Fifty Shades of Grey

Can we talk about this book for a minute? Because a minute is about all I want to give it. In fact, I never thought I’d stoop to putting up a post about it on my blog, but truly, I’m curious as to how you feel.
My exposure to the book started like this. In the school at which I am a faculty member, where colleagues know I’m a reader, someone asked at lunch, “Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey?”
“No,” I replied, because at that time the furor was just beginning.
“It’s the best book I’ve ever read!” exclaimed this person, and many others chimed in with exuberance that I simply have to read it.
So, I downloaded the sample on my nook. It began with trite, petty, ridiculous description that I wouldn’t have read in my teens. Curious, I read on to page 100 or so. Until I got to the Red Room of Pain and beyond.
When I felt absolutely convicted.
I’m not a prude. I’ve been married twice, as my first husband died. I’ve loved with all my heart. But this is not love. This is not romance. This is pure and simple pornography.
Have you read it? Would you call it literature? Do you know why it’s taking off in such popularity? Because personally, I think it’s a case of nonreaders liking pulp fiction. Or rather, the preference of pornography over literature.

59 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Grey

  1. It's been a week since I discovered the hype about this book, actually… series. I haven't read any page but I am more and more curious about it, and I guess marketing worked in this case. Oh, I found out about it while watching a parody made by Ellen Degeneres… Maybe this is the Henry Miller of our century :)

  2. I would have loved to have seen the parody by Degeneres; she's so funny in the first place. Who knows if this is the Henry Miller of the century. All I know is that I feel in an extreme minority for calling this book as a I see it.

  3. I haven't read it and am not likely to, but I saw something about a case of mistaken book title on Shelf Awareness. The YA book, BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, which is set in WWII Lithuania and has been very highly recommended got a bunch of people mixed up and when the author of the YA book had a signing, lots of adults were there thinking it was the author of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY.

    I'm not sure about it, but I suspect it makes erotica “OK” to read. The cover is certainly innocuous. “Best book I've ever read?” Seriously?????

    And I've been a defender of the romance genre for many years. Still…this doesn't appeal.

  4. I haven't read the book and am not interested in it. But when I heard about it for the first time (I think in the Guardian) it was called “housewife porn” or something like that. So I wouldn't expect anything else anyway. I don't think you are the only one who calls it what it is. Maybe the others won't own up to liking porn and dress it up as romance?

  5. I saw, briefly, Between Shades of Gray on Shelf Awareness. I was sure that it couldn't be the same type of book.

    I agree with you, that under the name of erotica, or worse yet, literature, people are thinking it's okay to read. Like because it's a novel instead of a film it's not pornographic. Ridiculous.

    This isn't even in the same category as Romance. Seriously.

  6. Phew! An intelligent source called it for what it is. I think I'm dismayed because the people in real life around me (i.e. co-workers) are all enthused about something I wouldn't even have published.

  7. No desire to read it, Bellezza, and if you don't mind my opinion… it's another push toward demanding no standards whatsoever. You know, porn is good, drugs are okay, whatever you want to do is fine…



  8. I have not read this (and now don't plan to) but this is how I felt about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I barely made it through the first book and just a short way into the second, had to put it away. some things I just don't need or want in my mind!

  9. I know just what you mean about Steig Larssson's book. The first was the most violent thing I've ever read, and I've not felt compelled to follow the rest if the masses by finishing the trilogy. Otseeing the film. “Whatsoever things are pure…think on these things.” Right?

  10. If you want to read some reviews that “call it as it is” as you say, try Dear Author ( and Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books ( Both discussed both the books and the phenomenon as it hit.

    After reading what they and others have to say, I have absolutely no desire to read the book, which is a redressed alternate universe “Twilight” fanfic anyway.

  11. I will probably think the same as you did Bellezza. I can't stand having other people think pornography is literature. I think there are a lot of great literature which doesn't involve taking one's clothes off all the time, judging from what you said, not dressing up but bare butt naked! LOL… :) Thanks for the warning.

  12. I know that it's a little mean of me, but when someone says a book like that is the best thing they've ever read, my response is “Really?” said in a tone of mixed shock and disgust, sometimes dismay.

    If I'm just not in the mood, I'll say “I'm sure it is.”

