Last night, I had my most improbable and often recurring stress dream. It is also my least favorite, and it goes something like this: Unbeknownst to me, I have been secretly married to Gerard Butler for some time. Then he dies. I have to go to the funeral and bring home his ashes (much of this dream is modeled on P.S. I Love You, as you can plainly see). Because I have no memory off our marriage or the courtship that preceded it, I know nothing about dead Gerard Butler and I have to play it off to his grieving family and friends like I totally knew him, while my teeth fall out for no explained reason. Not just one or two teeth, either. More teeth than a healthy human mouth is expected to hold. When I get home, my real husband is furious with me. Not because I had a secret double life, but because it is clear to him that I did not love Gerard Butler enough.
I hesitate to post about the GoodReads furor a second time, but overnight my email inbox exploded and there are some things I felt I should address before further speculation drags them out into further absurdity, or I have more stress dreams (which inevitably become recurring Bill Murry sex dreams that put me off Ghostbusters for months).
I did not post reviews of 50 Shades to my GoodReads account. I posted a blog here, and it is somehow linked to my GoodReads author account. No one has attacked me for using GoodReads.com as a reviewing tool. If I could keep my blogs from posting there, I would, because GoodReads always fucks up Blogger’s formatting. But I don’t use GoodReads regularly enough to know how to work it. See also: my experience with Facebook.
I did not post recaps of 50 Shades out of professional jealousy or to “destroy” E.L. James. This was a theme in several of the emails and messages I’ve received, sometimes with the admonition to worry about my own writing and not the writing of others, and then maybe I would be just as successful. This allegation confuses me on two levels. The first being, how on earth someone would get the impression that I don’t know this business. My first book came out in 2006. I made my first sale in 2004. I started writing for publication almost ten years ago. I’ve worked (briefly) as an editor. I fancy myself somewhat knowledgeable about the writing “biz”, so I don’t understand how someone would get the impression that I’m dumb enough to think, “Muahahaha, I can reverse the popularity of a book millions of people are buying by bitching about it on my blog, which gets twenty hits on a good day! Muahahaha!” Think of all the really controversial blockbuster best sellers there have been this century so far. Millions of people bitched about James Frey, and he still sells like peanuts at an all-elephant pro-am soccer game. Millions of people have bitched about Twilight, but it’s not going anywhere. So, why would I think that I could sabotage E.L. James using the same tactic? Why would I want to sabotage another author in the first place? Making someone else fail wouldn’t make me succeed. I just find the book unintentionally hilarious and felt like that might connect with other people out there in Internetville. Clearly, I was right, or else we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The second part of this allegation that confuses me is the idea that I don’t need to be worrying about other people’s writing, just my own. What a shitty piece of writing advice that is. Writers who don’t read are bad writers, pure and simple. Not reading 50 Shades would have been professionally irresponsible of me. It’s a book in a genre I write for, and it’s garnered huge success and publicity. Why wouldn’t I read it? Granted, reviewing it publicly is another faintly-peanut scented soccer ball altogether, but I’ll cover that in the next point,
I do not cease to be a reader because I am a writer. I don’t really need to elaborate on this one, because the previous item just about covers it. History speaks for me, courtesy of GoodReads.com user Calisto: 50 best author vs. author put-downs of all time Please note that nothing I’ve said in any of my recaps comes close to expressing the desire to exhume the corpse of an author and abuse it. I have blogged about the similarities between Mark Twain and myself during a past “author feud” that was hardly a feud at all. If you care to read that post, it’s right here. But what I fail to address in that post is the fact that I’m a woman, and I’m being held to a much different standard than a male author would be. No one would ever tell a male writer that he wasn’t entitled to read and negatively review a book by a male counterpart, and yet here we are.
I am not a “nobody” or “wannabe” trying to make a name for myself. I hate, with the passion of an elephant who really hates soccer, blowing my own horn, so to speak. I rarely mention my own books on my twitter or even on this blog. When I put my covers in the sidebars there? I felt cheap for days. But right now, I’m going to blow my own horn, just a little. I’m not a “nobody”. I’ve been writing for years. I even made the USA Today Bestseller list once, which is going to look awesome in my obituary some day. I have readers that I love, because they all seem to be a little bit weird, like I am. I feel like I’ve made a name for myself, and even if that name is not on par with Nora Roberts or J.R. Ward, I feel like I’m entitled to say that I’m not a nobody. I’m just not a somebody.
I did not “copy” my name from Jennifer L. Armentrout in a bid to steal her readers or mess with her career. This one has come up not only last night, but quite often in the past year or so, and I’ve never addressed it. It just didn’t seem like it was worth my time, because both Jennifer L. Armentrout and myself knew the truth and that seemed like all that was important. But now I kind of have to address it, as it’s picking up speed and was a theme in seven hateful emails I received overnight. No, I did not “pick” nor “steal” my name as part of a calculated decision to sabotage Jennifer L. Armentrout. My mother picked my name for me when she filed my birth certificate in July of 1980. I sold my first book with this name, and it came out in 2006. I have been Jennifer Lynne Armintrout since the day I was born, and I’ll be Jennifer Lynne Armintrout until the day that I die, much to my husband’s old-timey dismay. I endured the “Arm & Hammer” jokes all through elementary school, the classic, “Did your dad get his ARM stuck in a TROUT?” taunt (which I’ve never really understood… isn’t it catfish that people catch that way?), and the well-meaning, but racially and culturally insensitive, “Is that a Native American name?” I’m sticking with it, but not out of spite or the desire to harm another writer. I don’t know if Jennifer L. Armentrout is receiving these kinds of accusations, as well, but they are super unfair. Having similar names does not mean that one of us is gunning for the other, and as I have established above, I’m doing pretty okay on my own. I don’t need to “steal” anyone’s success or readers. Plus, if I were going to do something like that, I would have gone with “Dora Roberts”*. Go big or go home, I always say.
I do not now, nor will I ever, delete comments in GoodReads.com discussions. I don’t want to censor anybody. I am not an Etsy forum admin, I’m not going to “wrap this up” because it’s not as nice as a vintage barn wood doorstop. If your comment disappeared, tell it to GoodReads.
This is pretty much all I have to say on the subject. Further hate mail should be directed to the comments section of this blog post, and I’ll try to address your concerns in something of a timely manner, provided they don’t cover exactly what I’ve already written here.
*Actually, I couldn’t use “Dora Roberts”. That’s the name of a pretty famous elephant on the pro-am soccer circuit.
Thanks to the miracle of GoodReads.com, I realize I have to clarify that I have read the entire book. My recaps give the impression that I started out reading the book with the intent to criticize it, a chapter at a time. That makes me seem like a bullheaded weirdo who sets out to dislike something. When I started the recaps, of course I knew I had read the whole thing and was presenting it as a read-a-long for comedic effect, but I failed to realize that you didn’t know that. So, yes, I have read the entire book. I found it a surprisingly fast and easy read, so it has that going for it.
Furthermore, another author, Jennifer L. Armentrout, is experiencing some backlash because people are confusing the two of us. So, people who are angry at me are, for some inexplicable reason, deleting her books from their GoodReads.com libraries. Don’t do that. She’s not me. She’s not my pen name, as some have theorized. Come on, guys. If I was going to go deep stealth, do you think I would do it by changing one of the eighteen letters of my name and figure the other seventeen were good to go?
Also, what the hell. Don’t use GoodReads.com as a weapon, especially if you don’t know if you’re directing it towards the right person.
I feel like at this point, I need to take a few days off from recapping. I don’t want to destroy anyone’s reputation (except for my own… I am the sole architect of my own destruction). And I need to think seriously about whether or not I should continue. If it were just a few people grumbling about me being mean and they’re never going to read my books because I’m so mean, I would keep going just to spite them. Because fuck ‘em, I’m not on this planet to make everyone like me, and I really resent the implication that I should need or want everyone to like me. But some nimrods are actively attacking a writer who isn’t even me. It’s not fair if she gets caught in the crossfire.
This puts me in a really weird place. If I stop, I’m rewarding the bad behavior of a few people and telling them that they are entitled to dictate author behavior with their system of star giving. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m not considering giving up the recaps because I’m afraid of down votes or bad reviews or hate mail. I can handle all those things. What I’m saying is, I don’t want to harm an innocent bystander with my actions. It also reinforces the notion that female writers are unwillingly drafted into the Sunshine Sisterhood of Always Being Nice, and if you speak up about someone’s at least partially plagiarized book, you’re not living up to reader expectations of said niceness. Never, in my entire career, have I ever been asked by a publisher to sign a niceness clause, so I really don’t get where that expectation comes from.
Now, I’m not a fan of “freedom of speech… without consequences.” If you don’t like what I have to say, by all means, let me know. Let everyone know. Don’t buy my book. Actively discourage others from buying my books. That’s your right to react to my opinion, and I would never dream of controlling your reaction to my opinion. But do it with honesty, and for fuck’s sake, be sure you’re saying it about the right author.
I’ll be back Wednesday with a decision, either way. If I choose to continue the recaps, I’ll continue the recaps. If I don’t, I’ll just post something else, probably as acidic and misanthropic as everything else that I post, but hopefully unlikely to fuck with the career of someone who just has a similar name as mine.
Which probably means I owe her an apology for all the times I’ve talked about weed on Twitter.
You think I’m kidding, right? That’s sweet, that you think I have to make shit like that up. No, I’m not going to even save it for a slow reveal. In this chapter, Christian Grey fucks Ana so hard she turns into a pirate. Not even a digital age pirate. Like, a straight out of Treasure Island pirate. Look, I even gave a nod to classical literature! This blog is just steps away from becoming a finalist in GoodReads.com‘s reader’s choice awards romance category.*
In our last foray into Grey, Christian had just learned that Ana is a virgin, and he reacted with all the grace and sensitivity you would expect from a man who stalks women and forces them to sign legally binding contracts before having sex with him. That is to say, none at all. He’s actually angry that Ana didn’t tell him soon (because being a twenty-one year old virgin is something to brag about in this day and age, am I right?). Now, he’s pacing around his home office, running both hands through his hair, like he’s been playing the stock market in 1929 and just realized this is a bad move. He’s mad because she knows about his sex dungeon, and she didn’t tell him about her virginity, which appears to genuinely disgust him. Of course, he never filled out a non-disclosure agreement with Ana, so why should she have to share all her secrets? How is he mad that she knows something she’s legally bound to never tell to another soul, but she hasn’t bared herself to him in a similar manner without that legal protection? I bet when Christian was a kid, he said, “That’s not fair!” in a really whiny voice a lot.
“And a nice young man hasn’t swept you off your feet? I just don’t understand. You’re twenty-one, nearly twenty-two. You’re beautiful.” He runs his hand through his hair again. Beautiful. I flush with pleasure. Christian Grey thinks I’m beautiful. I knot my fingers together, staring at them hard, trying to conceal my goofy grin. Perhaps he’s near-sighted, my subconscious has reared her somnambulant head. Where was she when I needed her?
Listen, Ana, I’ve told you this several times. That’s not your subconscious. Your subconscious isn’t in charge of putting fully formed thoughts into your head in an easy to read format. Your subconscious is, however, probably the reason that you can’t say no to anyone, but you still think you’re operating under your own willpower. As for Christian Grey and his “nice young man” comment, I really think this whole thing would be more believable if he’d been written as a guy in his late fifties. I mean, come on, “nice young man?” And I’m not believing for an instant a twenty-seven year old bachelor millionaire who doesn’t have an Xbox. Never gonna happen.
Christian offers, very gallantly, to unburden her of her virginity.
“I thought you didn’t make love. I thought you fucked hard.” I swallow, my mouth suddenly dry. He gives me a wicked grin, the effects of which travel all the way down there. “I can make an exception, or maybe combine the two, we’ll see. I really want to make love to you. Please, come to bed with me. I want our arrangement to work, but you really need to have some idea what you’re getting yourself into. We can start your training tonight – with the basics. This doesn’t mean I’ve come over all hearts and flowers, it’s a means to an end, but one that I want, and hopefully you do, too.”
Oh, Christian, stop with your romantic talk, I’m falling in love with you already. There are so many times in this book that I’ve said, out loud, “Seriously?” This is one of those. A means to an end? How much paperwork is she going to have to fill out on this one? The romance in this scene is paralleled only by the unbridled eroticism, with Ana using such wicked terminology as “down there”. Someone quick, turn up the AC! Ana points out that she hasn’t said yes to any of the rules, and Christian decides he can make an exception to get some tail:
“Forget about the rules. Forget about all those details for tonight. I want you. I’ve wanted you since you fell into my office, and I know you want me. You wouldn’t be sitting here calmly discussing punishment and hard limits if you didn’t. Please, Ana, spend the night with me.”
Okay, if you want her so much that you can forget all the other stuff, then why is it an issue if she doesn’t want to play D/s with you? Since finding out about the sex dungeon, she’s thought of him as a freak and a monster, and she’s totally disappointed that he’s into this stuff. He’s even picked up on it. So, if you’re so into her, why can’t you enter into a relationship with her that doesn’t include those elements? Or at least, introduce those elements gradually, to see if she likes them? No? It has to be exactly the way you want it to be, all the time, because that’s your idea of what a “relationship” is? That’s healthy.
So, they’re going to have sex, just this one time, totally vanilla, to get rid of her pesky virginity. He says she’s “One brave young woman,” and that he’s in “awe” of her. Why is she brave? Because she’s having sex? Or because she’s going to be having that sex with you? Someone is awfully full of himself if he thinks that he’s so scary and intimidating.
Rather than have sex with her in the the room reserved specifically for that purpose, Chedward breaks his usual rigid self control and takes her to his bedroom.
The walls are white, and the furnishing are pale blue. The enormous bed is ultra modern, made of rough, grey wood, like driftwood, four posts, but no canopy. On the wall above it is a stunning portrait of the sea.
I don’t mean to pick nits (yes you do, Jen), but how is driftwood “ultra modern”?
I am quaking like a leaf. This is it. Finally, after all this time, I’m going to do it, with none other than Christian Grey.
FYI, if there are any typos or missing words in this post, it’s because I had to get an epic high on to get through this chapter. The moment I read “do it”, I was like, “Oh no,” and reached for the nearest available illegal substance. I am not kidding. I can’t get through a sex chapter sober if it’s going to be chock full of middle school euphemisms.
Of course, now I’m terrified that some angry 50 Shades fan is out there, scouring my books for middle school euphemisms, and wondering whether they’re going to find them. Damn this drug-induced paranoia!
Christian says that he wants to bite her lip again. If I had known how repetitive people biting or wanting to bite Ana’s lip was going to be, I would have added it to the drinking game. But I didn’t, and you’re still alive, so in a way, I saved your life. You’re welcome. Ana watches as Christian does the most anal retentive strip tease ever. He takes off his watch. He takes off his jacket. He takes off his shoes and socks, and apparently this methodical undressing is doing something to Ana, because she finds even his toes tantalizing (alliteration high five!).
They have the requisite conversation about birth control that’s factory stock in every romance, ever, these days. But props to my girl E.L., she switches it up quite a bit:
“I assume you’re not on the pill.” What! Shit. “I didn’t think so.” He opens the top drawer of the chest and removes a packet of condoms.
If you’re a reader of contemporary romances, you’ll know how this scene usually goes. If the hero and heroine discuss birth control at all, they do so to show the reader why it’s okay for them to bareback it. The hero will suggest a condom, and the heroine will say, “It’s okay, I’m on the pill.” I always kind of think to myself, “Is it a pill that will prevent Chlamydia?”, but I can’t really talk, because I write a lot of unsafe sex. That’s because it’s fantasy and condoms suck in real life (I think we can all agree on that point) and also my characters boinking it raw are usually vampires or other magical creatures that can’t get STDs or worse, children. Here, E.L. James takes the common sense road by having her characters not argue their way into the Clap. Good job.
So, when Christian takes out the condoms, he says… hang on a second… I’m trying to get my serious face on, but it’s not working. He says, “Be prepared.”
Why does everyone like this movie? It’ s just Hamlet with animals.
