Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey - Lois H. Gresh, Heather Graham, Midori, Sylvia Day, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Hope Tarr, Marc Shapiro, Jennifer Armintrout, Cecilia Tan, M. Christian, Ryan Field, Debra Hyde, Katharine Sands, Lori Perkins, Pamela Madsen, Judith Regan, Catherine Hiller, D.L. King, Lyss Stern, Rak

I don't like Fifty Shades of Grey (and yes, I have read the entire series).  But then, if you've been reading my reviews, you'll find that I take issue with a lot of romance and erotic novels.  I'm picky about writing style, quality of editing, and the pervasiveness of certain troupes and abusive behavior (note, I am not talking about BDSM as abusive behavior), all of which stand out to me as issues with Fifty Shades of Grey.

The contributors of Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey vary widely in their backgrounds and reactions to the book.  Authors, editors, doctors, educators, lawyers and more have shared their thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey.  Some loved it, some hated it, but more importantly, they're taking the time to discuss their side, and the different opinions with their evidence are placed side by side for you to read.  Perhaps even more interestingly, the authors in many cases interpret the exact same piece of advice in diametrically opposing ways.

Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey reminds me that love it or hate it, Fifty Shades of Grey has its place if for only the impact it had on the acceptance of explicit novels in the public sphere as well as the publishing industry.  In many ways Fifty Shades of Grey gave the publishing industry, and the wider public, a kick in the pants to catch up with the dirty dirty treasure trove that many of us who spend far too much time online were already aware of.  Dirty, smutty, and often so ridiculously unrealistic that it defies thought.  When it comes down to it, there are definitely some highly inconceivable smutty stories I greatly enjoy.  But then, those stories generally did not result countless of otherwise sane adults to go into a near frenzy that fails to discern the difference between sexual fantasy and real life desires (and safety).  Maybe more people should read Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden?  On the other hand, everyone finds inspiration in different places, and I'm sure we all remember misinformation we're embarrassed to admit we excitedly regurgitated as pearls of sexual wisdom in our younger years.

Honestly, I find Fifty Shades  of Grey to be pretty tame when it comes to sexual content and kink, regardless of how much they boink.  This may be a side effect of knowing that there's a whole lot more out there regardless of where ones personal interests lay.  But please, I really rather not have to talk to you about the porn you're watching on the public computers that could be seen by kids walking by.

In her essay within Fifty Writers, D. L. King defines the line between "erotic romance" and "erotica" as whether or not the story would hold together without the sex.  If you still have a coherent (if less salacious) story after fading to black whenever things heated up, you have an erotic romance.  I like this definition in an otherwise blurry division of category.  I try to keep in mind when I review anything, but particularly erotic romance or erotica, that people come into it from different places, different interests, different backgrounds.  A writing style that repels me may be wildly successful (for example, I've given up on ever liking anything written by Katie McAllister or Sherrilyn Kenyon).

This book is made up of analytical essays, personal experiences, legal analysis, and naughty stories.  We have discussions of fan-fiction, publishing, feminism, romance, writing, pop culture, and cultural norms and morays.  I am however, a bit annoyed at multiple mentions of Librarians banning Fifty Shades without any mention of those who fought to keep it no the shelves.  But of course I'd be annoyed at that.

Laura Antoniou's Fifty Shades of Holy Crap! had me dying of laughter, lambasting not only Fifty Shades of Grey but romance/erotica/porn tropes as well.  Also, there really needs to be a company called "Pacific Northwest Dykes who Make Whips."  I found Sherri Donovan's legal analysis of Ana and Christian's negotiations and contract fascinating.  Arielle Loren's Imagining a Black Fifty Shades writes about the issue of diversity in black female sexual pleasure in mainstream media.

Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey is worth reading if you love or hate Fifty Shades of Grey, and for a slew of nuanced reasons as well.  Additionally, the book finishes with an list of fiction and non-fiction books that may be of interest to its readers.


Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.