Due notice, I havent read the book and don’t plan to. All the excellent, almost uniformly negative words written about it make it something I’m just not interested in, even as a “what not to do” guide for my own writing. However, a book-devouring friend of mine who reads virtually no erotica picked it up recently, and enjoyed it at least somewhat.
I asked why, and over the conversation got basically 3 core answers.
First, the sex was pretty hot. Scenes she didn’t care for were easily skimmed or skipped. The non-realities of a virgin who could deep throat in a trice, or of BDSM setups/attitudes that were awful misrepresentations of kink were just not concerns. If you don’t care about that stuff, how well or how badly it’s done doesn’t matter as much if the scene is engaging. This reader didn’t care about BDSM being done ‘right’, because that wasn’t a reason the book was being read. For someone who doesn’t read much erotica, the bar might be set pretty low, but in this case, FSoG delivered.
Second, when she said ‘no’, he listened. Not having read it, I can’t say how accurate this is. From what I understand, a lot of pressure was applied in the relationship. But if No meant No, even when you are a nothing and your partner is a domineering asshole, then it is, in what appears a slight ironic twist, a pretty affirming and empowering message. Above all, consent matters. And for someone with tastes that _don’t_ run to kink, and certainly not to questionable or non-consent, that was a deal-maker for the book.
The third was a bit meta. FSoG has, in its own way a Harry Potter effect. My friend talked to a many others in her circles, some of whom just don’t read much at all, some of whom inhabit circles were reading is almost looked down on as a waste of time. These people were reading FSoG, and it made them interested in finding other things to read. Chances are they’re not going to move on to Hemmingway or Twain or Foucault any time soon, but new readers? Returned readers? Even if they are only looking for the next 50 Shades, some of them will find new and better worlds of words, because of bad BDSM.
All that said, the oft repeated criticisms on the writing and shallowness all still applied. But that just made it a candy book instead of literary, and FSoG never pretended to be literary, and she told me that something better written would be nice to read.
In this way, the opportunity FSoG presents to the writers of both candy/porn and literary erotica is huge. Certainly the former is already being capitalized on by the bigger publishing houses that smell a profitable fad. But there is actually a window for the latter. It’s open now – we don’t have to push it open. We just have to throw some good books through it.