Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

Filthy Shades of Grey and Top Erotic Books of All Time

Decades ago an English erotic novel called Lady Chatterley’s Lover caused a lot of hot debates on suitability of this type of fiction for public. The book was banned in several countries for some time and then the explosion of erotic fiction (written by Xaviera Hollander and the likes) during the later times of Sexual Revolution made the whole matter obsolete.

Until now. Since last autumn a British author E.L. James has been enjoying a triumphant rise to fame with her erotic book trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey, which has already sold out millions of copies worldwide. A screen adaptation is rumored to commence soon.

This success is further heated up by a number of feminist groups calling the book filthy and indecent (I guess erotic fiction should be spiritual and sublime) and suggesting to ban it. They should know better, – the forbidden fruit is only more appealing. The sales keep going up.

To summarize for boys and yet unaffected women, Fifty Shades of Grey is a post-modernistic love story of an epic caliber. N.B. My version of the synopsis may not be utterly accurate, lol. Anyway, the main heroine Christina Grey is a gorgeous self-made billionaire woman and Alex Steele is an inexperienced college guy. Grey wants to have a purely sex-based relationship on a condition: Alex should sign a non-disclosure contract. On top of that, Grey is into sexual punishment. Alex reluctantly agrees to give it a try, perhaps because Christina is otherwise nice to him, she gives him presents and even saved his life once (she did a CPR on him when he nearly drowned himself in a King-size Martini).

Okay, why the book is causing so much turmoil?

The anti-Grey party believe that Alex is a bad role model for college boys and Christina – for grown up women or that the book erases the allegedly thin boundary between SM role play and sexual abuse. Of course, one could put up with mysandristic (sic!) concepts of female dominance over young men, with violence, with blood; but using the repetitive phrases like “he bit his lip”  is an unforgivable sin. Many negative reviews slammed the novel’s poor prose too, not that I ever heard E.L. James publicly comparing herself to Dickens.

If you have just discovered the Grey trilogy you may be looking for other novels in this genre and here’s my TOP 5 OF EROTIC NOVELS OF ALL TIME all available on Kindle or in your local library. You don’t have to hide the covers of these books, they are now considered as classics. N.B. Reading these books may cause side effects such as elevated blood pressure and excessive perspiration.

A scene from Apuleius’s Golden Ass by Jean de Bosschère (The Golden Ass), via Wikimedia Commons

1. Apuleius Golden Ass
2. Giovanni Boccaccio – Decameron
3. D.H. Lawrence – Lady Chatterley’s Lover
4. Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita
5. Henry Miller – Tropic of Cancer

If you are into gay erotic fiction I can recommend stories about posh English gays by Alan Hollinghurst and Christian gay prose of Michael Arditti. A long-titled book  about a lesbian suffragette’s adventures maybe of a significant interest to certain readers too.

If you are into further exotic read, try Vita Sexualis, an autobiographical erotic novel by a Japanese author Mori Ogai.

If you think that this list is incomplete and I have omitted a jewel – I’d like to hear your suggestions. Has erotic fiction overcome the ‘filthy’ stigma? Maybe it should be studied in schools, as growing up teenagers should be more relaxed about sexuality, because it’s a part of human nature, and at least get their information from the reputable sources. What do you think? Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey and do you agree with the negative criticism of the trilogy?

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Your brilliant thoughts


  • Ebook Editor

    Very good title to this post! I haven’t read 50 Shades  yet but it doesn’t sound much different from hordes of other erotic books out there. I edit erotica quite regularly these days. There seems to be an endless supply and probably an even more endless demand! There are whole presses devoted to books of that genre. The popularity of ebooks has let erotica out of the bedroom closet because there aren’t any covers to hide anymore, classic or otherwise. No one knows what you’re reading on your Kindle!

    • GrigoryRyzhakov

       I agree about the blossom of this genre, – sex always sells. As for me,  I don’t intend to write about it, to me books are about interesting ideas and characters and fascinating stories 🙂

      • Larisa Biyuts

        I heard some feminists castigate the author of the erotic novel which includes nothing new. Well that’s odd–both the book’s success and the feminists’ reaction.

        • GrigoryRyzhakov

          I agree, I would’ve understood if the author was a man 🙂

  • Larisa Biyuts

    Grisha, have you read Nabokov’s story The Enchanter (1939)? The theme of the story is developed in his Lolita. Most interesting to know of the story’s English text. Quotation: “И за все это, за жар щек, за двенадцать пар тонких ребер, за пушок вдоль спины, за дымок души, за глуховатый голос, за ролики и за серый денек, за о неизвестное, что сейчас подумала, неизвестно на что посмотревши с моста… Мешок рубинов, ведро крови — все что угодно…”