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Whether you dismiss it as "mommy porn," criticize it as demeaning to women, or maintain that it's just harmless sexual fantasy fiction, the wildly popular erotic trilogy 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is the result of one woman's midlife crisis.
British first-time author E L James recently said she has been "amazed" by the global success of her books, which first garnered e-book fans by word of mouth, then last month became a New York Times and Amazon.com best-seller, and recently was the prize in a heated movie studio bidding war.
Nearly every newspaper, magazine, TV talk show and website in the country has weighed in on the book, its author, and what it all says about older women's sexual proclivities.
"I told my mah-jongg group, 'Oh my God, you have to read it,' " Janice Abarbanel, a 57-year-old jewelry maker and mother of two, told the Boston Globe. "It makes you think you could add more spice to your life."
James, forty-something, married and the mother of two teenage sons, said she tapped out the books on her Blackberry, inspired by what she calls a "midlife" crisis.
"I didn't buy a sports car or run off and have an affair to grab on to the last vestige of my youth. I wrote instead. I wrote it while working. I
didn't do anything else. I wrote in the evenings, at weekends. It took 18 months to write the whole trilogy," she told Britain's Guardian newspaper.
The book is notable for its raw, erotic scenes that involve bondage and domination. Although the characters in the book -- naive student Anastasia Steele and billionaire entrepreneur Christian Grey -- are in their 20s, the books are especially popular with women of "a certain age," as the Guardian put it.
James said the book fulfills some fantasies older women might have "if you've been married for 400 years, as I have."
"Once you're in charge of your job, your house, your children, getting the food on the table, doing all of this, all of the time, it'd be nice for someone else to be in charge for a bit maybe," James told msnbc.com.
She may be on to something, noted the L.A. Times. During a discussion of the book on the television show, "The View," 82-year-old Barbara Walters remarked: "When you go home, you want the guy to be in charge. More than be in charge, do very kinky things."
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