Christian does this slow walk over to Ana, saying stock fantasy things like, “Do you have any idea what I’m going to do to you,” and talking about how much he wants her. The best part of my morning was that, while writing that sentence, “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees started playing on Spotify. For the purposes of the rest of this blog entry (and to avoid the unintentional bestiality that would happen if we were still reminded of Scar), Christian Grey is Jon Travolta. Not this John Travolta:
Unf. I would bite that lip.
Nope, we’re going to imagine middle-aged bear John:
In a swimming pool, the Daddy Bear’s natural habitat.
Christian takes Ana’s shirt off and compliments her on her beautiful, pale skin (I fucking told you, Ana), her brown hair. We get some pretty tame words in this part, like “behind”, and “backside” and “erection”.
I can hardly contain the riotous feelings or is it hormones that rampage through my body.
What? What did any of that even just mean?
Seeing him on his knees in front of me, feeling his mouth on me, it’s so unexpected,, and hot. My hands stay in his hair, pulling gently as I try to quiet my too-loud breathing.
Here’s another place where the Random House version and the original version differ. They caught that once the sex starts, the punctuation falls a-fucking-part, and they fixed that. Also, it looks like we might have a problem here. She’s into seeing him on his knees… uh oh! Maybe they’re both Doms. Shit, that just would not work out, right?
He puts his nose in her vulva and tells her how good she smells, right before he takes off her shoes and her socks and then licks her foot and nibbles on it. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care if you are Angelina Jolie, when you take your foot out of sneakers and socks, they are moist with a build up of perspiration, they probably don’t smell fresh, and they are going to be absolutely covered in sock lint. I cannot get that image out of my mind, a pale, sweaty foot with indentations from the shoe and sock lint all over it, and Chedward sucking on it. Hork. Seriously, hork. Then we reach the moment in the book that made my literally rant out loud for an hour about negative attitudes toward female sexuality in Western culture:
“Show me how you pleasure yourself.”What? I frown.“Don’t be coy, Ana, show me,” he whispers.I shake my head.“I don’t know what you mean.” My voice is hoarse. I hardly recognize it, laced with desire.“How do you make yourself come? I want to see.”I shake my head.“I don’t,” I mumble. He raises his eyebrows, astonished for a moment, and his eyes darken, and he shakes his head in disbelief.
Okay. I get it. Ana is innocent. So innocent that at age twenty-one, she has never masturbated (except for that part in the fucking shower just a few fucking chapters ago, when she was rubbing Christian’s body wash all up on her nooni). What is the appeal here? Why do romance readers like heroines who have never orgasmed? What is the draw, fantasy wise? I cannot fathom why is it is preferable for a romance heroine to be so totally ignorant about sex that she can’t even engage in a frank dialogue with the hero about what it takes to get her off. Is ignorance really a quality we should value in our young women, on any subject? If life imitates art, are we training women to subconsciously believe that their past sexual experience sullies them in some way? What the hell. What. The. Hell.
I have completely forgotten what I was originally doing here, actually. That’s how infuriating I find that trope.
Christian decides that he’s going to try to make Ana come from playing with her nipples. I’m thinking if she’s gone her entire adult life and her teenage years without having an orgasm, just turning a hairdryer on in the next room is going to make her come, but whatever, you’re the Chedward. Of course, it works, and really quickly, and suddenly Ana understands what’s so great about sex.
Then Chedward apparently puts a hole in her panties:
His hand moves down my waist, to my hips, and then cups me, intimately… Jeez. His finger slips through the fine lace and slowly circles around me – there.
Can you vague that up for me? There where? The lace? Did his finger rip through the panties? That’s what it sounds like. Oh well, he’s rich, he can buy more, right? Finally, we get THE BIG REVEAL. And it really is big. So big that, like every romance heroine ever, Ana wonders how it will fit. And then. It happens.
“I’m going to fuck you now, Miss Steele,” he murmurs as he positions the head of his erection at the entrance of my sex. “Hard,” he whispers, and he slams into me.
“Argh!” I cry as I feel a weird pinching sensation deep inside me as he rips through my virginity.
There you have it. At age twenty-one and a lifetime of clumsiness, Ana is still, unbelievably, factory-sealed, and breaking the seal voids the warranty turns her into a pirate. Please note how the author keeps with romance novel tradition by having the hymen situated way up in there. That’s a proud and noble tradition, steeped in total refusal of how the female body works.
The rest of the sex is pretty standard. They finish, he asks if he hurt her, and this is how she describes sex in her inner monologue:
Two orgasms… coming apart at the seams, like the spin cycle on a washing machine, wow.
All over America, the frustrated housewives the Today Show claims are loving this book just nodded sagely and winked at their washing machines. Now that Ana has sailed the high seas of love, she’s ready to go a-pirating again. This time they’ll take off her bra and his shirt. Who fucks with their shirt on? That’s weird enough that it must be for a reason, because he doesn’t take it off. I’m betting the arm of his parasitic twin is under there. This time, he takes her from behind, and it’s still a pretty tame scene, again, but not without the requisite creepy stalker talk that Christian has honed to a needle-sharp point:
“I want you sore, baby,” he murmurs, and he continues his sweet, leisurely torment, backward, forward.“Every time you move tomorrow, I want you to be reminded that I’ve been here. Only me. You are mine.”
Even this isn’t that unusual for a romance novel. It’s usually the moment the Alpha hero becomes a creepy dickwad. Sometimes, authors make weird choices with their punctuation in sex scenes. I once read an erotica where the heroine… spoke… all… her… dialogue… with… ellipses… such… was… her… passion, and I thought she needed her inhaler. In this book, Christian has a habit of speaking with too many full stops, like a badly interpreted telegraph:
“You. Are. So. Sweet,” he murmurs between each thrust. “I. Want. You. So. Much.” I moan. “You. Are. Mine. Come for me, baby,” he growls.
It’s like she’s trying to hit every single cliche in every sex scene ever, and cram them into one scene. And of course, all it takes is that magic, “come for me” to make her sproing like an over-wound watch. The pleasure is all too much, and she passes out the second he’s done. When she wakes up, it’s dark and Christian is gone. She hears piano… oh, come the fuck on. Really? Do we have to do the Edward/Bella piano playing scene?
She hears “The lilting notes of the piano, a sad, sweet lament. Bach, I think, but I’m not sure,” and goes to investigate.
Christian is at the piano, completely lost in the music he’s playing. His expression is sad and forlorn, like the music. His playing is stunning. Leaning against the wall at the entrance, I listen enraptured. He’s such an accomplished musician. He sits naked, his body bathed in the warm light cast by a solitary freestanding lamp beside the piano. With the rest of the large room in darkness, it’s like he’s in his own isolated little pool of light, untouchable… lonely, in a bubble.
He’s actually not naked, he’s wearing PJ pants that hang from his hips IN THAT WAY, and he orders Ana to go back to bed, because she has a busy day of pirating in the morning. He’s shirtless, and when Ana tries to touch him, he backs away and goes to immediately put on a t-shirt, so yeah, he’s hiding a parasitic baby arm. At the close of the chapter, Ana realizes that Christian has a “sad side”, which, you know, doesn’t everybody?
I’m kind of disappointed. The sex was pretty standard. I’m hoping we get to the freaky stuff soon, because I don’t know how much more of this non-freaky stuff I can take.
That’s all from me for this week. See you back here on Monday, bright and early (and hopefully on time, not delayed by substance abuse or the fact that I dreamed I got up with the alarm clock but in reality only just turned the alarm off in my sleep). Oh, but one last thing. Remember that asterisk way up at the top? I wasn’t joking about this book being a finalist in the romance category for the Good Reads people’s choice award. It really, truly was. That happened.
Did anyone watch last week’s episode of Game of Thrones? Every time someone was ordering a whore to beat another whore to death, or forcing a live rat to burrow through a screaming man’s heart, I thought of Ana and her obsession with the Spanish Inquisition. Also, thanks, Game of Thrones. I just got my notoriously squeamish husband to watch you, and you utterly disturbed him. Now I’m going to have to watch it alone, just like American Horror Story, and I’ll have no one to talk to about it. Jeez!
Chapter seven opens with proof that Ana doesn’t really have a concept of what the Spanish Inquisition was like. At the end of chapter six, she says the “playroom” is like stepping into the Spanish Inquisition, but at the top of chapter seven, she opens with this description:
The first thing I notice is the smell; leather, wood, polish with a faint citrus scent. It’s very pleasant, and the lighting is soft, subtle. In fact, I can’t see the source, but it’s around the cornice in the room, emitting an ambient glow. The walls and ceiling are a deep, dark burgundy, giving a womb-like effect to the spacious room, and the floor is old, old varnished wood. There is a large wooden cross like an X fastened to the wall facing the door. It’s made of high-polished mahogany, and there are restraining cuffs on each corner.
I’m no medieval historian or anything, but I’m pretty sure nothing about the Inquisition was faintly citrus scented. Ana has stumbled into the executive class Inquisition, is what I’m thinking. The description goes on, detailing an iron grid on the ceiling, various lengths of rope and chain, paddles, whips, you know. Exactly the type of stuff you’d expect from a sadistic billionaire. There’s also a red leather bed, made from the suits Eddie Murphy wore on tour in the 80′s. Okay, obviously that part isn’t in the book, but let me have this one. Ana feels the room is “romantic”, or at least Christian’s version of romantic, so she picks up a flogger and thinks a bit:
I think I’m in shock. My subconscious has been struck dumb or simply keeled over and expired. I am numb. I can observe and absorb but not articulate my feelings about all this, because I’m in shock. What is the appropriate response to finding out a potential lover is a complete freaky sadist or masochist? Fear… yes… that seems to be the over-riding feeling. I recognize it now. But weirdly not of him – I don’t think he’d hurt me, well, not without my consent.
How is this a surprise? He came to your work and bought rope and cable ties. He took weird pleasure in strapping you into your helicopter seat. It’s not like this guy hasn’t been sending you clues this whole time, probably on purpose to feel you out. He’s not subtle. Ana checks out the bed and admires the “craftsmanship”. Ana asks if he’s into being beaten or beating people himself:
“People?” He blinks a couple of times as he considers his answer. “I do this to women who want me to.”I don’t understand.“If you have willing volunteers, why am I here?”“Because I want to do this with you, very much.”“Oh,” I gasp. Why?
Is it that hard to figure out, Ana? I’ve been wanting to take a crack at you with any available implement since the middle of chapter one. Ana confuses dominance with sadism, but I really can’t blame her. There’s a little caning station set up, for heaven’s sake. Caning ain’t playing around. But Christian doesn’t get off on the pain aspect, just the submission.
Please him! He wants me to please him! I think my mouth drops open. Please Christian Grey. And I realize, in that moment, that yes, that’s exactly what I want to do. I want him to be damned delighted with me. It’s a revelation.
Let me just clarify, before I go any further with my thoughts here, that I have nothing against BDSM. I think that between two or more consenting adults who want to get off and have a good time, safely, BDSM isn’t any different than any other aspect of human sexuality. There’s nothing inherently dangerous about it, it doesn’t speak to some deep psychological wound in the people who get off on it, it’s just a thing that turns cranks for people. However, I do think there is a different level of “consent” to anything involving the physical aspects of BDSM, and I don’t think Ana can consent here. She’s a miserable person, desperate to please the romantic hero of her dreams, and she’s unable to say no to anyone. I think if Christian Grey asked her to rob a bank or kill a man just to watch him die, she would jump at the chance to please him. In fact, when Ana asks what she would get out of the arrangement, Christian’s answer is, “me”. I don’t feel that’s an entirely fair way for a dominant to answer that question.
Kate had said he was dangerous, she was so right. How did she know? He’s dangerous to my health, because I know I’m going to say yes. And part of me doesn’t want to.
See what I meant about consent?
Christian takes her to a different room, all in white (he has the same decorator as the Cullens do) and with an awesome view. This would be Ana’s room, and she’d stay in it from Friday evening through Sunday, if she agrees during negotiations. He won’t sleep with her, it’s just not something he does. They go back downstairs for dinner, and Christian tells Ana that now that she’s signed a non-disclosure, she can ask him anything. And thus follows the funniest typo ever:
“But we won’t have any sort of relationship?” I ask. “No.”“Why?”“This is the only sort of relationship I’m interesting in.”
I know it’s a typo. I know this, because this is the pre-Random House version of the book. I’ve noticed a few people saying that Random House didn’t edit the book upon acquisition, and just looking over both versions, it’s clear they did line edits on it. So let’s put that to rest, and discuss the fact that in the original version, the one that garnered world-wide success, Christian is only “interesting” in a BDSM relationship. I contend that no, he’s just plain not interesting. He offers Ana food, and when she politely refuses on the basis of not being hungry, he commands that she eat. You know, after the last chapter, where he told her she wouldn’t have to to do anything she didn’t want to do. Sure, he sounds like a safe, trustworthy dom. Ana points out that since she hasn’t signed anything, she doesn’t have to eat if she doesn’t want to, and at least he backs down. I would give her props for putting him in his place, but it’s obvious that this is going to be like, the very last time, because she’s going to sign his paperwork and let him do whatever he wants to her. I know this, because there are a lot more pages in this book.
Christian uses different variations of the word “punish” a lot. I think he’s related to Penny Pingleton’s mother.
Before Christian can warn Ana about the dangers of “race music” or threaten to make her wear a P on her sweater because she’s permanently punished, he figures he better show her the rules. Yes, all the rules are there, like we’re reading the sheet of paper with Ana. To sum them up, Ana has to obey Christian in all things, get plenty of sleep, good nutrition (no snacking between meals… I would be so out), wear certain clothes while in Christian’s presence, work out regularly with a personal trainer, get waxed and prettied up, not smoke, get drunk, or use drugs, have sex with anyone other than him, and generally not embarrass him, or she’s gonna get Punished. There’s a section on “hard limits”, meaning what freaky sex stuff she’s going to be down for. That’s a whole separate batch of paperwork that I’m really looking foward to slogging through, let me tell you. She feels weird about accepting money for clothes, thinking it will make her a “ho”. They argue and nitpick over pretty much everything on the list, then Christian introduces his “hard limits”. They include nothing where people are getting set on fire, pissed or shat upon, cut up, pierced, no medical fetish shit, pedophilia (I wonder if he knows how childlike Ana finds sexuality?) or bestiality, no choking or anything like that. When Christian asks Ana what her “hard limits” are, she admits that she doesn’t know… because she’s never had sex before.
“You’re a virgin?” he breathes. I nod, flushing again. He closes his eyes and looks to be counting to ten. When he opens them again, he’s angry, glaring at me.
“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?” he growls.
Wow, the winner of Mr. Sensitive 2012 is…
This recap isn’t longer because it’s a short chapter, made shorter when you cut out the huge chunks of paperwork that I sure as hell was not retyping here. However, tomorrow… now brace yourself… I know you’ve been quivering in anticipation this whole time… tomorrow… Anastasia Rose Steele and Christian Grey are going… to do… IT.
Remember yesterday, when I posted about the possibility of a 50 Shades of Grey movie? I’m not saying David Cronenberg has made it, butit does look like he’s made the poster for it:
You are absolutely seeing what you are seeing. In the movie, RPattz plays a young billionaire just trying to get through Manhattan traffic to get a haircut. I already call bullshit on the premise, because if you’re a billionaire, your barber comes to you. But what I find interesting about this is how the connection was made out there, somewhere, to more than one person: “RPattz would make a good brooding billionaire in a story.”
Chapter Six of 50 Shades of Grey starts off with one of my absolute biggest pet peeves in all of fiction. The unrealistic car:
Christian opens the passenger door to the black Audi SUV, and I clamber in. It’s a beast of a car.
First of all, Audi makes a few different SUV/crossover-type vehicles, so I’m going to assume that the “beast” Ana is referring to is the largest one Audi makes, the Q7:
That’s a 2008, but this is Audi, so they don’t change all that much year to year. Nothing about that vehicle screams “beast” to me. It’s a classic private school mom’s car. That’s my first beef. My second beef is, you can get this car new off the line for around 40k. Isn’t Christian Grey super rich? He has his own helicopter. So, why is he driving this and not some amazingly expensive sports car, or at the very least, a more expensive SUV (like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, which can run in the neighborhood of 100k)? I see this all the time in romance novels, and I’m not sure what’s happening, but if your hero is an Italian tycoon, he’s not going to drive a BMW. If he’s a centuries old vampire with chests of gold doubloons just sitting around his house, he better not have just a Lincoln Navigator parked in the driveway. I guess you could make the argument that Christian Grey is frugal, but he just bought brand new shoes, jeans, and underthings for Ana to wear, rather than make her wait for hers to come out of the dryer, so I don’t know from frugal.
