies or wherever she might like.

So, what did you think?  Did you read it?  Are you as puzzled as I am by all the attention?

- Sandy AAR


44 thoughts on “The Obligatory Fifty Shades of Grey Post

  1. I read all three books and loved them. I fell in love with Christian and could completely sympathize with Ana. She’s a strong, smart independent woman who is completely in love with this gorgeous but damaged man. Does she turn herself into a pretzel in order to love him and maybe lose herself in the process? It seemed to me that they met halfway. She helped him by making him believe that he was loved; he never could comprehend that anyone could possibly love him.

  2. Here are my thoughts: I work at a major bookstore (guess, it’s not hard). Today is my last day, and I for one will be so thrilled to hear the end of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” One thing I have found prevalent in the book-buying public is their rabid desire to jump on a trend no matter what.

    I can’t tell you the number of sixty-something grandmas, and patrician country club ladies in their 50s who are storming the store, wanting this book. Now, before you say, “Anyone can read this, don’t judge!” I will tell you that almost every one of these ladies has NO IDEA what this book is about! They only want it b/c other people and the media told them about it. We have to describe it for them.

    If the author, E.L. James is making good money then good on her. She did something right, she hit the zeitgeist or she just knows how to drum up good publicity. I will say I think the covers are lovely, eye-catching and I like how they are all tied together. Some major publishers could learn a lesson here.

    But when I read some of the books aloud to my co-workers, we were dying of laughter. This is not a particularly well-written book, and they initial premise, that this young college newspaper reporter would get access so Mr. über billionaire, is laughable at best.

    But hey, to each his own. For the record, I read “The Story of O” a long long time ago, as well as the Anne Rice Sleeping Beauty series. I much prefer those this “50 Shades.”

    I

  3. I haven’t actually heard of this book – too busy with my own life at this point, I guess. At the same time, or on the other hand (?) I almost never look at the best seller lists anymore, or listen to the reviews of TV people. Too often I find no correlation between how well a book is written, or how much fun it is to read, and how many people are buying it.

  4. I have an almost clinical need to avoid any book that gets rabid-fan reviews. The few I’ve read have been so poorly written that I spend my time wondering what-the-hell? I finally broke down and read Twilight when my daughters wanted to read it. It was pap–bland, derivative, and boring. I let my daughters read it with no comment. Neither of then went on to the second book, saying there were so many better-written books for YA’s out there so they weren’t going to waste their time. My thoughts exactly.

    Books like Twilight or 50 Shades are like Paris Hilton. They get famous for being famous, not for any real merit of their own. The book might be fine, but is it *the best* thing out there in BDSM genre or romance? Not by a long shot. There are plenty of books I’ve loved that other readers didn’t, or that didn’t get critical acclaim, so I can understand people liking it even if I don’t. But I can’t understand the feeding frenzy.

  5. I’m with Ell on this one. I never heard of the book and did see that it has a strong following on one of the threads. I peeked in on the thread a couple of times, but my interest is nil in the book from the quick summaries I’ve read. Again, as with Ell, unfortunately there is so much going on personally in my life that I did not choose, I find very little time for reading these days. I’ve become very discriminatory in my selections and that’s probably why so many have found their place in the DNF pile. There’s not much time for books I think I may not enjoy. OTOH, I just may be missing the book of my life, but I probably won’t be finding that out very soon. :)

  6. Haven’t read it; don’t plan to read it; the premise just doesn’t interest me. Evidently, though, it’s a great illustration of the logical error in argument–the bandwagon.

  7. One thing about this book – love it, hate it, or anything in between – it has people talking about it.

  8. My long time booking friend bought this and is urging me to buy it. But it doesn’t appeal at all .

    I agree with the comparison to the Paris Hilton hype.

    I watched rabid fans of certain authors (about 5 years ago) move in and destroy a book reader’s site I belonged to for years. Honest opinions were not tolerated. 5 star reviews were posted before books were read and discussions started on Amazon etc which destroyed anyone who dared to say” I disagree.”

    Carrie said “I have an almost clinical need to avoid any book that gets rabid-fan reviews. The few I’ve read have been so poorly written that I spend my time wondering what-the-hell? ”

    I agree.

