Sunday, August 26, 2012

Well, Color Me Grey On 11/22/63

I know I'm supposed to be doing the author interviews - and I will - soon.  But, first, I have tell you about Fifty Shades of Grey and 11/22/63.  They couldn't be more different, but they have one thing in common for me - I liked them both.  Actually, I LOVED 11/22/63 and liked Fifty Shades.

11/22/63, by Steven King.  This makes my top 100 all-time list.  This book is just excellent.  Everybody knows what it's about, but I will recap anyway.  Jake Epping, a 35-year old teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, is told of a portal to the past by the local diner owner, Al.  This portal is located in Al's storeroom at his diner and always takes him to the same day in 1958.  When Al gets too sick to go, he enlists Jake to take over for him.  Al's mission - prevent JFK's assassination.

The book does an amazing job of blending the present and the past.  Everything that happens to Jake (aka George Amberson in 1958) is very plausible.  I've had a few people tell me that they are not Steven King fans.  Neither am I.  The only King book I've read in the last 20 years was The Stand (again courtesy of Phil), and I liked it.  But this is not typical Steven King.  As I said in my very brief post earlier this week, READ THIS BOOK!

That brings me to Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James.  Where do I begin?  I brought a lot of pre-conceived notions into reading this.  I thought that it was going to be poorly written and that the whole book was basically about BDSM (look it up - I did).  Well, I was wrong.  I liked this book.  I did not think it was poorly written at all.  In fact, she uses a couple of tricks that I thought were particularly clever.  I'll get to those in a minute.

Do I really need to go over the "plot?"  I don't think so.  The Aborigines in the Outback of Australia know what the story is about.  But just in case you've been in a coma for the last year - or were kidnapped by aliens and only recently returned to Mother Earth - let me give a (very) brief synopsis.  A 21-year old Washington State University student, Anastasia Steele, who is almost graduating, interviews a 27-year old wunderkind/genius, Christian Grey, CEO of a large local company.  She is doing this only because her roommate, the editor of the school newspaper, is sick and unable to conduct the interview.  What ensues is a whole bunch of fireworks.

The back cover of the book tells us that the website Good Reads had this as a finalist for romance of the year.  I concur.  I think the book is very romantic.  Yes there's quite a bit of graphic sex in it (but not until page 113), but the book is much more about their relationship than it is about the sex.  And as for the "tricks" E.L. James employs, there are a couple that worked well for me.  One was how Anastasia constantly refers to her subconscious and her inner goddess and how they react in any given situation.  I thought that was really clever and oftentimes very funny.  I also liked when Anastasia and Christian exchanged emails.  Those were also clever and humorous.  These are definitely not the gimmicks of an author who is just going through the motions and using throw-away dialogue to get to the next sex scene.

Here's the most important aspect of the book (in my humble opinion).  This is the first time that women have been given permission to read erotica.  Before this book, erotica was always the province of men. I think it's great that everybody can now read a mainstream erotic book (even if I did carry the book with me with the back cover facing out!).  I think that this is great.

I haven't really addressed the sex scenes.  I thought they were okay, but Jasmine Haynes' were more graphic and more titillating (good choice of words, eh?).  If you read Past Midnight as a comparison, you'll see the difference.  But that doesn't change the fact that millions of people now have the okay to read erotica in public settings.  How can that not be a good thing?

QUESTION:  When James writes "There's a hint of pity hidden in the depths of his eyes," is that even possible?  Most authors attribute multiple emotions (at the same time!) to eyes.  Does that really happen? Can someone see "...pity hidden in the depths..." of a person's eyes?  Just asking.


  1. Shades was the first erotica book I have read. I have never even read a romance novel. A agree with you that the book was more about their relationship than sex. I also liked the emails- my favorite part of the book. I do, however, think that it is not well written. If I read the phrases " oh my..." or " his lips pressed into a hard line" one more time I was going to scream. It was entertaining. Quick question- would I like 11/22/63 even if I haven't liked King in the past?

    1. Absolutely. It is not typical Steven King. Anybody would like this book. It's a definite add-on for Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader, Volume IV. In fact, I might have even put it in Volume I, but no later than Volume II, if I had read it back then.
      As for whether Fifty Shades is well-written or not, I can't disagree with you about the repetitiveness of some expressions. But I have to say that those did not bother me. In fact, the "Oh crap" and the "oh my," among others, were okay for me. I kind of liked all of the internal talking she did during sex and before and after sex. If you're going to have a lot of sex, I guess there are only so many physical characteristics you can use to describe how you and your body are feeling.

  2. Is this really the first time women are welcomed to the world of erotica? Certainly this is the most widespread and popular of female erotica novels, but how is 50 Shades that different from any other romance novels? And those are completely geared towards women!

    I also have to disagree (respectfully, this is YOUR blog after all) to your favorable interpretation of the "inner goddess" voice. I found that part of the book so cheesy it made my squirm.

  3. To paraphrase Tina Turner, "What's respect got to do with it?" We will just have to agree to disagree about the inner goddess voice, since that's personal choice. As for erotica/romance, however, I think a good argument (by me) can be made that Fifty Shades opens new doors for women. It's true that romance novels have always been the province of women; and it's true that every romance novel has a bare-chested Fabio (or someone like him) on the cover. But I don't think those romances had explicit sex. It was more "necking" (a word from the '60's), and panting, and implied sex. I'm not an expert on romance novels, but I've read a few. None of them compare to Fifty Shades in the graphic sex department.

  4. Thanks for this review of 50 Shades. This is the first male perspective I've seen on the book, and I'm glad to hear that you liked it. Okay, I'm really going to read it! I do agree with you that 50 Shades opens new doors, not because of the sexual material though, (there have been sexually explicit romance novels since at least the mid-nineties), but because of the universal acceptance of it. 50 Shades has made graphic sex mainstream. As an erotic romance writer, I'm very happy to see that. Thanks for the recommendation on Past Midnight. And I'm adding the Stephen King book to my TBR list! PS. I believe the eyes do show emotion, though it's accompanied by facial expression as well.

  5. Jasmine, thanks for your comments. It's great to have an author who writes in the erotic romance genre render an opinion.

  6. I've been meaning to respond to this post for quite some time and since I am in disagreement with your opinion, I have to comment! I agree with Jen and Lauren that I did not think the book was very well-written and it did not really hold my interest. So much so, that I didn't even finish the last 100 pages! I actually enjoyed the beginning of the book until it started to get more graphic, then I found it to be somewhat boring. I've heard from numerous people that the 3rd book in the series is the best one but I will not be the one to verify that information.

  7. Since I've already heard from Jen, Lauren, and mom, I am not surprised to learn that another Russell/Snyder agrees with her siblings (female) and her mother (pretty obviously female). Despite all of you, I'm not changing my opinion. So there.