As those of you who read our rambling posts might remember, I belong to a neighborhood book club (because, yes, I don’t have enough reading in my work life). Ordinarily, the choices we make for said club are solid—sometimes challenging, sometimes brilliant, sometimes just okay, but solid.
I am struggling with our latest pick, however, and not in the usual, I-have-no-time-to-read-for-fun-when-I-have-3,000-manuscript-pages-staring-at-me-balefully-from-the-piles-on-my-floor way.
This month, we’re reading 50 Shades of Grey (as you deduced from the title above) and initially I was excited to find out what all the buzz was about. Certainly, this is one of the biggest publishing stories of the year and my colleagues and I like to keep up with what’s selling and why. I’ve also been hearing about this book at the supermarket, the library, the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office…so here, I thought, was the perfect opportunity to satisfy my curiosity and have something intelligent to say when someone asks me about this runaway bestseller.
Sadly, this story does not have a happy ending. Oh, I don’t mean the Grey series. I have no idea how that ends and I suspect I won’t find out first-hand. I mean the story of my reading the first book in the trilogy, which ended badly almost as soon as it began. I think this is a dumb book [she ducks under her desk]. No, I’m not offended by the mind-numbingly repetitive sex (there’s a lot of it). I am bemused by the success of a book whose female protagonist has the personality of a moody fruit fly, whose hero is a creepy stalker, and which features a relationship that’s supposed to embody passion and mystery but that seems to have sprung from the feverish imaginings of a hormonal 15-year-old. To me the book is a hot mess—emphasis on mess.
So, how has it become such a phenomenon? Is it the kinky sex? The innocent-virgin-seduced-by-the-tormented-cute-guy premise? The money porn elements (the hero is filthy rich)? Is this really a collective female fantasy or just really clever marketing?
I’m not a snob about commercial fiction (really!). I didn’t think Twilight was particularly well written or plotted but I enjoyed it and I got it. This, I don’t really get.
The last time I felt so out of sync about a book was when The Bridges of Madison County was tearing up the bestseller lists. I found myself giggling through most of that heartfelt narrative until it hit me that it wasn’t meant to be funny. So, can you guys explain this latest phenomenon to me? Why is it working? Are there shades of grey I’m missing here?
*Apologies in advance to all of those who love, love, love this book.