Monday, July 23, 2012

Fifty Shades of 'What the ...?'

The phenomenon is common in medical science. Researchers know that a particular medicine or compound works for a particular condition, but they often don't know why it works.

The same can be said about Fifty Shades of Grey. We know that it works. But we don't know why.

And by "works", I mean ... as an aphrodisiac. No longer do men (notably under-sexed husbands) have to go searching the internet for products making wild claims - Spanish Flies, Oysters, etc - in the hope that it will boost their partners sex drive (towards them).

Previous claims were a bit like natural cures for baldness - the evidence was patchy at best (pardon the pun - there might be more). Of course there are still heaps of products claiming to cure baldness that don't work, but at least now there are products - albiet expensive ones - that do work.

Fortunately for men, the anecdotal evidence for Fifty Shades of Grey working is huge, and the book can usually be picked up for about 10 bucks. It can even be bought in the guise of a present for the wife (when clearly it's just as much a present for the husband). This is one of those rare relationship win-win situations.

(Authors confession: I purchased this book for my wife as part of her Mother's Day gift. I plan on requesting the second book for my Father's Day present).

Author E. L. James, like J. K. Rowley of Harry Potter fame, was an unknown author. If you believe Wikipedia, the Fifty Shades books have broken the record previously held by Harry Potter  for 'fastest selling paperback of all time'.  That's insane.  The Harry Potter books are very well written and have fantastic story lines. The 8 chapters of Fifty shades of Grey, well ... didn't really do it for me.

Fortunately for E. L. James and men everywhere, it does it for a lot of women.

I tried to read it properly.  I really did.  Admittedly I was waiting for the erotic stuff, and perhaps part of my disappointment was that it didn't come until chapter 8. But I'm sure if there were other elements that had kept my interest I would have enjoyed the ride. Eventually, as if struggling with an uncooperative bra latch, I got to the first sex scene and, frankly, felt a bit deflated. So I put the book down and crept out quietly, never to return.

BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, it doesn't really matter what I think. A lot of women LOVE this book.  And they buy it in droves regardless of whether it is actually any 'good' from a literary perspective (and maybe it got better after chapter 8? Maybe it was a slow tease - us men - we like to get to the point).

Am I jealous?  You bet, me and every other person sweating it out trying to get a crumby publishing deal. But you gotta hand it E. L. - she's touched a nerve - and there must be some skill to doing that. She knows her audience.

It's remarkable when you think about it. Consider these 'facts': A book that makes women, who may have been married for 20 plus years, want to have sex with their husbands again.  Even if they're really thinking about Christian Grey, we're just happy for the extra attention.  When I drop the kids off at school I have to close my ears for all the Mum's talking about it - although I'm not sure if it's any worse than hearing about their hysterectomies. I lent my next door neighbour the book for his wife on the proviso that he would mow my lawn for a year if his average bedroom encounters rose by 1 per week - so far so good.

Like infinity - It just doesn't make logical sense.  I suppose if I understood it, then I would probably understand women.  And every man knows that's another impossibility.  So I'm going to accept it as a gift and say, 'Thank you E. L. James, you are truly a genius'.

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