Fifty Shades of Grey
2012 paperback cover
|Author||E. L. James|
|Series||Fifty Shades trilogy|
|Published||20 June 2011 (Vintage Books)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover, paperback)|
|Followed by||Fifty Shades Darker|
Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic romance novel by British author E. L. James. It is the first instalment in the Fifty Shades trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism (BDSM). Originally self-published as an ebook and a print-on-demand, publishing rights were acquired by Vintage Books in March 2012.
Fifty Shades of Grey has topped best-seller lists around the world, including those of the United Kingdom and the United States. The series has sold over 125 million copies worldwide by June 2015 and has been translated into 52 languages, and set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time. Critical reception of the book, however, has tended toward the negative, with the quality of its prose generally seen as poor. Universal Pictures and Focus Features produced a film adaptation, which was released on 13 February 2015 and also received generally unfavourable reviews.
The second and third volumes of the trilogy, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, were published in 2012. Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian, a version of Fifty Shades of Grey being told from Christian's point of view, was announced on 1 June 2015. It was released in the United States and the United Kingdom on 18 June 2015, in e-book and print formats.
Anastasia "Ana" Steele is a 21-year-old college senior attending Washington State University in Vancouver, Washington. Her best friend is Katherine "Kate" Kavanagh, who writes for the college newspaper. Due to an illness, Kate is unable to interview 27-year-old Christian Grey, a successful and wealthy Seattle entrepreneur, and asks Ana to take her place. Ana finds Christian attractive but also intimidating. As a result, she stumbles through the interview and leaves Christian's office believing it went badly. Ana does not expect to meeting Christian again, he appears at the hardware store she works at. While he purchases various items including cable ties, masking tape, and rope, Ana informs Christian that Kate would like some photographs to go along with her article about him. Christian gives Ana his phone number. Later, Kate urges Ana to call Christian and arrange a photo shoot with their photographer friend, José Rodriguez.
The next day José, Kate, and Ana arrive for the photo shoot at the Heathman Hotel where Christian is staying. Christian asks Ana out for coffee. He asks if she's dating anyone, specifically José. Ana replies that she is not dating anyone. During the conversation, Ana learns that Christian is also single, but he says he is no romantic. Ana is intrigued but believes she is not attractive enough for Christian. Later, Ana receives a package from Christian containing first edition copies of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, which stuns her. Later that night, Ana goes out drinking with her friends and ends up drunk dialing Christian, who informs her that he will be coming to pick her up because of her inebriated state. Ana goes outside to get some fresh air, and José attempts to kiss her, but he is stopped by Christian's arrival. Ana leaves with Christian, but not before she discovers that Kate has been flirting with Christian's brother, Elliot. Later, Ana wakes to find herself in Christian's hotel room, where he scolds her for not taking proper care of herself. Christian then reveals that he would like to have sex with her. He initially says that Ana will first have to fill out paperwork, but later goes back on this statement after making out with her in the elevator.
Ana goes on a date with Christian where he takes her in his helicopter, Charlie Tango, to his apartment. Once there, Christian insists that she sign a non-disclosure agreement forbidding her to discuss anything that they do together, which Ana agrees to sign. He also mentions other paperwork, but first takes her to his playroom full of BDSM toys and gear. There Christian informs her that the second contract will be one of dominance and submission and that there will be no romantic relationship, only a sexual one. The contract even forbids Ana from touching Christian or making eye contact with him. At this point, Christian realizes that Ana is a virgin and agrees to take her virginity without making her sign the contract. The two then have sex. The following morning, Ana and Christian once again have sex. His mother then arrives moments after their sexual encounter, and is surprised by the meeting, having previously thought Christian was homosexual because he was never seen with a woman. Christian later takes Ana out to eat, and he reveals to her that he lost his virginity at fifteen to one of his mother's friends, Elena Lincoln, and that his previous dominant/submissive relationships (Christian reveals that in his first dominant/submissive relationship he was the submissive) failed due to incompatibility. They plan to meet up again and Christian takes Ana home, where she discovers several job offers and admits to Kate that she and Christian had sex.
