As far as anybody can tell, the women of Long Island found it first, around Thanksgiving.
During their Christmas vacations, they carried it by Kindle to Boca and possibly Aruba, and from there, it ripped its way through Jersey and then the nation's e-readers before landing last week at the very top of the New York Times best-seller list for combined print and e-book sales.
It's Fifty Shades of Grey, the sexual-bondage romance novel from first-time author E.L. James, a married British TV executive and mother of two, that's been steaming up e-book readers since its digital publication in May and is about to be released as a trilogy in paperback form, with a first run of 750,000 copies.
As Anastasia Steele, the young, innocent college-student heroine of the megahit might say - and does say when pondering the imminent loss of her virginity early on in the story: "Holy Cow!"
So, holy cow. What's the big deal if women dig a highly charged and breathlessly trashy read? Haven't romance-novel enthusiasts debated the merits of the BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadomasochism) subgenre since time immemorial? Has no man (or woman) ever blushed at passages of Sabbath's Theater, or any other Philip Roth book? Or Mary Gaitskill's bondage tale "Secretary"? Does no one remember The Story of O? Madame Bovary? The biblical Song of Songs?
Maybe it's the book's origin as a fan-fiction riff on Bella and Edward of the Twilight series. Maybe it's the commercial success of a novel (more than 250,000 copies sold so far, most in e-book form) that Vintage, a Random House division, spent a seven-figure sum to acquire from a small Australian publishing house. Or maybe it's just a good, lusty read. ...
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