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Dave Barry: The fine literature of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

 

So I read Fifty Shades of Grey. This is the book written by female British author “E.L. James” that became a huge bestseller, devoured by pretty much every woman on Earth except my wife (or so she claims).

I think I might be the only man who read this book. I did it sneakily, hiding the cover, especially when I was on an airplane, which actually is a good place to read this book because you have access to a barf bag. I say this because of the writing style, which is… OK, here’s one tiny sample of the writing style:

“Did you give him our address?”

“No, but stalking is one of his specialties,” I muse matter-of-factly.

Kate’s brow knits further.

That’s right: This is the kind of a book where, instead of saying things, characters muse them, and they are somehow able to muse them matter-of-factly. And these matter-of-fact musings cause other characters’ brows — which of course were already knitted — to knit still further. The book is over 500 pages long, and the whole thing is written like that. If Jane Austen (another bestselling female British author) came back to life and read this book, she would kill herself.

So why did I read it? I read it because, as a man with decades of experience in the field of not knowing what the hell women are thinking, I was hoping this book would give me some answers. Because a lot of women LOVED this book. And they didn’t just read it: They responded to it by developing erotic feelings — feelings so powerful that in some cases they wanted to have sex with their own husbands.

I know that sounds like crazy talk, but I have firsthand confirmation of this phenomenon from my friend Ron, who is married to my wife’s cousin Sonia, a woman. Ron states: “While Sonia was reading the book, I was getting more action than Wilt Chamberlain.”

Another friend of mine whose name I will keep confidential out of respect for his privacy (Eddie Friedman) told me, “I’d be lying on the bed watching Sports Center, and she’d be reading that book and suddenly whoa.”

So what kind of book is Fifty Shades of Grey? I would describe it, literary-genre-wise, as “a porno book.” But it’s not the kind of porno men are accustomed to. When a man reads porno, he does not want to get bogged down in a bunch of unimportant details about the characters, such as who they are or what they think. A man wants to get right to the porno:

Chapter One

Bart Pronghammer walked into the hotel room and knitted his brow at the sight of a naked woman with breasts like regulation volleyballs.

“Let’s have sex,” she mused matter-of-factly.

A few paragraphs later they’re all done, and the male reader, having invested maybe 90 seconds of his time, can put the book down and go back to watching Sports Center.

Reprinted from You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About by arrangement with G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, Copyright © 2014 by Dave Barry.

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