  9. What is BDSM? I couldn’t understand the review because I had no idea what you were talking about. I’m on page 10 of 50 Shades and find it very slow. I purchased the book on the recommendation of Amazon as a TOP Pick. I even searched ‘BSDM’ in the novel to see if it would pop up and give me a clue, but no. I must forge ahead and make my own discovery. If I write a review, I’ll make sure it’s written so that anyone who speaks English will understand what the heck I’m talking about.

    • Toni: If I write a review, I’ll make sure it’s written so that anyone who speaks English will understand what the heck I’m talking about.

      Bit surprised someone has purchased a BDSM book and doesn’t know what it is…
      For a longer explanation:
      “BDSM is an erotic preference and a form of personal relationship involving the consensual use of restraint, intense sensory stimulation, and fantasy power role play. The compound initialism BDSM is derived from the terms bondage and discipline (B&D or B/D), dominance and submission (D&S or D/s), and sadism and masochism (S&M or S/M).”

  10. Toni, I knew what it was but couldn’t have told you what each letter meant. Per the web:

    A complex acronym, based on Bondage & Discipline, Domination & Submission and Sadism & Masochism

  11. If you’re looking for BDSM, read the classic “the Story of O.” I read it first in the 1980′s, and recently read it again. It’s still dark, disturbing, and powerful. I also tend to stay away from “media” books chiefly because they are so often poorly written.

  12. I had to chuckle the other night. I was talking to my youngest sister about this series of books. I have no real urge to read it, not interested in books on that lifestyle, but she was just about done reading the second book. The reason I laughed is because she is repelled by the sex in romance books –or so she says. She constantly informs me (rather disdainfully) that she just skips the sex scenes in every book. I had already read the rather lengthy thread about this one on the Let’s Talk Romance board so I was aware of the subject matter and I called her one it.
    “You skip love scenes in romance but you’re reading a book with a BDSM subject matter??” I asked incredulously.
    Of course she once again said she skipped those parts, but I’m thinking, um, not.
    But she is a “trend” reader unlike myself so in a way I wasn’t surprised she was reading it.

    She’s loving it by the way -reading the sex scenes or not :-)

  13. This is the series that started out as Twilight fanfiction, right? I have no interest in these books either, but find the fact that readers who would never admit to reading “trashy romance” are reading this book because it’s considered literary to be interesting.

    And to the mainstream media it seems to be another way of snickering at women’s reading taste.

    You will never be able to explain why one book seems to capture readers’ interest and becomes a sensation, while other, better written and more enjoyable (at least to “me” or “you”) books cannot seem to find an audience. Sometimes I am one of the people who are on the bandwagon and other times I just do NOT get it. No point banging your head against that brick wall.

  14. Love that this romance is receiving so much attention! I’ve tried books here that are hyped by fans and didn’t get all the fuss. So for once a book I really like is getting the attention!

  15. Hated it from the first “Bella moment” when she fell over, to the nasty “evil blonde” stuff (yeah, I saw those Twilight connections all over the place). I’d complain about the Briticisms, but then American authors are masters at massacring Regency England, so I count it as payback!

    I’m offended on behalf of BDSMers everywhere too.

    It was just not a good book. But – in the tradition of Twilight and Beautiful Disaster – garbage sells better than quality most of the time.

  16. Oh, and some television star NOT reading a book and then passing judgement on a lifestyle he knows NOTHING about?
    Not cool sir.

  17. I briefly considered reading it to see what all the fuss is about but found the price too steep for reconstituted fan fiction.

    • DITTO to every single word of Pamelia at 11:04 AM!

      Except, I don’t feel sorry for those who have read the book and did not enjpy it because I know that tastes differ and all people cannot like the same thing. Heck, I don’t like some of the highly-acclaimed books by literary critics.

      But I agree that very condescending views of some non-readers.

      HeatherS AAR: I briefly considered reading it to see what all the fuss is about but found the price too steep for reconstituted fan fiction.

