Yes, I read the book. And yes, I liked it. AAAnd yes, I am pretty ashamed about my taste.
====== 1/3 way into book I =====
I tried to justify my fondness of it. Being straightforward is one reason I can think of --- it is sincerely about having sex, not slightly apologetic for being borderline porn. No pretending to be romantic --- even though deep down it is. No trying to elevate the sex urge up to some higher purpose, no pretentious inquisitive debate over existential confusion --- just. pure. desire. Of course there are little subplots nicely set up, as one can even form an actually convincing theory about why a billionaire would chase after an ordinary girl, as to how his childhood trauma has made him insecure and Ana is his ultimate savior from his trust issues. All the little nice touches to make you feel less guilty about picking up this book. Yes it is literary porn. You read it because you are lonely and you need a Christian Grey in your life.
But even with the repetitive use of expressions, the forever-lasting mentioning about Ana biting her lip, the not so subtle theme about control and being controlled, the writing itself is actually, how do I put it, smart and effective. Yes I am ashamed that I can feel what Ana feels, but every word she says or thinks is sincere, that feeling that you desire someone so much it hurts, and you fear it is dangerous, and you don't think you have a chance. But Ana says it without being unlikable, self-centered, or disillusioned. Somehow by expressing her narrative, it justifies that aching desire for something you don't deserve.
It does build an overly idealized world, where good things happen with fantasy level possibilities. No, I am not talking about flying a helicopter for a three-hour drive, or a 27 year old being a business genius AND a sex god, or even, not having to tell them your address because they are smart enough to track it down. Maybe the most extremely unlikely thing is, being smart and well-desposed is all you need to deserve the best sex, and you get to have sex by simply wishing it. Even it's the sexiest person you've ever met. What bookish girl wouldn't want THAT?
======Book I+II finished + 1/3 of Book III ========
You can ignore what I said above. The book is not a literary porn pretending to be romantic, it is the other way around. EL James may not have the ambition of becoming Jane Austen of our times, but she certainly achieved it at some level. The quick-witted dialogues in the forms of emails, in addition to being plot devices involving Ana's first "win" on Christian's overnight stay, about Jack Hyde in Book II, or as conversation tools when they are apart or when Ana is too intimidated to express her feelings face-to-face, are shining germs of the book which might be the modern analogues of the Austen style dialogues.
But there is a deeper layer. The "negotiations" between Ana and Christian, which constitutes the blood and flesh of the three books, may be the modern equivalent to Jane Austen's characters' skillful use of game theory, as pointed out by actual game theorists. On one hand, like a detective novel, Book I hinges on the fact whether Ana accepts the contract, the reader has to wonder if Ana has the ability to "lure" Christian into a real relationship. The sequence of Ana's small victories, which seemed natural and trivial at every step, finally leads up to Christian giving up his manipulative plans. In this sense, the book even serves as a textbook, as to how a woman can negotiate her way into a fulfilling relationship in the modern world, essentially by ------ withholding sex, which is fundamentally what Austen Characters do by withholding consents to marriage.
If Book I reveals the power of "negotiations," Book II is surprisingly ambitious at confronting normal obstacles in regular relationships. Surely, not everyone has a "kinky sex" addict to convert in their lives, but everyone has experienced the regrets of breakup, the haunting ex (either the crazy stalky ex or the pretending-to-be-nice-while-secretly-vicious ex,) the dilemma between relationship and work, intimacy and commitment. Despite the sex scenes taking up 1/3 of the book, the book skillfully lays each of these subjects on the table and carefully cuts and dissembles them with surgeon level precision. Sure, it is certainly impossibly dreamy to have sex six times a day, have simultaneous orgasms each time, or even smell "devine" in your private parts after a long day without shower. But what is even more impossibly dreamy is that, the characters identify these issues with incredible shrewdness, simply by observing each other's facial expressions, and communicate with textbook level skillfulness, probing when necessary and withdrawing when a "hard limit" is reached, often immediately at the appropriate times. Who can do that in real life?
这个电影的选角其实暗潮汹涌。Dakota Johnson, 有个BBC女主持人采访他们时说 "you are exactly how I pictured Ana", 完全同意。看她资料完全崩溃，她妈妈有4次婚姻，和Ana一模一样，而她也是妈妈和第一个丈夫生的（虽然不是第一次婚姻里生的，太乱不说了）最最崩溃的是她是Aspen长大的，书里的Grey除了在西雅图和纽约有房产，偏偏就在Aspen这个名不见经传的地方也有一出房产，还推动了剧情。