Readersforum's Blog

December 13, 2012

At Random House, Employees Will Enjoy 5,000 Shades of Green

50By LESLIE KAUFMAN

Random House had its corporate Christmas party on Wednesday night in New York, and word is that Santa likes bondage. A lot.

Markus Dohle, the chief executive of Random House, promised employees — from top editors to warehouse workers — a $5,000 bonus to celebrate a profitable year. The cheering went on for minutes, according to people in attendance.

Call it 5,000 shades of green.

This year, Random House had the good fortune to publish E. L. James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey,” about an inexperienced college student who falls in love with an older man with a taste for trying her up and whipping her, among other delights. The book has topped the New York Times paperback best-seller list for 37 weeks and counting. The sequels “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” have been in the top five for a similar amount of time.

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July 11, 2012

Why women love Fifty Shades of Grey

Photograph: © Ondrea Barbe/Corbis

It’s the fastest-selling novel for adults of all time – and it’s very adult in content. Why have millions of women been seduced by Fifty Shades of Grey, asks Zoe Williams.

It’s pointless to deny that there’s something going on here: EL James has now sold 4 million copies of her Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy via her UK publisher, Random House, to add to the 15 million (it beggars belief) that have been shifted in the US and Canada. In three months. In the UK, it’s the fastest-selling book ever in both physical and ebook incarnations. There’s just been an extra print run for the UK market, to meet demand: 2.75 million copies. It’s the fastest selling adult novel of all time. By which they mean “it’s the fastest-selling novel of all time that isn’t Harry Potter”. But its content is, of course, rather adult.

The trilogy features Anastasia Steele, who falls in love with Christian Grey, a troubled young billionaire who likes sex only if he can accompany it with quite formal, stylised corporal punishment. The narrative drivers are pretty slack – improbable dialogue (“I’m a very wealthy man, Miss Steele, and I have expensive and absorbing hobbies”); lame characterisation; irritating tics (a constant war between Steele’s “subconscious”, which is always fainting or putting on half-moon glasses, and her “inner goddess”, who is forever pouting and stamping); and an internal monologue that goes like this … “Holy hell, he’s hot!”; “No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why. Is it his looks? His civility? Wealth? Power?” Yuh huh. Civility puts me in a blue funk too.

In normal circumstances, it would be lazy, but here, it is more like a shorthand. James writes as though she’s late for a meeting with a sex scene. Here, her voice is quite different: meticulous, inventive, radical and conflicted; Grey is only interested in a dominant/submissive relationship (with these “hard limits” – no fire, no faeces, no blood loss, no gynaecological instruments, no children or animals, no permanent disfigurement, no breath control and no direct electricity – I paraphrase for brevity). Steele just wants a regular boyfriend (or does she? Yik yak yik yak). This is Fifty Shades of Grey I’m talking about. We’ll come to Fifty Shades Darker later. Goddammit. I’ve been infected by James’s ominous, staccato delivery. After 1,600 pages of the stuff, you will too. I’m doing it again. I can’t help it.

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