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Fifty Shades of Fluff

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As I riffled through the aisles in a popular bookstore, stacks of paperbacks in black-grey cover drew my attention. I chuckled, for I had just finished reading the trilogy, the much devoured Fifty Shades series by debutante British writer E. L. James. These self-published and largely erotic books by a first time author have made their mark in the fiction world like none other. If reports are to be relied upon, Fifty Shades surpasses J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Saga as the fastest selling paper back series. Fifty Shades of Grey, the first in the trilogy has gone on to become the bestselling Kindle book of all time on Amazon.co.uk. The books namely, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed have become so immensely popular that they are amusingly tagged as self-help books on rekindling mid aged women’s interest in intimacy. The first of the books was published in 2011 by a rather nondescript Australian publisher, The Writers' Coffee Shop, as an e-book, but word-of-mouth sent a plethora in the sales and the e-book hit the bestsellers list particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom in early 2012. As American publishers battled over the rights to release the books, Vintage Books secured the same in March 2012 to publish the e-book and the paperback editions. The books have earned the top spots on USA TODAY and The New York Times best sellers list for several consecutive weeks. Amazon's audible.com, offers the unabridged series on its Audible Best Sellers list. This clearly is an incredible bit of recognition.

Well, so much for the electrifying adoration the books, developed originally from a Twilight fan fiction, continue to receive. The raunchy, ribald pornography that James handles in the audacious, spunky bedroom scenes with unblinking openness  have something to do with the way the book continues to spawn a burgeoning fan base comprising largely of women, right from high schools to the middle ages. However, the books continue to receive conflicting reviews, from being  gripping and compelling, to having set the readers' libidos humming, and then to being a nasty piece of writing, risqué, porn trash, and of course  have gone to the extent of earning a derogatory nickname 'Mommy Porn'. Despite the poor reviews, the blockbuster sales suggest there is something deeper in the books that has taken the publishing world by the storm, and has extended a sky rocketing success to its author.

The hype and hoopla intrigued me enough to see for myself what all the fuss was about.  Honestly, however, it wasn't the erotica, but the hysterical popularity that lured me to jump on the bandwagon.  After visiting some popular bookstores in the city and discovering that almost all of them had their copies sold out, I decided to buy the e-version of the books on Amazon. Surprisingly enough, as I went about reading on the iPad, I realized it was difficult to get my hands off the 'chick lit' even in the briefest time that I had for myself, and that included the time spent in waiting to pick up my children from their activity classes and so on. Right away, I downloaded them on my cell phone, which allowed me greater flexibility in carrying the books all around and reading them whenever time permitted. Moreover, I had successfully managed to keep out the embarrassment that arises from reading porn literature so brazenly. Albeit, I confess the books kept me up as late as 2.30 past mid night and garnered my reluctance to sack in even after that. Even as I enjoyed the love story, the steamy, over the top sex exhibits, had me silently thanking my good sense that prompted me go for the e-books. With a sixteen year old book worm at home, I dared not have the print edition lying sprawled shamelessly on the couch. The love story that generates an ardor laced with abashment, describes the deepening relationship between Anastasia Steele, an intelligent, young, beautiful but moneyless college graduate and Christian Grey, a strikingly handsome, philanthropic Seattle billionaire with a tormented childhood. As James admits in an interview, the story is about romance between a young couple; and as all other young couples, these two have their fair share of sex. Now, the heart of the matter lies not in the plain 'vanilla sex' that  couples normally engage in, but the 'kinky fuckery' that some women confess has induced them to feel wet 'down south'. At the same time, those who abstain from talking openly about their personal bedroom practices have admitted that somewhere in the course of their reading they have found themselves snuggle close to their husbands, and the lustful, carnal depictions have secretly massaged their G spot. That’s more like a sex toy in print! Yet, there are scores like me, who at some point in the first book weren't sure if they’d go on to read the other two in the series. Gradually though, the unique love story with a lot of spins and jerks nearly obsesses you and swamps you into a deep, dark world of dominance-submission and sadomasochism. Synchronously lies Ana's unbridled, first hand account of  her sexual encounters with  the irresistible Christian and their tantalizing amusement with hand cuffs, blindfolds and riding crop in the 'red room of pain'. The BDSM and SM details are repulsive, but Ana's mind blowing orgasms allow the readers a trip into the searing fantasy sex cauldron.

