Tuesday, June 19, 2012

50 Shades of Grey

I haven't really talked about 50 SHADES OF GREYicon on the blog yet. Ever since it was featured on the Today show, people have come in droves to the bookstore asking for this book. It has certainly been in my awareness.

Lauded and blasted, it, along with the two subsequent books in the trilogy, 50 SHADES DARKERicon and 50 SHADES FREEDicon, feature a main character who gets involved with a very charismatic and attractive man. The relationship starts out as a dominating, S & M, and very sexual relationship, and evolves into one where Ana stands up for herself and has a Hallmark ending.


Evidently, that is. I haven't read it. (Okay, I read one racy part - and it was pretty racy as well as some poorly written dialogue.) One of our booksellers started it, but couldn't finish; she said she couldn't get through the poor writing. She couldn't even make it to the sex scenes. One of our managers at the store read the set ("Way to take one for the team," said another bookseller when she manager told us she'd read the entire trilogy).

What's been my favorite part of this whole 50 Shades frenzy is having people come to the bookstore asking for it. Not everyone knows what the books are about.

Here is a recent customer interaction...

A young woman, long blond hair in a braid, green zip sweatshirt and jeans, maybe in her 20's, and a woman, who might have been her mother, with wavy blond hair, an off-white sweater with a matching lacy blouse, pearls, and nice make-up came up to the register. They were buying a wedding magazine and a wedding planner.

"Did you find everything you were looking for?," I asked.

"Yes we did...oh wait!", the older woman said. There is one other book I wanted to see...50 SHADES OF GREYicon. Do you know about it?"

"Oh yes," I paused.

"And...you're out of it?" She looked disappointed.

"Oh no," I said. "We have hundreds of copies. Would you like me to get someone to get one for you?"

"Well, I'd like to know what it's about. Do you know anything about it?", she asked.

"I do. It's pretty sexually explicit." I paused. "It has some S&M in it."

"What?? It is??? It does???" She stammered. "The woman who told me about this, a friend of mi...well, she's really an acquaintance...she didn't tell me that."

The younger woman looked at her and said, "Do you know what S&M is?"

"Yes. I know what that is," she said, eyes wide, looking shocked.

"What did your friend tell you about the book?", I asked.

"She said that it was great and that every woman should read it and I should go get it right away and she wasn't going to tell me any more about it," she said.

"Well, lots of people are buying it, that's for sure," I said. "But it has got the S&M aspect to it and some people are calling it mommy porn. The main character gets into a relationship where she is dominated. I understand that by the end of the third book she does come out of it and is able to stand up for herself..."

"Porn? That's not what I thought the book was at all," she said.

"What did you think it was from what your friend said?", I asked.

"I thought it was some sort of helpful book, that it would give you ideas for how to improve yourself or something, tell you how to do things or something."

"It might tell you how to do certain things," I said. "Did you want to take a look at it?"

"Oh no!", she said, emphatically. "I can't believe she told me to get that book," she said. "I guess I don't know her very well. And obviously she doesn't know me very well."

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  1. Between this and Twilight, I'm honestly concerned about women today. What is it with this fantasy of men who treat us like subservient garbage, talking down to us, stalking us, and treating us like we are children? It irritates the crap out of me.
    I picked it up because I wanted to see what the hullabaloo was. I just don't get it. The writing is wretched. I mean really, really wretched. In the credits she thanks her husband for editing the first draft. Would it have killed her to get someone who knows what they hell they are doing to edit the second draft? Grammatical errors abound, along with misspellings (I actually saw a you're/your error-- give me a freaking break). Everyone mutters and murmurs and smirks, and I honestly think she has no clue what those words even mean. If someone smirked at me that much, I'd slap them, and if someone gasped that often, I'd probably take them to the ER.



  2. And yet, there are many books that have real intrinsic value that sell very little. Media can shape consumer's desires and consumption just like they do with bad politicians who still get voted in.

  3. Amelia and Guillermo...
    You both bring up good points...50 Shades and Twilight are not good depictions of women in relationships. And there are so many other good books, important books (like yours, Guillermo!), that should be getting more visibility and attention. Sad and frustrating.
    I guess I see that part of my job, as a bookseller and a blauther (blog + author) is to highlight books that might not get as much attention as something like 50 Shades.

  4. A few months back Newsweek did a very interesting article about why women flock to this type of book. That is the S&M aspect of the book. You can read it here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/04/15/working-women-s-fantasies.html
    My problem with the book is NOT the S&M, it is the fact that there is passed off as this really dirty book, but in fact is extremely tame compared to better written, interesting books such as The Story of O, The Sexual Life of Catherine M. ect. It is the bad grammar, and the lack of use of Google maps that just make the book not only juvenile but a sad prognosis of the American (and British) reader.