Ana is still reeling from the elevator kiss, but Christian isn’t mentioning it, so she figures she must have hallucinated it all. Because if Christian doesn’t confirm her thoughts, I guess that makes them invalid somehow. Christian has “The Flower Duet” from Lakme queued up on the MP3. Just for your reference, here is that song, in a mock-up Audi commercial, because sometimes the universe falls into place like pieces in a divine jigsaw puzzle:
[This video has since been removed by the user]
Ana thinks that this makes him seem “young, carefree, and heart-stoppingly beautiful”. Nothing says “young and carefree” like “I’m a big opera fan.” She questions him about his musical tastes, which run from “everything from Thomas Tallis to the Kings of Leon.” He puts on Kings of Leon, “Sex on Fire,” and Ana feels this is “appropriate”. Why is it appropriate? Did he give her herpes? Christian gets a lot of phone calls in the car, including one from his brother, Elliot, who asks if he got laid. What kind of a weirdo is Elliot, if he sees his brother wrestling an unconscious woman out of a bar and then asks if he got laid? “Hey, bro, you rape that girl last night? High five!” Ana suggests that Christian refer to her as Ana, instead of Anastasia, because she prefers it, but as we all know, nothing in this story is about what Ana prefers and it’s instead all about what Christian prefers for her, so he ignores her request and warns her that he won’t be kissing her again, not unless it’s “premeditated.” He has an easy way with the murder terminology, doesn’t he?
He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live – yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone-tracking, helicopter owning, stalker wouldn’t.
Why won’t he kiss me again? I pout at the the thought.
Ana, can you hear yourself when you think, or is it all just the whistle of a vacant, lonely desert wind in there? Christian opens Ana’s car door for her (prompting the writing of that HuffPo article I mentioned the other day… if you’d like to gag on your own vomit, here’s the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenny-isenman/i-cheated-on-my-husband-w_b_1433139.html) and she thinks about him kissing her and the fact that she really didn’t get a chance to touch him or anything. They go into the duplex, where Kate and Elliot are sitting at the table:
She has the most un-Kate ridiculous grin on her face, and she looks mussed up in a sexy kind of way. Christian follows me into the living area, and in spite of her I’ve-been-having-a-good-time-all-night grin, Kate eyes him suspiciously.
“Hi Ana.” She leaps up to hug me, then holds me at arm’s length so she can examine me. She frowns and turns to Christian.
“Good morning, Christian,” she says, and her tone is a little hostile.
I would be more concerned if she wasn’t slightly suspicious. When Ana went home with Christian, she was unconscious. They just graduated college, they know what happens when unconscious women are left alone with young men. Elliot kisses Kate goodbye, prompting Ana to think, “Jeez… get a room.” What kind of a room, Ana? Like, an elevator? A public place where anyone could walk right in? Hypocritical much?
Yes. Hypocritical very much:
Kate just melts. I’ve never seen her melt before – the words comely and compliant come to mind. Compliant Kate, boy, Elliot must be good.
Excuse me, ma’am, but your ass is showing. Didn’t you, just last chapter, finish all the food on your plate, even though you weren’t hungry, because Christian asked you to? Let’s not be pointing fingers vis-a-vis compliancy, okay? Christian and Elliot leave together, and Ana is jealous because Elliot blows Kate a kiss and Christian doesn’t blow her a kiss. Oh, and because Kate had sex:
“So, did you?” Kate asks as we watch them climb into the car and drive off, the burning curiosity evident in her voice.
“No,” I snap irritably, hoping that will halt the questions. We head back into the apartment. “You obviously did, though.” I can’t contain my envy. Kate always manages to ensnare men. She is irresistible, beautiful, sexy, funny, forward… all the things that I’m not.
Way to slut-shame, Ana. It’s not like you weren’t just rubbing your no-no with Christian Grey’s body wash. Please note, that taking all the circumstances into account, Ana is envious that Kate had sex with Elliot and Christian didn’t rape her while she was unconscious.
“And I’m seeing him again this evening.” She claps her hands and jumps up and down like a small child. She cannot contain her excitement and happiness, and I can’t help but feel happy for her. A happy Kate… this is going to be interesting.
Not as interesting as a happy Ana would be, but I’m sure the existence of such a creature is a statistical improbability. And what is it with references to small children? Especially in the context it keeps getting used in, over and over? Is it intentional, to diminish the characters as women? They’re not having fully adult, grown woman feelings about sex, no, they’re always suddenly somehow childish. That’s really starting to get on my nerves, intentional or not.
Kate pretties Ana up (off screen, thank god, so we don’t have to hear about how horrible the ordeal was), and Ana goes to work at Clayton’s hardware. Where she thinks back on how Kate prettied her up and how horrible the ordeal was. Double crap. Ana is also not thrilled that she has to convince Kate that she wants to have sex with Christian Grey. Kate has got to be the most inconsistently written character ever committed in the written word. One minute, she’s all, “OMIGAWDDOHIM!”, then next she’s (entirely justifiably), “He’s a weirdo and I don’t trust him.” Ana’s would-be rapist, Jose, keeps calling her, leaving three messages and seven missed calls on the cell, and harassing Kate at home. Doesn’t he know that the most romantical of stalkers just trace cell phones? Jeez.
“Tonight is the night,” but Ana still has her doubts:
After all this time, am I ready for this? My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently. She’s been ready for this for years, and she’s ready for anything with Christian Grey, but I still don’t understand what he sees in me… mousey Ana Steele – it makes no sense.
The pairing of ellipses and em-dash doesn’t make sense, either. Ana does not strike me as someone, inner goddess or no, who is ready for a sexual relationship with anyone. She’s entirely intimidated by Christian Grey and unable to say no to him. She has no self-esteem and what appears to be a very negative view of sex altogether, considering her scathing attitude toward Kate’s night with Elliot. She has all the maturity of a under-ripe banana. This is not a person who should be having sex at all, but she’s pretty much counting on it the day after her very first real kiss. The fact that she doesn’t find it weird that Christian has suggested paperwork will be involved in their sexual relationship is a big, red stop sign. But Christian is waiting for her- and opens her door- after her shift at the hardware store. They chitchat about their day, Ana’s voice “husky, too low, and full of need,” until they arrive at the heliport.
I wonder where the fabled helicopter might be. We’re in a built-up area of the city and even I know helicopters need space to take off and land.
That’s planes you’re thinking of, Ana. Helicopters are perfect for exactly the situation you’re describing, because they do not need a lot of space to take off and land. Come on, this is Helicopters 101 here. No. This is Helicopters 93: Intro To Helicopters. It’s the shit you’re supposed to know before you take Helicopters 101. They get into an elevator, and they share a little smile thinking about the fact that they made out in an elevator earlier that day. You crazy kids with your elevator BDSM. They’re taking the company helicopter, and the guy at the helipad informs them that the checks are already done, so Christian just hops right in. So, we know he’s a shitty pilot, then, because what kind of pilot doesn’t do his own checks? Especially a pilot who runs a powerful company with tons of money, and people might profit somehow off his death? Then again, I’m not going to complain about not having to sit with Ana’s internal monologue while Christian does twenty-minutes of flight safety stuff, because just getting her buckled into the seat is bad enough:
I sit down in my allotted seat, and he crouches beside me to strap me into the harness. It’s a four-point harness with all the straps connecting to one central buckle. He tightens both of the upper straps, so I can hardly move.
He’s so close and intent on what he’s doing. If I could only lean forward, my nose would be in his hair. He smells, clean, fresh, heavenly, but I’m fastened securely into my seat and effectively immobile. He glances up and smiles, like he’s enjoying his usual private joke, his gray eyes heated. He’s so tantalizingly close. I hold my breath as he pulls at one of the upper straps.
“You’re secure, no escaping,” he whispers, his eyes are scorching.
It actually keeps going from there, and there’s so much to enjoy. From Ana (who constantly refers to children or being childlike whenever the subject of sexuality comes up) being strapped into what is basically a giant car seat, to Christian not knowing what seat belts are actually for (pro tip: They’re to keep you from flying out of the vehicle in the event of a crash, not to keep you from escaping), it’s like a delicate ballet of unintentional metaphor making too fine a point and intentional metaphor falling as flat as a first time souffle. Lucky for us, the helicopter ride to Seattle takes an hour, so we have plenty of time for this type of thing:
His face is softly illuminated by the lights on the instrument panel. He’s concentrating hard, and he’s continually glancing at the various dials in front of him. I drink in his features from beneath my lashes. He has a beautiful profile. Straight nose, square jawed – I’d like to run my tongue along his jaw. He hasn’t shaved, and his stubble makes the prospect doubly tempting. Hmm… I’d like to feel how rough it is beneath my tongue, my fingers, against my face.
I just want to pause a moment here and say that while I am deeply troubled by most of the rest of this book, I’d like to offer E.L. James a hearty congratulations for articulating exactly what goes through my mind every time I watch James May driving on Top Gear. Good job, E.L.
There is a lot of chatter over the radio about airspace and clearances and such that we don’t necessarily need to read. Not because it’s not interesting, but because I’m almost 100% certain it’s entirely made up and serves no purpose other than to fill the pages and make the helicopter ride seem like it has been an hour long. Then, they’re flying into Seattle:
It looks otherworldly – unreal – and I feel like I’m on a giant film set, Jose’s favorite film maybe, ‘Bladerunner.‘ The memory of Jose’s attempted kiss haunts me. I’m beginning to feel a bit cruel not calling him back. He can wait until tomorrow… surely.
Or, you know, never. If some guy is acting all crazy, putting his hands on you when you’re clearly saying “no”, you don’t have any obligation to speak to him, ever again. Maybe that isn’t “polite” of me to say, but with a guy who won’t take “no” for an answer, polite is a one way ticket to Rapesville, population YOU. As they’re about to land, Ana feels faint, knowing that she’s going to let Christian down somehow.
He’ll find me lacking in some way. I wish I’d listened to Kate and borrowed one of her dresses, but I like my black jeans, and I’m wearing a soft mint green shirt and Kate’s black jacket. I look smart enough.
They still make black jeans? I mean, I was apparently off the mark in my assessment of whether or not people wear jeans with heels (although I stand by my conviction when I say that is totally gross), but seriously? I haven’t seen black jeans in a while. Okay, whatever floats your boat. You could have borrowed Kate’s dress, instead you’re dressed like Marie Osmond trying to sell her dolls on QVC. Go for it.
“Hi, I’m Ana Steele. Buy this hideous fucking doll.”
They land, and Ana is still super nervous. Her breathing is “erratic,” but at least she’s breathing this time, right?
His look is so intense, half in shadow and half in the bright white light from the landing lights. Dark knight and white knight, it’s a fitting metaphor for Christian.
I thought “Hillside Strangler” was a more fitting metaphor for Christian, but by all means, stick with Dark knight. Because every time I see it, I’m going to get to use this:
Christian tells her that she doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to do, to which Ana responds, “I’d never do anything I didn’t want to do, Christian.”
List of things Ana has done so far in this book that she didn’t want to do:
Interview Christian Grey
Call Christian Grey
Talk about Christian Grey to her roommate
Keep the books Christian Grey gave her
Be rescued from a bar by Christian Grey
Finish her breakfast
Get prettied up for Christian Grey
I think we’re well past the point in our acquaintance with Ana where we can possibly believe her when she says, “I’d never do anything I didn’t want to do.” In fact, this entire story stems directly from an incident where she did something despite not wanting to do it.
Christian opens the helicopter door for her (why doesn’t myhusband open the helicopter door for me? Waaaaah!) and they get into another elevator, one that’s mirrored so she she can see that Christian is “holding me to infinity too”. Christian lives in a super modern, super white apartment with a possibly platinum fireplace and a giant sofa. Ana gives us a brief tour of the place, including how many guests the furniture can seat (I shit you not), from kitchen to piano. Of course he plays the piano, silly goose, he’s Edward Cullen! He wrote Bella a lullaby! He’ll probably write Ana a lullaby, before this book is over. Even after viewing her spectacular throw up the night before, he offers her a glass of wine, and, even though she does not want it, she accepts it. She’d never do something she didn’t want to do, remember.
The dialogue in this section is exceptional. Here’s an example:
“It’s a very big place you have here.”
“It’s big,” he agrees, and his eyes glow with amusement. I take another sip of wine.
“Do you play?” I point my chin at the piano.
“Of course you do. Is there anything you can’t do well?”
“Not stalk people.” That’s just, off the top of my head, that’s something Christian Grey can’t do well. They sit on the couch and Ana makes a reference to Tess of The D’Urbervilles, because if she made a reference to Wuthering Heights we’d have plagiarism on our hands. Ana asks him why he gave her those books, specifically, and then says she’d like him to completely debase her the way Alec does Tess. Christian argues that she couldn’t possibly know what she’s talking about, while simultaneously telling her that the way she bites her lip is distracting.
When he gets the jist, that Ana is down to get down, he runs and fetches a non-disclosure agreement for her to sign. She can’t tell anything about them, to anyone. The non-disclosure agreement seems to be a lot like the end-user license agreement when you buy a video game. See, Christian has this dark secret he thinks is going to scare Ana away. But before she knows what it is, she has to sign this paper. Just like, once you bought the game, you can’t return if it you open it, but you can’t read the user agreement unless you open the game, but you can’t use the game until you agree with the agreement. Oy. She doesn’t read it, even though Christian warns her to never sign anything she hasn’t read, but she argues with him and signs it anyway, then asks, “Does this mean you’re going to make love to me tonight, Christian?” His response:
“No, Anastasia, it doesn’t. Firstly, I don’t make love. I fuck… hard. Secondly, there’s a lot more paperwork to do, and thirdly, you don’t yet know what you’re in for. You could still run for the hills.[...]“
I’ve bought cars where I’ve filled out less paperwork than it takes to fuck Christian Grey. He offers to show Ana his playroom, and she interprets this as wanting to play Xbox. Before he opens the door to the “playroom”, he reminds her that they can leave at absolutely any time, he’s totally cool with it if she’s not down with what’s behind door #1. Ana insists he open the door.
And it feels like I’ve time-traveled back to the sixteenth century and the Spanish Inquisition.
Are you sure it’s the Spanish Inquisition? Not the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition or the Christian Grey Inquisition? Ana sure thinks about the Inquisition a lot. I’m adding that to the drinking game.
That’s all for chapter six, I’m afraid. I very much appreciate the chatter this recap is drumming up. If you want to talk about 50 Shades or Twilight or helicopters or Top Gear or what I had for breakfast, hit me up on my twitter, @Jenny_Trout. I’m the friendliest misanthrope you’ll ever meet. Until tomorrow, good night and good luck.
Yesterday, after I posted my ode to all that is wonderful in chapter four of 50 Shades of Grey, news broke that Ian Somerhalder, aka Damon on The Vampire Diaries, would be interested in playing Christian Grey on the big screen. Yeah, that’s a great idea, Ian. Go from a fucking terrible show about vampires to a fucking terrible movie ripped-off from fucking terrible books about vampires. That’s a great lateral move. At least The Vampire Diaries had awesome source material (even if the screen writers ignore it). You and your rescue cats will be in kitty kibble and toy mice for ages, but how will your soul feel, Ian? Cheap. Used. Poorly written. That’s how it will feel.
What seems really bizarre to me is how people are like, “How are they going to make this into a movie? It would have to be rated NC-17.” Well, certainly not for the language, but seriously? Is there any sex in this thing? Everyone keeps telling me there’s all this hot sex that’s going to save my marriage, whether it needs saving or not (and likely I’ll realize how much saving it needed when I read this book that shines holy sexual light from its pages, and then I’ll take back every bad thing I ever said about it in between giving blow jobs so enthusiastic I’ll have a neck like a fucking line backer), but I have yet to see anything sexy happen. I mean, Ana seems to think there’s a lot of sex going on, but I’m just not seeing it.
