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Posts Tagged ‘E.L. James’

Staff Picks: Cat-and-mouse Games, a Miasma of Cuddles

February 13, 2015 | by


A still from Fifty Shades of Grey.

Among the more consistent sets of questions to appear in Paris Review interviews are those regarding one’s influences. It’s a funny line to track throughout the Writers at Work series—and one, I’d venture, that often says a lot about a given writer’s ego. (Watch, for example, as Robert Frost bristles at the suggestion of an affinity between his work and that of Faulkner or Wallace Stevens, or as Nabokov denies having learned anything from James Joyce.) But aside from allowing for the pleasure of watching certain writers shift in their seats, these kinds of questions can also introduce me to writers I haven't heard of, or writers I should have paid more attention to. In her soon-to-be-published Art of Fiction interview, Lydia Davis cites her discovery of Russell Edson’s stories—“He would call them poems,” she says, “but I wouldn’t”—as a major turning point in the development of her style. I couldn’t help but dart off to find a few myself, much to my enjoyment. —Stephen Andrew Hiltner

When Fifty Shades of Grey was first published, it was a cheap thrill to watch the critical bons mots pile up—we had the book reviewers’ equivalent of a home-run derby, with zingers for dingers. I remember Andrew O’Hagan, writing in the LRB, taking aim at the novel’s arrantly vanilla kinkiness: “I suspect the book has taken the world’s mums by storm because there’s no mess on the carpet and there are hot showers afterwards. Everybody is comfortable and everybody is clean: they travel first-class, the rich give presents, the man uses condoms, and everything dark is resolved in a miasma of cuddles.” Now the film is out, and another team of critics is at bat. It’s too early to declare a winner, but surely bonus points should be awarded to those who manage to trash the book and the movie in one fell swoop, as Anthony Lane has. “We should not begrudge E. L. James her triumph,” he writes, “for she has, in her lumbering fashion, tapped into a truth that often eludes more elegant writers—that eternal disappointment, deep in the human heart, at the failure of our loved ones to acquire their own helipad.” —Dan Piepenbring

William Vollmann’s piece in this month’s Harper’s,Invisible and Insidious,” focuses on the fallout, both nuclear and financial, of the Fukushima radiation leak. The media wants big, explosive stories, but that’s not the way nuclear fallout works, as evident by the climbing numbers, “one or two digits per day,” on the dosimeter Vollmann keeps in his house in Sacramento, California. On several trips to Japan, Vollmann ventures near the “Forbidden Zone,” the twenty-kilometer radius around Plant No. 1, whose level of radioactive contamination makes the area “unlivable.” Most striking, as always, is Vollmann’s attention to the poor people in the area surrounding Fukushima—those whose businesses are failing, those on the hook for mortgages, and those among the 150,000 nuclear refugees. When NPR asked him about his extreme form of immersion journalism and whether he was worried about the radiation he’d exposed himself to, Vollman said, “I’m an older person … I’m going to die in any event, so I have less to fear. And I would really like to try to do some good in the world before I die and, you know, if I get cancer as a result, it’s no real loss. The more I see of, you know, the disasters that nuclear power can cause, the more I think I would really like to describe this and help people share my alarm.” —Jeffery Gleaves
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Fifty Shades of Rage, and Other News

September 4, 2013 | by


  • Joey Ramone sings John Cage adapting Finnegans Wake. Got that?
  • Paul Muldoon’s eulogy for Seamus Heaney.
  • Fans of the Fifty Shades series are outraged at the casting for the upcoming film adaptations; a petition is circulating and already boasts 7,300 signatures. The producer has taken to Twitter to defend himself.
  • The Agatha Christie estate has granted permission to author Sophie Hannah to write a new Poirot mystery.


    Date Your Characters, and Other News

    June 28, 2013 | by


  • Hogarth is launching a new series in which modern writers reinterpret Shakespeare. First up: Anne Tyler does The Taming of the Shrew, while Jeanette Winterson takes on The Winter’s Tale.
  • In their own words: “We at Author’s Promoter thought it would be awesome if there was a site where you could check out characters from books and read up about them before deciding if you wanted to read their story; we also thought it would be pretty cool if you could find the type of characters you love to read about. In a way, we wanted to offer a ‘dating site’ for readers; we know that no matter how awesome the site gets it will always need more and more improvement adapting to readers and authors’ needs and that is exactly what we intend on doing!” The above is what we got when we selected “Male; asexual; human; 5’ 4”. So, n.b.
  • If you’re more into blind book dating, on the other hand …
  • E. L. James has overtaken J. K. Rowling’s perch on the mysterious Forbes Most Influential list.
  • In which you were tricked into reading science fiction.


    Psychos, Pencils, and Fines

    August 8, 2012 | by

  • This terrific German blog gives the pencil its due (and, perhaps, then some).
  • In a time when e-books outsell their paper counterparts, NPR wonders whether cover design is a dying art.
  • In a gesture of either great magnanimity or great desperation, the Chicago Public Library waives all fines.
  • Movies you may not have known were inspired by books. (In the case of Psycho, probably because Hitchcock tried to buy up all the copies so there’d be no “spoilers.”)
  • On the one hand, we take issue with some of the rankings on this list of the hundred greatest young-adult novels. On the other, it’s encouraging to know kids are voting. (At least, we hope that’s the explanation.)
  • In obligatory Fifty Shades of Grey news, author E. L. James is curating an album of the classical music featured in the trilogy. (For the uninitiated: in addition to being the world's youngest billionaire and most accomplished lover, Christian Grey is also a world-class musician.)
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    Wharton, Borges, and Grey: Fan-Fic Galore!

    August 1, 2012 | by

  • The latest Dead Authors Podcast features Jorge Luis Borges.
  • In all honesty, who isn’t interested in lists of famous literary feuds?
  • A new generation takes over Doonesbury.
  • A new generation discovers The Babysitters Club.
  • Leigh Stein explains how to read in public.
  • Marc New York’s Fifty Shades–inspired ad campaign.
  • An excerpt from The Age of Desire, Jennie Fields’s Edith Wharton–themed romance.
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