Sunday, July 15, 2012

This is not just laugh-out-loud funny. This is a read-out-loud, "You have got to hear this!" book.



4 out of 5 stars

*e-ARC provided by the gracious folks over at NetGalley.com*

Disclaimer: I really shouldn't have read this book. After all, not only have I not read the original, Fifty Shades of Grey, I have no intention of ever doing so. Ever. Not even if I were paid a million dollars to do so. Not only does the blatant “I can't believe how much money I'm making off the herds of people buying my books and I barely had to put any thought into writing them!” attitude of the author disgust me, the whole phenomenon of “mommy porn” is vaguely disturbing. I mean, if you want to read erotica, read erotica; don't dress it up as some sort of pseudo romance crap to make yourself feel better about what you're reading.

Anyway, to the review. This parody of Fifty Shades stars Anna Steal and Earl Grey as the stand-ins for Bella/Ana and Edward/Christian. Anna is the clumsy ingenue who catches the eye of the dashing Earl Grey, googolplexionaire* and all 'round enigma (when he's not being emo boy). As you might guess, everything from the original novel is here, just turned on its head: Earl Grey is into BDSM--that's Bards, Dragons, Sorcery, and Magick, similar to straight BDSM only with fairy wings and prosthetic elf ears; instead of biting her lip, Anna picks her nose, a habit which Earl Grey finds endearing and sexually stimulating; she lives in a duplex with Kathleen, a 38 year-old permanent adolescent who's addicted to alcohol and terrible reality TV, and her best friend is Jin, a “brony” who writes My Little Pony fan fiction and has just gotten promoted to forum moderator at a My Little Pony website. Anna also has an “Inner Guidette” (probably due to her love of Jersey Shore) to provide commentary for her adventures.  Although I'm pretty sure the original didn't have Brent Spiner or Dr. Drew Pinsky in it. (Earl Grey rescues Brent from the Saturn dealership where he'd been working as a salesman and gets Brent to work for him as his 'android butler', which was the closest thing Earl Grey could get to a real android. And Dr. Drew is a pervert, at least according to Fanny Merkin.)  However, the biggest flip-flop from the original is that Anna is no longer the wide-eyed virgin, but experienced in the ways of coitus, and Earl Grey, far from being the depraved sex maniac, is actually pretty tame when it comes to sex play.

When I initially began reading Fifty Shames, I was laughing my ass off at nearly every page. The blatant “get a load of this” swipes at Twilight and its ilk, the ridiculous “shames” Earl Grey reveals to Anna (his bro-crush on Tom Cruise, his love of shopping at Walmart on Saturdays, Nickelback, Bud Light, just to name a few), not to mention the way Earl lovingly tells Anna to remove her finger from her nose... it was all just too funny. And the way the book tore into- hell, eviscerated all the story elements of Fifty Shades? As George Takei would say - "Oh my!!" Yet, after a while, I began to laugh less and frown more. Not necessarily at the book, which, when looked at objectively, was still just as humorous and sly. No, what made the funny go out of the book was the reality behind the parody: firstly, the blatant plagiarism of Twilight by E.L. James even as she protested that she did nothing of the sort, then changed her mind, claiming that her novels were original works and, in her humble opinion, literary genius (“It's only fan fiction! Oh, wait, you want to pay me so much money to publish it that I can make a money pool and swim around in it like Scrooge McDuck? In that case, it's an original story of mine, nothing to do with Twilight, no siree Bob, so let's do it!”), and secondly, the “romance” being promulgated by Fifty Shades which began in the original original, Twilight. That “romance” being the idea that abuse isn't abuse, it's merely the man being manly and protecting his woman (and the woman knowing her place and obeying her man); that stalking is actually romantic and sweet and just shows the great love on the man's part in that he can't stand to be away from his woman for even a moment; that jealousy is normal, even to the point of not allowing the woman to have male friends or talk to other men or even have power over her own body. Yeah, yuck. So, thinking about all that kinda took the fun out of the book; my stupid brain can be such a buzz-kill at times.

However, those are all my problems. Once I was able to divorce those thoughts from what I was reading, I was back to hooting and chortling. Seriously, this is not a book to read out in public, unless you have the confidence to laugh like a loon and not give a damn about the people staring at you. And people will stare. Fifty Shames of Earl Grey is fast, fun, and utterly hilarious; not only that but, from what I can tell based on the reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shames perfectly captures the essence of that novel and completely rips it apart, with spot-on caricatures and sly, snarky, and very pointed language. Highly recommended (though probably not to fans of Fifty Shades; I don't think they'll appreciate the humor).

* A googolplex is a really big number. A googolplexionaire is a guy with so much money, it's obscene. Fits Earl Grey to a tee.        

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