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'50 Shades of Grey': Just How Smutty Is It?

Plenty, but it's also unintentionally humorous and so badly written it hurts (and not in a good way).

In keeping with the number theme in the title, here's what you need to know before buying "50 Shades of Grey."

Number of times the protagonist, Anastasia Steele, says "Crap" or "Holy Crap": 86

Number of times Anastasia refers to her lover Christian Grey and his moves as "hot" or "freaking hot": 37

Number of times a specific part of the female anatomy is referred to as "down there": 6

If fine writing is like bittersweet truffles, this book is like a wad of Gummi Bears stuck to your back teeth. To use another food metaphor — and I'm not sure this author knows what a metaphor is — it's the literary equivalent of eating Sugar Smacks for dinner.

Author E.L. James gives us the first-person perspective of a naive 21-year-old college graduate who is also — wait for it — a virgin who has never really been kissed. She is thrown into the presence of a young and extremely handsome billionaire who is powerfully attracted to her but has a dark secret life that involves riding crops, rope and something he calls "The Red Room of Pain."

Substitute vampire for billionaire (some advice to the author: billionaires generally look more like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett than Ryan Gosling) and we're right about where "Twilight" begins. It's no surprise that "50 Shades" began as fan fiction for that other nonsensical best-selling series.

Here's a little taste of James' clipped writing style:

"Why won't he look at me. Perhaps he's changed his mind? A wave of unease washes over me. Perhaps walking out on him last night was the end for him, too. He's bored of waiting for me to make up my mind. Oh no, I could have completely blown it. I remember his email last night. Maybe he's mad that I haven't replied."

The world of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey is as believable as a fairy tale, which apparently appeals to a great many people since the book is selling faster than condoms on spring break. Anastasia keeps asking herself why she'd even consider seeing a man who wants her to sign a written contract including her willingness to be suspended from the ceiling, but somehow talks herself into more and more encounters. Her learning curve in certain departments is steep, to say the least.

As for the sex scenes, they're frequent, explicit, and full of breathy descriptions of how "hot" bondage and spanking can be. If that's all you're after, go ahead and plunk down the money. You won't be disappointed and you'll have two money-printing sequels already waiting for you.

But there is most certainly better written and less ridiculous erotica or even "mommy porn," as this has been called, out there. This is one fad you can excuse yourself from joining, unless you're looking for a good laugh.

Author E.L. James will be appearing in Connecticut at an event in New Haven sponsored by Madison's R.J. Julia Booksellers on May 2. Tickets are $25, which includes $5 toward the purchase of a book. For reservations, call 203-245-3959 or visit R.J. Julia's website.

Lynn Dempsey April 27, 2012 at 12:13 PM
For a horrible written book it sure has quite the following! I'm in line to read it soon myself, sometimes smutty mindless reading albeit horrible apparently is something that helps shut down my ever moving brain! To each their own!
MaryJane Borcynski April 27, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Its not a "smutty" book. Its an eroctic fantasy. Its funny, its sad. Open-minded peolple will enjoy this book. Its entertaining. Its fun. Remember its FICTION....People read for different reasons. I am enjoying this book very much.
LL April 27, 2012 at 01:52 PM
In the world we live in sometimes an escape to something else and different is a GOOD thing. Why would I want to read about a average romance, been there done that - this book takes it to the next level. Some people just don't get it.
pat c April 27, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Where is my Christian Grey!!! I want one!!!! Loved all three books. If you are not into the subject matter don't read them! Great escape from reality even if it is temporary!
S D M April 28, 2012 at 06:59 AM
I totally enjoyed the trilogy. What a fabulous love story! it's not just about the sex. It's about a very wounded man being saved by a brave and devoted woman!
RMC April 28, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Seriously, I can't listen to the critics as they are all looking more into literary perfertion. I've read a couple of those award winners and found them to be a complete snoozefest! If you're looking for a book to escape, who cares how it's written!
Tdflynn April 28, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I enjoyed this trilogy very much... Read it in less than 48 hours... And with my busy life ( full time work, 3 children under 7), that alone was a feat. I just couldn't put it down. Escape, entertaining, exciting, erotica... All of the above!
Nancy December 24, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Need an absorbing read? Try how-to books, cookbooks, history or historical fiction books, or the Bible. The Book of Solomon may satisfy the erotica you seek. All these books you'd be happy to have your kids read. Teachers with thank you for steering them youth in the right direction for the future.

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