Every time I think this book has reached peak rapey-ness, we climb to an even higher pinnacle. Keep that in mind while you read this recap. It actually upset me, and I knew ahead of time what the events of the chapter would be.
Also, if this is riddled with typos it’s because I totally forgot I needed to proof read and schedule this, and I’ve got to leave for the U.P. in less than twelve hours.
Remember when I complained before, many times, that E.L. James has fucked up with this whole chapter/date thing? Here’s an example of why this doesn’t work (especially if you cling tenaciously to the format):
It’s after one in the morning when I go to bed. Staring at the ceiling, I’m tired, relaxed, but also excited, anticipating what the week will bring. I hope to have a new project: Miss Anastasia Steele.
That’s the opening line of this section. I’ve mentioned before that always starting a chapter with a character waking up and always ending a chapter with characters going to bed isn’t a great thing to do. But I’ll be god damned if E.L. James hasn’t found a way to do the reverse. So, why did this happen? Because it’s after one in the morning. Therefore, it’s no longer Sunday. But James wants us to know that Chedward didn’t just read a book. She wants us to know that he went to sleep thinking about Ana. Specifically, that he went to sleep mentally reiterating the same emotions he’s expressed at least four times per page since the beginning of the book. It would have been so much better if that little nugget of pointlessness had been left out entirely, but if we had to experience it, it should have been stuck at the end of the last chapter. Yes, it’s clumsy to end a chapter with your characters going to sleep, and that should be avoided if at all possible, but that’s far fucking preferable to starting a chapter with your character going to sleep.
After that single paragraph, there’s a break, and then we get to where the chapter should have started:
My feet pound the sidewalk on Main Street as I run toward the river.
Yes. Run toward the river. Run into the river. Into her dark, swirling embrace. Run, and never stop.
Chedward thinks about how peaceful everything is:
It’s 6:35 in the morning and the sun’s rays are shimmering through the high-rise buildings. The sidewalk trees are newly green with spring leaves; the air is clean, the traffic quiet.
And of course, he’s got some suitably tranquil music for this crisp new day:
“O Fortuna” from Orff’s Carmina Burana is blaring in my ears.
Are you familiar with Carmina Burana? I’m not sure E.L. James is. I mean, I assume she selected the piece because it’s recognizable, but has she looked up a translation of the lyrics? Because it’s basically about how life will steal your joy and cast you into misery. And while I’m sure fawning Cheward fans would insist that the song choice is perfect for him and how dark and complicated and tortured he is, it doesn’t make sense for this song to be the backdrop to a new romantic beginning.
Today the streets are paved with possibility.
Possibility for what, with that music on, exactly? The possibility that you might find yourself crushed by fate’s wheel? Why are so many of the supposedly “smart” references in this book used so inappropriately? Did no one read this before they put it in print? The whole point of the brief passage where he’s running is so that he can wonder, yet again, if Ana is going to email him. I’m really starting to believe I could just copy/paste my recaps the way Chedward’s thoughts are copy/pasted over and over.
After another break, it’s two hours later and Chedward is emailing his assistant and letting her know that he’ll be working in Portland all week and to reschedule all of his meetings. I’m assuming the conversation went like, “I can’t come in today. I’m sick. Also, I’m in Portland, creepily hanging around this girl I’m obsessed with.”
He does some work on stuff that is supposed to sound important, I guess, then emails Elena, who’s apparently been blowing up his phone all weekend. He basically just tells her that he’s too busy to see her for a couple weeks, so I’m super glad we got to see that slice of fascinating life. Ana does email him back, thus opening the seventh seal and loosing tiresome email-exchange passages onto the Earth. The email thing seemed incredibly dated when I watched the movie. I thought most of these exchanges should have been changed to text messages, because that’s what people are doing now. And then I remembered that, hey, that’s what people were doing in 2011, too, and these should have probably been texts to begin with. While arguing with him about whether or not he’s giving or loaning the computer, Ana calls him something. Not something I’d like to see her call him, but he thinks it’s important.
“Sir” with a capital S; the girl has been reading, and possibly researching.
