“Have you read ‘The Book?’”
That’s the question women from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to the suburbs of Seattle are asking each other in increasing numbers — albeit in discreet tones.
“It,” they hardly need add, is “Fifty Shades of Grey” — part of a triple-X trilogy involving sex games and a bondage-loving billionaire. Though the three tomes weigh in at a total of 1,200-plus pages, they seem to whiz by for many, and the books may be poised to become the post-millennial equivalent of “The Story of O,” the notorious piece of kinky erotica that has titillated some and scandalized many others since it first came out in 1954.
Though “Fifty Shades” came out last year with little fanfare from The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, a small publisher “catering to the needs of aspiring authors,” in its own words, it has already generated almost 6,000 ratings on Goodreads.com, with an impressive 62 percent rating it a 5 out of 5. The book was also nominated for Best Romance in the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards.
“I would actually give this book infinity stars,” fan Michelle (Chelle) aka Nightshade enthused on GoodReads. “It is in a category all by itself.”
“It was really hard for me to put this book down,” a reader named Milly agreed on Amazon, which offers a Kindle edition of “Fifty Shades of Grey” — as well as its two sequels, “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” — for $6.99 each. “It will definitely keep you reading for hours trying to figure out the deep secrets of Christian Grey.”
The series actually got its start as a Twilight ‘fan fiction’ story called “Master of the Universe,” penned by a writer who called herself “Snowqueens Icedragon.” While some have accused “Shades of Grey” author E. L. James of plagiarizing the story, her agent has confirmed to TODAY that “Snowqueens Icedragon” is actually E. L. James and she authored both the earlier story and the books.Video: Secret of the suburbs: The book that has women talking (on this page)
E.L. James describes herself on her website as a “TV executive, wife and mother-of-two based in West London.
"Since early childhood she dreamed of writing stories readers would fall in love with," says her author bio.
- Unusually Buff Kangaroo Intimidates Australian Neighborhood
- Rachel McAdams Tears Up as She Plays Bridesmaid for Sister Kayleen
- The Bachelorette Recap: Kupah Doesn't Understand Boundaries and Ben Z. Sends Jared to the Hospital
- Southern Charm Season Finale: Shep and Craig Are Headed for a Showdown
- Three Children Injured When Waterspout Carries Bounce House into the Air
What they have fallen in love with is the story centered around Grey, the fictional billionaire, who is described in a rather breathless summary The Writer’s Coffee Shop supplies on its site: “For all the trappings of success — his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving adoptive family — Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control.”Story: Stephen King says ‘Twilight’ author ‘can't write’
Little wonder then, that the fabulously wealthy young entrepreneur finds himself unable to resist the “quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit” of Anastasia Steele, a literature student dispatched to interview him for her campus magazine. Their initial meeting goes badly — even though Ana finds Grey “attractive, very attractive,” with “unruly dark-copper-colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly.”
But before long, the couple embark on what The Writer’s Coffee Shop calls “a passionate, physical and daring affair” in which Ana soon find herself acquainted with Grey’s “red room of pain” and “learns more about her own dark desires.”
And Ana’s far from the only one. Allysa Goldman, a 42-year-old New Jersey mom, told the New York Post that her girlfriends “were all buying their husbands silver ties for Christmas” — ties like the one Grey uses to restrain Anastasia in the novel.
TODAY supervising producer Joanne LaMarca, who claimed she hadn't read a book since her 6-year-old was born, devoured the first installment on a recent trip after a friend of hers told her "she didn’t know anyone NOT reading this book.
"I downloaded a copy and don’t think I put it down until I finished it, despite what the pilot on my flight to Florida said," she told TODAY.com. "I can say, along with many other women I’m sure, that reading this book is very good for your marriage!"
Michelle Yogel, a 33-year-old Manhattan mom, agreed, telling the Post that the book has “revitalized everyone’s marriage on the Upper East Side.”
— TODAY.com senior editor Rick Schindler
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints