The 50 Shades phenomenon has taken the literary world by storm. Nobody could have expected the runaway success of this series, and isn’t that a big part of its integral appeal?
The story behind the story is that the author, EL James, self-published her debut novel after it was repeatedly rejected by traditional publishers, and then it spread like wildfire.
It’s may seem counter-intuitve, but in today’s age of viral communication, word-of-mouth means that one person’s word spreads to their wall, their twitter feed, their boards and their profiles. That is exactly what happened with this 50 Shades phenomenon. Virtually unknown, until it reached a certain critical mass of readers. From there it gained momentum, despite the negative criticism.
This may be because people have a tendency to cheer for the underdog, root for the rejected, and forgive the literary lapses of an unknown indie author in a way they would never do for a more established author. It’s human nature, a reflexive response, like watching a train wreck.
It seems I get asked at least once a week, when some newly acquainted stranger hears that I’ve written a novel, if its anything like “that 50 Shades book”, (this was especially true before I changed the title of the book from The Gift of the Goddess to The Secret of the Storyteller) which always leads to a conversation about erotic literature and the success of this new style of “literotica” written for (and by) women.
What I love about the 50 Shades books (yes, I’ve read them) is that their success reveals a consciousness shift in our collective psyches. Not since Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying have we encountered such popularity in our midst for feminine focused erotic literature. At the height of the book’s popularity, it was the one topic was SURE to come up whenever a group of women got together, whether it was the moms at a 4-year-olds birthday, the literature lovers at a book club meeting, or the colleagues circling around the water cooler giggling in hushed tones.
I love that we’re embracing our voices and reclaiming the sensuous feminine without the framework of the guilt and shame that has long kept our desires suppressed.
I love that we’re breaking the bonds of our indoctrination into the “good girl” illusion.
I love that women are talking about and taking control of their own sexuality.
What I don’t love, however, is the message of female submission in the books.
But, that is a topic for another blog post.