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‘Fifty Shades of Grey’? Really?


This summer get the really un-real deal: the re-issues of vampire chronicler (and closeted BD/SM scribe) Anne Rice’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ trilogy, and dig out those horse-bits, carrots, and apples, people! Did we say, “NOW, Pony-Girl?”

You’d think it was the swinging-suburbia, “Ice Storm”-y, key-party 1970’s all over again with the ridiculous success of the soft-porn-y, terribly-terribly-written E.L. James trilogy: “Fifty Shades of Grey” (No. 1, New York Times Best-Seller/Fiction), “Fifty Shades Darker” (ooooh!, No. 2), and “Fifty Shades Freed” (No. 3). Did nobody out there see how bad 1986’s “9 ½ Weeks” was, or even funnier, its sequel, “Wild Orchids”? It’s the same old shite! Must be something in the air…

Here’s the deal. Despite being known for her Lestat, Louis, and all those other vampire characters and all those film adaptations that followed, before Anne Rice found Jesus,then decided she didn’t like him anymore-the New Orleans-raised author had a very big thing going under one of her two pseudonyms, A.N. Roquelaure.

They were kind of creepy-hot stuff, with couples being kept in stables and made to trot, and be saddled up, and to service stable-hands and overseers. Don’t get us wrong: It was “wrong.” But bizarrely hot, sensual, nice prose, frankly. Forget about us. The trilogy of books sold more than her saga that put her on the map: the baroquely awesome “Interview with the Vampire.”

Here, let Wikipedia tell it some:

“The trilogy comprises The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment, and Beauty’s Release, first published individually in 1983, 1984 and 1985, in the United States. They are erotic BDSM novels set in a medieval fantasy world, loosely based on the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. The novels describe explicit sexual adventures of the female protagonist Beauty and the male characters Alexi, Tristan and Laurent, featuring both maledom and femdom scenarios amid vivid imageries of bisexuality, ephebophilia and pony play.

“The trilogy was a bestseller, outearning the author’s commercially successful first novel Interview with the Vampire.In 1994, the abridged audio versions of the books were published in cassette form. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty was read by actress Amy Brenneman. Beauty’s Punishment was read by Elizabeth Montgomery, well known for her role in the ABC situation comedyBewitched,” as Beauty and Michael Diamond as Tristan, and Beauty’s Release was by Montgomery with actor Christian Keiber reading as Laurent.[2] A compact disc version of the audiobooks was read by Genviere Bevier and Winthrop Eliot.”


“The fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty has been analyzed by folklorists and other scholars of various types, and many of them have noticed prominent erotic elements of the story.[11] Some versions of the tale have Beauty raped and pregnant while sleeping, and only waking up after childbirth.[12] The child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim commented that the tale “abounds with Freudian symbolism”[13] and that the princes who try to reach Sleeping Beauty before the appropriate time only to perish in the thorns surrounding her castle serves as a warning that premature sexual encounters are destructive.[14] Feminist theorists have focused on Sleeping Beauty’s extreme passivity and the sexual nature of her awakening in the fairy tale.[11][15] Anne Rice literalized these symbolic sexual elements—particularly, the passive sexual awakening or rape of Beauty that has been denounced by feminists—in the story by rewriting it into an explicit sadomasochistic erotica.[11] However, Rice’s cross-gender identification with the submissive male characters with receptive capacity in the trilogy—Alexi, Tristan and Laurent—enabled her to circumvent the equation of the female gender and masochism and, via their homoerotic interactions with the dominant male characters, she could exploit the erotic potential of phallic power while at the same time going beyond its boundary and “turning it against itself”.[16]

Another foremost difference in Rice’s rewriting is that the story takes Beauty to a series of far harsher trials after her period of extreme passivity in a coma-like sleep.[17]

“In the beginning of the first book, the Prince takes Beauty with her parents’ consent, having persuaded them that, after completing the sexual servitude in his castle, the slaves emerge with “wisdom, patience, and self-discipline,” as well as a full acceptance of their innermost desires and an understanding of the suffering of the humankind.[17] Her royal parents, although saddened by the absence of their daughter, are promised that she will return “greatly enhanced in wisdom and beauty.” However, this unconventional education in sexual hardship and liberation ends in a monogamous, patriarchal marriage between Beauty and Laurent. In the 1994 issue of Feminist Review, Professor Amalia Ziv of Ben-Gurion University described the trilogy as “definitely more of a comedy” when compared to darker BDSM novels such as Story of O, and commented that “like all comedies, it ends in marriage.”

So, get ready. They’ll be back in the bookstores shortly, with romance genre-type covers that won’t embarrass anyone, really, either.