Reader reaction is as varied and mercurial as Christian and Ana's relationship in the "Fifty Shades" trilogy.
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Here's a sampling of replies to a recent Facebook blast and a person-on-the-street interview during the Aug. 4 Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market. Some shared their age, others did not, but the general range is late 20s to early 60s. All have ties to Eastern Iowa:
Jim Clingman of Hedrick, formerly of Cedar Rapids: My mother-in-law from Ottumwa, age 83, had us pick it up for her. Her friends had been talking about it. She found it so disgusting she couldn't put it down until she had finished reading it cover to cover.
Kris Koch of Muscatine, instructor at Muscatine Community College: I teach English and literature and it is my DUTY to keep abreast of all of the major classic AND contemporary writings, including "Shades." So I had no choice but to read the series. Yes, it's definitely "literature" with a lower-case L. If you can get by all the weirdness, the characters are engaging and the plotline has a cool psychological side to it.
Stephanie Filer, 29, of Des Moines, formerly of Cedar Rapids: I HATED the book. Here's why: I do not find physically or emotionally abusive relationships attractive nor sexy. This book glorified men using their power over women to inflict emotional control and physical pain, but positioned it as a “love story.”
There are millions of women who fall in “love” with abusers and this story is a textbook case of an abuser: Her conscience was telling her to run, she hid things from friends and family, he stalked her when she went out of town to get away, he controlled what she wore, who she spoke with, and what she drove (so he could track her) and when she “disobeyed,” she was physically assaulted.
I only kept reading it because everyone kept telling me that "it gets better" and how they “wanted a Christian Grey of their own” so I held on to see what the fuss was about. Horrible.
Destiny M. Hastings, 38, of Mason City, formerly of Cedar Rapids: The first book was hard to put down, but the second and third were much quicker reads. By the third book, I couldn't stand Anastasia. I wanted to call her and tell her, “Look, he's rich, he's handsome, he loves you, he married you. Quit your whining!”
Interview with Clancy Herrington, 53, of Cedar Rapids: I read all three of the trilogy back-to-back, within the space of about three weeks. I had seen a review in The Gazette when they first came out, and I was intrigued by the story line. It was starting to get some national press. (He downloaded the trilogy to his eReader.) Once I got into it, I wanted to see how it progressed, what happened, how things went down the road, what these characters would do, what their relationships did -- how they treated the subject, which I thought was real interesting, since it's become so mainstream with the public. Is this really dominant/submissive stuff, is it erotic, is it just porn? I just had to read for myself.
(Q: What did you think?) I liked it. I think the first book is probably the best of the three, although the second one has a lot of good points, as well. Probably the parts that I liked the most were Ana Steele's conversations with what she calls her inner goddess. It's like her conscious is talking to her. ... The thing that bothered me, along that same line, is the fact that she seemed -- obviously she's inexperienced, naive, a virgin -- but she didn't seem to learn as it progressed through the trilogy. She still seemed to be surprised by everything that happened. I think in a real-world situation, a person probably would have learned after the first couple things. Even though they're meant to be more complex characters, she's not complex at all.
(He liked that it finally turned into a whodunit, and that it was an easy read, fairly easy to come back into, reading during his work breaks. He didn't discuss it with his co-workers or male friends. His wife hasn't read it, but he thinks she should.) I think she would enjoy it. We have a healthy relationship, and who knows, there might be some tips and some things in there that could intrigue her, pique her interest a little. We'll see.
(He's also intrigued by the planned movie, seeing who would play the main roles, how the movie would handle the sex scenes and still maintain an R rating.) Kristen Stewart has been mentioned, from the vampire things. She fits the physical description fairly well. ... It really needs to be somebody younger than 30s to have that innocent component. Maybe just a complete unknown. I could see Angelina Jolie being Mrs. Robinson. I see the British actor -- Jude Law. When I read about Grey, his face pops into my head-- his composure, his type of demeanor.
Molly Bair Williams of Cedar Rapids: Haven't read it yet -- taking it on vacation.
Ann Dean Robinson of Keosauqua: I know this sounds totally weird, but putting the erotic aside ... I was fascinated by the development of the Grey ... yes, he was perverse by most standards, but his metamorphosis from book one to book three was equally interesting. And just a side note, I think my daughter was shocked that I had read it. LOL. Being an old English/Literature teacher I love a good book, smut or not, with a good plot!
Marion Patterson of Cedar Rapids: Straight up pretty erotic!
Jane Gerst of Mediapolis: I looked forward to the email portions more than anything else. Grey's character development was what kept me interested.
Barbara Jackson of Cedar Rapids: I cannot read it because everyone I know has told me everything about it. And no, I will not be watching the movie.
Lisa Thompson of Fort Wayne, Ind., formerly of Cedar Rapids: I’m currently wrapping up the first one. It’s erotic fun. Nothing particularly shocking. My only complaint is the actual writing -- which, for a book, can be a problem. I find it to be pretty dumbed down. She way over uses many nouns and verbs. How many times can someone’s breath “hitch” and everyone is “glaring” at one another all the time. Describing her vaginal region as “down there” repeatedly made me feel like she was an uptight mother talking to her six-year-old. Someone get this woman a thesaurus! I’m willing to plow through it to get to the “good parts” as we used to say. Don’t expect INTELLECTUAL stimulation. Haha.
DaLana Rigby, 42, of Monticello: I finished the 3rd book on Sunday.
My friend in Minnesota got me started reading it the last day of my vacation. I got to about 10th chapter on her Kindle & had to hit the first Walmart on my way back to Iowa to buy the 1st book. I thought Christian was a freak, who needed more than therapy! But I finished it in 3 days.
Bought the 2nd book, had it done in 2 days, it was an emotional rollercoaster. I couldn't put the 2nd book down. I loved the 2nd book because of the mystery behind Christian & Mrs. Robinson & finding out why Christian is Christian. As much as I disliked the way he treated people, I understood.
The 3rd book took longer to read due to the Jones County fair. But I enjoyed it. I talked to my friend in Minnesota while I was reading...we both kept commenting on the same parts. At the end of the 3rd book, I was disappointed but hope she (the author) continues.
I love a good storyline, if there is erotica in it, well ... that is fun too.
Had to laugh this morning on GMA, they talked about the Grey Baby Boom ... and people that are now having babies due to the wives reading this series!!
Sue Day Wallace of St. Louis, formerly of Cedar Rapids: Well written, but after three books with basically the same theme (oooohhh, great passionate sex all the time), it got repetitious. The first one was great, but even though the author tried to hold the reader's attention with some plot twists, it was boring by the third one.