40 Comments

  1. Grace said:

    I haven’t read these yet and wasn’t planning on it (mostly because, as you mentioned, it’s poorly written nonsense). At the same time, many of my friends are sheepishly reading and enjoying them, so I might have to soon just to see what all the fuss is about.

    May 25, 2012
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  2. boomiebol said:

    Ha…I am so glad you did this post. i just mentioned the book in one of my posts from yesterday. And while researching for the post, I read a review about how terrible the book really is…meanwhile there has been a media blitz on how provoking and good it is…I still haven’t read but I plan to…curiosity kills the cat, but hey, I will sitll read it for my curious mind’s sake…Great post!!! I guess some writers just get fortunate…

    May 25, 2012
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  3. herbork said:

    My trouble with your well-written and interesting piece is that it takes place in this imaginary 1963 everybody “hip” or “activist” seems to live in these days.
    Just as race relations are currently being treated as though half-a-century of progress has never occurred, even as the kids play at dressing-up like Big Brother and the Holding Company LP album covers and talk in an ancient hippie argot, similarly, this post begins with women out of Time, mysteriously transposed among us from a post-Korean War cocktail party, where parents are still “puritanical” and sex isn’t mentioned, let alone supposed to be fun.
    Excuse me? Did the last fifty years of Feminist Revolution bypass your block?
    Everything does NOT remain to be done all over again, dear friend. Seriously, when did history stop in this country? Yo!, check out Spengler’s theory of “pseudomorphosis” in Decline of the West. Cliff Notes Version: Your energies are being leached by a senile over-culture which is making you recapitulate their failed childhoods.
    Just sayin’…

    May 25, 2012
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    • theliteraryman said:

      There are, without a doubt, plenty of places in 21st century America where people don’t talk about sex and are raised with “puritanical” parents. That didn’t vanish 50 years ago.

      May 25, 2012
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  4. Verbal Vixen said:

    Herbork- we appreciate your comment, and understand your concern.

    I wish we could say that this was an “imaginary” scenario. We are neither “hip” nor “activists” but are hard working writers, teachers, and business men/women. The women we reference are of course not a representation of all women in this country, but are real women. We agree that it isn’t right that in some parts of the country/in certain families today’s women aren’t told that sex can be fun, freeing, and openly discussed. It isn’t right, but it’s happening. Our take? If 50 SHADES OF GREY can get women back into talking openly about sex (the good, the bad, and the ugly), then we’re in support of that. As one friend has said, “if this encourages American ladies to get their kink on, I’m pro that.”

    May 25, 2012
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    • herbork said:

      Thanks to you and The Literary Man for responding. I was being only a touch facetious, but I also much appreciate hearing first-person from you that alas! a lot hasn’t changed. This kind of social intelligence is part of what fascinates and impresses me about this terrific blog of yours, and I hope you won’t mind me occasionally popping off. All in fun among ink-stained wretches 😉

      May 25, 2012
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  5. darkwoodbooks said:

    Curiousity got the better of me & I started reading this on Tues night. I was addicted after the first chapter and read the first 8 chapters that night (in which there was no sex only an intense attraction ). Last night I read 2 more chapters one of which was sexy. I’m not sure how dark the book is going to get but so far its good. It’s well written and amusing. Will hold my full judgement for finishing it. Chapters 1-8 get the thumbs up from me but I suspect it might change by time I get to the end. I hope not as its the first book in ages that made me want to stay up late & keep reading.

    May 25, 2012
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  6. Acid Free Pulp said:

    I don’t think you should just pooh-pooh badly written books. In the past few years, I have come to the conclusion, that to become a better writer you must explore these terribly written, terrible conceived, terrible novels that can capture an audience on such a vast scale. What are the authors doing to make this happen? How can a large population ignore such a horrendously written piece of fiction? Two days ago, a well-spoken and educated young woman asked me what my opinion was about the phenomena that is 50 shades of grey and as a writer, how did I feel about this. I gave her a stock response because, quite frankly, I don’t know. I haven’t even looked inside the book. She was funny and intelligent but also admitted to reading 2 of these books. She thought that they were so badly written but pure page turners.

