September 26, 2012


by E.L. James
528 pages, Vintage

Review by S.F. Winser 

The things I do for this ****ing job.

So a librarian, a reviewer. Incurably curious. These are usually great things to be.

Also being Facebook friends with Hereward Proops turns these things dangerous. I promised Hereward I would be a good librarian and a good reviewer, give in to curiosity and read this.

So I did. Yes. I did that. I read Fifty Shades.


And now what the hell do I do?

I can’t review this. This isn’t literature. It’s porn. Pure and simple rumpy pumpy for pumping blood to the rump. It is stuff written to do nothing but titillate. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with that.  Not a damn thing. Such stuff does exist, should continue to exist and I will defend that to the death.

What I can’t do, is review it.

I just can’t. You can’t judge porn objectively any more than you can judge sex objectively. They are inherently personal, subjective and taste-driven.  Does it hurt anyone? (Okay, in this case I will qualify that a bit more clearly). Does it hurt anyone in any way that they don’t agree to? No? Are you enjoying it? Then go to it, with my blessing and the all the energy you can muster! If I don’t like it, that’s my problem, not yours.

I will say again, loud and clear, that this is porn. It should, in no way, be seen as a relationship guide. It is fantasy and should stay there. Christian Grey is messed up and that is his job to fix, not yours. The poor women looking for a real-world Mr Grey are gonna have a bad time. There is one part where the word ‘just’ and the phrase ‘control freak’ appear in the same sentence. This is a sentence that is wrong on many, many levels, the most important one being: if you are dating control freak and you know it, you should have run away twenty bloody chapters ago.

Just so you know, it’s not great writing. At times it is downright terrible writing. I will be honest and admit that a phrase or two of arguably good bits of language are scattered about but much of it is crap and actually laughably bad. I mean, I literally laughed out loud. And also groaned (not in a good way) out loud. And at one spot, swore out loud at the page.

But this is reviewing porn. People don’t (or shouldn’t) go to porn for good writing or relationship ideals. Not even sexy ideals. No one has that much stamina in real life. People don’t watch porn for filmic cinematography, they don’t read porn for pretty word-usages, they don’t look at pornographic pictures and say ‘Wow! That’s some great framing!’  This is porn. It is BDSM ‘themed’ porn with a vocabulary firmly aimed at titillating jaded, middle-aged, middle-class women who don’t read. And that’s not actually a bad thing. Who says that they aren’t allowed to enjoy themselves?

Just recognise Fifty Shades of Grey for what it is and don’t get annoyed with it for not being something else. It’s not literature. It’s not trying to be. Read it if it sounds like your thing, ignore it if it doesn’t. That’s all I have to say about it.

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