OK, sorry for the punny title. But I couldn’t resist.
A few months ago, the book club I belong to picked “Fifty Shades of Grey” to read. You know the novel I’m talking about — the one that the media dubbed as “mommy porn,” because of its popularity with middle-aged, married women. With a controversial subject (S&M, kinky sex), it’s the type of book that no one wants to admit they read, much less liked.
One of my favorite bloggers created a site devoted to literature called In Imminent Danger. When she tossed around the idea of reading the novel, I was one of the people who told her not to bother, that the book wasn’t very good and that she wouldn’t like it.
She’s reading the book. And instead of making fun of it, like I did, she came up with a thought-provoking post about why Fifty Shades is causing such a sensation:
The thing I think people have to understand about this, and other erotic novels geared toward the female population (which very often depict scenes that dance along the border between rape and consent) is that there is a reason why women read it, and why it’s constructed that way. If you take a good look at the demographics these books play well amongst, you’ll start to realize that there are certain trends. Housewives and middle America. Repression. Extreme limitations on a woman’s sexuality, and what you can and cannot willingly do, and still be considered a “decent” woman. Sexual desire and guilt, wound so tightly together that even in fantasy, a woman can’t imagine herself being 100% sexually autonomous and enjoy it.
I remember reading “The Bridges of Madison County,” not because I had any interest in reading it, but because everyone was talking about it after Oprah featured it on her show. I hated it. There’s not one thing I liked about it. That’s how I felt about “Fifty Shades.” The best way I can describe it is that it wasn’t very memorable. A friend of mine read the entire trilogy. I had stopped after the first book. I asked her what happened in the next two books. She thought about it, before saying, “I don’t remember.”
The beauty of a good book is that it’s memorable, for whatever reason. I know that “Vampire Diaries” star Ian Somerhalder’s name is being bandied around to play Christian Grey, for whom the book is named. But, for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the female character, with whom Grey was enamoured.
A long time ago, my father — who had never heard of Howard Stern — bought a memoir written by the shock jock. I asked him why. He said (1) because it was in the clearance pile and therefore cheap and (2) because it was a New York Times bestseller. To my dad, that bestseller sticker was a seal of approval that he thought could be trusted. My father loved Nabokov, Shakespeare and Kant. He didn’t love Stern and never finished the book. I did, but I couldn’t tell you what that was about, either.
© 2013 JAE-HA KIM