    May 25, 2012
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  7. Birgit Nazarian said:

    It seems that lately all I hear about is this book, “50 Shades of Grey”. I am not sure if I would read it or not. I don’t like trendy books, just because I hate hype. I’ve read some trendy books that weren’t “all that” but they had something…something compelling that a lot of readers are willing to put up with poorly crafted fiction because that kernel of substance calls to them. It’s probably the excitement of the central theme, the fantasy. I read romance novels on the sly, some are well written some are just okay. The well written ones are very satisfying and they have very erotic passages. If libraries ban erotica, they would need to clean out dozens upon dozens of romance fiction. Probably I will end up reading 50 Shades but I hope it’s not in any way traumatizing. Any comments on that from people who have read it all the way through?

    May 25, 2012
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  8. ocdreader said:

    Great post! Malcolm Gladwell should add 50 Shades to The Tipping Point and let us know what happened to get the books so mainstream. I personally think the rabid Twilight fanbase helped get the momentum rolling, but I have zero evidence to support my claim.
    As for reading them, I am currently staying away for now – I think just to be contrary (not snooty, I swear! I have read and enjoyed plenty of smut, poorly written or otherwise) You know, just because everyone else is jumping off a cliff… :)

    May 25, 2012
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  9. maeparker said:

    I will preface this by saying I haven’t read it. I read reviews that talk about this twenty-something, inexperienced character who has never had an orgasm who all of a sudden is having oodles of orgasms on demand with a billionaire (I guess we skipped over the unrealistic 26 year old millionaire and went straight for Zuckerberg). You lost me right there.

    But I was talking about the popularity of the books and off the cuff I said it was because women just want to be controlled. I think it’s true, at least sexually, particularly by an unrealistically handsome, dominant lover. I am a professional woman with a serious job, magna cum laude degrees on my office wall, etc. Start the hate-mail. I stand by it.

    May 25, 2012
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  10. rich said:

    there’s a difference between coming up with great ideas for stories, characters, plots, conflicts, etc and being able to write well.

    May 25, 2012
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  11. sonofwalt said:

    Ah, what Rich said. I feel this way about every Dan Brown book I’ve chastised myself for reading. Coming up with an engaging plot idea, and writing it well are not the same thing. Haaaaving said that. . . why is it that so many people are reading poorly written books and enjoying them, and if this number is disproportionate to those who are reading more intellectual, better constructed works, what can I learn from that?

    It’s really easy to blame it on the media, or the lack of the common man’s education, but folk and pop art is being devoured by the man and woman on the street. If my “better written” work is not, do I use excuses or do I learn from the phenomenon and adapt? Certainly if it can work for writers with poor sentence structure, a master of the language should be able to fare better. Or are we just that stuck on ourselves, proud of our cleverness, that we have lost our audience?

    May 25, 2012
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    • Birgit Nazarian said:

      I think we all know the answer to why fiction that isn’t that well written can become so popular, in part it’s how things get published today. High concept is a must! A core plot/subject that begs for attention or gets massive attention makes publishers more excited. I just finished a well written literary novel set in Paris and at the end I can say I loved it and it was worth sticking out the first 100 pages before I could say that. I am so used to action packed, fast moving stories with high concept plots – because they are fun to read – that sometimes I have trouble “getting into” more interesting, complex stories. It’s like comparing a good European film to a Hollywood blockbuster. The story might be subtler in the former, but highly satisfying later because it has so much substance, but you have to get to it through the journey of reading it. The latter is fun to watch, spectacular eye candy, but leaves you feeling unsatisfied and empty afterwards.

      May 25, 2012
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      • sonofwalt said:

        You make some excellent points. Perhaps it is that simple–marketing, excitement and the money behind the promotion. However, I’m not sure it is wise or honest for us to put the whole blame on the corporate marketers and the masses whom they have convinced to like what they say is worth liking. Surely there is money out there enough to promote more subtle and satisfying stories. I don’t want to use ignorance of the “common man,” or arrogance of big business as excuses for our own failings. I’ve known too many artists who actually LIKE being less popular, and “special.” It’s a bit annoying and convenient. Surely if we are that smart, we can find the resources to do better. The alternative is I suppose that we continue letting big marketing own the keys to what is mainstream. The payoff is perhaps that we get to feel unique, and therefore uber cool.

        May 25, 2012
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        • Birgit Nazarian said:

          :-) I hear you. Well…honestly I haven’t done much with marketing novel length work to the publishing industry–you could say that I am thus far, unscathed. I am a freelance writer, mostly doing short pieces. Once an editor likes you, you just keep working and selling.