So, with that I bring you chapter five of 50 Shades of Grey, also known as The Search For The Sex That Never Was.
Ana wakes up in Christian Grey’s bed at the hotel. Holy crap. She remembers drinking, drunk dialing him, nearly getting date raped, and vomiting. She doesn’t remember how she got to his room. Now she’s in his bed with no pants or socks on. This ups the ante from “holy crap” to “holy shit”. Christian has left orange juice and two pills, Advil, beside the bed. You better be damn sure that’s Advil, because this guy is weird.
I’m not saying this will happen. I’m just saying it could happen.
Ana drinks the orange juice:
It’s thirst quenching and refreshing. Nothing beats freshly squeezed orange juice for reviving an arid mouth.
This message brought to you by the California Citrus Grower’s Association.
There’s a knock on the door. My heart leaps into my mouth, and I can’t seem to find my voice. He opens the door anyway and strolls in.
Since it is customary to mark the first appearance of a character in a scene by referring to them by name, and since E.L. James has chosen not to do so here, I must assume that we are now referring to Christian Grey as capital H “He”, as is befitting of God Himself.
Holy hell, he’s been working out. He’s in gray sweat pants that hang, in that way, off his hips and gray singlet, which is dark with sweat, like his hair. Christian Grey’s sweat, the notion does odd things to me. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I feel like a two-year-old, if I close my eyes then I’m not really here.
His pants are hanging off his hips in that way. You know, in that way. Which way? Because every person wearing a pair of pants right now are wearing them hanging from their hips. Unless they are very old men who don’t like to wear their pants below their bellies, so they jack them up over their moobs. And two-year-old? Again with the proximity of children to sexuality. Oy.
Christian explains (“Phlegmatically”, which can either mean “having to do with phlegm” or “calm and unemotional”, but I’m going to go with “having to do with phlegm”) that since he didn’t want her puking in his car the night before, he brought her to the hotel rather than driving her home. She asks if he undressed her, which leads to the requisite blushing and questioning whether or not they had sex.
“Anastasia, you were comatose. Necrophilia is not my thing. I like my women sentient and receptive,” he says dryly.
“I like my women like I like my coffee… bound with cable ties and screaming in the trunk of my car.” So, Christian actually did the decent thing (after not doing the decent thing at all by tracking her phone and coming to pick her up when she didn’t want him to) for her after the puke-a-thon in the parking lot, but the moment he tries to lightly tease her about the events of the evening, she complains internally about being “made to feel like the villain of the piece.” When he defends himself, she teases him, and of course, his icy demeanor is melted again. Because if there is one rule that does not apply to Ana, ever, it is “treat others the way you would like to be treated”. It’s okay for her to tease him, but not for him to tease her.
In one of my very favorite twists of awesome fate ever, Ana says Christian talks “like a courtly knight.” And Christian responds with, “Dark knight, maybe.” Which means I get to use this picture again:
It’s also kind of funny that he calls himself a “Dark knight” and he just tracked her location via cell phone. Remember when Batman did that? Morgan Freeman was pissed, yo.
Christian and Ana have some back and forth over whether or not she’s eaten, and she accuses him of scolding her, and then this happens:
“Well, if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday. You didn’t eat, you got drunk, you put yourself at risk.” He closes his eyes, dread etched on his lovely face, and he shudders slightly. When he opens his eyes, he glares at me. “I hate to think what could have happened to you.” I scowl back at him. What is his problem? What’s it to him? If I was his… well I’m not. Though maybe, part of me would like to be. The thought pierces through the irritation I feel at his high-handed words. I flush at the waywardness of my subconscious – she’s doing her happy dance in a bright red hula skirt at the thought of being his.
So, in other words, the hero of this story is saying he would beat the heroine if she had the audacity to go out with her friends to celebrate graduating from college. He’s also subtly blaming her for nearly getting raped. Let me reiterate for you, gentle reader, this is the man women of America are falling in love with. There was a particularly gross article on The Huffington Post the other day where a woman lamented the fact that her husband isn’t more like Christian Grey. No, there isn’t a slow gas leak in your house, this is happening. Women across the country are feeling somehow cheated by life because their husbands won’t beat them if they want to exercise their right as a human being to go out and get drunk with their friends. Because their husbands won’t blame them if they get raped. Seriously, if any one of my friends dares to complain like that in front of me, I will drown her for the good of the female species. This I vow.
Christian goes to take a shower, so of course, Ana sits there on the bed in a puddle of girl goo because he’s so sexy. Victim blaming gets her so wet, you have no idea.
One minute he rebuffs me, the next he sends me fourteen-thousand-dollar books, then he tracks me like a stalker.
And for all that, I have spent the night in his hotel suite, and I feel safe. Protected. He cares enough to come and rescue me from some mistakenly perceived danger.He’s not dark knight at all, but a white knight in shining, dazzling armor – a classic romantic hero – Sir Gawain or Lancelot.
They should print this out and just stick it in the pamphlets for women’s crisis centers hidden in the bathroom at the gynecologist’s office. “Is this how you feel about your partner? Call this confidential help line.” There’s nothing romantic or noble about “rescuing” a woman from her friends. Okay, yes, she was being assaulted when he showed up at the bar, but (and this is an important ‘but’) she wasn’t being assaulted when she called him. He had no reason to believe she was in any danger, and every reason to believe she was just out having a good time. This isn’t romance. This is an abusive relationship in the making.
Christian comes out of the shower in just a towel, and she’s there in just her t-shirt, and the sexual tension is palpable:
“If you’re looking for your jeans, I’ve sent them to the laundry.” His gaze is a dark obsidian. “They were spattered with your vomit.”
Swoon. Then, Ana flushes scarlet. I’m wondering what other colors she thinks people flush. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone flush azure. The good news is, Christian’s bodyguard has bought Ana some new pants. She goes to take a shower and while she’s in there, she realizes that for the first time in her life, she’s sexually attracted to someone. But he hasn’t made a pass at her, like Paul and Jose have. I like how this book not only tries to justify Christian’s abusive behavior as romantic, but seems to also caution against normal human interaction as some kind of future warning. Jose asked her out like normal guys do, but then he kisses her without her consent. Paul asks her out, but then turns into a jerk when she says no. See, ladies? You don’t want a guy to just ask you out. He needs to stalk you and buy scary items at your work.
In the shower, the smell of Christian’s body wash get Ana all hot and horny, and she’s pretty invested in a solo heavy petting session when he knocks on the door to tell her breakfast is ready. Ana gets out of the shower and finds that along with jeans and new shoes, Christian’s bodyguard has also picked up matching, lacy blue bra and panties for her. Ana flushes when she thinks of the bodyguard buying them for her, but I like to think that he considers shopping for ladies underwear is a perk of his job, and maybe he picked up something frilly for himself, too. Everything fits perfectly, because this is a fantasy, and everyone knows that women ultimately fantasize about clothes that fit perfectly, so good on you for this one, E.L. James. Ana also struggles with her just plain awful hair, but not for as long as the opening scene in the book, thank God. She takes a deep breath and goes out to the bedroom, but Christian is gone, so she takes another deep breath. This is a throwback to her time on the space station and her fear that the room beyond the next airlock would have been compromised and without oxygen.
Taking another deep breath, I enter the living area of the suite. It’s huge. There’s an opulent, plush seating area, all overstuffed couches and soft cushions, an elaborate coffee table with a stack of large glossy books, a study area with a top-of-the-range Mac, an enormous plasma screen TV on the wall, and Christian is sitting at a dining table on the other side of the room reading a newspaper. It’s the size of a tennis court or something, not that I play tennis, though I have watched Kate a few times.
That’s a big newspaper. Thinking of Kate’s privileged life reminds Ana that her friend exists. Crap! Christian explains that Kate knows where she is, because he texted his brother.
Oh no. I remember her fervent dancing of the night before. All her patented moves used with maximum effort to seduce Christian’s brother no less! What’s she going to think about me being here? I’ve never stayed out before. She’s still with Elliot. She’s only done this twice before, and both times I’ve had to endure the hideous pink PJs for a week from the fallout. She’s going to think I’ve had a one-night stand too.
I’ve been having a hell of a time imagining these seductive, yet fervent, dance moves since they were mentioned in the last chapter. The way they’re described in the prose gives the impression that these are some fast, sweaty dance moves, but they’re somehow seductive. Is Kate a cabaret belly dancer? I like how Ana automatically assumes that Elliot is just using Kate for sex (like Ana is using her for cheap rent), and that her concern isn’t necessarily for her friend’s emotional well-being, but that she might have to see the bunny pajamas again for as long as a week. I hate when the rich friends I live with for practically no rent have the gall to wear pajamas I don’t like. Ana’s most immediate concern after that is, naturally, also a selfish one. Kate is going to think Ana has slept with Christian Grey, and as every adult woman knows, sleeping with a man is the worst thing you can do.
Christian doesn’t know what Ana likes for breakfast, so he’s ordered a little of everything on the menu. It’s a scene that steals from Pretty Woman more than from Twilight, and it’s a nice change. You’d think that after a wicked black-out drunk, pancakes and eggs would be welcomed, but as we have already learned, Ana is horrible and she likes absolutely nothing in life:
“I didn’t know what you liked, so I ordered a selection from the breakfast menu.” He gives me a crooked, apologetic smile.
“That’s very profligate of you,” I murmur, bewildered by the choice, though I am hungry.
Profligate? I would have called it “considerate”, but by all means, criticize the guy who was trying to give you a nice breakfast. But also, maybe be aware of the consequences of eating that breakfast. It could be drugged.
Although this would improve the book, drastically.
Christian remembers how she likes her tea (“Jeez!”) and “scolds” her for having damp hair. After a shower. What does this guy do, just glare and act churlish toward his hair until it dries perfectly, just moments after a wash? Ana thanks him for the clothes and offers to pay for them, and he’s offended at her offer, saying that he bought the clothes and the extremely expensive first edition books for her “because I can,” which is basically open intimidation. He’s rich, he’s going to do what he wants. And what he wants right now is to be Edward Cullen:
“Well, when you were nearly run over by the cyclist – and I was holding you and you were looking up at me – all kiss me, kiss me, Christian,” he pauses and shrugs slightly, “I felt I owed you an apology and a warning.” He runs his hand through his hair. “Anastasia, I’m not a hearts and flowers kind of man, I don’t do romance. My tastes are very singular. You should steer clear from me.” He closes his eyes as if in defeat. “There’s something about you, though, and I’m finding it impossible to stay away. But I think you’ve figured that out already.”
Christian, please to elaborate on the “something” about Ana that you can’t stay away from. Is it the way she loathes her friends and mentally belittles them at every opportunity? What about the way she has barely mastered the fine art of walking? All we’ve really seen by way of interaction between the two of them is Ana insulting him half the time and mumbling the other half. Where is the connection? It makes no sense for a rich, powerful man to want to put up with Ana’s teenage angst bullshit. But since this fanfic would be sunk if Edward and Bella didn’t get together, I as the reader must bend over and accept that this romantic connection exists. I’ll get the lube.
Anabella suggests that if Chedward can’t stay away from her, maybe he shouldn’t. Then she asks him if he’s celibate. He’s not, and he wants to know what she’s doing for the next few days. Chedward is direct. She’s working, and packing, since she’s going to be moving to Seattle next week. He asks her a few questions about this upcoming move, and you know how Ana likes being asked questions born of genuine interest:
The Christian Grey Inquisition is almost as irritating as the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.
Here are Jennifer Armintrout’s helpful tips on how to be a good friend to Anastasia Rose Steele:
Never make fun of her name.
Give her things of monetary value. Jeans, Converse sneakers, or something intangible, like low rent.
Don’t ask her questions.
Don’t wear pajamas she doesn’t like.
Put her at the center of the universe when she wants you to, fade into the background the rest of the time
There isn’t a lot of pay off to this plan, because she’s horrible, but it will be so worth it, because she’s the heroine of the book and therefore you have to like knowing her. Christian again offers Ana a job, which she doesn’t want, because being a college graduate with a paying job is so 1996.
“I’d like to bite that lip,” he whispers darkly.
Oh my. I am completely unaware that I am chewing my bottom lip. My mouth pops open as I gasp and swallow at the same time. That has to be the sexiest thing anybody has ever said to me.
And gasping and swallowing at the same time has to be the sexiest noise anybody has ever made. Rather than assuming Ana is choking and immediately leaping up to give her the Heimlich Maneuver (please note that I spelled “Heimlich” correct on the first try, but it took three times to get “Maneuver” right), Christian explains that he’s not going to touch Ana without written consent. And, I would assume, some sort of extra hazard insurance. He wants to explain everything to her over dinner in Seattle, and he’s pretty sure she’s not going to want to see him again once he does explain it all.
Holy shit. What does that mean? Does he white-slave small children to some God-forsaken part of the planet? Is he part of some underworld crime syndicate? It would explain why he’s so rich. Is he deeply religious? Is he impotent? Surely not, he could prove that to me right now. Oh my. I flush scarlet thinking about the possibilities.
So, she thinks he would whip out his cock and beat it to tumescence right at the breakfast table to prove he’s not impotent? Okay, we’ll go with that. Christian arranges a helicopter ride from Portland to Seattle for after Ana’s shift. I don’t get why she doesn’t just call in. She’s not going to keep working in Portland when she’s living in Seattle, right? And she has these expensive books she doesn’t want to keep, she could live off the money from those for a while. (This is why I have been unable to keep any job that wasn’t writing, by the way. This line of reasoning right here). Christian commands, literally commands Ana to eat, because he has an issue with wasted food. He wants her to clean her plate, and he really does expect her to listen to him. When she’d done, he rewards her with a “Good girl” and sends her to dry her hair because he doesn’t want her to get sick, going outside with wet hair. There is absolutely nothing sexier than a guy who gives the same advice as my grandma, let me tell you. Christian also reveals that he’s never slept with someone and not had sex, which means he’s either never been to scout camp, or he has some really bad memories from scout camp.
What in heaven’s name does that mean? He’s never slept with anyone? He’s a virgin? Somehow I doubt that. I stand staring at him in disbelief. He is the most mystifying person I’ve ever met. And it dawns on me that I have slept with Christian Grey, and I kick myself – what would I have given to be conscious to watch him sleep. See him vulnerable.
Okay, 1) you know he’s not a virgin, he said he wasn’t celibate. Words mean things. Didn’t you just graduate with a degree in English? 2) You’re missing a question mark. 3) That’s creepy, and you’re doing this all wrong. Bella sleeps, Edward watches. Get your shit together.
Ana goes back to the bathroom to dry her hair, and while she’s in there she encounters the most erotic, the most thrilling, the most positively tantalizing of all temptations:
I want to clean my teeth. I eye Christian’s toothbrush. It would be like having him in my mouth.
[Note: the following section should be read in the voice of Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption.] I wish I could tell you that Ana did not use Chedward’s toothbrush. I wish I could tell you that she respects personal boundaries and would never do something so incredibly gross as put another person’s toothbrush in her mouth.
Hmm… Glancing guiltily over my shoulder at the door, I feel the bristles on the toothbrush. They are damp. He must have used it already. Grabbing it quickly, I squirt toothpaste on it and brush my teeth in double quick time. I feel so naughty. It’s such a thrill.
This is a real book, is all I’m saying.
Back in the living area, Christian is on the phone. You can tell it’s something important about business, because he’s name dropping far-off locations like he’s trying to prove that the Earth is his BFF and he’s been on its yacht. Suez, Ben Sudan, Darfur, he’s an important guy and he spends Earth day in the VIP room, with the cake and bottles of Grey Goose. Then they leave, while Ana thinks how weird it is that even after she was a drunken mess the night before, he’s still there. Well, it is his hotel room. They get on the elevator, which apparently emits super horny rays, because the second the doors close, Christian Grey is all over her.
