By now, you won’t have been able to escape 50 Shades of Grey, a book written by the middle-aged Twilight and S&M enthusiast, E.L. James. I am eternally grateful that my New York Times project dissolved before this book hit the list. While a part of me feels that I should read something that’s become so wildly popular, another has read the synopsis, backed away slowly and plowed through two Neil Gaiman books in the last week instead. Grey, meanwhile, has been sitting at the top for weeks, along with its two sequels, despite reportedly being one of the worst popular novels of all time, and especially despite being written by a woman whose only other writing credits prior to this were for — I shit you not — Twilight fanfiction.
For anyone who has been hiding under a rock, here’s the rough outline care of Amazon:
When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.
Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.
Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.
There have been a lot of jokes made at the book’s expense (for good reason, obviously), but it’s also being considered for big-screen adaptation, prolonging the reign of this up-jumped romance novel far longer than is necessary.
Yet perhaps the best bet at longevity is the decision on the part of several American libraries to ban the book. Because if history has shown us one thing, it’s that if you limit the public’s access to something on the grounds that it’s dangerous, you certainly don’t make it all the more desirable and fuel people’s desperation to get their hands on it.
As one outraged taxpayer argues, “If somebody writes something and I want to read it, and pay fees into a library, that’s my right … And when they tell me what our values should be, I feel like they’re treading on my rights.”
I know I’ve been in Canada for most of my life, so a part of me does feel like a snotty Canadian when I say this, but I do so treasure the bizarre relationship that the United States has with the first amendment. If someone writes a book entitled, “How to Trap Children in Your Van Using Candy,” I’m going to go right ahead and say that the public shouldn’t be able to access that. Somehow this country has the ability to both be outraged at a government organization telling them what they can or can’t say and what they can or can’t read, but at the same time wants to make sure that family values and honored above all and that women should have next to no ability to regulate their own bodies.
This got away from me pretty quickly. I guess my point is that censorship is a necessary beast, but when in doubt, let people decide for themselves and just keep taking those pedophile handbooks off the shelves instead.
So good work, American libraries. Not only are you potentially violating the First Amendment, you are clarifying for the rest of the world that you are incapable of learning a very simple, very repetitive lesson.
Just put an age limit on the book and then teenagers will just steal all of your copies and you won’t have to worry about banning it at all. Problem solved.