          I did used to go to some good writing conventions and listened to major agents and publishers talking frankly about the industry. For most writers the odds are not good. A gimmick, any advantage, connections are almost a necessity. They won’t be chosen purely on the merit of their work.

          What can I say? You have to just love writing and love your work, whether or not you see financial benefits and fame. I am not sure I am the type of personality that could go out and promote myself and my work to the degree some writers I know do.

          May 26, 2012
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          • sonofwalt said:

            Yep. I follow you. I think it was Marge Piercy who said, “You have to like it better than being loved.”

            May 27, 2012
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            • Birgit Nazarian said:

              My quandary right now is that I have a good gig writing for pay. I want to finish a novel. Back years ago I wrote one novel after another and never went the next step (sounds like a lot writers, I know). I think I might have the confidence to move forward but I know from published writers how disappointing the marketing and publishing process can be. They expected more, they worked harder than they ever imagined and didn’t see the results they expected. Writing articles and shorts is easy, less commitment and hey, it does pay with little effort from me, except a few days of research and writing. Not so with novels…that’s a big investment even though the process is gloriously rewarding in the personal sense.

              May 27, 2012
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              • sonofwalt said:

                I feel that way about poetry, which is probably why in the last twenty years I’ve barely submitted anywhere. Every publication, print or online, seems to have a different submission process too, so it’s a lot of work, sending out little submissions, with little reward. Maybe that’s part of why I’ve kept to writing in a shorter form as well. I’ve just now been getting back into the process, and I don’t know if I’d have the energy or strength to commit to novel length work. I admire you.

                May 27, 2012
  12. Jilanne Hoffmann said:

    I have so many well-written books to read and so little time that I can’t afford to read junk food. I imagine these books are filled with MSG. Makes everything taste good, creates new cravings for even more junk food, and can, quite possibly, make everything else that doesn’t contain MSG taste like a dull substitute. My local bookstore sells “the grey books” but doesn’t recommend them. I just can’t read anything that’s poorly written/edited. I find it far too distracting. And I’ve never been one to jump on the pop culture bandwagon. I saw the Vagina Monologues way back when and thought it was good but overly hyped. That show was supposed to be “the one that got women talking about their vaginas and sex.” This book is just the latest in the long line (remember Madonna’s book, Sex, that had a metal cover you were supposed to “spank” closed) of trendy reasons for women to talk about sex—amplified by current FB-Twitter-hype culture. From my understanding, the “Story of O” that’s been around for eons was probably better written. And let’s not forget Anaiis Nin. What is really being purchased is the fantasy, as mentioned above, that a woman can save a desirable man from himself. I suspect it’s not about sex; it’s about salvation. Woman as Savior.

    And although I’m not in a book group, I have read “A Visit from the Goon Squad.” Those ladies are “filling up on garbage” and missing a good read.

    May 25, 2012
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  13. electricbohemian said:

    I haven’t even heard of it but I suppose I’m off the radar and so immune to any advertising, kinda stuck in the classics.. however I think everything is do with timing and so I guess it did so well cause people needed it again, and also not everyone has a keen eye for writing certainly not me, all I know is when something moves me or inspires me and sometimes you just need a book to escape into, sometimes you are too tired to have to read something in which you really need to think or try and establish what the person means and that’s why these books do so well. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing. I would be interested to read the book though simply because I feel I’m immune to erotic scenes which is quite scary, maybe erotic works better when its forbidden and pent up. Hmm Maybe these days because we seem to know every kind of sexual thing that someone does it has become less shocking.. hmm.

    Sorry I’m infamous for digressing but it was on my thought path, so I must read that book to see if it has the same effect.

    On another note, it really does pain me to hear people say that something is badly written, because if its an imagination thats alive then I can’t see the problem, but I don’t think like an academic, my brain just doesn’t work like that and its not for want of trying, maybe we are all designed in different ways. I really do wonder to myself that it must be like to be able to really understand everything or have the tools to understand.

    And yes I’m well aware I possess poor writing skills, its just the way it is.. At least I write, at least I have the confidence to have my say.