Over the next few days, Ana receives several packages from Christian. These include a laptop to enable her to perform research on the BDSM lifestyle in consideration of the contract, as well as for the two of them to communicate, since she has never previously owned a computer, and a more detailed version of the dominant/submissive contract. She and Christian email each other, with Ana teasing him and refusing to honour parts of the contract, such as only eating foods from a specific list. Ana later meets up with Christian to discuss the contract, only to grow overwhelmed by the potential BDSM arrangement and the potential of having a sexual relationship with Christian that is not romantic in nature. Because of these feelings, Ana runs away from Christian and does not see him again until her college graduation, where he is a guest speaker. During this time, Ana agrees to sign the dominant/submissive contract. Ana and Christian once again meet up to further discuss the contract, and they go over Ana's hard and soft limits. Ana is spanked for the first time by Christian; the experience leaves her both enticed and slightly confused. This confusion is exacerbated by Christian's lavish gifts, and the fact that he brings her to meet his family. The two continue with the arrangement without Ana having yet signed the contract. After successfully landing a job with Seattle Independent Publishing (SIP), Ana further bristles under the restrictions of the non-disclosure agreement and her complex relationship with Christian. The tension between Ana and Christian eventually comes to a head after Ana asks Christian to punish her in order to show her how extreme a BDSM relationship with him could be. Christian fulfils Ana's request, beating her with a belt, only for Ana to realize that the two of them are incompatible. Devastated, Ana leaves Christian and returns to the apartment she shares with Kate.
The Fifty Shades trilogy was developed from a Twilight fan fiction series originally titled Master of the Universe and published episodically on fan-fiction websites under the pen name "Snowqueen's Icedragon". The piece featured characters named after Stephenie Meyer's characters in Twilight, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. After comments concerning the sexual nature of the material, James removed the story from the fan-fiction websites and published it on her own website, FiftyShades.com. Later she rewrote Master of the Universe as an original piece, with the principal characters renamed Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele and removed it from her website before publication. Meyer commented on the series, saying "that's really not my genre, not my thing ... Good on her—she's doing well. That's great!"
This reworked and extended version of Master of the Universe was split into three parts. The first, titled Fifty Shades of Grey, was released as an e-book and a print on demand paperback in May 2011 by The Writers' Coffee Shop, a virtual publisher based in Australia. The second volume, Fifty Shades Darker, was released in September 2011; and the third, Fifty Shades Freed, followed in January 2012. The Writers' Coffee Shop had a restricted marketing budget and relied largely on book blogs for early publicity, but sales of the novel were boosted by word-of-mouth recommendation. The book's erotic nature and perceived demographic of its fan base as being composed largely of married women over thirty led to the book being dubbed "Mommy Porn" by some news agencies. The book has also reportedly been popular among teenage girls and college women. By the release of the final volume in January 2012, news networks in the United States had begun to report on the Fifty Shades trilogy as an example of viral marketing and of the rise in popularity of female erotica, attributing its success to the discreet nature of e-reading devices. Due to the heightened interest in the series, the license to the Fifty Shades trilogy was picked up by Vintage Books for re-release in a new and revised edition in April 2012. The attention that the series has garnered has also helped to spark a renewed interest in erotic literature. Several popular works, such as Anne Rice's The Sleeping Beauty quartet and M.M. Majer's Ero 4, have been republished to meet the higher demand.
On 1 August 2012, Amazon UK announced that it had sold more copies of Fifty Shades of Grey than it had the entire Harry Potter series combined, making E. L. James its best-selling author, replacing J. K. Rowling, though worldwide the Harry Potter series sold more than 450 million copies compared to Fifty Shades of Grey's sales of 60 million copies.
Critical reception of Fifty Shades of Grey has been generally negative, with most critics noting poor literary qualities of the work. Sir Salman Rushdie said about the book: "I've never read anything so badly written that got published. It made Twilight look like War and Peace." Maureen Dowd described the book in The New York Times as being written "like a Bronte devoid of talent," and said it was "dull and poorly written." Jesse Kornbluth of The Huffington Post said: "As a reading experience, Fifty Shades ... is a sad joke, puny of plot".
Princeton professor April Alliston wrote, "Though no literary masterpiece, Fifty Shades is more than parasitic fan fiction based on the recent Twilight vampire series." Entertainment Weekly writer Lisa Schwarzbaum gave the book a "B+" rating and praised it for being "in a class by itself." British author Jenny Colgan in The Guardian wrote "It is jolly, eminently readable and as sweet and safe as BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) erotica can be without contravening the trade descriptions act" and also praised the book for being "more enjoyable" than other "literary erotic books". However, The Daily Telegraph criticised the book as "treacly cliché" but also wrote that the sexual politics in Fifty Shades of Grey will have female readers "discussing it for years to come." A reviewer for the Ledger-Enquirer described the book as guilty fun and escapism, but that it "also touches on one aspect of female existence [female submission]. And acknowledging that fact – maybe even appreciating it – shouldn't be a cause for guilt." The New Zealand Herald stated that the book "will win no prizes for its prose" and that "there are some exceedingly awful descriptions," but it was also an easy read; "(If you only) can suspend your disbelief and your desire to – if you'll pardon the expression – slap the heroine for having so little self respect, you might enjoy it."
