Friday, May 25, 2012

A Caterpillar Review | Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

Pornography and Fifty Shades of Grey have a lot in common. They both sell sexual chemistry that doesn't exist. Yes, I may read like a pessimist here. But I also read erotica now, so that balances things out.

First of all, I'd like to congratulate EL James for bringing women's erotically charged reads from the hidden nooks and crannies of their bookshelves. I do believe there's potential for plenty more but we're still lacking recommendations. Reshma and I can help you there -- Little Birds and Delta of Venus by Anais Nin. Secondly, a congratulatory pat on the back to men who can now revel in their porn addictions because women have made a spectacle of their newest guilty pleasure. It's great to be on an equal footing, isn't it? More or less anyway.

Woman: Err... that looks tedious!
Man: Err... that looks expensive!

It's a good read, Fifty Shades of Grey. Until you reach the end and want to tear your hair out because a story that could have been told in 10 pages has been stretched into a trilogy. Who does James think she is? JRR Tolkein? With characters that are stereotypical and less than 2-dimentional, I don't see how the story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Gray can get any meatier in Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades of Freed. Also, can I confess? I just wanted Ana's character to stop describing the various moods of her "inner goddess" and proceed to BDSM already.

If you haven't read it yet, I guess I should tell you what it's about -- this is a review, after all. Anastasia Steele is just about graduating with a degree in English lit. She meets Christian Grey when covering for her roommate on an interview for her university newspaper. He immediately puts her down as a potential submissive -- he's fancies himself a BDSM dominant -- and tries to get her to sign a contract with neatly laid out "terms and conditions". Anastasia can't believe that a man as rich, handsome and successful as Gray is actually interested in her so she decides to have a go at it even though she, good girl that she is, hasn't been punished, let alone caned in her entire life. Needless to say she ends up whining a lot. So there you have it -- Mills and Boon meets plenty of sex that hints at dark chocolate but delivers vanilla with a hint of weird.

I want to say it's a lovely story about a relationship between two people -- a Bella-esque character and a billionaire who wants to own her without making her feel like a prostitute. The psychology of these characters reads like a nightmare, and not in a good way, but I am also curious to see how Universal plans on filming the movie without turning it into a really high budget porn flick -- I'll bet the men won't appreciate the story-line or the over-intellectualisation of the sex scenes.

So after all of this you probably think I hate the novel. That's not true -- I love to hate it! I haven't loved to hate anything so much since The Twilight Series, to be honest. It's like celebrating Christmas, Diwali and Eid on the same day.

Should you read it? Sure. Should you buy it? Nope! This one's best borrowed.

Post Update, May 28: A friend on FB just shared this link with me. It's an article from The New Yorker's Page Turner section called -- Fifty Shades of Grey: The How-To Class. The article itself is a good read but it's the comment section that really got my attention. It mentions, nay fiercely states that EL James' bestseller is "a poor copy of Story of O". There's another recommendation for all you new and shiny erotica lovers.  

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  1. I'm so glad you love to hate it because ICK reallyyyyyy this book looks SO bad. Wasn't it basically fanfic written about those Twilight people? What drives someone long past their 13th birthday to write an entire set of novels about their BDSM-lite fantasies based on two people who cannot act?

    If I wanted something in the vein of what 50 Shades tries so hard to achieve, I'd go either for anything by Anais Nin or one of the Sleeping Beauty trilogy by Anne Rice. I bought the latter thinking it was along the same lines as Interview With the Vampire, and was suitably mortified when I realised what I was reading while on public transport. MORTIFIED.

    1. Yes, I hear it was written as fan fiction and then taken down and turned into a (gulp) trilogy. There's no reference to Twilight save for the plain girl who doesn't believe in herself and what unfurls through the book doesn't make her look any better. The twilight references end there.

      I am quite keen to try out the Sleeping Beauty trilogy. It sounds absolutely fantastic! Though I will put a cover around it when I take it on the train :D



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