    May 25, 2012
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  14. [Dis]Regarding Slush | Acid Free Pulp said:

    […] dear dear friends over at LiteraryMan.com seem to be in two separate camps over their opinions of the most recent literary success of 50 […]

    May 25, 2012
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  15. yogaforwriters said:

    I am also at a loss as to why this particular poorly written book has sky rocketed when there are loads of other well written erotic novels out there racking up sales numbers in the hundreds, maybe thousands, but definitely not millions.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I dig yours & will be following with interest!

    May 29, 2012
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  16. Spookysister7 said:

    I enjoy fan fiction, so I might actually like these books… maybe. But I wouldn’t put them up there with Shakespeare or anything. You just got to have a line between guilty pleasure and promotable literature, ya know?

    May 29, 2012
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  17. olbigjim said:

    Since I don’t live in the US, I haven’t read it, but I have been reading Phil Torcivia’s parody at his blog… and loving it!

    May 30, 2012
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  18. said:

    We are thrilled to see everyone’s thoughtful, respectful, and insightful comments on this post. All of your thoughts are truly appreciated and we love reading the discussions that are popping up!

    May 31, 2012
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  19. Elizabeth said:

    I haven’t read it and I don’t plan to, but I do have friends and family who have talked about it during get-togethers.
    I think the main reason for me personally to not pick it up is because I feel that we have this disconnection with intimacy and fulfill it sometimes with guilty pleasures. This obviously not being a harmful one. I’m a housewife, raising kids and making a living, maybe I just don’t have time to fit it into my always growing reading list. I choose to read books that make more of a difference in my life and not to indulge in something that will ultimately not do anything for me anyway. Maybe the readers are not happy or fulfilled… I don’t know, but if they enjoy it good for them.

    May 31, 2012
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    • Birgit Nazarian said:

      Hi Elizabeth, at my age, I have seen plenty and read plenty. Your comment about disconnection with intimacy really resonates with me too. I haven’t read 50 Shades, but I might. I want to know what people are being influenced by. Someone recently brought up that title to my husband when he was talking to friends. Obviously the book is influencing our culture and people we know, so I am curious. I hope it’s not a bad influence. And I believe since pornography, etc. on the web is to easy to come by we have a lot of bad influences that are affecting relationships. Believe me, I am not a prude but I do solidly believe in relationships based on love and respect.

      June 1, 2012
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      • Elizabeth said:

        I agree… I have to admit that at first I was curious about all the hype, but once I heard about how explicit it was I make a decision to not read it.
        What does your husband think about it?
        I’m not prude either and totally agree with you on respect and love… my intuition tells me that this book may help the readers to believe that this is how their relationship should be and from what I know about it, it isn’t.

        June 1, 2012
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  20. marissafh said:

    Nope, haven’t read it even after hearing discussions on it pop up here and there. But maybe like you I’ll have to go see what the fuss is all about, and perhaps read a random page or two to see if it holds my interest. Perhaps it’s the ‘poorly written nonsense’ that captivates the masses? That it’s not so much the content, the plot or how well it’s written that keeps you reading, but it’s that you can relate to the subject and read it anyhow you want, regardless of style? I don’t know … now I’m intrigued … I’ll have to go check it out! thanks for visiting my blog!

    June 1, 2012
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  21. wackyye said:

    I initially did not want to read it. I went to Amazon and there were so many bad (and good) reviews about the book. But I went ahead and got the first one when I saw it at Target (20% off then). I read and read, and was appalled by the bad EDITING. oh my goodness, so many repeated lines, so many “Jeez”, some descriptions of the sex scenarios were also repetitive. It was quite irritating. But the STORY. It made quite an impact The story has a typical girl meets boy outline, attraction/seduction push-and-pull, gift wrapped with money, literature references, and of course the BDSM. The latter disturbed me in the beginning, being one unexperienced in this form of sexual relationship. but you read on.

    I told my boyfriend it was gripping, not because of its literary prowess (goodness, no!) but it’s because it’s a woman’s fantasies coming to life – not just in bed, but in a relationship. who doesn’t want a man who’s decided to try? a man who, for all his shades of f*ckupness is fighting the urge to crawl back into his shell, and instead pushes on to battle his demons to keep her? i mean that is the kind of “prince” you want in your life. (At least I do.) Again, it didn’t hurt that he had all these talents (flying a helicopter? fluency in French? incredible with the piano?). It further fueled the fantasies, and actually had me pining for my own Christian Grey (sorry, love, if you’re reading this 😛 haha )

    And about the sex part? Highly recommended to read it, if only for experimental purposes. I mean, I’m not telling you I suddenly wanted to be a sub after reasing. And the parts on their contract negotiations did disturb me to some extent. But I believe, removing the clutter (the floggers, crops and chains…), it appeals to many readers because it opens up to other sexual, pleasurable possibilities, and the appreciation for the “conventional” properties of sex as well. Mr. Grey did say, “nothing plain or old about vanilla (sex)”.

