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Fifty Shades is too hot for libraries

Published May 11, 2012


San Francisco - The best-selling erotic novel Fifty Shades Of Gray has been banned from libraries across the United States by straight-laced librarians who argue that is does not conform to their standards.

“It's quite simple, it doesn't meet our selection criteria,” Cathy Schweinsberg, the library services director in Brevard County, Florida, told the Palm Beach Post.

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It has also been banned by libraries in other areas of Florida, as well as in Georgia and Wisconsin.

The book, written online by first-time female British author EL James, revolves around a kinky relationship between an innocent female student and a handsome billionaire, and has topped the New York Times bestseller list for several weeks.

While the book has been whisked from the shelves of Brevard County's 17 libraries, the public library system there does offer borrowers copies of The Complete Karma Sutra and other controversial books like Tropic of Cancer and Lolita, the 1955 novel about a man who falls in love with and attempts to seduce a 12-year-old girl.

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Asked about the difference between those books and Fifty Shades Of Grey, Schweinsberg called the others classics, reasoning: “I think because those other books were written years ago and became classics, because of the quality of the writing,” she said. “This is not a classic.”

Time is unlikely to change that perception of the book whose style has been slammed even by reviewers who appreciated the non-stop titillation on its pages.

Described in the US press as “mommy porn” or “Twilight for adults”, the book was originally published chapter-by-chapter on an online site and was picked up by a tiny independent Australian press who had to work for 10 months to persuade the author that there was a market for it.

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The English-language rights were eventually picked up for a seven-figure sum by a division of the US-based Random House, which released two sequels last month, both of which are also high on the bestseller lists.

With the author's agent reportedly fielding numerous offers for the film rights, the reaction to the book has been compared to the viral excitement ignited by such pop cultural icons as The Da Vinci Code, The Kite Runner and Eat, Pray, Love - despite, or perhaps because of, its focus on graphic kink, complete with chains, whips and handcuffs.

The story revolves around the relationship between alluring billionaire Christian Gray and college student Anastasia Steele, who is a sexually clueless virgin when they meet.

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The two develop a dominant-submissive relationship filled with kinky sex acts. While critics have blasted the author for her “plodding prose”, readers appear willing to overlook the literary shortcomings in favour of the bodice-ripping descriptions.

The book has sparked a media craze on US websites, TV shows and newspapers, with everyone from CNN to the New York Post to the Today show discussing the steamy publishing phenomenon.

“I found myself explaining what BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) was to some of the moms at Saturday morning basketball,” publicist Alison Brod told the Post.

“The books are really making people want to have sex again. They're a Band-Aid for marriages that maybe weren't falling apart, but were getting stale,” said Lyss Stern of, an early admirer of the novel.

The success of the book has also been attributed to the rise in the number of e-readers and iPads which are allowing women to read the steamy tome without letting on to anyone that the object of their fascination is what can only be categorised as soft-porn. - Sapa-dpa

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