Bestseller Turns Her Fifty Shades of Red
She suggested an alternative novel to her reading group.
A middle-aged woman stood at my elbow while I perused the shelves of current bestsellers at Barnes and Noble.
She flipped through the pages of "Fifty Shades Darker" by E. L. James. I stifled my urge to warn her with the words I'd say to my daughter when she was a toddler waving her hands over the burners on the stove.
"Hot, very hot. Be careful!" I wanted to shout. Instead, I sheepishly inquired if the woman had read the first book in the series: "Fifty Shades of Grey."
Before she could open her mouth to reply, I launched into my tirade of a book review.
I don't know why I feel like it's my place to offer my opinion of the books I've read to bookish looking bystanders in public settings. It's as though my alter ego is a roving book critic in search of an audience.
"Did you know this series is nothing more than pornography wrapped in a veneer of badly written romance?" I said.
"I can't for the life of me figure out why these books landed spots one, two, and three on the New York Times Bestsellers List," I continued.
Coolly, she replied, "The books are selling because traditionally women don't read pornography. With the popularity of this series, they can."
She listened to my criticism of the thin plot line, the shallow character development, and the juvenile language. Then she muttered something about looking elsewhere for another book as she walked away. But I knew she'd be back. These days mainstream bondage porn beats the pants off well written fiction.
On the recommendation of a co-worker in her twenties, whose older sister raved about "Fifty Shades of Grey," our newly organized lunchtime book group included it on our reading list. If it weren'’t for our group's uninformed decision, I wouldn't have mounted my soapbox in the middle of Barnes and Noble to air my views to a stranger.
When I started "Shades of Grey," I expected R rated erotica. I'm no prude. I've seen the movies "Sex, Lies, and Videotapes" and "9 ½ Weeks." This book warrants a XXX rating for its detailed play-by-play descriptions of anatomically explicit acts of congress. I’m not referring to legislation in the House and Senate. There were statues that had no limitation, contortions that violated the laws of gravity, and sadomasochistic scenarios that made me call for an amendment to the free speech part of the First Amendment.
"Shades of Grey" is a girl meets boy story with a sick twist. A brainy unworldly girl falls in love with a control freak rich boy. The boy falls in lust with her and her innocence. The girl submits to the binding of her unchained heart as well as her wrists, legs, and torso in the name of sensual love. Spoiler alert. Smart girl smartens up and gets out while her derriere is still in one piece.
After reading the book in advance of my co-workers I suggested we substitute an alternative novel for our reading list. The thought of sitting around the employee café eating our bag lunches while discussing a dark sexual subculture that uses floggers, canes, and ropes in their role-play turns my face "Fifty Shades of Red."
I should have listened to my daughter when she saw "Fifty Shades of Grey" on the kitchen counter. I wrenched it from her hands before she skimmed to the most disturbing scenes. The ones that burned pictures into my mind I’m trying to extinguish.
She blasted me, "How could you read that book? It's demeaning to women and sends a terrible message. Disgusting!" Sometimes, daughter knows best.