where the writers are
Fifty Shades of Black

Tipped off, a few weeks ago, to the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, I looked it up on the web, where I read the first 50 pages. That was plenty: it was all build-up to something that didn't happen, but I didn't feel any need to buy the book to find out what that was because 1) the book is as badly written as something from Dan Brown (and while I'm on the subject of Dan Brown, did anyone else notice how his main character in Da Vinci Code (homesick for Paris scenes, I went to the movie) got rid of a tracking device by throwing it out the open window of a bathroom in the Louvre embedded in a cake of soap? I mean, when did you last see a cake of soap in a major museum bathroom and/or an open window?); and 2) it happens in some place like Portland or Seattle, where as some LA writer has said--though she later, I should add, recanted--the women have just two hairstyles: long grey hair and short grey hair (maybe this is where the grey comes in?)

I have another recommendation, and I write as someone with a dedicated shelf in her library for erotica, and for whom Histoire d'O is required reading. The Tattooist is a new book by Louise Black (a former colleague and friend under another name); it is unusually sparely written, graphic (in the sex scenes, but also in its line-drawing style and fine sentences, with only occasionally an overly-luscious image), emotionally tough. What is most remarkable and what ultimately keeps one reading is Xanthe, the character the book is most invested in (three other mainish characters, including the tattooist are less fully-developed master/slave figures). Xanthe is complex, intelligent, strong and vulnerable, humorously self-aware, cynical, generous, unpredictable (I could go on adding adjectives here), evolving and utterly believable: she is fully realized and she resembles few other female characters in literature. Xanthe is a survivor though it takes her a while to realize this. "I am not a victim," she says at some point, with a kind of astonishment.