Across the Universe: Fifty shades of grey matter
As an English literature major and regular reader of what I consider high-end fiction and literary non-fiction, I surprised myself and my friends recently when I borrowed the first in the Fifty Shades of Grey book series this summer.
Justifiably, I was curious as to the reading furor this series was creating, and, I could also claim the need for one to stay abreast of current cultural literacy, but truth be known, I was hooked after the first chapter in book one.
My best friend in San Francisco, whose copy I snuck for that first chapter, exclaimed, “I just don’t see you reading this book!” as she headed off to her mass transit work commute, book in tow.
I couldn’t wait to get back home, as I knew that the women in my spin exercise class were all reading it too, and I was ready to establish my name in the borrow queue (you might gather that purchasing the book would have been slightly damaging to my ego).
I found myself rushing this sweet woman in her 70s, who had the copy in her possession, to please hurry and finish. She said she would have it done by Wednesday. Oh well, I would have to wait.
Later that day, I was on the phone with my mother, who is also in her 70s.
She recently received a Kindle for her birthday and is enjoying downloading books she likes to read, the genre of contemporary mysteries. Her voice lowered as she shared, “you’ll never believe what I am reading for a book group I joined,” I froze and mentally pleaded, “Oh no, please do not say you are reading Fifty Shades of Grey,” as I turned 50 shades of scarlet.
She whispered, “Madame Bovary. I thought you would be proud of me.”
“Wow,” I responded with a sigh of relief, “that’s great!”
Gustave Flaubert’s tale of a French woman in a less than exciting marriage was scandalous at the occasion of its publication in 1857. While quite graphic for the 19th century, this novel of literary merit pales in comparison to the detailed descriptions one finds in Fifty Shades.
Meanwhile, I had State of Wonder, the highly acclaimed and most recent publication by a favorite author, Ann Patchett, on reserve at the library. I had been anxiously awaiting this read all summer; a novel of literary worth and smart style.
Ironically, when the book finally arrived, it was hastily positioned on my bedroom floor, taking second place to E.L. James’s paperback, which I had grabbed on Wednesday and proceeded to devour in a little more than 24 hours.
Chuckling to myself over this fait accompli’, I thought I would bring some laughs to the spin group by dropping it off at the Friday class, daring to expose my fast paced reading of what we might generally label a trashy book, one that engages very little grey matter of our intellect.
I was looking forward to finally settling in with Patchett’s bestseller and re-establishing my reading priorities.
Now as a literacy advocate, I was glad to see so many people reading and discussing a common book personally, I enjoyed the witty email banter between the two main characters in the first two books.
Oh, did I just say first two books?
Yes, I must confess that as I returned book one, someone in the class yelled out, “book two is here it’s yours if you want it!”
And while I truly thought I was done with Mr. Grey and Ms. Steele, I grabbed Fifty Shades Darker and headed to the nearest reading spot to prolong the saga of this dysfunctional, unbelievable, and yet engaging romance.
State of Wonder is now ready to resume, my grey matter ready to fire up, yet somehow I have a sneaky suspicion that book three of the Fifty Shades series will by some means find its way into my control before the summer ends. After all, it is supposed to be the best book of the trilogy.
Robin Fogel-Shrive is a high school teacher in Lake County. She can be reached at email@example.com.