“Oh, fuck the paperwork,” he growls. He lunges at me, pushing me against the wall of the elevator. Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in one of his in a vice-like grip above my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his hips. Holy shit. His other hand grabs my ponytail and yanks down, bringing my face up, and his lips are on mine. It’s only just not painful. I moan into his mouth, giving his tongue an opening. He takes full advantage, his tongue expertly exploring my mouth. I have never been kissed like this.
I’m going to assume Ana has never been kissed, ever, at all, since until the morning she went for coffee with Grey, she hadn’t even held hands with anyone. She goes from first kiss to wanting to have public sex in one paragraph. And then, we have the first appearance (and I have been assured there will be many) of Ana’s “inner goddess.” Christian notices that she’s brushed her teeth (so… he was going to kiss her with all of this morning’s breakfast and last night’s vomit still clinging in a film to her teeth? Hot.), and she fesses up to using his toothbrush. Instead of recoiling in horror and asking her what the fuck she thought she was doing, he’s amused, and they leave the hotel together.
And that’s it for chapter five. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go brush my teeth. With my own toothbrush, thank you very much.
The response to this ongoing recap has been overwhelming. You know what else is overwhelming? Reading the damned book. This weekend, author DJ DeSmyter sat next to me at an event for the Kent District Public Library. Either he or I brought up 50 Shades (probably me, because my every waking moment is consumed in it) and it was like opening up an abscessed wound. All my anger poured out like so much pus. I’m sure he regretted being seated next to me. Sorry, DJ, and I hope someone clicks that link and buys your book to make up for it.
The event went pretty well, but a few of the authors there brought up a terrifying truth: it is now easier than ever to be a published author. Does that mean we’ll end up with more fanfic-with-the-names-changed plagiarism? Will someone put a stop to it? Will it end fanfic forever? I sure as hell hope not. At least, not before the Les Miserables movie comes out in December and I get to indulge in a fresh wave of Valjean/Javert slash.
With that ethical quandary firmly in mind, let’s continue our journey through 50 Shades of Grey.
When we left off, Miss Steele (not Ms. Steele, Miss Steele), was nearly run down by a bicycle. Christian Grey, who has better peripheral vision (and who wasn’t busy flushing and looking up from beneath his lashes), saw the calamity about to happen, and rescued her from peril by pulling her against his gorgeous, gorgeous body. It was in that moment that Miss Steele decided that she has a sex drive, after all, and she wants to be kissed. So badly, in fact, that she uses some uncharacteristically strong cursing:
Kiss me damn it! I implore him, but I can’t move. I’m paralyzed with a strange, unfamiliar need, completely captivated by him. I’m staring at Christian Grey’s exquisitely sculptured mouth, mesmerized, and he’s looking down at me, his gaze hooded, his eyes darkening.
He’s breathing harder than usual, and I’ve stopped breathing altogether. I’m in your arms.
Can we all hear the soundtrack of swelling orchestration? She’s in his arms. Both of them. His arms. I love that he’s “breathing harder than usual”. She’s so keyed into him that she knows what his usual resting respiration is? I’ve been with my husband for ten years, and the only way I notice his breathing is if he’s snoring or having an asthma attack. I guess we’re just not that into each other.
Because he’s a telepath or something, Christian shakes his head in denial of her silent pleas, and closes his eyes. Because he’s Edward Cullen, he immediately crushes the moment between them by insisting that Ana should stay away from him, he’s bad for her.
What? Where is this coming from?
It’s coming from Twilight, Ana. Try to keep up. Ana has apparently been holding her breath so long that Christian has to remind her to breathe before setting her on her feet. Ana is devastated at the loss of contact, and keyed up from having touched him in the first place. She feels she’s made it “pretty damn obvious” that she wants to be kissed. So, did she step off the curb into the path of the cyclist on purpose? Because she’s done nothing that seems like a come on. She gets almost hit by a bike, causing her to fall, he catches her, and she apparently dies from asphyxiation. If those are romantic signals, then I’m even more glad than ever that I am not a dude. Of course, she blames herself for his rejection. After all, it’s not like he’s some manipulative control freak who could be using her low self-esteem as a weapon against her, right?
She thanks him, in a whisper, for “saving” her. Look, I’m not going to downplay the dangers of pedestrian/cyclist accidents. Your shit can get seriously fucked up if you get hit by a cyclist. But he didn’t slay a dragon. He didn’t even keep you from being hit by a bus. Why are you dramatically whispering about it? The entire book so far, Ana has been trying to make mountains out of the smallest possible mole hills. Christian Grey is handsome, oh my god, it’s the end of the world. I embarrassed myself in front of a stranger I will probably never see again, I better be surly about it forever. It’s like she’s deliberately trying to make the bike near-miss as dramatic and important to him as it is to her. So, basically, these crazy kids have the communications skills to make a relationship last a lifetime.
“Anastasia… I…” He stops, and the anguish in his voice demands my attention, so I peer unwillingly up at him.
Anguish? Is that the word choice we’re going with here? I thought anguish was like, when your child died, or you find out your spouse is cheating on you. Anguish is for when you’ve been rejected, not when you’ve rejected somebody. But okay, whatever. Let’s just get through this. Ana acts like brat because Christian didn’t propose to her or something, and when they say goodbye at the hotel, she literally falls on the ground, balls up and cries in the parking garage. Let’s look over the deep emotional connection they’ve made so far that would cause her to feel this “anguish”:
She went to his office to interview him, fell down, talked about art, and insulted him to his face.
He came to her work and bought some stuff.
She watched him get his picture taken.
They went out for coffee/tea.
Is Ana like, Glen Close in Fatal Attraction? Or Laura Flynn-Boyle in Wayne’s World? There is no reason at all for her to be so emotionally destroyed by a casual acquaintance not wanting to kiss her. She acknowledges that it’s “nonsensical pain” and “ridiculous”, so of course she gets up off the parking garage concrete and deals with it like a big girl. Nope, she doesn’t. She sits there, in a vertical fetal position, and mourns her “dashed hopes, dashed dreams, and my soured expectations.”
I’m too pale, too skinny, too scruffy, uncoordinated, my long list of faults goes on. So I have always been the one to rebuff any would be admirers. There was that guy in my chemistry class who liked me, but no one has ever sparked my interest – no one except Christian damn Grey. Maybe I should be kinder to the likes of Paul Clayton and Jose Rodriguez, though I’m sure neither of them have been found sobbing alone in dark places.
This paragraph sums up all that is wrong and infuriating about Ana. She thinks, “Maybe I should be nicer to all the guys I’m rejecting left and right,” and then in the next moment goes, “Nah, because their pain isn’t possibly as beautiful and tragic as mine is.” Real talk time. I once knew a woman who operated under this exact set of principles. She could not feel empathy, because she was certain no one felt as keenly as she did. Do you know what happened to her? I don’t, because when she finally dropped out of my life, I was super happy to see her go. She was an exhausting psychopath. She once demanded to be driven to the house of a guy who didn’t offer to have sex with her after know her for one day, so she could scream at him for rejecting her. Everyone who came in contact with this person ended up hating her. And yet, women of America are desperate to be that kind of person, because they want to be Ana Steele, she of the short-circuited empathy switch.
Stop! Stop Now! – My subconscious is metaphorically screaming at me, arms folded, leaning on one leg and tapping her foot in frustration.
Ana’s subconscious and I have a lot in common. We both can’t stand Ana. Vowing to never think of Christian Grey, ever again, even though it is too much to hope for at this point, Ana goes home. Kate, you may remember, was worried about Ana going out with Grey in the first place. I felt you needed this reminder, because you might have forgotten about the moment Kate’s enthusiasm for the apparently budding romance made a one-eighty.
Kate is sitting at the dining table at her laptop when I arrive. Her welcoming smile fades when she sees me.
“Ana what’s wrong?”
Oh no… no the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition. I shake my head at her in a back-off now Kavanagh way – but I might as well be dealing with a blind deaf mute.
I’m pretty sure Ana has Asperger’s or some other spectrum disorder. She walks into a room after crying her eyes out on the ground in a parking garage, and someone rightly is concerned for her. When they express that concern, it’s an annoyance to her. Did anyone see Community last week? That’s a stupid question, of course no one did, it’s the least watched show on television. Anyway, last week, Annie and Abed were in the Dreamatorium (a sort of low-tech Holodeck), and Annie forced Abed to feel empathy. When she did this, it caused Abed to have a mental breakdown. The only difference between Ana and Abed? I actually like Abed and wouldn’t want to see him fall into a thresher.(note: I’ve received a lot of email for this paragraph. It seems a lot of people have taken “I’m pretty sure Ana has Asperger’s” to be another crack at Ana, that Asperger’s is being used as a pejorative. Or that my only experience of Autism comes from a television show. None of this is the case. In this chapter, Ana exhibits behaviors indicative of a high-functioning level of spectrum disorder–swinging from meltdown to shutdown–, so I mentioned it, because she’s written that way. I realize that I spend most of the time talking about what a horrible, shitty person Ana is, but I didn’t point out the similarity of her emotional pattern to that of someone on the spectrum because I think it’s what causes her to be horrible and shitty. I pointed it out because it’s yet another case of E.L. James unintentionally capturing something fairly realistic that she didn’t mean to portray. Ana is a horrible and shitty character, neurological profile aside.)
On a very serious note: If you are a writer… hell, no, wait, if you’re a person who isn’t Ana and has feelings and empathy for others, do not describe the non-speaking Deaf as “deaf mute”. A lot of people are going to get pissed off/hurt feelings if you do. I don’t know how the deaf-blind community feels about the term, but seriously. No “deaf mute”, unless it’s being used in dialogue in your historical set in the 1800′s.
Abed doesn’t like it. And Abed is Batman now.
Ana is, of course, surly about the fact that someone is trying to care about her. Kate even goes so far as to get up and hug Ana, because it’s obvious that she’s been crying. That bitch. Ana explains that she was almost hit by a cyclist, and tells Kate that Christian Grey isn’t interested in her, at all, because there’s nothing worth being interested in. St. Katherine of Kavanagh tries to bolster her confidence, telling her that she’s “a total babe,” you know, the kind of thing you say to your miserable friend when you know they’re miserable and lonely, but you also know that it’s not physical deformity, but a deeply flawed psyche, that’s making people hold them at arm’s length. And how does Ana respond to her friend trying to comfort her with compliments?
Oh no. She’s off on this tirade again.
Never, in the history of ever, have I wanted to reach into a book and smack the shit out of a character with the passion and vigor that I want to smack the shit out of Ana. Kate asks if Ana wants to see the article that she’s just finished. Looking at the pictures Jacob Jose took, Ana realizes why Christian Grey isn’t the man for her. He’s too good looking.
He’s too gloriously good-looking. We are poles apart and from two very different worlds. I have a vision of myself as Icarus flying too close to the sun and crashing and burning as a result.
With respect to Icarus, Ana, if you had been Icarus, you wouldn’t have made it to the sun. You would have tripped over your own feet leaving your house. I know Icarus, and you, Sir, are no Icarus. (This is a lie. I only know Icarus from that album cover). So, she has this sudden realization that he’s too beautiful and she’s not beautiful. I don’t know how this counts as sudden, since this is a thought that she’s had literally every time she’s been near him. She goes to study (after not reading the article her friend has been slaving over… no, instead of reading it, she just stares at the picture and says, “Very good,” to Kate). She has dreams with imagery relating to the last chapter, because her subconscious is super subtle like that. Then, without any kind of transition from her dream, she’s suddenly finished her exam. As thrown as I am by a paragraph on her dream being followed immediately by “I put my pen down,” I’m very, very glad we didn’t have to sit through the entire exam with her. I imagine it would have gone something like: “Where x is -9, find the value of… Oh… -9 is the exact number of times Christian kissed me when I wanted him to. Woe is me. My skin is so pale! And I’m so damnably thin! No one will ever love me. Verily, crap and jeez!”
With her exam finished, Ana is thinking about going out and getting drunk. She’s never been drunk before (quelle suprise!), but she wants to do something to celebrate the fact that she’s never going to be in college ever again. In case you were wondering, Ana finished her exam before Kate did. She made sure to note that for the reader. When they get home they find a package waiting at the door. When Ana opens it, she finds three volumes of Tess of The d’Urbervilles waiting for her. There’s a card, too, that reads “Why didn’t you tell me there was danger? Why didn’t you warn me? Ladies know what to guard against, because they read novels that tell them of these tricks…” The books are all priceless first editions, so she knows immediately who sent them.
So, let’s just examine that quote again. If you’ve read Tess of The d’Urbervilles, and I have not, but if you’ve read the SparkNotes for Tess of The d’Urbervilles, you might recall that the quotation on the card comes after Tess’s child, born out of wedlock, has died, and she has to make a choice to either marry the father (whom she does not love), or linger in disgrace. This is not the most romantic quotation to be putting on a card. It becomes even less so when we remember that Christian Grey has already acted like a psychopath to her. He stalked her at her job. He bought kidnapping supplies. He took her out for coffee, and then immediately turned cold to her. He views using his first name as a privilege to bestow upon others. This guy is a weirdo, and he’s just spent a fortune on a present for Ana, so that he could include a quotation about men being dangerous in the present.
So, of course Ana calls the police immediately. Of course she doesn’t! Instead, she plans to send the books back, with “an equally baffling quote from some obscure part of the book.” That shouldn’t be difficult, actually. It’s Thomas Hardy, it’s all baffling and obscure.
“The bit where Angel Clare says fuck off?” Kate asks with a completely straight face.
“Yes, that bit.” I giggle. I love Kate, she’s so loyal and supportive.
What, pray tell, in the actual fuck, are you talking about? Whenever Kate has shown any kind of concern for Ana or sympathy thus far, Ana has rejected it as an annoyance and a sign that Kate is overbearing. Oh, but now that Kate is in step with her opinion on Christian Grey, she’s loyal and supportive?
Kate and Ana toast to their new lives in Seattle, where they’re moving now that they’re college graduates. They go out to the bar with Jose, who is not graduating and whose name I still can’t figure out how to put an accent over in blogger.Mea culpa. Jose buys a pitcher of margaritas, and Ana, the non-drinker who has never been drunk before, has five. That’s right. She drinks champagne, then goes to the bar and has five margaritas. Now, maybe Ana has an iron liver to go with her two left feet. But I’m thinking that a non-drinker would have been on the floor after a bottle of champagne. Let’s say they didn’t finish the bottle, they just had a glass. Five margaritas and still vertical pushes my suspension of disbelief a little bit too far.
Some people say that Jose is to blame… but I know it’s Ana’s own damn fault.
The bar is packed, so they have to shout to Jose about how they’re moving to Seattle to live in the awesome condo Kate’s parents bought her. I wonder if the books didn’t come from Kate’s moneybag parents. Like, maybe Kate was talking to them and she was all, “Hey, I think that Christian Grey guy is into Ana,” and they were like, “Christian Grey? Wasn’t he a suspect in that string of coed murders a few years ago?” and then they sent the books thinking Ana would totally get the message. Well, she didn’t, because Jose starts to get handsy and keeps plying her with drink. She decides it’s safer to move onto beer, because there’s no alcohol in that, right? First, though, she has to comment on how hot Kate is compared to her:
She’s all tiny camisole, tight jeans, and high heels, hair piled high with tendrils hanging down softly around her face, her usual stunning self. Me, I’m more of a Converse and t-shirt kind of girl, but I’m wearing my most flattering jeans.
I can tell right here that this was written by a non-American author who probably doesn’t go out much in America. College girls do not dress the way Kate is dressed, even when going out. The key to college girl hotness is looking like you’re not trying. Oh, they might wear a tank-top and jeans, but they’re not going to wear heels with it. No one in the United States has worn heels with jeans since 1994, and if they have, they shouldn’t have been doing that, because it’s ridiculous. In any case, Ana is so super drunk, she drunk dials Grey while she’s waiting in line for the bathroom. He can tell right away she’s drunk, and demands to know exactly where she is, probably so he can swing by and murder her. She won’t tell him, and ends up hanging up on him. He calls her back to say he’s coming to get her. Just like that. “I’m coming to get you.” That’s just about as creepy as, “The call is coming from inside the house.”
