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Fifty what what?

August 15, 2012

This summer, I have had a number of female acquaintances who either had read or were intrigued by the idea of reading a certain novel featuring a number and color in the title. Finally, as if through osmosis, my curiosity once again led me to wonder what the big deal is. So, today’s post, my first book review on this site actually, is brought to you by the number 50, the color Grey, and the letters


Now, don’t let me mislead you. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, is nothing less than an instant classic. If it were a record, it’d be platinum. Why aren’t there platinum books? I guess because the ones for Stephen King would be too heavy.

Alright, so you may say sales in the millions does not make anything a classic. The album Cracked Rear View by Hootie and the Blowfish sold something like 14 million copies, and you don’t see Hootie nor any of the Blowfish in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And on the subject of über-popular songs, let’s not forget that this young lady has nearly 38,000,000 views on YouTube:

Okay, okay, I get the message! Popular does not equal good, necessarily. Can Fifty Shades of Grey be an exception?

I’ll just say that if you think so, I wouldn’t waste your $3 on a Powerball ticket tomorrow.

Hear me, friends, Romans, bored suburban soccer moms:  I come to praise Ms. James, not to mock her. For I am but a poor and humble wordsmith, and if I could find such a formula to appeal to abovementioned bored suburban soccer moms, I would crank out such a trilogy faster than you can say “sellout.” I’d rake in the royalties, then once selling the movie rights, I’d happily retire from my day job and go write what I want to write.

However, I’ve got this creeping feeling that Ms. James actually wanted to write these very books, which makes me worry for her mental health, if not her pocketbook.

Enough of my prelude. Let’s get down (there) to the joy of reading this estimable tome!

So, this heartwarming tale is told by the first-person narrator, a 22-year-old young woman by the name of Anastasia Steele, which screams “stage name of a porn star trying a little too hard to sound classy” to me. Young, innocent, and naïve, Ana, as she goes by, begins the story by bailing out her roommate and best friend (aww, we love her already). Said friend, editor of their college newspaper, has fallen ill and cannot go to interview billionaire CEO Christian Grey, 27. So Ana goes in her stead. The billionaire bachelor is instantly taken by the demure, bumbling Ms. Steele, who literally trips over herself going into his office and is mortified when she reads the pre-written question: “Are you gay?”

Well, Mr. Grey is not gay. He likes his sex: kinky, sadistic, perhaps even depraved, but definitely with women. But, being the savvy businessman that he is, he requires his female companions to sign a contract.
ImageYep, it’s the classic “deal with the devil.” Not the only literary stereotype Ms. James employs, trust me. But this devil is just so hot, and not in the fire-and-brimstone way. He is an “Adonis” and Ana takes every opportunity to tell you so, describing in detail the deliciousness she perceives in every part of his body. Yes, including that part. Wow, I haven’t heard a young female narrator go on and on about a guy who is just so perfect and so out of her league and yet so inexplicably head over heels for her since…


Come to find out, Fifty Shades of Grey started out as a piece of Twilight fanfiction! You’re kidding me, right? I mean, who would have ever drawn any parallels between the two? Ms. James clearly anticipated this problem, and just like Stephenie Myers’s saga, set her story in the state of Washington. Just in case you didn’t get it when that first brick smashed into your forehead.

Christian Grey (I’m not even going to delve into the symbolism of his name, because if you can’t grasp that for yourself, you’d be better off reading some LOL Catz or something) is not a vampire, but he does enjoy biting… and whipping, and tying up, etc. Generally speaking, dude’s got some serious control issues. But he is so smitten with young, virginal Ana that he deigns to have “vanilla sex” with her, feeling self-assured that by convincing her that is only the tip (heh, heh) of the iceberg, she will surely want to sign the contract and “give herself to him.” Still, he warns her repeatedly at first to get away from him, until he is enraptured by her so. Predictably, she signs and hops on board to explore his “red room of pain” and all his “kinky f***ery.” This from a woman who had never even had a real kiss before meeting him.

Now, again, I must give Ms. James credit. Sure, the narrator/main character is 22, just graduated college, attractive enough to have two other guys who are attractive enough in their own right to be chasing after her, and she’s never so much as kissed or held hands, and seems to be completely out of touch (pun intended) with her own body. Somehow, she just couldn’t imagine how good it feels! I’m 22, why are all my friends wasting their time having sex all the time?

And sure, for someone who just earned a degree in English literature, Ana seems to have a limited vocabulary. She constantly “murmurs” and can only refer to her erogenous zone as “down there” and, most of all, becomes beholden to her “inner goddess” with this aforesaid “Adonis” and his constant “shadow of a smile.”

But again, as I was saying, I have to give Ms. James credit. I now know why so many women love this book. See, there’s a scene oh, about one-third of the way into the book, after young Ana has performed fellatio upon young Christian for the first time and he enjoyed it, shall we say, thoroughly, and in such a state of satiation states:

“I owe you an orgasm.”

DING DING DING! Just what every woman wants to hear, especially from a well-endowed 27-year-old billionaire who looks like he’s cut from marble and piloted you in his helicopter on your first date. Ah, who cares if he’s a sadist and has more issues that TIME magazine?

So, long story short. Basically, the worse Mr. Grey treats her in the bedroom, the more orgasms Ana has. Which makes you wonder about her own mental state, although I speculate that most attractive 22-year-old women with an average amount of experience/partners would not get off on being abused so much, if they had any modicum of self-respect.

Now, I must confess. Around this point, I stopped reading the book. Because one of three things could happen:
1) If she said “inner goddess” one more time, I was going to throw my nook against the wall. And I really like my nook.
2) I couldn’t see the screen, as my eyes were veiled with tears, either from laughing so hard, or from feeling the sheer pain of the prose itself crying, unheeded, for some much-needed editing.
3) I would have liked to continue reading, but it was time for my root canal, and that was a bit more appealing.

So in the end, popular and profitable as it may be, bad writing is as bad writing does,


I am a guest writer on my best friend Rebecca’s blog, Lady or Not…Here I Come and for today, she challenged both of us to post a review of the same book. If you think mine is funny, you should check out hers! Click Here

47 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2012 1:53 am

    Aww ((Hugs)) This WAS a fun project to work on together. Thanks for linking and sharing me with your followers!

  2. August 15, 2012 9:33 am

    Good write sir, good write! :)

  3. August 15, 2012 12:55 pm

    A good review. Honestly, I don’t think anyone who reviewed the book made it all the way through, including professionals. I die a little inside whenever I hear about someone liking this book.

    • August 17, 2012 9:03 pm

      You must not be listening too hard, or you’d be six feet under by now. Thanks for the comment, Jeremy. Time for me to finally visit you!

  4. August 15, 2012 5:36 pm

    Very funny. ;) It’s so refreshing to see how many people here hate the book, since everyone else seems so obsessed.

  5. August 29, 2012 5:26 pm

    Hilarious! I laughed out loud at the “brought to you by the letters W T F” Hahaha. I found your blog through Rebecca. Awesome stuff. If you want to subject yourself to further pain, I have been recapping the books on my blog. Book one is a bunch of snarky essays, but in book two I actually interview fictional characters. Yeah. I blame E.L. James. Anyway, bravo.

    • September 19, 2012 9:32 pm

      You know, I still need to go back and read those recaps. Thanks again :)

  6. September 1, 2012 5:43 am

    It does sound exactly like a porn star trying to be classy! Also, if she hypenated (which lets face it she won’t since she A. probably doesn’t even know what feminism is, and B. probably can’t wait to take his last name) it would be Steele Gray. Yep, E.L. James just threw yet another brick at your face…

    • September 2, 2012 12:46 am

      Indeed, I don’t think the imprint will ever leave my forehead now.
      Thank you ever so much for visiting, and even more so for commenting.

  7. September 18, 2012 4:39 pm

    Even Morgan Freeman is caught up in the hype…

  8. September 19, 2012 6:13 am

    Reading this in the office and laughing out loud. I applaud you for continuing reading to whatever chapter you’ve reached, because I stopped reading way before that! Could not bring myself to read one more word. It was painful!

    • September 19, 2012 7:57 pm

      It’s good to know that there are intelligent women not smitten by this novel. I only made it as far as I did because I was on a mission to write this review. I’m still the only man I’ve seen write about, at least excluding any who were paid for it. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I hope there were not too many strange looks from your office mates ;)

  9. September 26, 2012 12:33 pm

    I simply cannot pick up the book – why on earth would I – and now, thanks to both you and Rebecca, I know all I need to about it, and more. How have we gotten to such a point that this stands in for good reading???? Glad to leave the pain on the pages. And appreciate your take on it. THIS was a really good read, well constructed, good references and oh-so-gentle. Many thanks. I’ll be back!!!

    • September 27, 2012 9:49 pm

      Thank you. I tried to hang in there. Not tooting my own horn, but I haven’t seen any other (unpaid) men attempting to review this volume! I look forward to you coming back, and will be sure to return the visit :)

  10. September 26, 2012 7:20 pm

    Very Funny. Great review Jason.

  11. Miss Molly permalink
    September 28, 2012 12:49 am

    i just couldn’t see what people were liking about this book (series) but then again how can I comment on something that I haven’t read (or even picked up). No desire to spend (waste) any time on this book… yuck… kind of like twilight… although I did read that series and kicked myself with every page. It was like a train-wreck and car crash rolled into one… I just couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

    • September 28, 2012 8:39 pm

      With Twilight, I listened to the audiobooks of the first two, and couldn’t get farther. I tried, because my ex-wife and stepdaughters were so into it. Still, Stephenie Meyer is one hundred times a better writer than E.L. James, and that’s saying something. Thank you very much for your comment :)

  12. October 10, 2012 10:06 am

    Thanks for your and Becca’s reviews – such self-sacrifice is surely above and beyond the call of duty; I haven’t read the books and would go to quite extreme lengths to avoid having to. I did, however, make a start on Twilight when someone lent me a copy. I think I got to page 16 before deciding that I wasn’t going to waste precious minutes of my life reading about such a whiny, spoilt, selfish brat as whatever-her-name-is, since I was pretty sure that the storyline did not involve her getting run over repeatedly by a truck. Wasted literary opportunity, if you ask me. Thanks again, guys!

  13. October 23, 2012 4:08 am

    Hilarious! I laughed the whole time! I didn’t read the book but this review gives me confidence I made the right choice.

  14. October 23, 2012 4:59 am

    good write and thanks to every for hard work

  15. louiseordersewell permalink
    October 29, 2012 2:59 pm

    “the sheer pain of the prose crying itself crying…” hahahahahahahahahaha LOVED this !!

  16. October 29, 2012 11:39 pm

    Thank you so much! I am glad you enjoyed it. Yes, months later I can still hear those words crying out from the page ;)

  17. November 18, 2012 12:07 am

    I love your review! I don’t even know what to say anymore, because you covered everything pretty neatly. IMO it is such a shame that James is making money out of these books. Oh, and let’s look forward to the high-budget pork aka movie about Fifty! The horror.

  18. December 9, 2012 8:31 am

    Jason, Rebecca was right very funny review. Thanks for sharing.

  19. December 13, 2012 2:00 pm

    hahahaha…too funny

  20. January 11, 2013 3:34 pm

    Hilarious. It is so much more fun writing about this story than reading it. Here’s my take.

    • January 16, 2013 3:18 pm

      I probably spent almost as much time writing this “review” of it as I actually spent reading the book ;) Thank you! I am checking out your take.

  21. April 19, 2013 3:02 pm

    I did a negative review of the book but guess what? misspelled gray to help it to stay out of trouble. Much prefer the “W T F” and the Fifty what what? to my title! Anyhoo… I was going to say your funny take made me laugh and glad we can agree, the book is trash! (Too bad, trash sells!)

    • February 6, 2014 9:38 am

      Hey stranger! I realized I never replied to your comment here. Glad we have equally good taste in disliking this book! I’ll come visit your blog today :)

  22. Carol Lynne permalink
    February 6, 2014 5:11 am

    I just stumbled upon this. Oh my!!! I just about died laughing. I never understood why people would read such awful writing.

    • February 6, 2014 9:37 am

      Funny, I was going to link this post in the one I’m writing today. Now you know I have a sense of humor– and a bit of courage, or was it masochism? I’m really glad you read and enjoyed it :)

  23. March 25, 2014 6:28 pm

    This may be the best piece of writing I’ve yet read from you Jason. I certainly enjoyed it most. Really nice job. You should consider a career as a critic. I’m serious. ;)

    • April 12, 2014 9:16 am

      Thank you dear brother! I thought I had replied to this comment– I suppose not. I don’t know if I could be a professional critic, but I do know that if I’m ever going to read a book like that again, someone will have to pay me for it. ;)


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