Yes, it has been out for, like, ever, but that’s the great thing about books. They sit. Not in a rush to get anywhere. They’re ready when you’re ready. Many writers, especially in the Romance genre, are going to read this book at some point , if for no other reason than to see what all the hoopla was about.
I’ll start with the obvious point, which is that this book has endured some serious scrutiny. Everyone turned into a critic when the story surrounding the book came out. That’s not entirely true. I’m reminded of those infamous comment sections at the bottom of every online article and review page. They often read like a narcissists support group. But that’s not what I intend to do here.
Now, I don’t have to rehash “50 Shades of Gray’s” shortcomings… like the overuse of the phrase “Oh, my”, or that in E. L. James’ mind people from Seattle speak with English colloquialisms. No. I won’t do it. As a writer, I prefer to know why this book works. Outside of the whole “supposed” Twilight correlation.
**more spoiler alert**
Some might say the book gets going around page 100. When the sex begins. And while those scenes were good, the story didn’t really get interesting for me until around page 200. That’s where the line is drawn between Bel–… oops, I mean Ana and Christian and she toils over the decision: to be spanked or not to be spanked. E. L. James does a good job at capturing the waffling emotions of a young, insecure woman in love/lust/infatuation for the first time. All of us ladies have been some version of this at some point in our lives, even those who refuse to admit it. It’s instantly relatable, a universal commonality. Why else would people buy the first and then the second and third books if something wasn’t going right in the story?
I have found that this is where the appeal of any story lies. And, I believe, what agents and publishers are looking for. That elusive hook or voice that they ask for, but those words don’t quite explain what that is. Part of the problem is that as writers it’s hard to look at our work with any kind of detachment. When I read other books, I’m more aware of that hook (as they call it) as it’s happening. So then I ask myself What is that. In “50 Shades of Grey”, with so much to criticize, the good (or guilty pleasure) of it stands out. It is some truth about the human condition that leaks onto the page and is instantly recognizable. It shoots to the core of what we all experience, in one way or another, and connects us as human beings cross culturally. Since Ms. James achieves that, she has overcome a battle many of us struggle to capture on the page. And that’s a win.
So, do I like the book? It has its merits. I think all writers in their career have that first, second, or even tenth book where they look back and go I can’t believe I wrote that shit. And while most of us won’t have a bazillion dollars to show for it, because let’s face it, that’s the luck part of success, I’m not mad at her. I wish all of us in this business that kind of success.