COLETTE SHERIDAN is not impressed by the book taking the world by storm
APPARENTLY, women everywhere can’t get enough of Fifty Shades Of Grey, the fastest-selling book of the year which has made its author, EL James, an estimated 7million in book sales and film rights.
We’re all supposed to be in thrall to the erotic rollercoaster that the author has conjured up, featuring a distant but gorgeous-looking guy who’s into dominance, and a naive 21-year-old who is invited to be his submissive sexual partner in frolics that include everything from handcuffs to medieval torture instruments.
In the interests of research, I bought the book to read on a train journey last weekend. Pathetically, when I asked a shop assistant in Easons to point out the book to me, I found myself telling her about being a journalist and needing the book for work. She looked at me askance as if to say: “Who cares? Get over yourself.”
Then, on the train, I was careful not to expose the cover of the book. In fact, I wished I had covered it with brown paper. (I am so repressed!)
I tried to see what other women were reading but didn’t detect any more copies of the book with its innocuous illustration of a grey silk tie. Of course, in the book, the tie is used for reasons other than dressing up a man’s collar.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Not an awful lot really. Christian Grey has “unruly dark copper coloured hair and intense bright gray eyes”. He’s also an incredibly wealthy 27-year- old, employing 40,000 people. Ludicrous eh?
It’s not clear what line of business he’s in but some of his company’s activities involve air drops of goods into Darfur. Is Christian involved into some sort of philanthropic work? Is this supposed to soften his edges?
Some of the writing is dreadful. Christian has a voice that is “warm and husky, like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel”. His apartment, all mirrored glass, reflecting the city of Seattle, “is a mission statement”. That’s before Christian brings Anastasia Steele to the red room of pain which reminds her of the Spanish Inquisition. Not that they get down to their murky business at this early stage of the novel. It’s all about teasing and a slow build- up, a kind of literary foreplay.
There’s an awful lot of electricity between the pair. What is hilarious is the contract that Christian has drawn up for Anastasia to sign, if she’s willing. There’s all sorts of stipulations about the kind of acts that she will be expected to engage in. Anastasia will also be expected to keep fit, doing hour-long workouts four times a week.
Before reading the contract, which forbids disclosure about its contents to anyone else, Christian warns Anastasia that he is not “a hearts and flowers kind of man. I don’t do
romance. My tastes are very singular. You should steer clear of me”.
Indeed. Anastasia, at one point, in a club with Christian, is reminded of something her mother once told her. “Never trust a man who can dance.” Christian can dance; in fact, he can do everything, including flying his private helicopter which he lands on the helicopter pad on top of his apartment. He is a master of the universe.
In true schmaltzy female romantic fiction style, Anastasia falls in love with Christian. This is a big mistake. Why couldn’t the author write about a woman who is a match for Christian? A strong woman not given to
emotional incontinence but rather, keen on exploring her sexuality without dreaming of a wedding dress?
Fifty Shades Of Grey is actually quite old fashioned, apart from its raciness. Anastasia is smitten. It doesn’t look like Christian is available.
It’s always that same old story. Woman falls for unattainable enigmatic man. That’s where the true sadomasochism comes into play.
Such is the success of Fifty Shades Of Grey that a number of classics have been given a sexed-up makeover by a money-grabbing publisher. Because the copyright on original titles such as Jane Eyre has lapsed, publisher, Total-E-Bound, is free to adapt this book as well as others including Wuthering Heights.
In the ‘new’ Wuthering Heights, Catherine enjoys bondage sessions with Heathcliff while Sherlock Holmes has a sexual relationship with his sidekick, Dr Watson, in the updated edition.
This is utter calumny. The thing about the classics is that they play to the imagination rather than base instincts. Less is more. This is what makes these books work. And, they are of their time. Who wants to read soft porn
versions of great writers’ books like Austen and the Brontes?
When Anastasia is deciding whether or not she’ll sign Christian’s contract, her ‘inner goddess’ implores her to do so. A literature student, she comes to the conclusion that if she doesn’t sign up, she’ll end up alone with lots of cats and only her classic novels to keep her company.
Not such a bad prospect when compared to a kinky medieval torture chamber.