Well, Christian, what if she doesn’t want to go with you? She’s a grown ass woman. She went out with her friends and got drunk. Big deal. You do not need to come storming in like John Goodman in Coyote Ugly, fucking up your daughter’s good time. Ladies of America, this behavior is not chivalrous. It’s creepy and domineering. It’s stalker behavior. It’s gross. STOP WANTING CHRISTIAN GREY RIGHT NOW YOU ARE EMBARRASSING THE REST OF US!
Ana realizes how drunk she is and staggers outside, where Jose comes to check up on her. Or feel up on her, which is what he ends up doing, and aggressively so. Ana is struggling with him when Christian Grey walks up, and Ana tosses her cookies all over the ground. This causes Jose to say “Dios mio” for the second time in the chapter. This causes me to now and forever imagine that Jose is really The Jesus:
“Dios mio, man.”
Grey holds her hair back while she horks up all those margaritas in a flower bed in the parking lot. Then, she dry heaves. Finally, some romance! When she’s done being a one woman water feature, Christian lends her his monogrammed hanky to daintily wipe the vomit from her lips. She’s embarrassed. She wants to bitch out Jose (rightly so, since apparently the only thing stopping him from sexually assaulting her was an aversion to partially digested margarita mix). She drops the big double c-word: “Double crap,” when she realizes that she doesn’t know how to navigate this situation. This comes as no surprise to the reader, because so far, Ana has been unable to navigate totally normal social situations, ones that don’t involve vomit. I’m kind of hoping for a patented Bella Swan face plant right into her own vomit, but alas, it’s time for her to apologize to Christian for being sick in front of him. For a self-centered prick, he’s actually cool about it, throwing out the usual, “Hey, we’ve all been there, am I right”-type comments. He offers to take Ana home, and when she suggests telling her friends where she’s gone, he says that his brother can explain it all to Kate, since he’s talking to her. At some point, unspecified to the reader because, as you may have noticed, any character who is not Ana or Christian are unimportant nuisances that should stand off stage and wait to be called, Christian’s brother Elliot has come with him to the bar to retrieve Ana, and now that same brother is talking to Kate inside the bar. How Christian can see into the crowded, loud bar to discern this information, I have no clue. But there is still that little detail of how he knew where to find Ana.
“I tracked your cell phone Anastasia.” Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal? Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s still floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind.
And thus began every abusive relationship ever. “I don’t mind if he’s acting creepy, because it’s him.” They go inside and Ana has to put her mouth very close to his ear to tell him something. When she does this, she realizes how good he smells, and “deep, deep down my muscles clench deliciously”. Okay, Ana, but on the flip side of all that sexiness, you just sent a warm, puke-scented cascade of your own breath right over his face, so don’t get your hopes up, is all I’m saying here. He forces her to drink ice water, then takes her onto the dance floor. See, he doesn’t know her as well as we do. We know that, when Ana Steele is involved, “He moves us through the crowded throng of dancers to the other side of the dance floor,” will be followed immediately by, “and there were no survivors.” But somehow, they manage to make it to Kate and Elliot, who are, by all accounts, getting it on vertically out there. Luckily, before anyone can be hurt by what will undoubtedly be the worst dance disaster of all time, and before we can be forced to read about said disaster, Ana passes out, thus ending the chapter.
Ana tells Kate about the photo shoot she’s arranged with Christian Dexter Rpattz Grey, III. Kate is psyched. She calls Ana on the bullshit excuse she’s buying from Grey:
I think that is one huge coincidence, Ana. You don’t think he was there to see you?” she speculates. My heart lurches at the prospect, but it’s a short-lived joy. The dull, disappointing reality is that he was here on business.
Murdering business, hence the zip ties, rope, masking tape, and coveralls. And Ana is definitely not special enough to murder, she’s made that clear from the first paragraph. Kate bickers with Ana over whether or not Christian Grey wants to bone her, and Kate sounds, for the most part, like she really wants to convince Ana of her self worth and maybe see her end up getting boned by said murderer. In fact, throughout the book so far, Kate has tried to get Ana to say she thinks Christian Grey is a hottie, and Ana won’t do it. Remember this, we’re going to touch on this subject again. Not because of any particularly clever plotting or anything, so don’t get too excited. Just keep it in mind. Kate is shocked that Christian gave Ana his cell number, and Ana says that he could have just given it to her to be nice. Because rich, famous people always give their private cell numbers out all willy-nilly. I think that if Ana were a real person, every time she opened her mouth to speak, it would just make a sad trombone noise. Every time.
It’s like you could show her a picture of herself next to pictures of elderly burn victims with facial cancers, and she’d still find some way to believe she was the ugliest. She probably read Mein Kampf and said, “What a nice guy… compared to me.” If any of this stuff had happened to any other woman on the planet, she would have gone, “Huh. Maybe he does think I’m cute,” and be flattered by it. Okay, no. No matter how rich or hot the guy is, I think any female hardware store employee, when faced by evidence that they’re being stalked by the Red Dragon, would get a restraining order and take some time off work. But in the world of 50 Shades, where shit like that is apparently not creepy at all, a woman would be able to take pleasure in the idea of a hot, rich guy finding them attractive and move on. It wouldn’t have to mean anything. And therein, I think, lies the second biggest fault in Ana’s character. There is no gray area (that is not a pun. I will not sully puns by using them in this discussion. I love puns too much), anywhere, with her. Christian Grey can’t be attracted to her, because she’s not exactly, perfectly what she imagines a person like Christian Grey would want. She can’t even give her friend Jose the courtesy of considering him as boyfriend material, not because he’s not attractive, but because he’s not a literary hero. Nothing is good enough for Ana, therefore, Ana is not good enough for the world. Speaking of Jose, they need a photographer for this gig. Kate suggests that since Jose will “do anything for you,” Ana should call him. Anna feels Kate is “irritatingly cavalier about Jose”. I’m not sure what Ana is irritated at, though. Is she irritated that Kate is cavalier about his participation, taking it as a given? Is she cavalier about the fact that he likes Ana, and that makes her uncomfortable? We don’t know. And the reason we don’t know is because if any of the other characters in this story were developed, that might take a little of the bloom off Ana’s rose. Kate suggests that Ana call Grey because she has a “relationship” with him. Ana takes offense to that description, and Kate hangs up on Ana, forever securing herself a place in my black, shriveled little heart. Ana is calling Jose when Paul, the old friend from the end of chapter two, enters the stock room. He wants to take Ana out on a date, and he’s got a lot of questions about Christian Grey. Because the chemistry between Christian and Ana is like a boomerang: it’s hitting everything but her, including innocent bystanders. Ana thinks:
Paul is cute in a wholesome all-American boy-next-door kind of way, but he’s no literary hero. Not by any any stretch of the imagination. Is Grey? My subconscious asks me, her eyebrow figuratively raised.
Yes, Ana. He is a literary hero. He’s Edward Cullen. Granted, literary might be a stretch, but I’m not here to criticize Twilight. I am impressed, though, that you know that the subconscious can only figuratively raise its eyebrows, but that the notion that conscious thought doesn’t flow from the subconscious has somehow escaped you. Ana. Everything you pretend to believe about yourself is right. You’re horrible. Jose doesn’t want to do the photo shoot, because “I do places, Ana, not people.” Remember that lady that married the Berlin Wall? She and Jose should friend each other on Facebook. Kate gets on the phone and threatens Jose, saying the newspaper won’t cover his gallery opening if he doesn’t do this favor for her. Ana sees this as “awesomely tough”. It’s awesome when Kate openly bullies someone else into doing something for her, but when she asks Ana to do something and follows up by thanking her profusely, that bitch has crossed a line! Like a few moments later, when Kate asks her to call Grey. Ana is super nervous to call Christian Grey. I feel like I should make fun of the scene somehow, but honestly, I’m at a loss as to where to start. It’s like the buffet at the casino over in Battle Creek. They have pizza, they have Chinese, they have seafood, they have prime rib, but there are too many choices, so many directions you could go in, and then suddenly you’re sitting back at your table with a plate full of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese because everything got too overwhelming and sad for you.
I scowl at her and reach into my back pocket for his business card. I take a deep, steadying breath, and with shaking fingers, I dial the number.
Is anyone else imagining bomb-defusing music and then a cut to commercial? At the very least, the tension here is on the same level as when Ryan Seacrest says we’ll find out who’s going home after the break.
He answers on the second ring. His tone is clipped, calm, and cold. “Grey.” “Err… Mr. Grey? It’s Anastasia Steele.” I don’t recognize my own voice, I’m so nervous. There’s a brief pause. Inside, I’m quaking.
“Err… Mr. Grey?” I love it. Dude gave you his cell phone number. He answered by saying only his name. Who else would it be? They have a short conversation in which the details of the photo shoot are established, and Ana has all sorts of reactions listening to him on the phone. If there were a commercial for Christian Grey, in the middle an announcer with a deceptively soothing voice would say, “Ask your doctor if Christian Grey is right for you. Side effects include, but are not limited to, shaking fingers, inability to recognize your own voice, nervousness, quaking, hitching breath, flushing, sudden awareness of roommates watching you, hasty breath, being able to see facial expressions over the phone, and whatever the hell this is supposed to mean-”
I am all gushing and breathy – like a child, not a grown woman who can vote and drink legally in the State of Washington.
Just because an election is coming up, I’d like to remind you all that while you might be able to vote and drink legally, doing them at the same time is probably not such a great plan. Also, if you’re ever writing an erotic novel, you probably shouldn’t use the words “child” and “gushing” in the same sentence. Kate is stunned by her friend’s reaction to the short phone conversation. So stunned, she has to use Ana’s full, fully ridiculous, name:
“Anastasia Rose Steele. You like him! I’ve never seen you or heard you so, so… affected by anyone before. You’re actually blushing.”
First of all, I’m only on chapter three, and I haven’t been keeping a running total or anything, but I estimate that Ana has blushed about a hundred and fifty-seven times already. Everything seems to “affect” her. Her entire life that we have seen thus far has been nothing but a series of various, seemingly negative, emotional highs. Kate lives with her, and she’s never noticed? Second, excuse me, but what the fuck do you think you’re doing, walking around with a name like that? Anastasia Rose Steele is not a heroine in a contemporary novel. Anastasia Rose Steele is the name of Jack and Rose’s rebellious teenage daughter in a Titanic fanfic. Anastasia Rose Steele is the name of a literal rose that doesn’t flourish very well, even in ideal conditions, thus making it a sought after bloom by master rose gardeners. Anastasia Rose Steele wins the Triple Crown. This is no kind of name for a contemporary heroine. That night, Ana has difficulty sleeping, dreaming of “smokey gray eyes, coveralls, long legs, long fingers, and dark, dark, unexplored places.” So, she’s either dreaming of spelunking, or Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” video. In my interpretation, the dark, dark unexplored places are deep in the recesses of Billy Joe’s hair. The next morning, Ana, Jose, and Travis (a friend of Jose and probably also a Quileute) are travelling to Portland in Ana’s car. Kate drives separately, because they can’t all fit in Ana’s quirky car. They’re going to the Heathman hotel in Portland to take pictures of Christian Grey.
The rooms are elegant, understated, and opulently furnished.
There’s that logic disconnect in the prose again. How is something understated and opulent at the same time? “Opulently” suggests excessively. “Understated” suggests subtlety. Ana, if I may remind you, is an English major about to graduate. They set up for the shoot (Ana gets irritated at Kate, but as she’s in a constant state of irritation with her, you probably already anticipated that) and Christian Grey arrives, to the strains of Ana’s strongest profanity:
Holy Crap! He’s wearing a white shirt, open at the collar, and grey flannel pants that hang from his hips. His unruly hair is still damp from a shower. My mouth goes dry looking at him. He’s so freaking hot.
Grey is accompanied by a body-guard type of guy. Ana marvels at the way Kate can remain calm under Grey’s onslaught of hotness. It is at this point that I’d like to remind you that this is a Twilight fanfic, so for all intents and purposes, this is the gentleman that makes Ana positively squirt upon catching a glimpse of him:
Introductions are made:
“This is Jose Rodriguez, our photographer,” I say, grinning at Jose who smiles with affection back at me. His eyes cool when he looks from me to Grey.
Fire and Ice, y’all! I think Jose dislikes this Christian Grey guy. He better keep his hunting party off the rez. They take his picture for a while, in various poses, and Ana, from what I can gather, stands there and stares dopey-eyed at him the entire time.
Twice our eyes lock, and I have to tear myself away from his cloudy gaze.
Grey asks Ana to walk with him. To where? Just around the hotel? Does he need to go get ice? It doesn’t matter to Jose, who is not pleased to see Ana leave with the young tycoon. Grey invites Ana to coffee. Considering she thinks shaking his hand is like having live current arcing through her, and just talking to him on the phone makes her gush, I’m surprised she doesn’t faint in the hallway.
“I wondered if you would join me for coffee this morning.” My heart slams into my mouth. A date? Christian Grey is asking me on a date. He’s asking if you want a coffee. Maybe he thinks you haven’t woken up yet, my subconscious whines at me in a sneering mood again.
I love that he’s sending out every signal on the face of the earth and she is still so beaten down and victimized- by herself, remember- that she refuses to receive any of them. I’m going to lay money down right now that he’s going to be inside her and she’s still going to be thinking, “He couldn’t possibly want to have sex with me.” Because the story is flimsy and needs to be padded out, there is discussion regarding how everyone and the equipment is going to get home if Ana doesn’t take them. Thank god for Taylor the bodyguard, who has a 4×4 he can take everyone home in. This is going to be the biggest nitpick I make in this entire book (no, it’s really not), but what does four wheel drive have to do with the number of people a car can carry? 4×4 isn’t a type of car, it’s a class of drive train. I’m going to go ahead and imagine that Ana dumps her friends for coffee and they all have to squeeze into a pickup truck. Also, Ana, you don’t have to drive everyone home, just Travis and Jose. Kate drove her Mercedes CLK, which should have rear seats. Taylor doesn’t have to drive anyone home. The entire exchange about who is going to drive who where reads like listening to my husband and my mother-in-law trying to coordinate transportation arrangements while I stand by, repeating the best solution over and over, only to be ultimately ignored in favor of whatever jackassery the two of them dream up. Once Grey commands his manservant to drive the group home, he’s easily manipulated the situation- by virtue of his money and status- so that Ana cannot continue to refuse his offer of coffee. This guy is a charmer. Nothing is sexier than a man who wants to isolate you from your main group and is aggressive in his approach when doing so. They work it out so that Ana will swap vehicles with Kate. Remember, at the beginning of the chapter, when Kate is practically demanding that Ana have a crush on Grey? Well, this happens:
“Ana, there’s something about him.” Her tone is full of warning. “He’s gorgeous, I agree, but I think he’s dangerous. Especially to someone like you.”
I think Kate saw his receipt from the hardware store. Jose glares, completely un-Jacob-like, while Kate scolds Ana for wanting to go for coffee with Christian, but she relents, and Bella and Edward go for coffee.
I make my way down the corridor, my knees shaky, my stomach full of butterflies, and my heart in my mouth thumping a dramatic uneven beat. I am going to have coffee with Christian Grey… and I hate coffee.
Of course you hate coffee, Ana. You hate everything. Because you’re horrible. Grey holds her hand as they walk to the coffee place, and it is revealed that Ana has never held hands. With anyone. Ever. She’s twenty-one and she’s never held anyone’s hand. We are privy to the many mundane steps involved in going to get coffee with someone, including such classics as: walking four blocks. Waiting for a light to change. Explaining that you don’t care for coffee because you prefer tea. How you take tea. Waiting for someone who is waiting in line. It’s like no one ever told E.L. James that as an author, you can handily skip over those bits by compressing them into a single line. I understand that she’s trying to spin out the tension here. Even waiting for Grey to return to the table, she’s looking at him, admiring the way “those pants hang from his hips…” (and really, where else do pants hang from? Does everyone in Portland wear their pants around their knees or up around their nipples? This is the second time Ana has noticed how awesome it is that Grey’s pants go around his hips.) and daydreaming about running her fingers through his hair. But at this point, with all the flushing, looking up from beneath her lashes (where else are you going to look from? Above your lashes? beside your lashes?), biting her lip, and generally going all weak and gushy when he’s around, we get the point. We understand that she finds him sexy. What I, as a reader, do not understand, is how I’m approximately forty pages into what’s supposed to be this life-changing, erotic work of fiction that’s revitalizing sexless marriages and nothing, absolutely nothing sexual has happened yet. If you don’t count the part where they titter like fifth-graders over Grey’s suggestion that he would do home improvement projects in the nude to avoid spoiling his clothing. Ana flushes way too much. I’m going to throw this out there right now. At the end of one paragraph, her face flames. There is a line of dialogue, and then the beginning of the next paragraph, she goes crimson. I get the distinct impression that she’s a Humboldt Squid in a dress, flashing red like a broken neon sign. Ana doesn’t know what to talk about, because she’s just so lowly and beneath Grey, in her own estimation.
