TITLE: FIFTY WRITERS ON FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
Editor: Lori Perkins
Details: Non Fiction
Received from Smart Pop Books
Divided into six sections this book analyses the Fifty Shades of Grey books and phenomena from every conceivable angle. The literary merits and quality of the writing are discussed; the book is compared to and given its place in a long history of romantic and erotic literature; publishers comment on the randomness of the success this book achieved. Lawyers evaluate the content and the value of the contract Christian Grey wants Ana to sign and people who live the lifestyle comment on the way their BDSM relationship is described and Christian’s mastery. Feminists tell us why these books are bad for the cause while other women tell us how and why these books empower us. I know I’m forgetting angles here, but I’m fairly sure that this book didn’t leave a single one out.
To be honest, I was more interested in the factual analysis of the book than I was in the literary one. As far as the pro’s and cons of the story, the way it is told, originality and literary merit are concerned, the authors in this book didn’t say a lot, if anything, that I haven’t said, thought or written myself (although it is of course always gratifying to see “professionals” agreeing with what you thought was an “amateur’s” point of view).
I was far more fascinated with the things I learned about contracts, the thoughts and opinions of those involved in the BDSM life-style and discovering how fanfiction actually works.
Did I find a lot of new opinions in this book? Well no, I didn’t. I found all the pro and con arguments I have read many times before again in these pages. But, it was nice to have them all together if only because it felt like taking part in a balanced debate. Because every single contributor gets to have their say without anybody trying to shout them down it is easier to try and see all sides of the argument.
I find myself wondering if all this attention on what is, at its core, nothing more than a love story (tale) as old as time, isn’t out of all proportion. And I can’t help feeling that someone looking back on this year of "Fifty Shades of Grey" isn’t going to smile, if not laugh, at how exercised we became at this phenomena. On the other hand, I’m delighted that at last people feel safe reading, thinking and talking about sex. For a very long time now I have been amazed that while most adults, educators and parents are perfectly happy about their kids watching all sorts of horrific violence, they tend to panic as soon as a long kiss or, worse even, a naked body appears on a screen. How did we end up living in a society where brutal violence is acceptable but love scenes aren’t? I’ll stop this argument here since this is supposed to be a review of a book with views on FSoG, and just as I didn’t find many new or original opinions in this book I doubt that mine will shine any new light on the subject.
Reading all of this book in more or less one sitting is probably not a great idea. I did so because I got my copy for review and wanted to get my thoughts on “paper” as close to the publishing date as possible. In an ideal world though I’d be dipping in and out of this book; reading submissions from various sections as the mood strikes me before putting the book down again and getting back to it hours, days or even weeks later. I will probably end up doing that in the future anyway, especially the section at the end of the book where a long list of titles mentioned can be found.
As in the general media and in private conversations between friends, this book too has a lot of, at times very diverse, opinions on Fifty Shades of Grey, the story and the merits and or downfalls of it. This book does not give the reader the ultimate answer as to how to feel about Christian and Ana’s story. And let’s be grateful for that. I firmly believe that books while written by the author are told by the writer and reader in equal measure. Every reader brings their own background, believes, morals and emotions to a story. And as a result, every reader will take something different from that story. This is a good thing, a thing that should be applauded and embraced. I think it is safe to say that this book and I agree on at least one point: There is no right or wrong opinion about Fifty Shades of Grey, only every individual’s personal one.
My favourite quote (and I’ve got about ten pages of them) comes from Dr. Logan Levkoff and goes like this:
“Do you know what is really demeaning to women? Telling us who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to turn on to.”
And for me that can be the final word on this subject.
In May, after reading all three books in the Fifty Shades trilogy, I posted my own thoughts on them in a post called Fifty Shades Completed. If you're interested in those thoughts or in the links to my reviews of the individual titles you can click the link.