Durango without shame in embrace of erotic literature

Bestseller flying off shelves

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Courtesy of Vintage Books

Durango is swooning for Fifty Shades of Grey.

The erotic page-turner is on the wait list at local libraries. Book clubs have re-formed to read it. Maria’s Bookshop hand-delivered the third book in its trilogy to a local nursing home.

Libby Cowles, the community-relations manager of Maria’s, said a senior citizen there had “stayed up late reading the second one and needed the third one right away. That was really fun. She was really excited when I got there, very happy to have the third in the trilogy.”

Fifty Shades has been a popular download for electronic readers, but people seem to have lost their inhibition about buying a paperback copy in a store or reading it in public.

Cowles knows of six local book clubs that are discussing it.

“There was one reading group that had kind of fallen off the wagon,” she said. “They had stopped meeting. Fifty Shades of Grey is what got them reading again. That was cool.”

The Ignacio Community Library had a waiting list of readers for the book before it even got a copy, a librarian said.

The novel follows literature student Anastasia Steele as she becomes entangled in a sexually volatile relationship with young entrepreneur Christian Grey. Because the content of Fifty Shades of Grey is not any different from other erotica, booksellers are surprised by its mainstream embrace.

“We’re not seeing people sheepishly ask for it or ask for a brown paper bag. There’s this acceptability,” Cowles said.

Jeanne Costello, the ordering manager for Maria’s, doesn’t “think there’s anything new in this book.”

“What I think what has happened is that, culturally, somehow the buzz has given people permission to openly buy erotic romance,” Costello said.

“There’s some excitement around that. I think it’s really positive in the sense that in the past, people would not have come into Maria’s Bookshop to pick up a copy. I think there’s something to celebrate. Suddenly it’s OK. Maybe we’ll look back and think, ‘America got less uptight about sex.’”

Costello recalled a “60ish daughter and the 80ish mom leaving with the book, giggling. I just think, ‘Right on.’”

One reader, Laura Rovero, 30, pointed out that the book is “at Target. It’s right next to everything else we buy.”

“Women are going bonkers for it. I haven’t read this kind of literature,” Rovero said. “I resisted it for a while, but everyone seems to like it, and I am curious above everything else. The topic is interesting. I would like to read it anyway.

She added. “If there were vampires in it, I wouldn’t read it.”

Rovero thinks the series is popular with women because the male dominant character is “jealous, rich and successful, which plays into the fantasy so many women have of being wanted by others, rich and well taken care of. The books indulge in that, and many women feel ashamed admitting that fantasy because it has taken so much time and effort to get to where we are today, and it is hard to say it’s nice when things are all taken care of by their man.”

Since April 17, Maria’s has sold 254 copies of Fifty Shades of Grey; 77 copies of the second volume, Fifty Shades Darker; and 57 copies of the third book, Fifty Shades Freed.

The Durango Public Library currently has a backlog of 34 people waiting for one of its six copies of Fifty Shades, said Andy White, director of the library.

Because the library leases extra editions, librarians don’t worry about getting stuck with multiple copies after the popularity has faded, White said.

While some libraries around the country have refused to carry it because of the content or perceived lack of literary merit, the attitude at the Durango Public Library is to give people what they want.

“Sales-tax (revenue) buys our books, so we try to buy books for the public without commenting on the literary merits,” White said.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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