Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: Fifty Shames of Earl Grey by Fanny Merkin

Tags: humor, parody, BDSM


Soon-to-be-college graduate Anna Steal meets the irresistibly sexy, rich, handsome, suave, and nerdy Earl Grey and gets swept away in a romance beyond her imagination. The sex and presents may be great, but Earl Grey has some deep dark things that he is ashamed about, which can threaten their chances of staying together forever.


FIFTY SHAMES OF EARL GREY was at its best when it scathingly critiqued the (many) flaws of Fifty Shades of Grey and E. L. James’ writing. Alas, FIFTY SHAMES OF EARL GREY enjoyed itself too much too often, and the liberties it took with plot, characterization, and humor ultimately weakened my overall enjoyment of the book.

FIFTY SHAMES OF EARL GREY has an arguably unlimited source of material to parody, and that’s what it does best. I giggle-snorted the most when Merkin/Shaffer laid bare the utterly ridiculous inelegance of James’ writing.

On meaningless descriptions:
“I gaze into his gazing eyes gazingly like a gazelle gazing into another gazelle’s gazing gaze.” 
“We step inside the cabin and he turns the lights on. Wow. What a place. There are so many things, like couches and chairs and tables.” 
“It doesn’t seem fair that one man could be so beautiful, and so talented, and so rich, but damn: Earl Grey is the total package. My inner guidette shakes her head. That’s like the fiftieth time you’ve said that, using nearly the exact same words, she says.” 
On using physical qualities to repeatedly characterize “her” characters:
“I watch as he pulls his credit card out of his wallet using his long fingers, which I swear have to be longer than his forearms.” 
On illogical progressions in story events:
“’I’m kind of glad you crashed into the ocean,’ Earl says.
‘And why is that, Mr. Grey?’
‘Because I’m throwing a masked charity ball tonight, and I’d love for you to come with me.’” 
On Christian Grey’s creepiness/unrealisticness/unattractiveness:
“He’s just too good looking to say no to. I can’t quit him, even if I tried. Mostly because he would stalk me to the ends of the earth, but still.” 
“’You’re doing so much good in the world, Mr. Grey,’ I tell him.
‘It’s to balance out the cruelty in my own heart,’ he says grimly.
I don’t say anything, because there’s no use arguing with Earl Grey when he’s PMSing.” 
On the transparency of Fifty Shades of Grey being Twilight fanfiction:
“Earl is only six years older than me, but sometimes the gulf between our ages seems like something I can’t bridge. It’s like he’s a 104-year-old vampire in a twenty-seven-year-old’s body.” 
So yeah, the book has some great biting lines about FSoG being an utter piece of crap. But, as I mentioned, it’s one thing to parody and criticize the original material’s ridiculousness, it’s another to add your own kind of ridiculousness. The liberties that FIFTY SHAMES OF EARL GREY took with content left me mostly unmoved. For instance, Earl Grey has a love for Tom Cruise that shows up in the form of multiple movie references. Shaffer explains this as being a running gag, but it didn’t do anything for me. Neither did Jin’s (Anna’s “ethnic friend,” ahaha poking fun at token minorities as “diversity” in literature) bronyism, Katherine’s alcoholism, or “Triassic Park.”

On Ana/Anna’s idiocy:
“Once I graduate, I’m going to start looking for a ‘real’ job. I don’t have anything lined up yet, but I’m not one to worry. In this economy, it shouldn’t be too hard for a fresh college graduate to find a new job.” 
“I feel naked before him, mostly because I don’t have any clothes on.” 
“Less than a minute later, there’s a reply from Earl Grey. Somebody clearly wasn’t busy enough.” 
Actually, that last line illustrates another of the head-shaking things about EARL GREY: Anna Steal has a better head on her shoulders her counterpart. Ana Steele was too stupid in a blank, wish fulfillment kind of way for the author and susceptible readers; Anna Steal was over-the-top stupid (and also, might I add, cringe-inducingly horny), but she also hits it spot-on with her character analyses of Earl Grey. Such insight does not belong to Ana/Anna’s character; the fact that it does in FIFTY SHAMES OF EARL GREY makes readers wonder why she felt she deserved Earl Grey when she clearly deserved better than him.

My favorite lines from the book:
“He’s a nice guy. Like Mark Zuckerberg, only less autistic.” 
“’Look, the point is, there are plenty of ponies in the sea.’
‘Yeah, and they’re called “seahorses,”’ Jin says, sulking. 
And the utter truth about FSoG, spoken about Anna (which, again, makes her smarter than her counterpart ever was):
“’You act like there’s something wrong with you, like everything you enjoy is embarrassing or scary. News flash, Mr. Grey: This isn’t 1950 or whatever. Your sexual tastes aren’t as shocking or as deviant as you think. Neither is anything else you like. Maybe if you didn’t take your fifty shames so seriously, I wouldn’t be so compelled to laugh at them.’” 
Over and out.

Da Capo Press / July 31, 2012 / Paperback / 224pp. / $13.99

e-galley received for review from publisher and NetGalley.


  1. This review cracked me up and I think I got enough of the humor to appreciate it without reading it.

  2. The quotes crack me up and like Midnyte Reader said, I've gotten enough of the humor from this review.

    Crazy Red Pen

  3. I have to agree with Midnyte Reader too. I feel good reading this review but not necessarily moved to read the actual book.

  4. Thanks for all the little snippets, now I don't have to read the parody, but I get to enjoy the lols. ; )


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