“I like my tea black and weak,” I mutter as an explanation. “I see. Is he your boyfriend?” Whoa…What?
Thank you, Ana, for coming along in my confusion. Is who her boyfriend? The tea? A weak black guy? Neither. See, he asks Ana what she’s thinking about, and the moment, the very instant she answers, he changes the subject to ask if Jose is her boyfriend. Then, he asks about Paul, from the hardware store. Is he Ana’s boyfriend? He only asks because Ana seems “nervous around men.” That is the creepiest, most date-rapey line I have ever read in a romance novel, and I have read some pretty questionable old school rapemances in my time. But he gets so much better!
“You should find me intimidating,” he nods. “You’re very honest. Please don’t look down. I like to see your face.”
I can see why the women of America are falling for this guy. Who doesn’t want a dude who doesn’t want you at ease, so he can more easily manipulate you, and who treats you like an object that should be displayed for his enjoyment at all times? Grey describes Ana as “self-contained,” much in the way an environmental disaster might be described as “self-contained”, I guess.
“Except when you blush, of course, which is often. I just wish I knew what you were blushing about.” He pops a small piece of muffin into his mouth and starts to chew it slowly, not taking his eyes off me. And as if on cue, I blush. Crap!
From here out, I’m going to imagine that every time Ana says “Crap,” she’s referring to the quality of the writing. Christian explains that he doesn’t want her to call him by his first name because he only allows certain people in his life to do that, and apparently Ana hasn’t earned that right. But Ana has a very low opinion of herself, so she just sort of accepts it, and refocuses her anger on Kate, lamenting internally about how beautiful her friend is and how she should be the one having coffee with Christian. Ana doesn’t realize that a guy like Christian isn’t going to be interested in a woman who can’t be controlled through her low self-esteem. Because this book is what it is, Christian decides to interview Ana, as she interviewed him. The problem with this section is that it doesn’t reveal anything new to the reader. We already know about Ana’s parents, but at least we learn a little more about the enigmatic Mr. Grey. I would be more interested in him if he wasn’t such a first-class twat, so I’ll admit, I mostly skimmed the bits about what his parents do for a living and how many siblings he has. I was surprised to find that they don’t all live together in a big steel and glass and white sandstone and steel and glass and steel house somewhere. As they leave, Ana feels like she has totally blown it with Christian. She still thinks he wants some worldly, self-possessed woman, and she feels like she’s not good enough. Little does she know that her feelings of being “not good enough” are exactly what Christian Grey finds attractive. He offers to walk her back to the hotel, and on the way, absolutely nothing happens that in any way resembles anything like something that happened between Bella and Edward in the parking lot of Forks high school. At all.
“Shit, Ana!” Grey cries. He tugs the hand that he’s holding so hard that I fall back against him just as a cyclist whips past, narrowly missing me, heading the wrong way up this one-way street.It all happens so fast – one minute I’m falling, the next I’m in his arms, and he’s holding me tightly against his chest. I inhale his clean, vital scent. He smells of fresh laundered linen and some expensive body-wash. Oh my, it’s intoxicating. I inhale deeply.
It’s not a car. See, if Ana were about to be hit by a car, it would be suspect. This is just a cyclist. And while in Twilight, Edward saving Bella from being crushed by a car is a crucial moment, a turning point in which Bella realizes that something unnatural is up with the Cullen family, in 50 Shades of Grey, it’s a turning point in which usually asexual Ana realizes for the very first time that she wants to kiss someone. That’s the entire purpose of the near-miss bike accident scene. Being almost hit by a bicycle awakens the sleeping bear, and that bear is powerfully horny. Lost in his gaze, she realizes, “for the first time in twenty-one years, I want to be kissed. I want to feel his mouth on me.” When I read the third book in the Twilight series (I thought the first two were actually not all that bad… I recognize that this is an unpopular opinion, and many of my readers want me to lash out against all things Twilight with the fury of a thousand newborn stars), I said to myself, “There will never be another writer as bad as Stephenie Meyer. It won’t happen.” I feel almost responsible for 50 Shades, like I damned us all to the existence of this book by thinking that. I looked the universe in the face and, laughing, dared it to do its worst. And this is what we have. A twenty-one year old heroine who has never been attracted to any man, simply because he didn’t treat her badly enough, whose sexual awakening comes from nearly being run down by a bike messenger. Because I have busy, important, non-vomit inducing things to do with my time this weekend, there won’t be another recap until Monday. I have to write my own books, you see. Right now, I’m working on a scathing indictment of the institutionalized homophobia in professional sports. Ha! No. I’m actually writing a book about two major league baseball players who get it on together. A lot. There are no bicycle collisions, and very little flushing, but I’ll try to muster up some level of enthusiasm for the task.
First of all, I want to thank everyone who has cheered me on in this endeavor. Please know that this is going to be like a marathon. No. It’s going to be like an ultra-marathon, through a mine field covered in hardening hot glue. Your support is like unto Gatorade, replenishing my parched brain as I slog ever further.
Oh, shit. I’m only two chapters in.
Before I share the glorious recap, I have to give a shout-out to @Scarimonious, who I just started following on Twitter yesterday and who has already proven that I’ve made a really, really good choice in doing so. Remember my wish for a picture of the tie described in the first chapter?
Wish granted, bitches
You have @Scarimonious to thank for that. I don’t know about you, but the above picture is exactly how I’m going to imagine Christian Grey for the rest of the book.
All right, onto the pain. We last left Ana in the elevator, leaving Christian’s office. Chapter two begins with her heart pounding, the doors opening, and then there’s some scrambling and stumbling that doesn’t end with a classic Bella Swan Anastasia Steele pratfall. I don’t know, Ana, maybe you wouldn’t fall down so damn much if you had more speeds than a cheap lawn mower. Seriously, she’s either walking like a normal human or bouncing around like a pinball with a very bad concept of gravity.
I race for the wide glass doors, and I’m free in the bracing, cleansing, damp air of Seattle.
I know that the first adjective that comes to mind when I think clean and bracing is “damp”. And wait, wasn’t she driving to Portland in the first chapter? Now she’s in Seattle… oh, who the fuck cares, it’s all one big, rainy, Forks to E.L. James, right?
No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why.
I can’t, either, AnaBella. Just a minute ago in his office he was an arrogant prick that you seemed like you couldn’t stand. Now, reader, let me assure you, I’m not misunderstanding the classic Sam-and-Diane rules of attraction and loathing. I get loving to hate someone, and hating that you love them. This came off more like a middle schooler with an embarrassing crush; I don’t like you, but I like you, so I’m going to think a lot of mean things about you while doodling your name in my notebook.
Ana goes outside and leans against a (steel) pillar in the rain because she needs a moment to recover from the sheer sexual intimidation that is Christian Grey. If you don’t understand by now that she is really, really affected by him, well, there’s no hope for you, because she’s beating you over the head with it. She even throws in a “holy crap” for good measure. You know Ana is serious when that kind of language starts.
She drives away from Seattle/Portland, still playing over this highly erotic experience of interviewing someone. Seriously, from the way she’s going on, I’m thinking Barbra Walters must have to wear waterproof undies to work, because interviews are that sexually exciting. Okay, not every interview. Just every interview with a man who wears ties that have shrewd gazes.
Okay, so he’s very attractive, confident, commanding, at ease with himself – but on the flip side, he’s arrogant, and for all his impeccable manners, he’s autocratic and cold. Well, on the surface.
As everyone who watches Downton Abbey knows, impeccable manners usually go hand in hand with deep expressions of feeling to total strangers. This is the kind of thing that’s going to kill me in this book. It doesn’t follow that having impeccable manners would mean you’re a warm person. In the next line, “An involuntary shiver” runs down Ana’s spine. Who shivers on purpose? Seriously, who controls whether or not they shiver? Especially after standing in the rain, leaning on a steel pillar? This is exactly what is going to wear me down, all this little bullshit.
So, Ana is thinking about Christian has a right to be arrogant, then she says “He doesn’t suffer fools gladly,” and I spit out my gum. Bish, please. You just did a header into his office rug and couldn’t work a recorder, then insulted him to his face and he still cancelled his next meeting to make sure you didn’t secure yourself a handicapped parking spot leaving the building. On second thought, maybe that last part had to do with the insurance nightmare having someone like Ana on your property is going to inevitably lead to. But still. He suffered a fool today, and he was very polite about it. Because of his impeccable manners.
And Kate’s questions – ugh! The adoption and asking him if he was gay! I shudder. I can’t believe I said that. Ground, swallow me up now! Every time I think of that question in the future, I will cringe with embarrassment. Damn Katherine Kavanagh!
She’s super embarrassed, not because she Bella Swan-dived into the office, not because she called him a control freak to his face and was openly hostile throughout the interview, not because she stood outside his building in the rain like she was auditioning for a Michael Bolton video in 1989, but because of Katherine. Katherine forced her to read those questions, which Ana apparently hadn’t bothered to look at before showing up to the interview. She’s mad that Kate didn’t give her a biography before she went, but if she didn’t bother to look at the questions, would she have bothered to read the bio?
Deciding that she’s had enough of ruminating how impossibly hot Christian Grey is, she flouts his order to drive safely, because this is New Moon, and she’s going to be damned if he’ll run off to Italy to immolate himself and leave her behind! No, sorry. I keep getting confused, but can you really blame me? She turns on “thumping indie rock music” and tears down the highway. Ten to one, she’s listening to Muse’s “Black Holes and Revelations”. Because, as you may not have picked up from the subtle hints I’m laying down, this is Twilight.
We get a description of Ana’s living situation, in a small community of duplex apartments near the WSU campus. Apparently Kate’s parents bought the place for her. The apartment? The whole duplex? The whole community? Who knows, because subject/verb agreement is for pussies, and E.L. James is no pussy. Ana realizes that Kate is going to want to know what happened at the interview. I’m guessing that Kate is going to listen to the disc, hear the way Ana was talking to the most important entrepreneur in Washington and/or Oregon and be absolutely thrilled. Ana, meanwhile, isn’t thrilled. Her friend is wearing horrible pink bunny pjs that she wears only during moments of absolute weakness. Kate hugs Ana, expresses that she was worried because she expected her home earlier, and thanks her profusely before asking questions about the interview. How does Ana’s internal narrative respond to this?
Oh no – here we go, the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.
Seriously, Ana? Seriously? You were expecting that she wasn’t going to ask you about the interview that will make or break her as editor of the WSU school newspaper? When I was reading Twilight, I had this horrible feeling that if it were a memoir, and Bella’s friends read what she had said about them, they would have Javelinaed her ass before she could say, “What’s up with all the mud?” I’m beginning to feel a lot more sympathy toward the wretched Kate than toward Ana. Sure, Ana made her soup to make her feel better, but she probably bitched about it internally the entire time it was simmering on the stove.
“Don’t you look so innocent. Why didn’t you give me a biography? He made me feel like such an idiot for skimping on basic research.” Kate clamps a hand to her mouth.
“Jeez, Ana, I’m sorry – I didn’t think.”
“Mostly he was courteous, formal, slightly stuffy – like he’s old before his time. He doesn’t talk like a man of twenty-something. How old is he anyway?”
“Twenty-seven. Jeez, Ana, I’m sorry. I should have briefed you, but I was in such a panic.
Maybe he’s a vampire. Maybe that’s why he sounds like he’s old before his time. And while we’re flinging wild accusations around, Ana, maybe you’re a vampire, too, since you talk all sorts of stuffy, yourself. “A man of twenty-something.” Who talks like that? No one. Absolutely no one. This is why you should always read your dialogue aloud, kids. And the clean cussing is another thing. Crap? Jeez? Were “Oh brother” and “golly” too strong for print? I’m seriously expecting “Great Honk!” and “Jeepers” to pop up, and for the Mayor from The Music Man to start lecturing everyone about watching their phraseology. If we were to make a drinking game out of every time someone says an impossibly clean curse word, do you know what would happen?
This would happen.
But let’s not gloss over something that is so incredibly irritating to me at this point in the chapter. Look at how much Kate is apologizing to Ana. And what is she apologizing for, really? What was stopping Ana from looking any of this information up on her phone while she waited outside Christian’s office? Not a damn thing. Ana knew she was going to go interview the guy. It’s not like Kate had commandos bust into Ana’s room in the middle of night, hit her with the stun gun a few times, then bag her head and drop her off in Christian’s office with a recorder and a list of questions. She could have prepared better for the experience, she didn’t, but because this is Ana’s story, we’re supposed to be just as annoyed with Kate as Ana is? No, E.L. James. I am not buying what you are selling today.
Because Ana is nothing if not a martyr, she leaves immediately for her job at the hardware store. It’s ironic, you see, that she works in a hardware store, because she’s hopeless with anything DIY. She actually says she’s “crap” at DIY, but I hesitated to type that at first because of the whole drinking game thing. I don’t want to be responsible for your alcohol poisoning. Ana would rather curl up with a book than build anything with her hands, and that’s probably stemming from a real solid sense of self preservation in the saws vs. fingers department, based on what we’ve seen of her coordination so far. But she knows a lot about hardware, and she’s happy to go to work because it will take her mind of Christian Grey.
After absolutely nothing happens at her job, but we’re forced to come along for a few paragraphs anyway, Ana comes home to find Kate working on the story. Once again, Ana reminds us of all the studying she couldn’t do because she spent all day interviewing Christian Grey. Except, when Ana showed up for work, her boss said she didn’t expect Ana that day. So, wait a second. Ana could have stayed home from work, gotten this impossibly huge amount of studying done, but she went in anyway and we all tagged along why? For further proof that she is bound and determined to be miserable and irritated at her roommate who, by all accounts, seems like a really nice person? I’m liking you more and more, AnaBella SteeleSwan.
Kate suggests that the reason Christian offered to show Ana around the office was because he was interested in spending more time with her. Ana mentally blows this off, thinking that he just wanted to show off how powerful he is. Because Ana is clearly someone a rich, handsome guy would need to impress. I don’t understand how this character can be so incredibly full of herself, and yet so incredibly down on herself, at the same time.
“That’s fine. I can still make a fine article with this. Shame we don’t have some original stills. Good-looking son of a bitch, isn’t he?” I flush.
Here is another problem I have with this book, since I’m so obviously short on things to critique. See that line of dialogue? Looks like Ana is saying it, right? Nope. Those words are coming out of Kate’s mouth, tagged with Ana’s actions. And it happens all the time in this. It makes it difficult to read, because you’re always trying to figure out who said what. I had the same issue, by the by, with The Time Traveler’s Wife. And I’m sure there is a special place in hell just for me for comparing that book to this one.
Kate wants to talk some more about how good looking Christian Grey is, and Ana is just interested in complaining about the trial of a thousand cuts that was having to interview someone for a college newspaper. I guess Ana is just as tired as I am of hearing about how good-looking, fascinating, commanding, arrogant, mysterious, etc. Christian is. Still, that night, Ana dreams about “dark places, bleak white cold floors, and gray eyes.”
Now is the time on Sprockets where we get the rest of the week wrap up, and some suspiciously Twilight-ish exposition. Oh, but not before Ana gets another dig in about Kate and her pjs. We learn that Ana’s mom lives in Georgia. I wonder if she ever drives across the state line to chat with Bella’s mom in Florida, because they’re both flaky and on new marriages, so they have a lot in common. Also, they’re the same person. Also, just like Bella’s mom, Ana’s mom asks right off the bat about boys. There is one aspect that differs between the two of them. Bella’s mom has a name. After calling her mom, Ana calls her stepdad, Ray. She considers Ray her father, despite the fact that he only communicates in grunts and she basically prefers him over her biological father because “he’s still alive”.
