Book Recommendation: 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Dear readers: 50 Shades of Grey is a terrible book, and I think you should read it. How terrible? A girlfriend and I played a game in which we would flip to a random page, read aloud a random passage, rinse and repeat. Pretty much any paragraph could fit with any other paragraph in the entire “novel.”
You’ll find insipid email exchanges in which Anastasia Steele, our inexperienced ingénue, flirtatiously calls Christian Grey a stalker like she’s a kindergartener crying “meanie.” You’ll find Mr. Grey describing his twitching palms, dying to migrate to Steele’s innocent, round behind. And, of course, there’s the infamous talk of our heroine’s “inner goddess.”
See? Terrible. Yet 50 Shades of Grey has captured the minds and money of women everywhere (31 million copies of the series have sold worldwide), and it’s worth reading to figure out why.
It’s not new for women to read erotic novels as a way to express their liberation. Think Lady Chatterly’s Lover, the 1928 work that caused an obscenity stir when widely distributed in 1960. Now it serves as an icon of the sexual revolution.
Thanks to that continued sexual revolution, we are more shock-proof than ever. Porn seems easier to come by than a real printed newspaper, nerdy ComicCon is awash with skimpy costumes, Olympian Ryan Lochte’s mother references his supposed one night stands.
Meanwhile, American women are rising! They comprise the majority of collegiates, they are dominating the mid-level workforce, and testosterone levels in men are sinking. This season, we wore Sam Edelman spiked heels and Rag & Bone menswear-inspired jackets. The “ladies” on reality television tear each other’s hair out, swear like sailors, and drink like fish. Women are acting like men used to, and it messes up traditional love dynamics.
Enter 50 Shades of Grey, which isn’t really a romance, but a book about fetishes—violent ones. Like so many sexual heroines before her, Steele explores her freedom of choice and freedom of hoo-ha. But the real reasons this is resonating today are twofold: because it’s over-the-top shocking to a culture that can barely be shocked, and because a modern girl forced into temporary submission reminds female readers of the power of men.
If you can’t stomach the whole thing, don’t worry. The first and last chapter should equip you suitably for cocktail-hour chatter.
Source: I bought this book on Amazon.com.