One local library has ordered 16 copies of the bestselling erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and they’re still having trouble meeting the demand.
The book is the first in a trilogy whose main characters are loosely based on two characters in the bestselling “Twilight” vampire saga. In “Grey,” the main character, Anastasia Steele, is an innocent woman who is drawn to wealthy older businessman Christian Grey. Grey soon entices the young virgin into an erotic romance.
Across the country, the book has been a best seller and has been called “mommy porn” by detractors who believe it mainly appeals to bored housewives. It has been banned in some libraries in Texas and Florida.
In Hudson County, the Hoboken Public Library has ordered 16 copies to keep up with the demand.
The North Bergen Public Library has six copies, all of which are checked out. Nine people are waiting for it to be returned, said Krista Welz, who is in charge of children’s literature at the library.
“I’ve had mostly a mix of curiosity and positive feedback.” – Jennifer May
The Secaucus library has one to two copies of each book in the trilogy and is in the process of adding more. Forty people are waiting for the first book, said Library Director Jennifer May.
At the main branch of the Jersey City Public Library, there are three copies checked out and four people waiting.
“Our policy is that if the ratio of reserves is five or more people for the book, we buy extra copies,” Hoboken Library Director Lena Podles said last week. “We normally buy at least two copies of books we anticipate to become bestsellers. Once the book becomes very popular we buy more copies to satisfy the demand.”
In response to the controversy about the book, Podles said, “I heard that some libraries that have in their policy that they do not purchase ‘erotica.’ I personally do not think the libraries should have official policies on banning specific genre. People’s definitions and opinions are different; it is up to a person to make that choice.”
Secaucus Library Director Jennifer May, who considers herself an avid reader of non-fiction books and historical romance novels, said that she found the trilogy a bit out of her comfort zone, but definitely fun and escapist.
“I think that anything that catches the popular interest as much as this series has is inherently fascinating,” said May. “I don’t think that it is going to become a great classic of literature, but I do think that the books raise interesting questions about the modern American dream, pop culture, class, autonomy, control, greed, love ‘normal’ relationships, and of course, sex.”
In one aspect that has troubled readers, Christian asks “Ana” to sign a contract stipulating when she eats, how much she eats, when she exercises, what she wears, and other aspects of her life.”
May was bothered by the term “mommy porn.”
“I really hate that term,” said May. “It makes the books sound cutesy and safe and sweet—and they aren’t. And it makes the readers sound equally quaint and unsophisticated. And we aren’t.”
Podles said, “Books are sometimes labeled. Some of the books considered classics now had been ranked ‘inappropriate’ at their time… I am not in favor of labeling.”
Sonia Araujo, the assistant library director in Jersey City, said she read all three books “to see what the fuss was about.” She said that there is more to it than the explicit parts. “It’s within the context of a very interesting storyline of two people learning what the other like or dislikes,” she said. “Mr. Grey really doesn’t know what it means to love. Anastasia Steele shows him that he is worthy of love, and that he is a loving, caring man.”
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May said that she is happy that people are talking about a book.
“I love it,” said May. “I love that there is such a wide swath of the population, largely women, talking about a single series of books, and discussing it’s themes as well as the thoughts and actions of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. When I talk to people in town, or look at my Facebook page, and see 20 or 30 friends exclaiming about Christian and Ana, it reminds me of the way people responded to novels in the 19th century, before radio and television. They are so involved in the story, and I think that is awesome.”
May hopes that people may want to read the Twilight series, which is the inspiration for ‘Fifty Shades.’
Podles said that she has heard some feedback about the book.
“It varies,” she said. “We heard that it is ‘poorly written’ and they can’t even finish it, and others go right back to order the sequence.”
“I’ve had mostly a mix of curiosity and positive feedback,” said May. “I’ve heard a lot of library users talking about the trilogy, joking about it, asking if other patrons or library staff have read it. Some patrons swear that they would never read anything like it, others ask if we’d consider using it as a book club selection, since they are really eager to discuss it with other people.”
May said that if people are interested in meeting as a one-time book club to discuss it, either online or in person, they can e-mail her at email@example.com.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org