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Fifty Shames of Earl Grey by Andrew Schaffer Laura C’s review of Fifty Shames of Earl Grey by Fanny Merkin aka Andrew Shaffer
Parody published by Da Capo Press 10 Jul 12

Even if you only heard about Fifty Shades of Gray and haven’t been subjected to reading it (or if, like many people I know, downloading and reading the digital sample was enough), you probably know enough to get a giggle out of this. But for the real guffaws, you will have to have read at least enough of the original to understand the…er…plot arc…and the critique inherent in the parody.

This book is pitch-perfect right from the beginning:

I growl with frustration at my reflection in the mirror. My hair is fifty shades of messed up. Why is it so kinky and out of control? I need to stop sleeping with it wet. As I brush my long brown hair, the girl in the mirror with brown eyes too big for her head stares back at me. Wait . . . my eyes are blue! It dawns on me that I haven’t been looking into the mirror—I’ve been staring at a poster of Kristen Stewart for five minutes. My own hair is fine.

The Kristen Stewart reference is an extra joke for those who remember that 50 Shades began as Twilight fan fiction. As is probably my favorite line in the the entire book: “I open my eyes and stare down at Mr. Grey and HOLY MOTHER EFFING SPARKLY VAMPIRES IS HE HOT.”

If this short book has one weakness it is that Shaffer copies E.L. James (who copied Stephenie Meyer) too well. All the things I found so annoying about Bella, which were made even worse in Ana, reach their epitome in Anna Steal, who is not only passive to the point of paralysis, but dumb as a box of rocks.

The Earl Grey Corporation headquarters in downtown Seattle is a ginormous 175-story office building that juts into the cloudless sky like a steel erection. I walk through the glass doors and into the lobby, which is floor-to-ceiling glass and steel. This fascinates me to no end, because buildings back in Portland are made of grass and mud.

Because, yeah, in 50 Shades, Ana is always so astonished at everything about Christian’s world. But it’s not as if Shaffer isn’t aware of the problems of the voice of the dull-witted Bella/Ana/Anna-type character. As in any good parody, he pushes it to its extreme and shows off exactly what the most annoying aspect is:

“You’re a mystery to me, baby,” he says, biting the tip off the banana.

I blush. “Oh, stop.”

“No, it’s true,” he says. “I have no idea what’s going on inside that pretty little head of yours . . .”

“To be honest, I have no idea either,” I say, looking down at the table to avoid his powerful gaze. “Most times, my mind is just an ongoing, present-tense, first-person monologue. It’s like I’m writing a novel, constantly, but only in my brain. A really bad novel.”

I laughed out loud at that one.

Throughout the whole book, Anna is dying to get it on with Earl (which she calls “making sandwiches” because she can’t say “sex”, which is also a familiar trope to readers of the original), but he keeps putting her off because he says he has “50 Shames” that are much too dark for her. When they do have sex it is both hilarious and pretty much missionary. He refuses to let her into his “darkness,” so there’s not much sex at all.

Of course, Earl’s shames are no more shocking than Christian’s sexual predilections or Edward’s vamipiric tendencies (really, is anyone horrified by bondage or scared by a vampire that freaking sparkles?), and they include things like shopping at Wal-Mart and thinking Jeff Foxworthy is hilarious.

I’m not ashamed to say, I found this book hilarious, even if the middle sagged a little.

Grade: A-


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?

No excerpt available