This is a family newspaper so I’ll be careful about how I say this.
I know you’ve read it girls – either behind the cover of another book, under the desk when you should have been working, or in the few minutes between finishing the hoovering and fetching the kids from school.
Don’t deny it. We’ve all read it. Call it research.
And now we have watched it at the movies too. Sam Taylor-Johnson, who highwires between the international art scene and the glitzier side of the establishment, has made soft porn safe and mainstream enough to be respectable. But hardly novel.
In a previous life I read a lot of 18th-century literature. More than that, a lot of Frisky Literature.
I bet you didn’t know that 300 years ago, London’s Covent Garden was where men went looking for female company, and that booklets were published which told them the addresses of the ladies of the night, along with their specialities.
What might also come as a surprise is the popularity of the private practices that appeal so much to Christian and Anastasia. They were so popular, in fact, that there was a simple way to identify which lady kept a bunch of stiff birch twigs behind the door: when she was out offering her services, she pinned a small nosegay to her bodice - a sure sign.
Nothing new, then, in what people like to get up to. So far, so familiar.
If the activities described are not new, neither is the literary style of the Many Shades of Off-White, and that’s what I really object to.
Having skipped through the book, I don’t want to spend another hour or two in the company of a modest heroine who discovers she is devastatingly attractive to a mysterious and powerful man.
He has the money, the property, the helicopter, he calls the shots.
He has piercing eyes and a square jaw too if I remember it right. Let’s call it ‘Bills and Moon with whips’.
It’s not enough for Taylor-Johnson to say ‘I felt like I had a responsibility to empower the lead character’.
We deserve better than this, and expect it too, from someone with such an distinguished back-catalogue as the director.
If it’s true that the book is always better than the film, I would rather be lying face down in the gutter on a Saturday night because the pain of watching it would be too much even for Anastasia.
Sam Taylor-Johnson and I have only one thing in common. When in Venice we both visit the same printer, and both choose the same image for our cards and letterheads. A hare, if you’re interested.
- Next time: Never worry about fashion again
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