      I have read 15 romance books so far this year and FSoG is my favourite – a straight A. Another straight A was Lady Elizabeth’s Comet and an A- for The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella.
      $7.99 I spent on this book was one of the best money I ever spent on romance, I bought it on the publisher’s website:

      http://ph.thewriterscoffeeshop.com/books/detail/23

      To those who are loath to read anything that gets hyped up and very trendy: I had read this book before it got so popular and I have not read any Twilight books.

      To those who say this book should not have been published because it was a fanfic and there were moral issues: well, I, for one, am glad that it was. Otherwise, I would have been devoid of the utter delight of reading it.

      It’s a rare feeling – when you finish a book and want to start reading it right away.

  18. Unabashed fan of the Fifty Shades books here. I’m not an idiot (according to some detractors of the books they seem to think I must be). I’m not unfamiliar with romance, erotica or BDSM erotica (I read about 20 books a month and believe me I know quality when I read it). These don’t have the same level of editing/writing skill as Kinsale or Chase or Duran. The Fifty Shades books don’t explore BDSM as well as Cherise Sinclair’s books. There is (as is often mentioned) a prevalent use of British catch-phrases that don’t exactly sound authentic to the Pacific Northwest U.S. So what’s so great about them? They have a great feel to them. They are thrilling to read for me from the first person voice to the romance and sex to the email exchanges; they really open up the relationship between Christian and Ana in a way that feels genuine and powerful. I’ve re-read them several times (4 reads last count) and I will reread them again and whereas many books lose their luster on a re-read, these still hold up. I guess for me the problems with the repetitive phrasing and sometimes klutzy prose were evident from the first read on and I didn’t care because it isn’t often that books grab me like this. It isn’t often that characters in books stay firmly lodged in my thoughts and emotions for days after I read the book. I can understand reading them and disliking them because anything that has a strong positive response in one person is bound to evoke the opposite in someone else. What I can’t understand are people who are “reviewing” these books without reading them. I also can’t understand why some people feel it’s necessary to insult the intelligence of those of us who do enjoy them. I for one don’t think these books are worthless and I feel sorry for those who didn’t get swept up in them as much as me because it was really super fun and it’s not often that books are this enjoyable.

  19. loots of people who aren’t familiar with fanfiction have been saying they don’t see the connection but most fics, especially from twilight, are very au or alternate universe. that means, the story features the characters name and just enough of their traits to keep twilight fans happy.

    here’s are 2 links to videos made celebrating the original work “master of the universe” that might help people understand the controversy: http://youtu.be/ziAwX2IwA3M http://youtu.be/1A1HGsNdays

    and there are tons of others. publishing a fanfic is hard to classify because if they hadn’t used characters already known and loved, no one would have read their story and there is no denying that the published work would not have taken off as quickly without the link to the original story.

  20. This isn’t a BDSM or a BDSM positive book. If anything, I found this to be the opposite. The book and its sequel take the opinion that the hero is damaged and uses BDSM as some sort of shield and as a way to exorcise the demons of his childhood. Christian is ‘healed’ by his love for the female heroine and no longer feels the need to ‘hurt’ women who remind him of this mother.

    The entire concept is insulting to people in the BDSM community and I wanted to hurl my ereader across the room when I realized where the author was going.

  21. @ LJ: did you finish the 2nd book before you made that decision? I think the BDSM issue in this is a little more complicated. Christian is effed up and he himself feels that his sexual preferences are an extension of that. Ana is 21 and very sheltered so from her POV it’s not an immediate “yay, tie me up and spank me!” scenario. They both come around quite a bit. Ana eventually starts insisting on “kinky fuckery” and he resists because he has not yet overcome his own belief that what he prefers sexually is wrong and sick (he is quite the self-loathing type). Do they ever head into the more extreme aspects of BDSM? No. However, they work it out based on their limits which is what any successful BDSM relationship needs. There is a lot of h

    • pamelia: pamelia says did you finish the 2nd book before you made that decision? I

      I did actually and it felt tacked on and I had stopped caring at that point. You can only drag the read on for so long before the simply lose interest. We went another whole book without any BDSM and with judgemental values placed on the BDSM. In addition we had to deal with negative stereotypes placed on older women i.e. the evil blonde Mrs. Robinson blah blah blah and with Christian calling his mother ‘the crack whore’ All in all, the only women who were ‘good women’ were the ones not into the ‘hard core’ BDSM or his adoptive mom (mostly). blah blah blah. Again, I was done.

