Last time we talked about books, we were wrapped up in historical novels, enjoying the intellectual stimulation you get from learning some history and enjoying a great story all at the same time. Well, today we have something a little bit different in regard to genre. We’re talking about what everyone seems to be talking about… the hot, new, erotica (or “adult” romance) series, Fifty Shades of Grey, by first time author E L James. If you haven’t heard of Fifty Shades of Grey yet, you surely will. This sleeper series has been quietly heating things up in bedrooms all around the country. In a matter of months, the books have developed something of a cult like following. Since its release, the books have shot up every bestseller list and just this past week, Universal Pictures acquired the movie rights for reportedly more than $5 million.
Author E L James is a TV executive, wife, and mother of two based in West London. She originally wrote these stories as Twilight fan fiction (stories written by fans inspired by the original work), and released the chapters one-by-one online. Fan fiction is rarely professionally published, but the viral success of this series caught the attention of the publishing industry and was quickly snapped up by Knopf/Vintage, a division of Random House. Primarily sold as an e-book, a paperback version with a 750,000 print release is expected out next month.
The wild fire success of these books is definitely a sign of the times, and is being attributed directly to social media and bloggers who have been sharing recommendations and excerpts with followers and readers. This success hasn’t gone unnoticed by the critics either, and has many of them scratching their heads wondering why so many women are falling for this book. The dominant and submissive roles depicted in the series have also created somewhat of an eruption of opinions from the likes of comparative literature experts and women’s studies professors, all trying to come up with a thesis for how and why successful, modern women are turning to this genre in droves. We’re not clouded by the complex narrative of gender politics the experts are trying so hard to present, we think it’s much simpler than all of that.
Fifty is a great romantic story about two opposites learning and trying to meet in the middle. It’s a traditional love story with an x-rated twist. The overall appeal for us comes from the sexual tension created by James between the two main characters, Anastasia Steele, a student who works at a local hardware store, and Christian Grey, a self-made billionaire who seduces innocent Anastasia into the world of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism). Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying this is essential reading or some kind of literary masterpiece, in fact there are many times where the text falls short on style and the overall continuity is amiss, but then again, we aren’t checking it out for its finessed prose, we’ll pick up some Shakespeare for that.
What we love about all the jibber jabber surrounding these books is that it seems to have removed some of the taboo traditionally associated with this genre, making it easier for us to admit that we have become hooked! After reading the Fifty series, all three books in three days, you may even say that some of us are a little addicted, but that’s okay. These books are entertaining and sexy and our fascination is nothing to be ashamed of. In full disclosure, we have devoured a number of other titles in the same genre.