Series: Fifty Shames #1
Published by Da Capo Press on July 31, 2012
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A shrewd, laugh–out–loud parody of E. L. James' bestsellingFifty Shades of Grey series:
Young, arrogant, tycoon Earl Grey seduces the naïve coed Anna Steal with his overpowering good looks and staggering amounts of money, but will she be able to get past his fifty shames, including shopping at Walmart on Saturdays, bondage with handcuffs, and his love of BDSM (Bards, Dragons, Sorcery, and Magick)? Or will his dark secrets and constant smirking drive her over the edge?
The chapters below are an excerpt from the rough draft of Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, which was originally titled Fifty-one Shades. The chapters have been completely revised for the full-length novel's release (out now!).
If you’ve never heard of Fanny Merkin, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Andrew Shaffer, née Fanny Merkin, is responsible for Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, the best thing that has ever come out of the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. Er, well, second-best, because I don’t mean to brag, but I was being ashamed of 50 Shades before it was cool. Or maybe after it was cool. Whatever. I reviewed it and thought it was mindless dribble.
That irrelevant note aside, Shaffer did what those who really want to make a difference do: parodied 50 Shades. Shaffer parodied 50 Shades so hard that it needed a cigarette afterward.
In Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, Anna Steal is recruited by her alcoholic roommate to review the mysterious Earl Grey… who is Edward Cullen in a clever disguise.
Wait. Sorry. That last bit isn’t in the book. But the book does make light of the fact that E.L. James literally wrapped Edward Cullen and Bella Swan in a thin layer of bullshit paper and pimped them out as if they were actually characters she had created.
Anyway, Anna finds herself enthralled by Grey’s money, power, mysterious ways, and the fact that he just won’t got the fuck away. He hunts her down at her job (at Wal-Mart) and buys a Nickelback CD just to ask her to come to coffee… and then buys the Wal-Mart so he can whisk her off ASAP.
Anna is a simple girl from Portland, prone to (sexily) picking her nose when she “thinks”, (sexily) idolizing Snooki, and (sexily) being awed by the stark contrast between the mud huts of her hometown (Portland, again) and the amazing metal and glass structures that dot the Seattle skyline.
Those are just a few things that I absolutely loved about this parody.
Those first edition books that Christian Grey gives Ana in 50 Shades? It’s a copy of Snooki’s autobiography. While I bitched endlessly about the “inner goddess” trope that 50 Shades kept skullfucking into the grave, I winced and chuckled whenever the inner guidette provided Ana with valuable life lessons. The endless repetition of “50 shades of xyz” that James repeated coyly throughout 50 Shades was mirrored by Shaffer in 50 Shames… but was actually cute. Christian Grey has a wicked grin? Earl Grey does EVERYTHING wickedly. Eat it, C.G.
Shaffer relentlessly drives home the fact that Ana Steal (and Anastasia Steele… and come on, let’s be honest, Bella Swan too) is a complete moron. She thinks that Earl Grey’s bumbling speech about how “no man is an island” is an original work of genius, and she gets lost on her way to the bathroom. Ana is the epitome of that one stupid girl you knew in high school, who managed to be loathsome solely because she was so dense and gullible. Shaffer laughs (and pisses) in the face of every overplayed “romance” trope that James shat out in 50 Shades. That electric tingling you get when you touch a man you just met? That’s a joy buzzer, motherfuckers.
Shaffer manages to turn an orgy of pop culture and blatant situational and stylistic parody into a delightful book. I didn’t have a single thing to tweet angry things about, but my e-reader has many, many highlighted passages that made me laugh out loud.
Think of everything you’re ashamed of.
Does it include:
- Wearing velour
- Liking Nickelback
- Enjoying role-playing
- Shopping (happily) at Wal-Mart
- Having an unhealthy obsession with Tom Cruise
If so, you may have walked straight out of this book, and your only redeeming quality may be the hilarity of your life’s story.
Let’s get down to the rub of things, though. Is this a funny book? Yes. Is it making light of everything about 50 Shades of Grey? Yes. Does it also teach life lessons? Actually… it does. And it untangles one of the biggest things that drove me nuts about 50 Shades of Grey that I couldn’t quite pinpoint.
If you saw my 50 Shades tweets or review (which includes the tweets), then you know that one of the biggest things I hated was how pitiful the BDSM was and what a big deal Christian made about such inane crap. All of his self-loathing and hot/cold attitude toward Ana was self-indulgent fuckery. And Anna Steal calls Earl Grey out on that. And I loved that. Because the only reason either Grey (Christian, Earl, whatever) has anything to be ashamed of is because he makes a big deal out of it.
It’s like when you get picked on as a kid. If you make a big deal out of it, people are going to poke at you more, and you’re going to become more and more ashamed of it. I’m not trying to invalidate the pain of bullying, but in my numerous experiences with bullying, the things that I ignored or laughed off when I did wrong were almost immediately dropped when it became apparent that I didn’t give a shit what anyone else thought about me.
If Earl/Christian Grey didn’t pitch such a hissy fit about how terribly ashamed and mysterious and unlovable he was, no one would have said anything more than once. No one would have cared. An(n)a wouldn’t have cared. You want to get someone into bed with you but you’re afraid they won’t be into your fetish? Talk it up instead of describing it as deviant and scary and evil. Your desire to spank someone doesn’t make you some kind of super-kinky snowflake – loads of people are into that, and they aren’t all going to shoot you down and beat you for asking if you can give them a love tap. Come back to me when you want to do something with a considerably smaller following, like administer a vomit enema.
That alone could have sold me on this book, because everyone needs to learn that. LEARN IT. And stop reading 50 Shades.
Do I love 50 Shames of Earl Grey? You bet your sweet ass I do. I love it so much that I’d do the vomit enema thing with Andrew Shaffer. Andrew, if you ever read this… call me!