Shades of grey that had papa in cold sweat

  • Letters
  • Friday, 12 Oct 2012

A recent book purchase by his daughter has got the writer agonising over the young one’s reading habits and the influence of books intended for ‘mature audiences’.

IT was around 11pm when the daughter called and asked to be picked up from the neighbourhood mall as she and her cousin had just got back from a movie in town. I was not very happy playing taxi driver as I was about to have my much delayed dinner.

After sending the niece home, she casually talked about their girls’ day out and suddenly dropped the bombshell — “I bought a book today”.

Yay! I thought at last she is into reading and away from her K-Pop nonsense.

“I got the Fifty Shades of Grey,” said my 16-year-old girl as I swallowed hard and felt sweat dripping down the back of my neck.

I did not know whether to jump for joy or burst into tears. I was so happy that my little girl had grown up and could now make her own decisions about the book and on top of that she wants to read.

On the other hand, why couldn’t she choose another book, something not so controversial? After all, her brother started with Harry Potter or at least he made me run around to buy him the entire series. I am not sure if he read them at all or read something else.

For those of you who do not know, Fifty Shades of Grey is a racy book that has raised a lot of eyebrows.

This was’s review of the book: “Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success — his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family — Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control.

“When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

“Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.”

But it was the last line that left me agonising.

“This book is intended for mature audiences.”

Besides, I found out the book is the first of a trilogy. Oh dear, is she going to make me run around and buy her two more racy, erotic and for mature audience books?

Not sure what to do – whether I should let her continue with the book – I took my dilemma to Twitter and wrote: “Don’t know whether to break out in joy or cold sweat — my 16-year-old daughter bought and is now reading Fifty Shades of Grey!”

Instead of finding some answers, I got even more confused.

A colleague twittered: “Heard it’s no biggie. Almost Mills and Boons.”

Two other single women friends went on the other extreme, one of them wrote: “The book is bad.”

The other tweeted: “Cold sweat, sharpen the parang.”

One mother replied: “You better read it first. The male lead is an abuser of women.”

Keeping up my appearance of the “cool dad” that I always claim to be, I asked the girl if she had started reading the book a day after she bought it.

When she gave an affirmative answer, I quickly asked how many pages she had read and was relieved to find out she had barely made it past the first chapter when it was still innocent like a Mills and Boon book.

(There is nothing wrong with Mills and Boon and there is nothing wrong with a bit of tumble in the hay. I grew up reading copies I borrowed from my sister.)

But the truth is this book is more than just sowing of wild oats on the side but also the dark side of a very physical affair that delves in depth into S&M (sadomasochism which is defined by the Urban Dictionary as “the practice of using pain as a sexual stimulant”.)

I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey but according to the reviews the author E.L. (Erika Leonard) James went into all the sordid details about the S&M practices. She has hinted at numerous interviews about her sexual fetish.

The 48-year-old British author, however, readily admits that her two teenage sons tease her about the contents of her book.

Over the weekend, I drew the attention of two 50-something fathers to this book and asked them how would they handle it.

One of them quickly reminded me that it was no different from the time when we were my daughter’s age.

“Do you remember Jackie Collins’ book The Bitch? One of the raciest book when we were young was Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann,” said this real cool dad of three adult girls.

I then remember my youth and the first such book I read was The Pirate by Harold Robbins (the king of racy books during my time) and not only did I get to read the exotic parts but also learnt my Middle East politics from it.

But, of course, the papa of all such books must be Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence which had the readers of the 1920s as excited as we are about Fifty Shades of Grey today.

Several “explicit” passages were deleted from the book when it was published earlier but when Penguin (a British book publisher) printed the entire book in full in 1960, it was charged under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 but was found not guilty by the jury after a long drawn out trial.

When Penguin printed the second edition in the following year, they included a dedication that read: “For having published this book, Penguin Books were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, 1959 at the Old Bailey in London from Oct 20 to Nov 2, 1960. This edition is therefore dedicated to the twelve jurors, three women and nine men, who returned a verdict of ‘Not Guilty’ and thus made D.H. Lawrence’s last novel available for the first time to the public in the United Kingdom.”

> Wong Sai Wan, an executive editor, has decided to also read the book so that he can answer any queries she may have.

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