It appears we have reached a new shade of Fifty Shades of Grey. We've passed, tires squealing and rubber burning, the phases in which we wondered at how this book was changing sex for suburban housewives, or leading to higher-than-ever sales of rope, or how libraries were banning and then unbanning it, and what all this might mean for publishing, anyway. We're even past the general opinion-type review from a trusted source, and are now at the stage in which editors looking for a fun new angle into the typical review story are really wracking their brains and coming up with hilarious, off-kilter, or somehow irreverent (or possibly cringeworthy) takes—like criticisms from, say, Tuesday With Morrie author Mitch Albom in the Detroit Free Press, or pithy commentary from those wisecracking irreverent old gals known as the "Three Grandmothers." But how many of these "fun" reviews can a person take, either?
After extensive perusal of the Internet, reviewing reviews from the standard paid professionals to writer-celebs like Albom (who we like to call "stunt reviewers") to teens to journalists across the pond to bloggers to the people of Wal-Mart, we have distilled criticism and commentary of the book in order to answer any remaining questions you may have about it and its progeny.
What is it?
"Fifty Shades of Grey is about a 22-year-old college literature student, Anastasia, a virgin who falls for a 28-year-old entrepreneur, Christian Grey, who gets a sexual charge out of being in charge. It's explicitly tie-me-up, tie-me-down; sometimes a necktie is not just for tying around necks." [Carolyn Kellogg, The Los Angeles Times]
"As female fantasies go, it’s a twofer: lasting love and a winning Mega Millions lottery ticket. And what is shameful about 'Fifty Shades of Grey' isn’t the submissive sex, it’s the Cinderella story." [Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times]
"It's a fresh witty look about courtship and compromise, written in a delightful style." [Princeton Book Review]
What isn't it?
"I left [my grandfather's friends' house] under the mistaken impression that this was a tween book that was deemed too raunchy for young readers." [Stephanie Kutner, The Guardian Express Newspaper]
Where should I read it?
"The train lurched, (ladies and gentleman, the train is being delayed by…) and the old woman sitting next to me with the sleepy eyes and the floral headscarf briefly gripped my wrist for balance, ripping me from the lurid descriptions of feminine psychosexuality unfolding on the page. DON’T TOUCH ME! I almost squeaked, sweating coldly, before coming to: I’M JUST READING A BOOK ABOUT SPORTS OVER HERE FOLKS, I’M JUST A GUY READING ABOUT SPORTS."[Frank Santo, The New York Daily News]
"Sit in a thrumming bus or subway car and read E L James' indefatigable sex story on an e-reader, cradling the instrument with one hand while stroking the touchscreen to turn pages with the other." [Lisa Schwarzbaum, EW]
"Before I got down and settled with this book, I broke open a box of Franzia, cued up “I Want to Sex You Up” by Color Me Badd, and pulled on my comfy sweats..." [Dionne Galace, Guess What I'm Reading?]
Where shouldn't I read it?
What are the characters like?
"Christian Grey is someone who needs to be on large doses of medication and needs to spend some more time in therapy." [A 15-year-old, The Stir]
"We're told that Anastasia bites her bottom lip so often that it's impossible to visualise the heroine without calluses on her face." [Emer O'Toole, The Guardian]
What about the writing?
"The author uses the same words and phrases over and over. It seriously lacks editing." [A Wal-Mart reader]
"As has been noted, our heroine Anastasia Steele begins most of her sentences with 'Holy crap!' People say 'shall' a lot and 'fetch' things instead of get them. When Christian Grey 'rips through' Anastasia's virginity, she actually says 'Argh!' like Jon finding out that Garfield has once again shredded the curtains." [Julieanne Smolinski, New York]
"I want a little less p-word, a little less v-word, a little more mystery and a lot less detail." [Mitch Albom, The Detroit Free Press]
So, seriously, should you read these books or not?
"My answer would be, 'I don’t know.'" Also, "Do you have your vomit bag handy?" [Paige Nick, The Sunday Times]
Any final questions?
What the hell is a buttplug?" [Three Grandmothers]
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.