Saturday, 02 February 2013
While visiting my mom's condo, I came across the New York Times bestseller 50 Shades of Grey propped up on a ledge in the entry hall. The residents there have a tendency to leave unwanted items out in the open for the taking, so I stuffed the paperback into my purse. Delighted by the find, I showed my mom the book. She scoffed, "That's just famous porn." She used to read erotic literature, but cleared out her XXX novels in favor of God. I myself am not opposed to literary arousal and was excited to finally read the book my co-worker hailed as "life-altering."
Eager to be shocked - and reminded that I have a libido - I took the book home and scanned it impatiently, slowing down to read the juicy parts. They weren't hard to find, considering the shortage of plot development between fucking scenes. Not that I dove into the book for stellar literary technique, but I was at least hoping for a little inspiration to sleep with my husband later. Instead I found an impossibly handsome billionaire deflowering an inexperienced college grad, whose inner dialogue is composed of, "Oh shit!" and "Oh my god, he's so hot!"
Even the heroine's name is contrived. The only Anastasia I've heard of is the Romanov girl who disappeared in Russia. The name doesn't suit a 21-year-old woman in 2011 who executes a perfect blow job the first time she tries. Yes, she deep throats and swallows upon her first attempt. She is apparently an oral prodigy. I have yet to decide if this is unrealistic, or if I am simply a novice with a restrictive gag reflex. Either way, she doesn't feel real to me, and neither does her suitor, Christian. He's too handsome, too rich, and too romantic for a man who draws up a contract defining their dominant-submissive relationship. Did I mention he escorts Anastasia between cities in a helicopter that he pilots himself?
I see where the author is coming from: every woman's fantasy is to be loved exclusively by the bad guy who's not actually bad. But this character is an unrealistic compilation of horny control-freak and thoughtful suitor. Nothing in Anastasia's and Christian's dialogue is compelling enough to warrant him falling in love with her and lavishing her with thoughtful gifts, like a first-edition set of Tess of the d'Ubervilles. Their conversations consist of, "Oh baby, stop biting your lip, it makes me so horny," and "Christian, why can't I touch you?"
In addition to being a gorgeous entrepreneur, Christian dresses impeccably, he always smells fresh, and he favors Anastasia over her hot best friend. It's as authentic as Dr. Derek Shepherd on Grey's Anatomy pining over Meredith Grey and not noticing the gorgeous intern played by Katherine Heigl. Female writers like to pretend there's a universe where men don't look at the obvious babe, and mediocre women are pursued by men who could do better in real life. The exception being Pierce Brosnan, of course.
Regardless of the book reading like amateur clit lit, it has an erotic premise. I just wish that the sexuality were more relatable and that the scenes were more nuanced. I never felt like Christian would hurt Anastasia, and that lack of explicit danger made the erotic component less interesting. I'd be less critical of the unrealistically spectacular sex scenes if there were plot or character substance to ground them, but both characters are just cardboard concoctions playing out a middle-aged writer's wet dream.
I think I'll return 50 Shades of Grey to the entry hall of my mom's condo, and spare myself the sequels.
Did you find 50 Shades of Grey to be a worthwhile read, or were there parts of the book that bothered you?