This, of course, will encourage him to continue stalking and harassing her. After one message back to her, he thinks:
How long will it be before she responds? I resume reading my e-mail as a distraction while I wait for her reply.
So at this point, his job as the head of a multi-billion dollar business with the nebulous goal of feeding the world or something is a distraction from his primary goal, which is Anastasia Steele. Yikes.
There’s an executive summary from Fred, the head of my telecom division, about the development of our solar-powered tablet–one of my pet projects. It’s ambitious but few of my business ventures matter more than this one and I’m excited about it. Bringing affordable first world technology to the third world is something I’m determined to do.
There’s a ping from my computer.
Another e-mail from Miss Steele.
Bringing affordable first world technology to the third world is something I’m determined to do. Right after I flirt with this girl. Ana tells him that she has questions, but they’re “not suitable for email” and that she has to work for a living. Christian is annoyed that she doesn’t want to accept the computer as a gift:
But I suppose it shows she’s not acquisitive. She’s no gold digger–rare among the women I’ve known…yet Leila was the same.
Okay, in the spate of billionaire romances out there (mine included), there are always heroines thinking they don’t want to be labelled as a gold digger. In Ana’s POV of these books, she feels the same way. But it’s one thing for a heroine to think, “I don’t want anyone to think I’m a gold digger,” and another entirely for the hero to think that all women are gold diggers and only the heroine could possibly not be one. A woman not wanting to be perceived as a gold digger is pushback against the stereotype that women are only interested in money. A man saying he’s relieved that he’s finally found someone who isn’t a gold digger? That’s just ego-fueled misogyny.
Ah, Leila. She was a good submissive, but she became too attached and I was the wrong man. Fortunately, that wasn’t for long. She’s married now and happy.
Wait, Leila is married? I don’t remember that. Do any of you guys remember Leila being married? I thought she was at art school. I guess you can do both, but I just don’t remember her being married.
Christian tries to work, but he’s on edge waiting for Ana to email him back. When he finally does get another email, it’s from Elena, asking what he’s doing in Portland, but he doesn’t want to tell her. Then Andrea calls him and they go through his schedule. He asks her to set up a meeting and cancel his social calendar. Then he does a video conference, and there’s a section break. We go through his entire day with him. He looks at “tablet schematics” and talks to Taylor about a situation with Taylor’s ex-wife. I’m skipping all of that because it goes nowhere and I don’t feel like I care to know it. There’s a paragraph break, and then he’s finishing up work.
As I look out the window at the early-evening sky, my mind strays to a certain potential submissive. I wonder how her day at Clayton’s has been, pricing cable ties and measuring out lengths of rope. I hope one day I’ll get to use them on her.
I know he means the cable ties and rope, but I’m very tired at the moment and all I could think of was Ana naked and tied up, writhing in ecstasy as Chedward just goes to town on her with a pricing gun.
I know how I’d like to release this pent-up energy, but I have to settle for a run.
How many times does this guy run in one day? I’m not a multi-billionaire with a vast empire of technology and mercenaries on the ground in war torn countries, and I barely find the time to nap to that ballet exercise program I bought for its soothing music.
Because Ana hasn’t emailed him back since that morning, he emails Ana and says he hopes she had a good day at work. You know, if a female character sent this many emails to a male character, this book would be the movie Swimfan. After he changes into his running clothes, he sees that Ana has responded with a short message, once again calling him “Sir”.
But she hasn’t done her homework. I e-mail her back.
She hasn’t researched his sexual needs fast enough, so he scolds her with an email (subject line: “Do the work!”) and says that while she’s emailing him, she’s not researching. Of course, he’s the one who keeps emailing her, and of course she didn’t have time to research BDSM. She’s been at work all day. And he’s given her a ridiculously broad subject to “research”. She’ll have to look up the terms in the contract one-by-one, while also studying the basics of the entire subculture. And he wants her to do this in one night?
