Never Say DieRead it.  That's probably all I need to say in this review, but I will say more.  Susan Jacoby is one of my favorite writers because she does her best to tell the truth.  I know what you are thinking: "But don't all writers seek to tell the truth?"  Well, in a word, no.  Most writers need to sell their articles or books to magazines or editors and editors need to sell the magazines or books.  Those editors know that people don't buy downers.  The members of the mass market, which doesn't include either me or you, seek to have their existing convictions affirmed. They want to be led to feel good.  That's fine but what happens when the subject is not necessarily a happy one or the subject has to be spun - i.e. misrepresented - to appeal to enough people to make a profit for the magazine or book seller?  Here's what happens: the item doesn't get published.  Unless you are someone like Susan Jacoby who has established herself as a reliable and insightful writer.  Fortunately there are enough people like you and me who are willing to be pissed off or depressed if that's what has to happen when getting at the truth.  Her primary assertion:  Old age sucks because everything hurts, you get poorer and weaker, nobody wants to get into your pants, and most people need you to tell them that you have found wisdom and serenity instead of, well at least in addition to incontinence and loneliness.  And I will read just about any writer who identifies Sarah Palin is a "shameless hustler," not because it confirms my already acquired impression but because it's true.

I’ve been reading Fifty Shades of Grey and I comment on it here only because it has been so successful.  It has sold more than 100 million copies.  God only knows how many hundreds of millions will pay to see the movie.  My first responses have been disbelief, disdain, and anger.  The book is badly written.  I’m about two thirds of the way through it and I have yet to detect a plot, much less interesting character development.  The absence of realism prevents it from being very erotic.  The reader is expected to believe that the woman, who gets off – not just gets off but is “shattered” over and over to the point that her orgasm is an uncontrollable event she fears – by being tied up, spanked, and beaten is also the demur type who blushes at the least hint of impropriety.  She blushes hundreds of times throughout the book.

The book also angered me because it suggests that if a man were just rich enough, handsome enough, suave enough, accomplished enough he has magical powers of seduction.  No, it’s not even seduction.  He just has to be, just stand there, to electrify a beautiful young virgin.  His pants hang somehow on his hips and the woman is instantly soggy and eager.  Bullshit.  And it’s even worse for women.  At least we get a description of the appearance and behavior of Christian Grey that accounts for the instantaneous arousal of the woman, Anastasia Steele.  The author indicates nothing about her that accounts for his interest other than that she is young, healthy, virginal, and clumsy.  Magically, Grey is immediately and completely – helplessly even – smitten by her.  Like most men, I am angry at women because, aside from rape, women always have complete control over whether a heterosexual sexual event or relationship occurs.  But to suggest that relationships become sexual instantly, easily, and even unavoidably after knowing someone for a few seconds, as happens in Fifty Shades, would be insulting or rude were it not so preposterous.

But who the hell am I, a guy who has made a total of $16 in royalties in my life as a writer?

But I think I know why the book has been so successful.  It is a fantasy that when entertained creates peaceful, pure, unencumbered pleasure, desire, and desirability.  There is no fear of embarrassment, rejection, or humiliation.  No money problems.  No laundry, no errands, no dinners to make, no dishes in the sink.  No zits.  No cellulite.  No scars. No fear of being seen as a slut.  No children banging on the bedroom door.  No fear of impotence or stink from down there.  Swept off your feet by a bashful billionaire or dragged away to the bed of a blushing virgin?  All boobs are full, shapely, and gravity defying.  All cocks erect.  All vaginas slick and capacious and tight at the same time.  Imagine how sweet life would be.  The operative word is “imagine” because only in a fantasy would getting laid be so free of details of any kind.  Woody Allen said that the problem with sex is that somebody else has to be there.  With Fifty Shades of Grey, not even you have to be there to experience sublime self-acceptance and pleasure.