Fifty Shades of Jane Austen

The Big Issue's founder recalls a chance encounter

We met on the train. We sat opposite each other. She was reading from a device. I was reading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. She spoke first in one of the long unexplained halts. She put down her device as I laid down my book. She smiled at me. A good table separated us.

"It's great to see people reading Austen, however suspect her morality."

 "Yes, very suspect. I came to her suddenly a few months ago. I had never read her before."

 "Really?"

 She looked surprised.

 "I never had the desire to. She never meant anything to me, until earlier this year when I got a cheap collection. I then read Sense and Sensibility and was gripped. Totally."

 She looked carefully at me.

 I asked what she was reading.

 “Oh a different kettle of fish altogether. Fifty Shades of Grey.”

A polite silence followed, as if one or other of as had let out a sneaky fart. One surely did not discuss the notorious spanking

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