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Why “Fifty Shades of Grey” makes for an unappetising read

After my previous post, where I mentioned reading the novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” and not quite liking it, some people asked me more about it. Most of my friends and readers had only heard about it – it’s almost impossible not to, it has been a HUGE sensation – but few had actually read it.

fifty-shades-of-grey-cover

I have no trouble admitting I am one of those people who consider themselves good readers and usually refuse to read mainstream fiction out of principle- in short, the kind of people who get labelled “literary snobs”. In the past, I have snubbed the Harry Potter saga, the Twilight trilogy, the Hunger Games and now the Game of Thrones saga. But, but…I also ended up starting on “The Philosopher Stone”, getting sucked in and ending up reading all HP books and loving them. After that, I see myself as a literary snob open to surprises.  Plus, working in communications, I was intrigued about the “WOM phenomenon” story and wanted to see for myself if the much hyped self-publishing had brought us a winner this time.

Well, having read it, I can now safely say it hasn’t – and now that I’ve made it to the last page, I won’t have to endure eyes rolling (spoiler: “eyes rolling” is possibly the two most annoying recurring bit in the book) from those who say “don’t judge a book by its cover”.  In this case, the cover is by far the best thing about the book, mostly because it doesn’t include much prose.

I won’t talk about the book itself as I am no literary critic and don’t want to spoil your pleasure of discovering the complex, unpredictable plot and the finely chiselled characters yourself.  If you’re interested in reviews, I think I I couldn’t do any better than some brilliant, brilliant people who wrote incredibly witty reviews on Amazon (my favourites are “Unintentionally hilarious!” and “Unadulterated Tosh“).

One of the many, many levels on which this book has irked me is the way food and everything related is described throughout the book.  As someone for whom food=pleasure and vice versa, I felt  completely alienated by the poor service this piece of fiction does to food.

First, the protagonist (an utterly implausible naïve- but then suddenly worldly- 20 yo- virgin  student called Anastasia who loves- guess what- Jane Austen) has a very, very bad relation with it.  Ok, some (fans) may not agree- but then, it’s just my opinion, based on a few facts:

  • She’s never hungry (not even after some…let’s call it vigorous exercise).
  • She declines what the author clearly considers refined, delicious food but later on she feasts on frozen pizza and takeaways with her flatmate and best friend (another too-cliché-to-be-true character by the way).
  • Her lover (oh sorry, should be “her Dominant”- but it’s easy to forget when somebody who’s supposed to whip you hugs you in bed and introduces you to his parents after a week) Christian Grey basically has to force her to eat-  “eating three healthy meals a day” is one of the clauses of a contract he wants her to sign (something that women in real S/D relationships have seen as laughable at best)

The thought of eating by contract- as part of some fake S/D arrangement or otherwise- just makes me shiver and not in the right way. But maybe I am just being mean- to the credit of author E.L. James, this is not gratuitous. Apparently there is some noble reason why Christian is “so peculiar about food” [verbatim] and that has to do with his mysterious, tormented past (you guessed it- abused child- oh sooo clever), which also brings him to send food to Darfur. Did I mention he’s also a millionaire? Oh, an amazingly good- looking millionaire who is also gifted with a very sculpted physique although he never exercises- he wouldn’t have time since he spends his days sexting the girl, or being the CEO of a business empire. But then, maybe it’s only natural when you’re 26 (yes, 26. Most men I know would barely be able to tell the front from the back of a woman in the dark, let alone play sophisticated erotic games- but then again, I’m probably just unlucky).

You may argue that maybe the author is just not interested in food, and that you can indeed have a different take on sensuality which does not involve taste.  However, I’m not sure- there is a handful of scenes involving food, where it seems that the author wants to pay homage to the tradition of food in erotica- they all fail miserably. I will say that there is a plate of oysters (not obvious, not cliché choice, don’t you think?) coming up at some point. And the best our hero can say is “Mhh, delicious. Tastes of the sea” and a gem of subtle double entendreAll you do is tip and swallow. I think you can manage that”. She not only “manages”, but is oh so daring as to eat TWO oysters before feeling full and not hungry as usual, and ending up being spanked- or maybe it was tickled with a riding crop, whatever. The food foreplay is basically thrown away with other sorts of what Anastasia dismisses as “kinky fuckery” and treated with the same cheesy, sugary approach as everything else, barely disguised under a veil of transgression.

I am not surprised the name of the protagonist of Fifty Shades is Ana- the infamous shorthand for anorexia, a condition which is the marriage made in Hell between self- denial of pleasure and a desire for death and self-annihilation. In no way I want to trivialize a serious disease (trust me, I’ve been there and know there is nothing to laugh about) so take this comment for what it’s worth- a provocation, not a psychoanalytic interpretation of the book.

fifty shades of grey eating disorders

As a lover of erotic literature and food, I just can’t see the point in this. Calling Fifty Shades of Grey “mommy porn” is an insult to both Mums and to porn. My advice- want to read some good erotica? Go for Anaïs Nin (pictured above) and her amazing Diaries, or for something more accessible and saucy, the classic Delta of Venus. Is there food involved? I honestly don’t remember, even though I’ve read them many times, and for me that’s how it should be- it’s not for the sake of food in itself. Food is pleasure and pleasure is food for soul, as it is (good) literature.

Photo credit: Anaïs Nin by Waldo Saavedra : taken from – :  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en

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9 Comments

  1. Oh I love your review! Very witty and unique. I, too, found it annoying that she wouldn’t eat.

    And I love this: (yes, 26. Most men I know would barely be able to tell the front from the back of a woman in the dark, let alone play sophisticated erotic games- but then again, I’m probably just unlucky).

    You betcha, honey. I guess I was unlucky too. :)

    • Thanks for your kind words! Maybe having been through eating disorders myself I’m a bit over-sensitive, but I found the attitude of this book to food very annoying.

      And it’s great to have a fellow suffer- I thought I was the only unlucky girl who didn’t bump into a multi-millionaire, supersized, sophisticated lover at the ripe age of 29.

      Laters, BABY ;)

  2. Quite interesting book review.. to be honest, I never heard about this book, someone might have mentioned it to me but I haven’t registered it. However, after reading your words, I think I wouldn’t like it, It sounds quite annoying and somehow refuses me. Maybe because am not fan of this kind of literature. Might be :)

    Keep up with good work, love your blog!

    • Hi Emy, maybe you can give it a try and decide for yourself- the ebooks on Amazon are quite cheap. But I strongly advise that you read something from Anais Nin :)

      • Hi dear! Maybe I should indeed. It’s not good be prejudiced against it for not liking a review. However, I belive I am more ispired by Anais Nin :) What titles are you suggesting me?

        • If you’re more into psychological introspection try the Diaries- otherwise, a good start are the short stories on “The Delta of Venus” (disclaimer: it’s seriously hot stuff, “vietato ai minori” ;)

  3. Giusto per la cronaca, ti sembro una minorenne? ;) I’ve found “The Delta of Venus”, will start from there. I believe it’s a quite good choice for 35 °C ;)

  4. Thank you for the link to my piece about this book. I will admit that I wrote quite a rant about the whole thing. I hope in time this book finds its way to the back of the book store and much better written and more accurate depiction of a complex D/s relationship takes it’s place.

    Mollyxxx

    • Hi Molly, thanks for passing by. I felt your “rant” was actually quite mild compared to what it could be- such a gross misunderstanding of what D/s are.
      But as you say, the hype on this book won’t last long hopefully and better things will take its place. Hoping is free ;)
      Keep up the good work on the blog, Serena xx

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