Look, if you want someone to go fly fishing with you, do you just invite them along and tell them to do some research before hand? Do you expect them to not only learn the craft of fly fishing in a single night, but also to make up their mind as to whether or not they enjoy fly fishing before they even put their waders on? Of course not. That’s not how fly fishing works. If you want your friend to go fly fishing with you, there’s an expectation that you’ll be teaching them some basics. Not just handing them a pole and saying, “Google it, I’ve been fly fishing for years and I’m not going to get in the river with someone who isn’t on my level.”
He tells her to stop emailing him and go do her “assignment”:
Her response is not as immediate, and feeling a little crestfallen, I turn away and decide to go on my run.
Christian Grey reminds me of when my kids are crying about how they’re staaarving and when is dinner going to be done? but they won’t leave the kitchen so I can actually finish cooking. Chedward wants Ana’s full attention to be on him, while she’s giving that full attention to something else, too. It’s like his emotional growth arrested at age four, and everyone around him has just been fine with that, so he’s never grown up at all.
Ana does email Christian back, asking him what she should put into the search engine.
Shit! Why didn’t I think about this? I could have given her some books. Numerous websites spring to mind–but I don’t want to frighten her off.
Perhaps she should start with the most vanilla…
A pretty common component to the public criticism of Fifty Shades of Grey surrounded the fact that Christian didn’t do anything to educate Ana. So here’s another place where it seems pretty clear that James is trying to address that. But, like almost every other instance where she seems to be screaming, “Look! He’s not a bad guy! Look at how not bad he is and how wrong and mean you were!” via prose, just throwing in this aside is unconvincing because she can’t change the actual events of the story. They’re written in stone. Over 100 million stones, because that’s the estimate of how many copies are out there. She can’t change the fact that he didn’t do anything to help Ana, so she just throws in a line where he thinks, “Oh, I should have thought of that,” then does nothing. He was able to next-day a first edition Thomas Hardy to Ana via courier. The reader can’t be asked to believe that getting her a few trade paperbacks about bondage would present this huge challenge, any more than it would have been a huge challenge for him to change her white wine order to a Diet Coke in the last recap.
In other words, coulda woulda shoulda, E.L.. And you didn’t.
So, what’s the most “vanilla” BDSM resource Chedward can think of?
Always start with Wikipedia.
First of all, has anyone ever been to the BDSM entry on Wikipedia? There are pictures of strappado bondage, foot play, flogging, hell, there’s even pony play complete with a woman pulling a man in a chariot-type thing. One of the first pictures is a woman in latex manacled to a dirty wall. Second, Ana just graduated college as an English major. Why the fuck doesn’t she know how to do internet research? Apart from the fact that she didn’t have a computer or an email account, this is its own complete mystery. She knows bookstores exist. She knows there are libraries. But she has to ask him how to do research?
They have another, nearly identical email exchange in which he tells her to research and not email him, and she emails him anyway, and all of this is so cute and not repetitive in the slightest. Then Christian goes on a run, because that’s all he knows how to do. Isn’t this parallel to the run Ana is taking in another part of town at the moment? You remember, when she decided she didn’t want to do the whole BDSM thing after all, and sends him that email telling him so?
As I run under the Hawthorne Bridge I reflect on how at ease she is with the written word, more so than when she’s speaking.
Literally all of her emails are two to three lines long, but they’re suddenly John and Abigail Adams?
As I sprint down Main Street I dare to hope that she’ll accept my proposition. The thought is exciting, invigorating even, and I pick up my pace, sprinting back to the Heathman.
Drink every time we read “the thought is”. No, just kidding, you’ll die. Just like I’m going to die if I have to read this “will she/won’t she” much longer.
In Fifty Shades of Grey, Ana had her own life (until she met Christian). She was wrapping up her senior year in college, she had friends, she was in the middle of a move to a new city, things were happening. So, while we were reading all of this drama from her side, she wasn’t waiting for something to do. She was doing the contract/BDSM research thing around other parts of her life. From Chedward’s perspective, all he has is waiting. Pages upon pages upon pages of boring, pointless waiting. James can’t write anything interesting happening from Grey’s POV because she’s written him as having no life at all, outside of Ana. Sure, he’s doing things with work, but James doesn’t seem to have a real solid idea of what it is Chedward does, so she just bullshits around with, “I checked my emails” and “I looked over this thing someone sent me,” then throws in various locations and lofty goals to make him sound important. That leaves Chedward with a lot of time on his hands, and to fill that time, James just repeats the same actions/reactions/thoughts over and over again. Somehow, this manages to make the book longer than the original, which was boring enough as it was.