  13. It's the movie “9 1/2 Weeks” amped up based on what I've read about it. I will not be reading this book nor its counterparts. I picked it up when I heard that my co-workers were reading it as well – and we are talking about high school English teachers. Sorry, not falling prey. My daughter, who is 18, even said that sounds terrible, when she read the book jacket. Anyone who has taught our young women what they should look for in a meaningful relationship as a young woman should not be engaging in this type of reading.

    And, no, we aren't prudes, either. I'd like to say, though, that, unless this is a series of books about what is wrong with those of us willing to settle for that as an option of relationship, it is sheer porn.

  14. Nope, I haven't read it and I'm not interested. I did enjoy the Ellen Degeneres video. I'm sure you can find it at YouTube. Just look up the title of the book and Ellen's name. It's cute. I've read the book that people are occasionally confusing with FiFTY SHADES, BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY. It's a hard read – a YA set during WWII about a family sent to Siberia after the father/husband has been arrested. It has remained with me — the loaf of bread the young girl decided not to pack that could have helped make their first days more tolerable, the courage of the mother. It would be nice if the attention would shift to that title, actually . . .

  15. Kerry, Dear Author is a new blog to me, but I've visited Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books before. I'll be interested to hear what they say about it, as judging from the title of their blog I'd assume they'd love it.

  16. Bare butt naked is a phrase my son would use in middle school. As in when racing from the bathroom to his bedroom he'd shout, “Don't look! I'm bare butt naked!” I find it applies to many situations. :)

  17. 9 1/2 Weeks! I forgot about that degrading film with Kim Bassinger who was so very pretty when she filmed it.

    I think you bring up such an excellent point when you say that we need to consider what we're teaching our children. Our daughters, to be specific.

    So many people have asked me, “Where did you find your husband? He's such a good man.” Well, not in a bar. And not in the Red Room of Pain, that's for sure! You want moral people? You look in moral places.

  18. It would be nice if attention shifted to that. But, it probably won't. What is our society but one which craves titillation?

    I've found the Ellen Degeneres take on this book, where she is 'hired to read it as an audiobook'. Actually, it's so hilarious! She does justice to its creepiness, in my opinion.

  19. I want to defend Henry Miller a bit now, and I more or less despise Miller. Tropic of Cancer is a highly literary book, even if Miller was deliberately trying to write an anti-novel, one which contained a fair amount of line-crossing earthy ludicrous male sexual stuff. But it also contains, for example, a lot of stuff about what it means to be a writer, as I remember, including references to the early modern Spanish playwright Lope de Vega.

    Whole 'nother kettle of fish, is what I am saying.

  20. I've not read Henry Miller (I know!) and so now I want to read Tropic of Cancer.

    But no author could be compared to E.L. James, who in my opinion, is anything but a writer…

  21. I was not referring to Miller as some second hand writer, not at all. In fact, reading The Tropics redefined the way I saw subjectivity in literature and I can even say that he may have influenced the way I see sexual relationships. Also, I have read Nin's diary and other works after the Tropics, so I am fully aware of both of them being incredibly passionate writers, above all…

  22. Bellezza, I'm glad you posted about this book, because I had heard so many great things about it from friends that I was actually going to read it. A copy fell into my hands for free and I figured with all the hype, why not give it a go, but after reading what you wrote and some of the comments I'm thinking that this book is not my cup of tea. Thanks! Its pretty crazy to me to think that my friends are loving this book and telling me its the best book they've read in ages – makes me wonder what books they are reading – LOL!

  23. It's been a surprise to me, Nadia, to see my fellow teachers rave about it. I thought they were above the quality (and morality) of this book. Buy, every day.I realize more and more how this world is not my home. No wonder it feels so strange to live in it sometimes.

  24. I don't have much interest in trying it. It takes a lot to make S&M a worthwhile read for me. Most of the time it's pure porn and nothing of substance. Oddly enough, the exception to this opinion was my reading of Anne Rice's East of Eden. It actually gave some purpose to the sex instead of just a free for all. This one sounds like pure sensationalism.

  25. I've only read Steinbeck's East of Eden and disn't know Rice wrote a novel by the same name. My husband has liked her vampire chronicles which I've not read, either. Vampires, sadism, masochism, pornography…topics which tend to blur into one another. However, I trust your opinion, Andi, and will look into the novel you mentioned here.

  26. which would make it like “The Emperors New Clothes”, some people love it because they think it's wonderful literature, whereas like the child in the tale you see it for what it is “bare butt naked”

  27. Apparently, I'm one of the few who has eyes that can see beneath the facade. I'm constantly referring to the Emporer's New Clothes at school, as they try to pass some new, ludicrous plan. “Can't they see,” I cry to my friends, “that the Emporer is bare butt naked?!” I love that you see, so very often, what I see.