      Not only that, I spent a good deal of the book hating the Apple gadget worship and wondering if the author had actually ever lived in Seattle or spent more than a few days there. There are big hints that this author just… doesn’t know this town. Neiman Marcus? Really? You couldn’t take the hint from Cherise Sinclair and use Nordstrom which is locally owned? Or even take a look a 4th and 5th Street merchants. LOL. AND big hint… you can’t just fly helicopters around Seattle when you feel like it no matter how rich you are. Not even Bill Gates who owns Microsoft and funds a huge charity can get away with that.

      I mean… it’s just so ridiculous.

  22. Why are the books so expensive? On Amazon the paperback Shades of Grey is $17.99 and the sequels are a whopping $29.99 each. Even the ebooks are overpriced at $9.99. Why?!

  23. @Laura says:

    Those prices recently came down. A week ago the paperback books were a lot more expensive. Try almost $80.00. They must have recently reprinted them.

  24. Pingback: twilight breaking dawn part 1

  25. The only hostile judging I read was towards Mrs. R when it was revealled Christian was a teenager when introduced to bdsm. So I totally get why Mrs. R was not written as an angel, she preyed upon a teenager. I would be disgusted if that woman wasn’t judged harshly.

  26. Finally a review I agree with! LOL! I’m an avid romance reader, and hey sex is always in my books so thought why not try it? I saw the hype on a morning show and succumbed to my curiosity of what was getting all these women so worked up and drinking wine sighing over a novel like this! Bought the first book in e-format read it in about 3 hours and was left with thinking…what’s the big deal here again??? It’s a romance story told much in short hand email format…(personally I think that’s lazy writing but that’s just me). If I was a BDSM devote I’d be insulted by this book! If I read one more contract I was going to scream! I get it, it’s about control, so show some! LOL!

    To the reviewer, thanks for voicing what many a reader is thinking,just what’s different here? As an aside, I contacted Amazon and asked if I could get a refund for it being a bad book…happy to get my $9.99 back and don’t feel guilty one little bit.(this all happened in a 4 hour period) I was up front, the book was marketed under false pretenses of being different and ground breaking! ROFL!

  27. I read all three and loved them. I didn’t pick it up because of the attention, I read it because the Amazon sample sucked me in. I think fans and critics should just respectfully disagree and read what they want. No one is a lemming just because they have different tastes in reading material.

  28. Can I also ask why there’s such a vitriolic backlash from some (not necessarily in this blog) about the portrayal of the BDSM relationship? It’s almost as if it’s the sacred cow or something. I’ve been reading romance for twenty years and I’ve seen so many different versions of the same thing, that I am leery whenever there’s an argument for authenticity. Who decides what’s authentic BDSM in the romance genre? Are there similar authenticity about ménage and other sexual habits and lifestyles that some would consider alternative? I’m just not getting what’s at stake here.

  29. I agree with you Tess. That is why I haven’t responded here to this series until I have finished all of the books. I don’t get the anger. I have been reading romance for over 10 years, and frankly, I have read many, many books more poorly written than these books, books that have been pimped by many review blogs. And what is with the “BDSM experts”?? Really? I don’t get it.

  30. And to add…I don’t see the Bella, Edward connection…at all. So many romances include the young, inexperienced heroine in with the older experienced wealthy guy. Sorry, but it’s not that unusual as a set-up in a romance novel.

  31. Xina, I haven’t read these books or the Twilight ones, but from what I understand the 3 novels were originally published as alternate universe Twilight fan fiction on fanfiction.net under the name Master of the Universe (as one long story). The author then changed the names from Bella and Edward and published the books. But it did start out as fan fiction.

    • library addict: Xina, I haven’t read these books or the Twilight ones, but from what I understand the 3 novels were originally published as alternate universe Twilight fan fiction on fanfiction.net under the name Master of the Universe (as one long story). The author then changed the names from Bella and Edward and published the books. But it did start out as fan fiction.

