Fifty Writers On Fifty Shades of Grey

Edited by Lori Perkins

Smart Pop Books, $14.95, 304 pages

Who is this author?

The “have you read it yet’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy by British author EL (Erika Leonard) James, a not-very-well-written but brilliantly conceived triple-play of erotic romance fiction involving a submissive young woman and her sophisticated dominant lover, has sold a gazillion copies worldwide and was just named the popular fiction book of the year at the United Kingdom’s National Book awards. James, who began her flirtation with bondage-and-dominance stories with fan fiction inspired by the “Twilight” series, was listed in Time magazine’s  “100 Most Influential People in the World” group  this year, as well as being named Publishers Weekly  2012 “Publishing Person of the Year.” You may have adored or abhorred or ignored her books, but “Fifty Writers,” edited by literary agent Lori Perkins, gives you a whole new reason to consider reading them.

What is this book about?

“Fifty Shades” is not great literature, but that does not mean it cannot be subjected to literary criticism and analysis of all sorts. It’s legitimate to explore why a book about finding erotic joy through submission has such appeal to women today, despite (or because of?) the hard-won, or still not-won, battles of feminism. Is this some kind of backlash, or does it mean women are simply enjoying openly the freedom to be – or fantasize about – whatever they choose?

Here, 50 commentators, some who write romance or erotica or romantic erotica, others who work in the adult entertainment industry and others who actually practice bondage, discipline, dominance, submission and sadomasochism, weigh in on all the ways the enthusiastic acceptance of this book has changed things. For example, Sylvia Day, who writes erotic romance, discusses new opportunities opened for authors and readers; romance novelist Heather Graham says the books are sexually empowering and author Andrew Shaffer draws parallels to that long-ago scandalous best-seller, “Peyton Place,’ which seems Nancy Drew-ish compared to “Fifty Shades.” A “training chateau master” writes about Christian’s domination skills, and a matrimonial lawyer assesses the contract he devises. Connecticut author M.J. Rose and many others chime in on various aspects of this cultural phenomenon.

Why you’ll like it:

For those of you who have read the books, here is much food for thought about what they say and the deeper meaning of the “Fifty Shades” success. For those of you who would not be caught dead reading them (and you can count me among them), here is a way to “get” what they are all about without actually having to slog through James’ turgid prose. Everybody wins!

What others are saying:

Publishers Weekly

“In this fascinating examination of E.L. James’s “Fifty Shades” trilogy, edited by literary agent Perkins, 50 writers—including erotica and erotic romance authors, a matrimonial lawyer, an English professor, and BDSM practitioners—analyze the novel’s game-changing effect on the publishing world. Divided into seven sections—writing, romance, erotic fiction, sex, BDSM, fan fiction, and pop culture, along with a hilarious parody of the story in an “intermission” and an appendix with a suggested reading list—the book thoughtfully dissects the various aspects of the bestseller. ….The subject certainly inspires passion in its contributors: several praise the book for giving women permission to be sexual beings, while others castigate James for promulgating abuse and stalker behavior, and others examine hero Christian Grey in the context of Byronic heroes. Love “Fifty Shades” or hate it, this engaging and eclectic read has a little bit of something for everyone,” says Publishers Weekly.

Kirkus Reviews says: “A collection of essays from a variety of perspectives on the best-selling erotic romance series. The “Fifty Shades” trilogy, just like the “Twilight” series that inspired it, has created demand for books with similar themes. This book, edited by veteran erotica editor Perkins, is clearly an attempt to capitalize on this new, robust market. Several of the contributors make this shift in the publishing industry a theme of their essays. … Perhaps the most novel perspectives come from Cecilia Tan’s, Mala Bhattacharjee’s and Anne Jamison’s essays on the “Twilight” fan-fiction origins of “Fifty Shades” and Tish Beaty’s account of discovering and editing the manuscript. …the more thoughtful essays will provide food for thought for readers eager to learn more about the series and the lifestyle it depicts. …Gimmicks aside, the essays are mostly informative and intelligent.”

“Edited by literary agent Perkins (The Insider’s Guide to Getting an Agent), this anthology provides insight into EL James’s best-selling trilogy. …Most of the writers are enthusiasts of the trilogy. However, some point out the sociological and psychological issues surrounding protagonists Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele’s relationship, while others criticize James’s depiction of BDSM. VERDICT For fans of the trilogy and readers who enjoy erotica and erotic romance novels, and for those interested in pop culture,” says Library Journal.

When is it available?

You can bond with it at the Downtown Hartford Public Library now.

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