The Columbus Dispatch also criticised the book but stated that, "Despite the clunky prose, James does cause one to turn the page." Metro News Canada wrote that "suffering through 500 pages of this heroine's inner dialogue was torturous, and not in the intended, sexy kind of way". Jessica Reaves, of the Chicago Tribune, wrote that the "book's source material isn't great literature", noting that the novel is "sprinkled liberally and repeatedly with asinine phrases", and described it as "depressing". The book garnered some accolades. In December 2012, it won both "Popular Fiction" and "Book of the Year" categories in the UK National Book Awards. In that same month, Publishers Weekly named E. L. James the 'Publishing Person of the Year', which, according to The Christian Science Monitor, caused an "outcry from the literary world".
A film adaptation of the book was produced by Focus Features, Michael De Luca Productions, and Trigger Street Productions, with Universal Pictures and Focus Features securing the rights to the trilogy in March 2012. Universal is also the film's distributor. Charlie Hunnam was originally cast in the role of Christian Grey alongside Dakota Johnson in the role of Anastasia Steele, but Hunnam gave up the part in October 2013, with Jamie Dornan announced for the role on 23 October.
E. L. James announced the film's soundtrack would be released on 10 February 2015. Prior to the soundtrack's release, the first single, "Earned It", by The Weeknd, was released on 24 December 2014. On 7 January 2015, the second single, "Love Me Like You Do" by Ellie Goulding was released. Australian singer Sia released the soundtrack's third single, "Salted Wound", on 27 January 2015.
An album of songs selected by E. L. James was released on 11 September 2012 by EMI Classics under the title Fifty Shades of Grey: The Classical Album, and reached number four on the US Billboard classical music albums chart in October 2012. A Seattle P-I reviewer favourably wrote that the album would appeal both to fans of the series and to "those who have no intention of reading any of the Grey Shades".
Amazon.com lists over 50 book parodies, e.g.:
- Fifty Shades of Oy Vey (2013) by E. L. Jamesbergstein
- Fifty Shames of Earl Grey (2012) by Fanny Merkin (a.k.a. Andrew Shaffer)
- Parodying the fan fiction origins of Fifty Shades of Grey, Ivy league MBA students have created Erotic FinFiction, a blog containing steamy entries written in business jargon.
Stage productions include:
- 50 Shades! The Musical Parody
- Cuff Me: The Fifty Shades of Grey Musical Parody
- Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody
- BDSM in culture and media
- Sadism and masochism in fiction
- Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian
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- Bestseller Success Stories that Started Out as Self-Published Books. Ronald H. Balsom. 8 October 2013.
- Julie Bosman. Fifty Shades of Gray Hits a Sales Milestone. The New York Times. 27 February 2014. page C3.
- "Fifty Shades of Grey" Sales Hit 100 Million. Andy Lewis. The Hollywood Reporter. 16 February 2014.
- "EL James' Fifty Shades of Grey tops New York Times list". UK: BBC. 11 March 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
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- Alex Stedman. "'Fifty Shades' Spinoff 'Grey' Stolen From Publisher (Report)". Variety. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- "Fifty Shades of Grey Release Date Pushed Back to February 13, 2015—Just in Time for Valentine's Day!". E! Online. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
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- Jaafar, Ali (1 June 2015). "E.L. James To Publish Another Shade Of 'Grey' In June". Deadline. Deadline. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
- Boog, Jason (21 November 2012). "The Lost History of Fifty Shades of Grey". Media bistro.
- "Fifty Shades of Grey: Stephenie Meyer Speaks Out". MTV. 29 May 2012.
- Bosman, Julie (20 March 2012). "Discreetly Digital, Erotic Novel Sets American Women Abuzz". The New York Times.
- Goudreau, Jenna (19 March 2012). "Will Fifty Shades of Grey Make 'Mommy Porn' The Next Big Thing?". Forbes. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
- "Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James reveals real-life secrets to her readers". The Belfast Telegraph. 4 July 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
- Lewak, Doree (11 July 2012). "The hot sex text". New York Post.