      Yes, I am aware of that, but really wouldn’t have noticed the very vague similarity of I hadn’t been aware of it starting out as fan fiction.

  32. @Laura: Why are the books so expensive? On Amazon the paperback Shades of Grey is $17.99 and the sequels are a whopping $29.99 each. Even the ebooks are overpriced at $9.99. Why?!

    The price went up – I bought it on sale a few weeks ago (Kindle Deal of the Day) for $6.99. Must be the hype.

    I started it, got about 1/3 of the way through and, well, wasn’t drawn in enough to pick it up again the next time I turned on my Kindle. Maybe I should follow CathyR’s lead…no, I won’t, but it’s tempting!

    • Kathy W.: @Laura: Why are the books so expensive? On Amazon the paperback Shades of Grey is $17.99 and the sequels are a whopping $29.99 each. Even the ebooks are overpriced at $9.99. Why?!The price went up – I bought it on sale a few weeks ago (Kindle Deal of the Day) for $6.99. Must be the hype.

      No, actually. The ebook price had been $9.99 from the beginning, and enough people bought at that price for the hype to begin. I bought it for $8 directly from the publisher’s website, it was worth every penny and then some.

  33. I read fifty shades of grey but will not be reading the next two books in the series. It wasn’t badly written but I did struggle with the BDSM light yet its sooo bad subject matter. Its like there are a few naughty words and a contract thrown around but at no time did I actually see evidence that Christian was living this lifestyle. The book says that Christian is distant aned messed up yet right from the start he’s sleeping in the same bed as Ana, communicating and trying. I did not have a lot of respect for Ana. The book tries to say she was some strong woman yet I saw absolutely no evidence of that. I get that she’s young but at times she comes across as so young and immature that I didn’t believe she should be in a relationship at all. I think to summarise my main problem with this book is that it is saying one thing yet constantly portrays another with regard to the characters.

    I am not involved in the BDSM scene at all however the few people I know who are are some of the most well adjusted people I know. They know their kink and are happy with it. I didn’t like the way this book implied that you must have some deep seated issues to want to be involved in that.

    • I am not involved in the BDSM scene at all however the few people I know who are are some of the most well adjusted people I know. They know their kink and are happy with it. I didn’t like the way this book implied that you must have some deep seated issues to want to be involved in that.

      I can see what you mean here. If you’ve only read the first book you will only have Christian to reference as someone who is involved in the BDSM lifestyle. As the series goes on, you do get to see other people who are in it (former lovers), who either by example or through Christian’s conversation are apparently quite well adjusted and happy in the lifestyle with other partners, although there are also more screwed up people.

      I don’t know if this is as much an indictment of BDSM as it is an illustration of how messed up Christian is, mostly because of his own skewed perspective and the induction he had to the lifestyle. It seemed to me that the book was suggesting that screwed up people can easily get mixed up with other screw ups who make them feel comfortable with their crazy, not that only crazies are drawn to BDSM.

  34. Read the first one and the only thing I liked about it was the cover. After reading the amazon reviews I think some of the fans of this trilogy are kind of scary in their rabid worship.

    Though it is funny how the mainstream press is cavorting itself into a pretzel to catch up with the Internet on this subject. I am waiting for the next big book fad to come along.

  35. My friend Susan recommended this series to me and recall she was very hesitate when she did, but thought I would give it try. She told me that it was originally titled a Master of the Universe, a fanfction story, about Edward and Bella from Twilight. I ordered the series and was anxious to start to reading them.

    Have to say that the first book was the most difficult for me to read because I had never read BDSM before. Christian, as a hero, was so cold and distance and knew he had to have some trauma in his back story.

    Flew through the next two books and each one only got better! The evolution of the relationship betwen Christian and Ana is unbelievable! Confronting the demons from his past and being partnered with such an amazing heroine definitely added to their emotional journey together. The series ends with a sweet and loving epilogue which I never saw coming, but am so impressed by E.L. James’ thoughtful conclusion to the series!

  36. The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my iphone and tested to see if it can survive a 40 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!

Comments are closed.