    I am currently a quarter way on the second book and their relationship is evolving, which is again, a reflection, albeit a bit muddled, of how relationships go. Or hope one hopes it would go. Aren’t relationships about love, communication and compromise?

    Bottom line: loved the story, hated the writing, loved the sex, hated the writing. Did I say I hated the writing? JEEZ.

    (crawls back to bed to continue reading..)

    June 1, 2012
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  22. JW Najarian said:

    My wife loved it and she never reads this kinda stuff. She did not think is was the best writing she had ever seen, but she could not put it down and her and her friends joke about it often. It opened dialog with us that I did not think was closed?

    All in all, though I have not read it… I liked it….

    June 20, 2012
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  23. IsobelandCat said:

    Is this the right moment to say that I had never heard of it?

    June 21, 2012
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  24. cynthiashepp said:

    I could not even finish it and I always finish books I start. They should have called it Fifty Shades of Sick. I felt shame for women everywhere when I read it. He treated her like a dog and she took it. I do not see why so many women like it. I’m not a prude, I like erotica, I just don’t like books that make me feel like I need a shower to wash the filth off when I stop reading. I would not let a man treat me like that and do not want to read about one. Its not sexy. It is degrading! That is just my opinion :)

    June 21, 2012
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    • Birgit Nazarian said:

      That’s exactly what I am concerned about Cynthia. Maybe I won’t read it after all. The kind of women I know who are reading it and liking it, it baffles me, white upper middle class women. Now I have to ask myself – are they bored maybe? What’s going on here. If they’ve ever been mistreated I think the subject matter would make them ill. It concerns me, I am on the fence deciding if I should expose myself to something potentially disturbing just to satisfy my curiousity.

      June 24, 2012
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      • cynthiashepp said:

        I wouldn’t. It is not worth the time or the damage lol. Of course, the hype is what made me open the book. My self-dignity made me close it without even finishing it. And I like erotica…I read it often. Fifty Shades just turned me off though.Maybe I should have continued the series. Everyone says it gets better in the second and third book. Maybe I would not have such an aversion to it now. But oh well, I talked myself out of it and I do not feel like I am missing out. (:

        June 24, 2012
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        • Birgit Nazarian said:

          Oh I agree! There are plenty other good books that deserve our attention. Hype usually turns me off. Curiosity is the only thing that might entice me to check it out, but now I really think I’ll pass on it. I abhor the notion of subjugation and humiliation of either sex for the sake of sexual gratification. What it sounds like is described is not essential for sex, it’s about control and power and it’s so easily turned ugly. We can boycott it together! 😀

          June 25, 2012
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  25. bardessdmdenton said:

    Thanks so much for liking a recent post of mine! Read this post and the comments…I will also boycott these books. And I was reading and loving DH Lawrence–including Lady Chatterley’s lover when I was 14–for the excellence of how he wrote as much as what he wrote about. For me the quality of the writing is EXTREMELY important…just about anyone can fantasize a story and scribble it down. REAL writers know they have to work at their craft, and REAL readers don’t just jump on the bandwagon of the trash and drivel that money-driven publicity puts out there. I have too many well written, interesting and enlightening books waiting to waste my time on junk like 50 Shades.

    July 4, 2012
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  26. Kat Stewart said:

    I haven’t read it yet, for a couple of reasons. First, I hate to consider myself one of the lemmings and prefer to snootily hold out (there aren’t any snooty lemmings, are there?) Second, I really do love well-written books with depth and insight. Third, I have a BA in English and Creative Writing, and feel I would be squandering my proper education. These are my reasons and I’m sticking to them! However, my secret self wants to read this simply because I want to get off on the sex. As a 68-year-old female, I’m certainly not inexperienced, but, vibrator at my side, I do love a good sex scene–the more the gooder;-)

    March 25, 2013
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  27. fifty shades darker pdf online said:

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    April 21, 2015
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