|Alleged ‘erotic’ book in high demand at RP Library
Nobody's accusing the Rohnert Park-Cotati Public Library of having fiction dripping with eroticism on its shelves. But there's a best-selling book called "Fifty Shades of Grey," written by Erika Leonard James (she uses her initials E.L. as author), causing quite a stir in public library circles these pre-summer days. Some libraries are banning the book from their circulation, others are saying you have to be 18 or older to check it out, and others are simply accepting its existence.
There's no doubt the book is in great demand, for it's topping book sales charts nationwide.
Nancy Kleban, branch manager in the RP Library, said, "We have three copies and have ordered three more. As of last Friday, we had 297 people on the waiting list for books. And 100 or more were for Fifty Shades of Grey. I heard the county library system has 26 copies of it in circulation.
"When it becomes available here we notify the top person on the list. If they don't come in and pick it up within a very short time, we go to the next name. It can be checked out for three weeks only, and renewals are not allowed."
"Fifty Shades of Grey" is the first book in a trilogy of books written by James, all bearing similar titles. She's a 50-year old resident of England.
It was first printed in Australia as an e-book only. Vintage Books, a subsidiary of Knopf Doubleday, took notice of its popularity and bought publishing rights in May 2011. It gained instant popularity, so much so Universal Movies paid $5 million for film rights.
The plot has been derided as non-existent, for it mostly involves relations between a sadistic, manipulating millionaire and a virginal 24-year old college coed. It leads to bondage, sado-masochism and sexual dominance, a classic theme for "genuine" erotic books not found on public library shelves.
In a New York Times article dated May 22, Tim Cole, collections manager for the Greensboro library in North Carolina, politely called it of "mixed literary merit." But he ordered 21 copies of it anyway.
"This is the 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' of 2012," he added. "Demand is a big issue with us, because we want to be able to provide best-selling material to our patrons."
A critic was quoted as saying, "Fifty Shades of Grey" as "filled with cliché-ridden characters, highly implausible plot turns and dialogue that alternately induces cringes and giggles."
So far, the Sonoma County Library Commission hasn't issued any recommended stance on James's trilogy. No one likes to talk about banning best-selling books from a public library. The danger of tiptoeing into book censorship entanglements by a public library must be avoided. And individuals have their own definitions of too much or acceptable erotica in what they choose to read.