Y! Big Story: ‘Fifty Shades’ frenzy
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Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades of Grey
This may not be a passing fad: In the coming months, a movie trilogy will make "Fifty Shades" as omnipresent as "Twilight" or "The Hunger Games." A sign of women's power in the marketplace? But first, an excerpt:
Uncoiling from the floor, rising lazily, like a jungle cat, he points the end of the riding crop at my navel, leisurely circling it—tantalizing me. At the touch of the leather, I quiver and gasp.
From London to Down Under to the Upper East Side, a best-seller's journey. A former TV executive in England longs to write a book. Under a pseudonym (E L James), the mom of two contributes some bondage-themed fan fiction, inspired by Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series. (That trilogy, of course, was an homage itself to, respectively,"Pride and Prejudice," "Romeo and Juliet," and "Wuthering Heights.") James's works get picked up by an Australian publisher in May 2011.
The seething erotica burns its way across the Atlantic, and "Fifty Shades of Grey" becomes known as "The Book" among a New York cadre of Upper East Side moms. A 57-year-old woman from Massachusetts tells her mahjong group, "Oh my god, you have to read it." (Yes, ladies still play mahjong.) By February, more than 100,000 copies (mostly e-books) are sold. The title hits the New York Times best-seller list by early February.
The New York Post is the first to devote some ink to the phenom:
"Fifty Shades," an erotica trilogy dubbed"mommy porn" by some, is rapidly becoming a cult hit among Manhattan women, who are exchanging well-worn paperback copies and excited whispers about the book's "red room of pain" (a sex playroom) while meeting at Fred's at Barneys or parent-teacher conference nights at school.
It's like "Twilight" for the grown-up set. Except, you know, with lots of sex instead of vampires and abstinence.
New York Times columnist Maureen O'Dowd even weighs in, and reminisces about bondage fantasies. And this is just the beginning.
The bidding wars: the publishers. Vintage Press, which publishes authors like Cormac McCarthy, Stieg Larsson, Haruki Murakami, and Toni Morrison, ultimately snagged world English publishing rights with an undisclosed seven-figure sum. The imprint released its e-book ($9.99) on March 12, and in quick succession will publish all three in paperback (the first April 3, the last two, "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" on April 17) under the "contemporary romance" genre. How does the literary heft of a fan-fiction author fit in? Publicity director Russell Perreault told Yahoo! that the press carries "the best of everything" from genres like science fiction, mystery, and drama. "It's a great story and a great character," explained Perreault, adding that his publisher, Anne Messitte, leaped on the book after hearing from friends and then attending an author reading.