It’s 8:15 when I sit back in my dining chair. I’ve eaten the wild Oregon salmon for dinner, courtesy of Miss Dark, Dark Eyes again, and I still have half a glass of Sancerre to finish.
Like this. He could have just finished eating the salmon. I don’t mind details about what people are eating. I like to know what people are eating when I read a book. But why do we have to yet again know who served it? Why is this unnamed character getting so much attention from the narrative? Why is Miss Dark, Dark Eyes taking up so much page time?
Ana emails Christian:
Okay, I’ve seen enough.
It was nice knowing you.
And of course, Christian Grey reacts exactly like Christian Grey would:
I read it again.
It’s a “no.” I stare at the screen in disbelief.
Just “It was nice knowing you”?
What. The. Fuck.
I sit back in my chair, dumbfounded.
This could be a poem. It would be entitled, “Rape Culture”. The thing about “no” is, it absolutely means “that’s it, no discussion.” It’s no. No is not a jumping off point for sexual negotiation.
Speaking of rape culture:
She thought it was more than nice when her head was thrown back as she came.
Consent once is not consent forever. But he made her come, so she owes him her sexual subservience.
He tries to write her an email, but he’s too angry.
How could she dismiss me so easily?
Her first fuck.
Didn’t he express some kind of concern that having sex with virgins would make them get attached to him or something? I don’t remember, but I feel like that was part of his thinking. Either way, yes. You can dismiss someone you had sex with very easily if you don’t care to spend any more time with them.
Get it together, Grey. What are your options?
Maybe I should pay her a visit, just to make sure it’s a “no.”
That’s not one of your options.
Maybe I can persuade her otherwise.
Also, not one of your options.
Perhaps she’s looked at some particularly hardcore sites. Why didn’t I give her a few books?
Because you expect Ana to become a perfectly programmed Stepford submissive with zero effort on your part? Look, bro, I get it. Your negligently indulgent parents gave you anything and everything you wanted, when you wanted it, and now you’re frustrated that someone is telling you no. But you are a grown person. Deal with your disappointment and accept that the world is not a catalog for you to select people and experiences from. When someone tells you no, you’re not getting bad service as a consumer. You don’t get to be angry or put out.
She needs to look me in the eye and say no.
This is one of the most disturbing and damning things we’ve seen so far in this book. This is menacing. This whole scene is menacing. For example:
This deal isn’t dead yet. From my messenger bag I take some condoms and slide them into the back pocket of my pants, then grab my jacket and a bottle of wine from the minibar.
He’s putting together a kit. He’s leaving his hotel room with the expectation that he is going to have sex with Ana. There isn’t going to be a “no”, because he’s going to “discuss” things with her until she sees reason (and is worn down), and he will be having sex with her.
Even if everything he ever does with Ana is consensual (spoiler alert: it’s not), even if every single partner he’s ever been with has consented enthusiastically, Christian Grey is a rapist.
There’s a break, then:
As I pull up in the R8 outside the apartment she shares with Kavanagh, I wonder if this is a wise move.
And notice that it’s not “Miss” Kavanagh? It’s Miss Dark, Dark Eyes and Miss Steele, but he’s not interested in fucking Kate, so she doesn’t get a “Miss”.
I’m pushing all the boundaries that I’ve set for myself.
No, you’re pushing Ana’s boundaries. She told you she was done with you. She set a boundary, and you’re trespassing across it. Your boundaries mean dick all in this situation.
If she does agree, I’ll have to manage her expectations. This won’t happen again.
The sheer ego. My god. If she does agree to the thing she already didn’t agree to, she’d better not get her hopes up that I’ll show up at her place uninvited.
Getting ahead of yourself, Grey.
Oh, you think?
Kate opens the door and lets Christian right in, and offers to get Ana:
“No. I’d like to surprise her.” I give her my most earnest and endearing look and in response she blinks a couple of times. Whoa. That was easy. Who would have thought?
You. You would have thought. Because on numerous occasions you have noted that all women are reduced to near-animalistic sexual fury whenever you’re near. And hey, if Kate was like, “yeah, there’s her room, super,” to José, wouldn’t she be neglectful?
Christian goes to Ana’s room and watches her as she’s reading the contract. She doesn’t notice him there because she has her headphones in. He startles her, and she’s like, you know, how did this guy get in here, right? Because that’s what you would do if suddenly some stranger who gave you a fuck contract was looming in your doorway when you thought you were alone.
“Would you like a drink?” she squeaks.
“No thank you, Anastasia.” Good. She’s found her manners.
You went to her house uninvited after she broke things off with you. And she is being rude?
This guy. This. Fucking. Guy.
“Are you biting your lip deliberately?” I inquire, my voice sterner than I’d intended.
“I wasn’t aware I was biting my lip,” she whispers, her face pale.
Four books later and I’m still always amused when we’re given and update on the state of Ana’s chameleon face. But doesn’t she seem legitimately afraid here? I’m consistently amazed by how horrible this book makes Christian Grey seem. Like, he was horrible before, but this might as well have been one page with “Yeah, turns out he actually is a rapist and an abuser.”
Can you feel this, Ana? That tension. This attraction.
Did anybody else immediately think of Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy? Raise your hand.
Ana tells him the she needed time to think, and he literally asks her what there was to think about. Um, I’m pretty sure he told her to take her time, research, and get back to him with her answer after considering his offer. Now it’s like,
I needed time to think,” she says.
“Think about what, Anastasia?”
Make up your fucking mind.
“Well, I thought I should come and remind you how nice it was knowing me.”
And because this is a fucking disgrace of a book, Ana jumps into his arms. Now, please forgive me. I’m going to skim over a lot of this sex scene. This is the scene where he sucks her toes right after he’s gone on a run and hasn’t taken off her shoes or socks yet, and later spits wine into her mouth. I have OCD and those are just germ things I cannot read or think about. But I do want to discuss the section in the middle of scene where he goes into the kitchen to get the wine. Katherine tells him that they still have packing to do, and that Elliot is helping them move. She asks if Christian is planning to help, too.
“No, I can’t.” My voice is clipped, because she’s pissing me off, trying to make me feel guilty. Her lips thin, and I turn around to leave the kitchen, but not before I catch the disapproval in her face.
Fuck off, Kavanagh.
No way am I going to help. Ana and I don’t have that kind of relationship. Besides, I can’t spare the time.
Prince Motherfucking Charming right here. Hey, fucko. You are a literal billionaire. Do you think maybe you could hire a moving company for them?
So, the disgusting sex scene continues, and then they banter about stuff, then he says the thing about saying no without discussion again, and she’s like, I still don’t know, so he offers to introduce Ana to one of his former subs so they can talk shop. Ana reacts unfavorably to this.
“Anastasia Steele, are you jealous?” I sound bewildered…because I am. She flushes beet red, and I know I’ve found the root of her problem.
Yes. Jealousy is clearly the problem. Not, I don’t know. Your total disregard of the common courtesy of just not suggesting your new lover meet your former lovers so they can give tips.
Christian tells Ana he’s going to go, and she’s pissed off. In the first book, this scene seemed to suggest that she was angry because he was leaving, but now it seems like she’s still miffed about the past subs thing. They agree to meet up and discuss the contract on Wednesday, and then Ana kicks him out, but not until they make out passionately on the stoop.
I start the car and begin the drive back to Portland, analyzing what’s taken place between us.
She e-mailed me.
I went to her.
She threw me out before I was ready to leave.
For the first time–well, maybe not the first time–I feel a little used, for sex.
You literally…you…I mean, you have whole contracts drawn up specifically about how you’re going to use women for sex.
When he gets back to the hotel, the first thing he does is email Ana to remind her about the contract. No pressure. Then he goes back to his report on whatever that project was in Detroit. We’ll end this on my ongoing rage that people always make Detroit their dramatic story or their punchline. The end.