Basically every media outlet I am exposed to is buzzing about this book: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. The buzz is not so much about an obscure book suddenly becoming popular (this happens all the time), but the type of book it is, and the audience it is popular with.
I haven’t read the book itself. Yet. But I have read several reviews and articles about it. And basically, by all accounts, it is erotica. And this is not hyperbole for slightly-more-steamy-than-Twilight, either. We are talking the real deal. Naughty!
It’s a love story: young, naive student goes to interview rich, powerful tycoon. He is drawn to her naivete; she is drawn to his wealth and power. That we’ve seen a thousand times. It’s the twist that comes next that has everyone’s heart-beats racing and cheeks flushing.
Apparently it is the most popular book for women on Kindle right now. In fact, some sources credit Kindle and other discreet e-reading devices with the books’ (this one is actually Part I of a three-part series) success and proliferation. Whereas before, if you were reading something spicy (on the subway, at the park, at your desk over lunch), anyone and everyone could see the cover and know what you were up to, now all anyone can see is you looking at your e-book, leaving the casual observer to assume you are reading The Help, or “Ladies’ Home Journal,” or whatever it is people assume women are reading.
Or at least this is the theory. Which leads me to ask, how much is what we choose to read affected by those around us? Do we worry what a train full of strangers will think of our choice when we grab a book for the commute to work? And if we’re ashamed to be reading something in front of our girlfriends on a play date at the park, should we be reading it at all? Is any of this more true or poignant for women than for anyone else?
If you look the book(s) up on Amazon, and scroll to the bottom, Amazon has that nifty “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature. Look up the Shades of Grey Series, and without fail you will see The Hunger Games, The Host (that apparently more mature Stephenie Meyer series that I could NOT subject myself to (speaking of masochism…)), Twilight (proper), and a whole bunch of Nicholas Sparks books. So it’s no coincidence that “The New York Times” is labeling Shades of Grey as “Mommy porn” or “Twilight for grown-ups.” That appears to be the audience exactly: women who felt drawn to that series-romance style of story, but wanted a little (a lot?) more edge, more bite, more fun.
When I read Twilight, I felt (amongst a litany of other critiques) that it left too much to the imagination. Very unsatisfying. And it appears I was not the only one. I am surprised, but certainly not disturbed, by this development.
I go back and forth about technology, but I say hooray for the modern day equivalent of slipping your comic book inside The Sound and the Fury.
Has anyone read it yet?