This brings us to Friday night, when Ana’s friend Jose comes over. Jose is a completely new and original character, completely unlike any character in Twilight. He’s got dark eyes, his dad and Ana’s stepdad are BFFs, and although he really likes Ana and wishes she would date him, she’s got him locked firmly in the friend zone. I challenge you, reader, to find any character in Twilight with any similarity at all to Jose. I mean, these allegations of plagiarism are totally preposterous. Jacob likes motorcycles. Jose likes photography. Absolutely nothing about the two of them are the same in any way.
I watch Jose open the bottle of champagne. He’s tall, and in his jeans and t-shirt he’s all shoulders and muscles, tanned skin, dark hair and burning dark eyes. Yes, Jose’s pretty hot, but I think he’s finally getting the message. We’re just friends.
In the interest of transparency, it’s not E.L. James’s fault that there aren’t accent marks on Jose’s name. It’s mine, I’m just way too drunk to do them after all those craps and jeezes.
Ana can’t date anyone because no man in the history of ever has come close to ringing her bell the way the heroes of classic literature can. Well, you know, except Christian Grey, but she won’t even let herself consider such a thing. It’s days later, and she’s still brutally mortified that she was forced at gun point by those commandos to ask him if he was gay. Yeah, she’s been dreaming of him nonstop, but that’s only because everything about him and the entire interview debacle were so unthinkably bad.
Saturday at the hardware store, Ana is doing something inventory-ish and who walks in and creepily stares at her until she looks up from what she’s doing? Christian. Motherfucking. Grey. Looking all casual and fine (he left the anthropomorphic tie at home today), he tries to pull off this whole, “I was in the area,” shtick. I guess when you’re a millionaire, you have the luxury of driving from Seattle to Portland to go to a hardware store. But just a heads up, dude, that whole, “I was in the neighborhood” line seems sketch when you just drove three hours to creep on some chick who works at the hardware store. Then, we are treated to what is, without doubt, the finest metaphor ever crafted in the history of the written language:
His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.
See that? Remember that mean thing I said about the Pulitzer in my intro post? I take it back. The reason they did not award the Pulitzer for fiction this year is because none of the entrants lived up to that metaphor, but to give the Pulitzer to 50 Shades would be to insult the mastery of its prose. They were caught in an impossible situation.
Ana does a lot of weak-kneed, heart-poundy, blushy-flushy escorting of Christian around the hardware store. He’s looking for some pretty specific stuff. Cable ties, for example, that he selects so erotically that Ana has to look away while he does it. Masking tape. Rope. They chat about her interests, while the store owner calls the cops because this dude is obviously stocking up for a kidnapping. Just kidding! But to make his receipt look even more incriminating, Ana suggests he buys coveralls. In my mind, Christian Grey has gone from RPattz to Dexter in 3.2 seconds.
The dialogue between the two characters is so absurdly childish, I can’t even fathom why this is considered erotic:
“You wouldn’t want to ruin your clothing,” I gesture vaguely in the direction of his jeans.
“I could always take them off.” He smirks.
“Um.” I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be the color of the communist manifesto. Stop talking. Stop talking NOW. “I’ll take some coveralls. Heaven forbid I should ruin any clothing,” he says dryly.
OMG LOL, do you get it? I so get it. If he takes off his clothes (omg) he will be NAKED. Swoon. Sploosh. Scene.
Ana asks Christian if he’s willing to have some pictures taken to accompany the article Kate is writing, and he’s totally down for that. He gives Ana his cell number, which is apparently a contract, because when an old friend of Ana’s shows up and acts “over-familiar”, he glares at them and starts acting all strange.
“Just these items.” His tone is clipped and cool. Damn… have I offended him? Taking a deep breath, I turn and head for the till. What is his problem? I ring up the rope, coveralls, masking tape, and cable ties at the till.
His problem is that the guy in the trunk of his car isn’t going to stay alive long enough to torture to death if you don’t ring up those supplies, sweet cheeks.
One of the challenges of writing erotica is injecting sensuality into mundane situations. This ramps up the tension between the characters who will later do it (that’s a technical term). For example:
“Would you like a bag?” I ask as I take his credit card.
“Please, Anastasia.” His tongue caresses my name, and my heart once again is frantic.
Okay, that’s not the best example.
Finally, after their hyper-sexy murder kit shopping spree, she admits she might, maybe, a little bit, be attracted to Christian:
Okay – I like him. There, I’ve admitted it to myself. I cannot hide from my feelings anymore. I’ve never felt like this before. I find him attractive, very attractive. But it’s a lost cause, I know, and I sigh with bittersweet regret. It was just a coincidence, his coming here. But still, I can admire him from afar, surely? No harm can come of that. And if I find a photographer, I can do some serious admiring tomorrow.
Yeah, he’s probably not interested in you. He only drove three hours out of the way on a flimsy excuse (visiting the university) and showed up to buy incriminating supplies at the hardware store you work at. Ana would be so easy to kidnap and cut up, for real. “I was just in the neighborhood, and I decided to drop buy to buy zip ties and rope and glare jealously at you when you talk to another man.” And what do you want to bet the hapless schmuck who has to photograph Dexter Rpattz Grey, esq. is going to be Jose, the guy who’s been permanently friend zoned by Miss “Only Mr. Darcy can give me a tickle in my pants” Steele?
The sick thing is, I can barely wait to read more. I’m starting to understand why this became a huge hit. Sadly, I’m also starting to think that the plot of Idiocracy is actually a dire prophecy, and this book might be the keystone in the foundation of the downfall of the human race.
So, as I announced in a delirium of hatred last night, I have begun reading 50 Shades of Grey, and I’m going to share the experience with you. This will accomplish two things.
It will provide me with an important emotional outlet, thus lowering my blood pressure.
It will give you the experience of reading the book without really having to read it. Much like videotaping a friend getting stitches gives you the experience, but not the pain and hassle of, cutting your own finger with a razor blade because you’re too lazy to get up and get the scissors to open that USB drive packaging.
We have a lot to cover. Let’s get started.
Our story begins with our heroine, Ana, looking in the mirror. She doesn’t like what she sees. Her hair is uncooperative. Also, she has huge blue eyes and pale skin, in our American culture which does not value these things as traditional hallmarks of beauty or anything. She’s pissed off at her roommate, Kate. Why? Because Kate has lined up an interview with the most powerful entrepreneur in the country, Christian Grey, but she got the flu and now she can’t go. Even though Ana is having a bad hair day, has exams coming up, and has to work, her selfish friend is trying to manipulate her into going to do the interview herself:
Therefore, she cannot attend the interview she’d arranged to do, with some mega-industrialist tycoon I’ve never heard of, for the student newspaper. So I have been volunteered. I have final exams to cram for, one essay to finish, and I’m supposed to be working this afternoon, but no – today I have to drive a hundred and sixty-five miles to downtown Seattle in order to meet the enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. As an exceptional entrepreneur and major benefactor of our University, his time is extraordinarily precious.
She’s never heard of this guy, except that she knows the extremely unwieldy name of his company, that he’s an entrepreneur, that he gives tons of money to the school she attends, and that he’s super busy? This is the kind of logical error that I’m finding over and over in this book, and I’ve only read three chapters so far. But putting that aside for a minute, doesn’t this sound like an amazing opportunity for her friend? I bet Ana feels really bad that Kate is going to miss out on the interview of a lifetime, right?
“Ana, I’m sorry. It took me nine months to get this interview. It will take another six to reschedule, and we’ll both have graduated by then. As the editor, I can’t blow this off. Please,” Kate begs me in her rasping, sore throat voice. How does she do it? Even ill she looks gamine and gorgeous, strawberry blonde hair in place and green eyes bight, although now red-rimmed and runny. I ignore my pang of unwelcome sympathy.
Of course Ana doesn’t feel bad! Why should she? She’s the heroine! We have to like her. Because she’s the heroine. So, when her friend is saying, “Please, for me, blow off work and classes and go meet this famous person, so you can put this interview on your resume when it could have been on mine had I not contracted a horrible respiratory illness,” Ana can only think, “Ugh, it is soooo not fair that she is prettier than me. I will absolutely not feel sympathetic toward you,” and the reader better know whose side to be on, damnit!
As Ana complains more in the narration about how good Kate is at manipulating people, and how awful it’s going to be to meet this rich, successful guy, she outwardly acts like it’s not a big deal. This gives me the distinct impression that Ana is one of those people who will agree, or even offer, do a favor for you like it doesn’t inconvenience them at all, then immediately phones up a friend and bitches about you and all the boundaries you’re overstepping. And then, exactly like one of those people, Ana attempts to tell the reader how great Kate is, and that she’s her very best friend, after complaining about her for like two pages solid. At this point, do I actually have to say that Ana is Bella Swan?
So, Ana sets off from Vancouver, heading toward Portland. Wait a second, didn’t she say she had to go to Seattle to meet this Grey guy? I can never tell where I am in this serious. Just in the nebulous Pacific Northwest, I guess, where:
The miles slip away as I floor the pedal to the metal.
Dear Non-American Author trying to write in Americanisms: It’s either “floor it” or “put the pedal to the metal”. And actually, no one says the latter anymore. By the way, she’s flooring it to the pedal in a Mercedes loaned to her by Kate. A Mercedes, and she’s still bitching? Her car, a quirky, old vehicle (but not a quirky, old truck) is unreliable, like a quirky, old truck. But it’s a VW Bug, so she’s definitely not Bella Swan. Still, there is something endearing about reading an non-American author trying to capture the slang of my people.
When she gets to Christian Grey’s steel and glass office building with the building name in steel letters over the glass doors to the steel and glass and sandstone (c-c-c-combo breaker!) lobby, we learn that Ana’s name is really Anastasia Steele, because that’s totally not a pornstar name and the word “steel” had to be used in some form or another in every single sentence in this scene. Ana runs through a succession of blonde receptionists, each one making her feel more and more like Anne Hathaway in the interview scene in The Devil Wears Prada. In fact, her outfit sounds kind of familiar…
I am beginning to wish I’d borrowed one of Kate’s formal blazers rather than wear my navy blue jacket. I have made an effort and worn my one and only skirt, my sensible brown knee-length boots and a blue sweater. For me, this is smart.
Where have I seen this before?
So, at least now we have some kind of visual inspiration for sad-sack Ana.
Anyway, there are a lot of blondes working in the office, and as Ana appears to hate blondes more than Anita Blake does, she’s absolutely certain she doesn’t fit in. She signs in, gets a visitor’s pass, and heads upstairs to the second steel and glass and sandstone and steel and more glass and mahogany and red and yellow and pink and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and violet and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and gray and purple and white and pink and orange and blue lobby. I wish I could tell you that I just used more adjectives and words than James did to describe this sequence of events. I am many things, but I am not a liar.
This is one of the biggest problems with 50 Shades of Grey. It’s like a team of cameras is following Ana everywhere she goes, every second of the day, and it’s being transcribed for the reader into the book, no matter how inane the details:
“Mr. Grey will see you in a moment. May I take your jacket?”
“Oh please.” I struggle out of the jacket.
“Have you been offered any refreshment?”
“Um – no.” Oh dear, is Blonde Number one in trouble?
Blonde Number Two frowns and eyes the young woman at the desk.
“Would you like tea, coffee, water?” she asks, turning her attention back to me.
“A glass of water. Thank you,” I murmur.
“Olivia, please fetch Miss Steele a glass of water.” Her voice is stern. Olivia scoots up immediately and scurries to a door on the other side of the foyer.
“My apologies, Miss Steele, Olivia is our new intern. Please be seated. Mr. Grey will be another five minutes.”
Oliva returns with a glass of iced water.
“Here you go, Miss Steele.”
Let’s do a little writing exercise, shall we? Let’s see if we can make that chunk of pointless dialogue into something more manageable, to move the story along to literally anything else in literally a tenth of the time. I’l go first:
One of the blonde receptionists took my coat and offered me a glass of water.
I’m no Nora Roberts, but I think I can safely say that the book would not have been ruined without the unnecessary interplay Ana witnesses between the two receptionists, and the odd focus on the “iced water” and who is in possession of said water at which time.
Because Ana still doesn’t know a single thing about Christian Grey (besides his name, his mother’s maiden name, his place of birth, the name of his first pet, the security code on the back of his Visa card, his blood type, and whether or not he’s circumcised), she doesn’t know how old he is or what he looks like. She figures he’s probably blonde, too, and wonders if he requires his employees to be blonde. She’s “wondering idly if that’s legal” while I’m wondering if this isn’t some Neo-Nazi thing. But it’s totally cool, because then a black guy comes out of his office, talking about golf. So Christian Grey is definitely not an Aryan Nationalist.
The blondes send Ana into Mr. Grey’s office, and wouldn’t you know it, like a dope, she falls right through the doors and winds up on her hands and knees in front of Christian Grey. Foreshadowing. She is so embarrassed that she says all kinds of strong curse-words like “Holy cow,” and “Double crap”. No single craps for Ana, oh no. She’s a rebel and a potty mouth of the highest caliber.
Immediately, she realizes that Christian Grey is not some ancient forty-year old dude, practically crumbling to dust atop his icy blonde empire, but a very hot young man:
So young – and attractive, very attractive. He’s tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie with unruly dark copper colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly.
That… is one hell of a tie. I’m going to have to ask someone, please, look into the kindness and the goodness of your soul and photoshop me a picture of a black tie with Robert Pattinson’s hair and eyes stuck on it, gazing at me shrewdly.
When she shakes his hand, Ana has some kind of short circuit situation that makes her blink like a malfunctioning Furby. She explains that she’s there on behalf of her sick roommate, then makes a stunningly astute comment about some paintings in his office. Of course, he agrees with her, and this puts Ana immediately at ease, knowing that they are on the same level, intellectually. Just kidding! Instead, she’s building him up in her head, calling him an Adonis and being too embarrassed by his really, really good-looking-ness to operate the recorder. He’s amused by her uncertainty, she can tell. Because tycoons often find it amusing to have their time stolen by inept student non-reporters. Then she asks him if she can record his answers. Which is the most bizarre sentence I think a person can ask another person they are interviewing. “Do you mind if I make some kind of permanent record of the answers you give me, or would you rather this all become a pointless exercise in time wasting?”
Once they launch into the interview, things really pick up. Ha, just kidding again! We’ve finally got the hero and heroine of what is touted as the hottest, sexiest, most toe-curlingest naughty erotic novel since the Marquis de Sade was branded a lunatic, together in the same room and what’s going to happen? Pages upon pages of clumsy exposition. Why show, when Christian himself can tell, in a series of incredibly banal interview questions, everything we as the reader are going to need to know to have a clear impression of his character for the rest of the book? And let’s also see Ana insult him, over and over again, from suggesting his success is based on luck to outright calling him a control freak. For someone who was so insecure just moments ago, Ana begins to verbally spar with this powerful guy while representing her sick roommate whose reputation as editor of the college newspaper is riding on this interview.
Still, even though he is, by her own description, an arrogant control freak who does weird things with his fingers while looking at her, Ana is completely, sexually paralyzed by his stunning physical appearance, which, as far as I can tell from the numerous superlatives Ana breathlessly recounts, is like looking directly at the face of God if God were an orgasm dipped in chocolate and the perfect pair of jeans. So, while Christian Grey is rattling off incredibly intimate details of his life to a rude, awkward, mousy college student who just spilled her ass through his office doors, Ana is practically writing odes to his teeth and wondering what’s so wrong with her that she would be distracted by someone who is just the physical manifestation of the very soul of perfect beauty.
The scene goes on so long, Christian actually has to cancel his next meeting. When it comes time for Ana to leave, he teases her about her earlier fall, helps her put on her jacket, and walks her to the elevator. But only after this passage:
“Well, you’d better drive carefuly.” His tone is stern, authoritative. Why should he care?
Because he’s Edward Cullen, reader. Because he’s Edward Cullen.