 
Women, however, may find it easy to relate to Ana who comes across as a normal, smart, beautiful and intelligent girl next door, who initially fumbles and stutters in the presence of the celebrated entrepreneur, Christian Grey. Christian, with all that wealth, has his philanthropy and his undying love for Anna peeking through the greyness that surrounds him. In this Harvard dropout, twenty seven year old Adonis and an utterly successful entrepreneur, we may catch a fleeting glimpse of Mark Zuckerberg, philanthropist Bill Gates and the piping hot Tom Cruise. Funnily, by the time one gets to the end of the book, probably the high school readers start comparing their SAT scores with Ana's. The novel ends perfectly with Christian and Ana playing joyfully with their boy child, as they're on the way to bringing into the world their baby girl. Ana gazes up at the promising view as the sun sinks behind the Olympic Peninsula. 'It's everything that Christian promised it would be...". "It's home" and Christian is ‘fifty shades free’. A utopian ending seals a splendid fairy tale. Beauty and the Beast is somewhat revisited.

 

Humorously enough, each time Christian beds Ana, whether in the shower, on the piano top, in the elevator, at the boathouse and various other places, women may find themselves squirming with feverish delight and experiencing 'pawned' orgasms. Those who remain insensitive to the aphrodisia, and express disgust for such sleazy representation, may decidedly be called a bunch of 'elitist snobs'!  Yet, all would univocally agree that there are certain sketches that are far too difficult to stomach, and that is exactly the reason why one needs to read the novel behind closed doors. Readers complain that the book contains poor writing with sloppy and repetitive phrases, a repetition of lowdown obscenity, and frustratingly annoying dialogues. Louboutin is misspelt ‘Laboutin', a case of poor editing. Ana's 'inner goddess' constantly propping up, and her ceaseless use of expletives not only leaves the readers exasperated, but  also do not complement the persona of the English Literature graduate who enjoys reading 'Tess of the d'Ubbervilles'. In the background of an urban American setting, the writer’s inept handling of Americanism in her writing has raised a quite a few eyebrows. Despite the flaws, Fifty Shades has clearly gone viral and erotica has come to be resurrected to mainstream fiction.

In case you haven't read the novel, go ahead, buy it, borrow it or even lift. Let yourself loose and treat yourself to one of the most erotic fairy tales of your time, a book that is hard to put down. With all its fluffiness, the novel clearly veers far from fine literature and serves just well to pass the time. Nevertheless, there are some hugely popular books that are loaded with sex, often unromantic sex, and if one can tolerate those, one can certainly accept this as a light read. I'm sure the writer herself did not look beyond. You may just enjoy the story if you look past the preposterous sex scenes. Simultaneously, you will fall in love with Ana and Christian and will certainly want to know more about Christian's obscure history, Ana's vain struggle in disenchanting herself from the man who by his own admission is dark, and their passionate relationship that finally frees him from his demoniac past. And, should your man ever snicker at you, just confront him with a bold, 'why do YOU watch porn'? Again, women readers will be quick to point out that while the book is replete with sex, what interests them primarily is the enduring love between Ana and Christian.

Universal Pictures and Focus Features have won the screen rights to James’ purple fiction. The angelic beauty Shailene Woodley, and the very charming Emma Watson are touted to be the top contenders for Ana’s role. However, if some of the unimaginable, bizarre and perhaps, never before performances of intimacy are to be screened, it is a wonder if the actors will ever agree to give those 'hot-shots'. Even with body doubles, the scenes will be hard to ingest. Despite all that perplexity, movie goers await with ecstatic fervor, the most 'wild, wicked and wanton' book-to-film release.

Perhaps the most fitting conclusion to this review would be in the words of Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY, "So before you dismiss Fifty Shades as silly or demeaning having never read a word, here's Christian Grey's advice: "We are consenting adults and what we do behind closed doors is between ourselves. You need to free your mind and listen to your body.
 
 

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Fifty Shades

I have read all the three books of the trilogy, much to the disgust of my sons who

called it "Mommy Porn", and would have no qualms about saying that I loved it. I

loved reading the books and have them displayed in my book shelf. I have no idea why

people don't approve of it.

Kudos to Ms. Ruby Sahay for her excellent review.

good review

Though I don't find anything of interest in erotic thrillers, the review suggests that I should at least peruse it if only to reiterate my opinion.

Addictive

I see that the fascination with "fifty shades" continues....enjoyed reading this piece as much as i enjoyed the triology ;)

RS

Wonderful review !

Ruby,

Excellent review. Very balanced and informative. Love your style.

Regards,
AB