- "Erotic novel 50 Shades of Grey unites gals, unnerves some guys". Fox News. 14 March 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
- Bennett-Smith, Meredith (15 March 2012). "50 Shades of Grey: What is the appeal?". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
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- Dowd, Maureen (31 March 2012). "She's Fit to Be Tied". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
- Kornbluth, Jesse (12 March 2012). "'Fifty Shades Of Grey': Is The Hottest-Selling Book In America Really Just 'S&M For Dummies?'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
- "'Mommy porn' novel has retro message". CNN. 29 March 2012.
- Schwarzbaum, Lisa (21 March 2012). "Fifty Shades of Grey". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
- Colgan, Jenny (13 April 2012). "Fifty Shades of Grey". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 24 June 2012.
- Barnett, Laura (13 April 2012). "Mommy porn?: Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James: review". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- Sorich, Sonya (11 April 2012). "Fifty Shades of Grey: The undressed review". Ledger-Enquirer.
- Sheehy, Christine (13 April 2012). "The 'mommy porn' seducing women". The New Zealand Herald.
- Osterheldt, Jenee (26 March 2012). "Book Review – Fifty Shades of Grey: Sultry subject spells success". The Columbus Dispatch.
- Napier, Jessica (16 April 2012). "Fifty Shades of Grey as dull as a razor blade commercial". Metro News Canada. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
- Reaves, Jessica (14 April 2012). "Fifty shades of retrograde". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
- Flood, Alison (5 December 2012). "EL James comes out on top at National Book awards". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- Flood, Alison (26 December 2012). "Fifty Shades of Grey voted the most popular book of 2012". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 December 2012.
- Driscoll, Molly (3 December 2012). "E L James as 'Publishing Person of the Year' draws outcry from literary world". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- Fleming, Mike (26 March 2012). "Universal Pictures and Focus Features win Fifty Shades of Grey". Deadline.com. PMC. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
- Miller, Julie (10 July 2012). "Fifty Shades of Grey Film Gets Oscar-Nominated Producers, Christian Grey–Casting Inspiration". Vanity Fair (online). Retrieved 12 August 2013.
- Fleming, Mike (26 March 2012). "Universal Pictures and Focus Features win Fifty Shades of Grey". Deadline.com. PMC. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
- "Fifty Shades Of Grey Movie Casts Dakota Johnson In a Lead Role". EntertainmentWise (Yahoo! UK). Archived from the original on 5 January 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
- Rice, Lynette (2 September 2013). "'Fifty Shades of Grey' casts Dakota Johnson and Charlie Hunnam". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
- "Charlie Hunnam: Quitting Fifty Shades of Grey Was "Heartbreaking" - Us Weekly". usmagazine.com. 21 July 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
- Kroll, Justin (23 October 2013). "Jamie Dornan Will Play Christian Grey in 'Fifty Shades of Grey'". Variety. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "Fifty Shades of Grey Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- James, E L (12 January 2015). "Movie Tie-in Edition Now Available & Soundtrack Coming Soon!". Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- Kozak, Oktay Ege (12 January 2015). "'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Soundtrack Features Beyoncé, The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Sia, And More". Indie Wire. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- Zuckerman, Esther (24 December 2014). "Hear The Weeknd's 'Earned It' from 'Fifty Shades of Grey'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- Strecker, Erin (7 January 2015). "Listen To Ellie Goulding's Sexy New Song From 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Soundtrack". Billboard. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
- Artists, Various (27 January 2015). "Fifty Shades of Grey (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Apple. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
- "Fifty Shades of Grey Classical Album Coming in August", Billboard.com, 7 August 2012
- "Billboard Charts Top 5 Classical Music Albums". Classicalite. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
- Goodstein, Jack (15 September 2012). "Music Review: Fifty Shades of Grey: The Classical Album". Seattle PI. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
- "18 things you don't know about Fifty Shades of Grey: The Parody Books Keep Coming". CBS News. 17 February 2015.
- Rachel Kramer Bussel (22 April 2015). "In the wake of 50 Shades of Grey, what's even better than sex? Ridiculous sex". Salon.com.
- Jamesbergstein, E.L. (2013). Fifty Shades of Oy Vey: A Parody.
- Merkin, Fanny; Shaffer, Andrew (2012). Fifty Shames of Earl Grey: A Parody. ISBN 0-306-82199-0.
- Edwards, Peter (17 December 2013). "Business students steam up spreadsheets with 'Fifty Shades of Grey' treatment". The Star (Toronto).
- Webster, Andy (14 March 2014). "If a Book Annoys You, Ridicule It in Song: '50 Shades! The Musical' Parodies That Erotic Best Seller". The New York Times.
- Cuff Me: The Fifty Shades of Grey Musical Parody. Broadway.com.