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."


 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

Continue reading

Enjoy unlimited access to the world's leading thinkers.

Start by exploring our subscription options or joining our mailing list today.

Start Free Trial

Already a subscriber? Log in

Join the conversation