Bestseller or not, I customarily don’t read erotic fiction, and Fifty Shades of Grey is no exception. Yet even without perusing it I’ve heard plenty, due to the passionate reactions – both good and bad – it seems to have inspired. The controversy doesn’t concern the novel’s plot, as far as I can tell. Rather, people either adore or castigate the author due to her XXX sex scenes, replete with overtones of S&M, which women across the nation apparently have adopted as a how-to guide for reinvigorating their love lives. That’s certainly the focus of the current feedback offered by at least three people I know.
My wife hasn’t completed the book yet, but the lack hasn’t stopped her from expressing criticism. Not that she’s leveled her displeasure at the novel itself, or its author. Nu uh. As usual, Sophia’s unhappiness lies with me, for accidentally giving away her copy before she’d finished it. Never mind that she’s the one who told me to lend out this month’s classic book club selection. Sure, it turns out she wanted me to hand over The Great Gatsby, but her instructions merely referenced “my book club’s reading on the counter.” How could I know she didn’t mean the copy of Fifty Shades of Grey resting atop our foyer’s mail stand, but rather the Fitzgerald classic sitting amidst a pile of papers on our kitchen’s center island? And why blame me for obeying her prime directive to clear off the center island prior to the maids’ arrival on cleaning day?
Unlike my wife, the erotic work’s unintended recipient offered nothing but praise, for it and its inadvertent donor. My seventy-year-old mother-in-law (whom I’d always thought a strict moralist) surprisingly took to the novel, calling it “quite enjoyable.” At last night’s monthly book club meeting, she didn’t appear at all upset to learn she’d read the wrong literature and couldn’t participate in the discussion. For a change, she neither blamed me for the mixup nor asked her priest for yet another exorcism. I nearly collapsed with shock when she instead defended me, telling Sophia: “Don’t be too hard on the boy. It’s a mistake anyone could’ve made!”
Alas, not everyone shares my mother-in-law’s newfound positive outlook. Her husband for one appears less than overjoyed with his wife’s most recent read and with the person he deems responsible. As Vito peevishly complained this morning: “Damn you, Richard! These things Maria all of sudden wants … I didn’t do them when I was young, and at seventy five I’m not about to start!”