  28. I haven't heard of this trilogy until just a few weeks ago I posted “Great Film Expectations”, a list of upcoming film adaptations of books. A commenter let me know that 50 Shades of Grey will be turned into a movie. I read the article … the producer said the film version would likely be 'toned down' to reach a wider audience. Well either way, toned down or not, book or film, don't think I'll be in their target market. ;)

  29. I wanted to see how bad it was, because I read that the writing was poor, so I read the first page on Amazon and was shocked by the substandard writing. I think the two themes are separate – there's the fact that the writing is awful, and there's the sexual theme itself. It's a pity that it's this book that's making people get excited about romance (though from what I've heard I'd agree that it's not regular romance, rather on the border between erotic romance and erotica), because it does make you wonder if people aren't bothered about good writing. I do think it's good that it's making people think about women and sexuality whereas all too often society tends to just veto porn for men, and leave women's sexuality out of it. I think it's quite funny that there are articles online that are worrying about how this book is going to effect women, as if we aren't mature enough to make our own decisions. Again though, it is a pity it had to be this book that caused this and not something that is of dubious literary quality.

  30. *shudders* Not sure how a book referenced as “Twilight for adults” could be considered the best book ever. Oy. I've heard a lot about it, and I flipped through it over the weekend at the store. I can see that it's very “readable” meaning that it's not clunky in writing, but it's definitely NOT my cuppa tea. I can acknowledge that it provides people an opportunity for “escape,” but I'd much rather dive into more George RR Martin or finally pick up Elizabeth Gaskell, for cryin' out loud, if I need to completely wrap myself up in another world. That is how I'd much prefer my time spent.

  31. I was just being ironic, Tom! :) Every century seems to have son enfant terrible, when it comes to sex andl iterature, so maybe this is what will define our times… Nowadays, it is not the minority reading Dickens and Dostoyevsky that decides what's trendy, it's the marketing industry and people easily attracted to what's in at the moment…

  32. I couldn't believe it when I heard this book being discussed at length on radio this morning – on our local AM sports channel! The fellows who do the early show are interested in much more than sports, and there's often talk of films and music. Today, it was this book.

    The term they agreed on for it was “mommy porn”. Apparently it's the read right now in the Houston suburbs. All of them knew guys whose wives or girlfriends had read it, and the consensus was that it was a “good” book in terms of the experimentation it engendered.

    But here's the funny part – two of the talk show hosts had dipped into the book itself, and they called the writing “terrible”. For some reason, that's one of the funniest things I've heard in some time: male sports talk show hosts criticizing a sexy book because of the quality of its writing. ;)

  33. About all I know about this book is it is popping up everywhere and I saw the Ellen video. That's about it… That's likely how it will stay…

  34. Your point about the writing being awful is so true, and just about as horrific as the content itself. For both reasons this book is a travesty.

  35. You would not believe how many copies of this book we sell EVERY SINGLE DAY! I have restocked our shelves several times daily, shaking my head in utter disbelief. I can't get over how many people are buying this book based purely on word of mouth. We have it on display in four areas of the store and I'd bet we sell at least three dozen copies a day. What a shame that a more deserving work of literature (such as The Homecoming of Samuel Lake) couldn't receive the same word of mouth sales as this trash. No, I won't add it to my TBR list. I'm not the least bit curious. And…I'm not sure if it's a rumor or truth, but I heard that the trilogy has been optioned for filming. Unbelievable.

  36. I think I will give this a miss but appreciate you writing about it and sharing because it has been widely marketed in the UK and I have to admit to being tempted to pick it up and see what the fuss is about. I will happily pass this by now – thank you 0:)

  37. Widely marketed in the UK and the US! As if this is literature worth spreading the news about. It just shows what will happen in the hopes of earning a buck. (Or, a pound?)

  38. I don't want to judge a book that I haven't read, and if people are reading and enjoying this book, great! But nothing I've heard of this book has made me want to read it. Like you said, all of it sounds like porn to me. Ugh.

  39. My reading time is much too short to consider reading a book like this. I feel sad that it has sold so many copies and that this is the best that some people want to read and buy. I guess it is good for publishing and will hopefully result in a good book being published by the publisher that made all the money on this one. I can hope…

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