I'll confess that the same day I started hearing the buzz around E.L. James' X-rated Fifty Shades of Grey novel, I bought a copy. You know: for research purposes. I am a very busy journalist, after all, and it's important that I—ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaa, just kidding. I totally read it for the porn.
I'm hardly alone: Fifty Shades of Grey has become an erotic publishing sensation that's topped the digital bestseller lists in recent weeks. Its popularity has stirred up quite the discussion about women and sexuality—and maybe unfortunately for E.L. James, the question of why this particular novel has become such a breakout hit. As many have pointed out, Fifty Shades is hardly unique in concept, and, well ... the writing is what you might call imperfect.
As it turns out, E.L. James is well aware of these things. As she revealed in an utterly charming interview on the Today show, she's just as blown away by her book's success as anyone else.
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The mostly private author appeared on Today to explain, in part, where Mr. Christian Grey—aka, the title character known for his BDSM tendencies and "blazing grey eyes"—came from:
This is my midlife crisis, writ large. All my fantasies, out there.
Between blushes and giggles, James confessed that talking about the books is "excruciating," and says that she has no idea why her porny stories are so successful. "I'm stunned by [their] popularity," she says.
Check out the video of her interview:
Okay, I kind of love her now. I mean, can you imagine how she feels, having written something that started out as Twilight fanfiction and seemed destined to disappear without a trace as a self-published e-book—then was inexplicably launched full-bore into the pop culture zeitgeist? Meanwhile, everyone's trying to figure out WHY (so the trick can be recreated, of course), and Fifty Shades has endured all sorts of criticism in the process.
If you've read it, you know it's not exactly the most well-crafted piece of romantic literature in the universe (Anastasia's constant mental cries of "Jeez" "Holy cow!" "Holy shit!" and references to her inner goddess certainly grated on my nerves after a while), but you can't deny its steamy effect.
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As for E.L. James, you don't have to convince her that the wordplay's a little rough. She says it up front: "I'm not a great writer."
Not that it matters. She wrote a book that millions of people are obsessively reading, and she's a funny, likable woman. I say good for her, she deserves every bit of her surprising success.
Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey yet?
Image via Today