MEN KNOW there's some kind of lady craze surrounding "Fifty Shades of Grey," but many may not know what's driving it.
You see your wife or girlfriend reading the E.L. James book, but you know from your painful experience of having a go at Eat Pray Love that what happens on your wife's nightstand stays on your wife's nightstand.
Taking one for the team is Daily News movie critic Gary Thompson, who read his complimentary copy of Fifty Shades so that he could more fairly review the film before it hits screens Friday. Gentlemen, he's here to answer your questions.
Q: E.L. James. Sounds literary. A cross between E.L. Doctorow and P.D. James?
A: Not even close. The E.L. might stand for Extremely Lurid. Or Elongated and Lubricated. Or . . .
Q: I get it. So Fifty Shades of Grey is not about ambiguity or ambivalence in an age of changing social mores?
A: No, it's a dirty book.
Q: Would I like it?
Q: Why not?
A: There are no pictures. And it's like the longest Penthouse Forum letter ever. It's about a college student named Anastasia hooking up with a kinky billionaire named Christian, but nothing happens for eight chapters.
Q: Where does the dirty stuff start?
A: Page 113.
Q: Is it well-written?
A: No. The prose style is pretty bad. E.L. James started writing this as fan fiction inspired by Twilight, under the handle Snowqueens Icedragon. It's like thirdhand Stephenie Meyer, only without the chastity.
Q: So you don't think much of James?
A: To the contrary. I idolize her. I worship almost anyone who can squeeze a nickel out of the publishing industry. And there are far worse book-group type things that women could be reading.
Q: Like what?
A: Like any book written by anyone running for president. No one could finish Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices, for instance, who was not paid to review it. Although you know what's funny?
Q: Fifty Shades of Grey should have been the name of Clinton's stupefying doorstopper, and the name of James' book should have been Hard Choices.
Q: You said the rich guy is kinky. How so?
A: He sort of stalks the girl for a while, then whisks her back to his place and forces her to do submissive things in the Room of Pain.
Q: The kitchen?
Q: The laundry room?
A: No. I'll give you a hint. It involves one partner's pleasure at the expense of the other's pain.
Q: Like when I watch "Downton Abbey" with my wife?
A: Not quite that severe. I'm talking about BDSM.
Q: [Pause] Is that the new R2D2?
A: No it means Bondage, Domination, Sado-Masochism.
Q: He dominates her?
A: Yeah. It starts with him forcing her to eat an entire plate of pancakes against her will, and escalates to bondage, spanking, accessories.
A: I'm just passing this information along. If I told my wife to finish her pancakes, I'd get a bottle of Aunt Jemima right in the face. So, I didn't understand all of it. For instance, I don't understand why women find Christian complicated and mysterious.
Q: He's not complicated?
A: He buys Ana an Audi, she does what he wants in the sack. To me, he's the least complicated guy in literature.
Q: What model Audi?
A: The A3.
Q: She trades sex for gifts? Doesn't that make her . . .?
A: Well, it's nuanced. He has a long list of rules, and she does what he wants but in ways that change him to her liking. He doesn't like to be touched, for instance, and she gets him to cuddle.
Q: Still, isn't the whole thing a little prefeminist?
A: Fans say it's actually the courageous story of a young woman's sexual self-discovery. She accepts bondage in the Room of Pain to break the bonds of sexual shame placed on women by society.
Q: Isn't that just a pompous way of saying it's a dirty book?
Q: Will Fifty Shades make BDSM mainstream?
A: Did Twilight take chastity into the mainstream? This is a fantasy. And besides, I don't think most Americans would accept Christian's rules as set down in this book.
Q: Why not?
A: One of them is, "No snacking between meals."