Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed have spanked the publishing world with their surprising record-breaking sales.
The books were written by E.L. James a British indie-author who got her start by posting an early version of this story on the internet as Twilight fan fiction. It was then picked up by the Australian publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop, who printed e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks.
The explosive success of this sexually explicit trilogy was primarily driven by female fans passing on their illicit find of “mommy porn” by word of mouth to female friends. It has bound soccer moms to its pages with its deepening, romantic relationship between an ugly duckling, painfully-shy College senior and a darkly handsome, savagely-successful business magnate.
The author uses sexual dominance and submission (BDSM) as a whip to drive the deflowering of the relationship between the virgin Anastasia Steele and the damaged Christian Grey into an engorgement of something much more tumescent. Although the novels contain astounding numbers of eye-rolling, lip-biting scenes (that only those in their twenties can live up to and will cause elders to smile in reminiscence) the story is not really about sex. It is about the emotional relationship between Anastasia and Christian and that is what makes the novels so seductive.
The story’s success among women in the ongoing flowering of feminism is not surprising. It is one woman’s story of her emotional triumph in the world of sexual politics. Although Anastasia is initially invited into the world of BDSM as a submissive it is how she unshackles that relationship into one balanced with mutually acknowledged love and respect that makes her such a compelling character. The tale is being hotly embraced by the ladies and those not so lady-like.
In spite of many disparaging reviews, one of which called Ms. James’ writing “torturous”, Fifty Shades of Grey remained on the New York Times list of top ten best selling print and e-books for 33 weeks, selling more than 40 million copies worldwide. It broke the record on USA Today’s bestselling books list previously held by Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time, surpassing even the Harry Potter series. In April 2012, E. L. James was listed as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
The movie rights have been purchased by Universal Pictures for $4 million. Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson have been cast in the roles of Christian and Anastasia. The film’s scheduled release date is said to be Valentine’s Day 2015.
Ms. James has recently released a CD entitled “The Classical Album” featuring the music she highlighted in her novels. In addition she has a line of wines, Red Velvet and White Silk, available by the bottle or the case. Ah, the sweet sting of success!