Fifty Shades of Awful

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Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

2 star

2 Stars

I read “Fifty Shades of Grey” to figure out why this work of fan fiction inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series had become such an overnight sensation. After all, thousands, if not millions of fans have written pieces inspired by their favorite stories. Why did E.L. James’ trilogy that kicks off with this book become so popular that it’s sold millions of copies and soon will be made into a major motion picture?

I have to conclude that it’s not because of the writing. As many reviewers, professional and personal, have pointed out, it’s not because James produced a literary classic. Au contraire, most who give the books high marks are apologists that sidestep the issue of her writing – the obvious similarities to “Twilight” characters, hackneyed clichés invoked ad nauseum, Britishisms in Seattle, even typos (I found two). By the end of the book, one more bite of Ana’s lip or Victorian gasp could turn any reader into Christian Grey with a riding crop ready to teach some grammar lessons.

So if it’s not the writing, why are readers buying millions of copies of this mediocre book? I have a few theories. One, “Fifty Shades” have become a proxy for the fifth book in the “Twilight” series that Meyers may never write until she’s enticed by a publisher to write a sequel to “Breaking Dawn.” Until then, fans can channel their post-Bella and Edward letdown into Ana and Christian mania and turn “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob” into “Team Ana” and “Team Christian.”

Two, “Fifty Shades” ups the ante with a subject, Bondage/Domination/Sadomasochism (BDSM), that surpasses paranormal romance in its scintillating attraction as a forbidden fruit one secretly enjoys as a guilty indulgence. What was once aplomb with buzz, paranormal romance, is now the new normal, and James has pushed the boundaries of the mainstream by taking extreme romance to a whole new level. It’s easy to imagine that the post-“Fifty Shades” world lies in the hand of a Christian Grey fan who, as I type, is writing the next book sensation continuing the saga of Bella and Edward, Ana and Christian in a sort of rebirth that would make the Wachowski siblings of “Cloud Atlas” twinge with jealousy. Perhaps an alien romance taking humans to farther extremes awaits us in the near future after this series runs its course.

The brouhaha around “Fifty Shades of Grey” is certainly not because of the writing. I give it two stars and a caution to anyone who doesn’t read paranormal or BDSM romance but wants to check out what all the hype is about. Just leave it be.

Fifty Shades of Grey  is now available at: