Fifty Shades of Grey

I'm in Bluewater shopping centre, listening to two middle-aged women nearby.
"Have you read that book?"
"Yeah, I've started it. It's alright, isn't it. I don't read books.
"No I don't either
"I saw it in Sainsbury's, it was only £3.99 so I thought 'whatever'..."

We all know which book. I too am reading Fifty Shades of Grey. On my new kindle. On public transport.
So is the woman I saw out of the window on her sun lounger. So are millions of others. Are they getting turned on by it? I don't really understand. It's not at all risque, or erotic. Surely you can find harder stuff with a few strokes (of the keyboard). Perhaps its the accessibility of 'entry level' BDSM that makes it work worldwide.

It is painfully put together. Full of horrid 'holy craps' and other verbal tics, a sorry cast cardboard characters and a join-the-dots plot. It is not erotic, at all. Anais Nin and even Judy Blume do a better job.
In short, it is rubbish. I don't really understand its implausible, flyaway success. At last count is has sold 31 million copies world-wide. More than Harry Potter (which, personally, is not much of a read either). That is why I am reading it. I am interested to work out its phenomenal reach. Fifty Shades is a cultural event, like it or not. And humans are nosy and lusty and curious and herd-like and hungry.

Fifty Shades (Godawful title) is also doing far more than any patronising 'get people reading' campaign - which generally only appeal to those who already read. People are devouring it everywhere. Great big tomes. They are becoming absorbed in words. This is good news.
And maybe they are enhancing their love lives too, for want of a better term. Nobody is being ripped off. The publishing industry is being revitalised.
Good work for a middle-age TV executive who described it as "my midlife crisis, writ large". She sat down and churned it out, regardless of its literary merit. And its success proves rather wonderfully that world is full of surprises and possibilities.

Or, as Louis MacNeice writes in his poem 'Snow' -

"World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural."


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