Stephenie Meyer has announced that she’ll be releasing a new novel, a thriller called The Chemist. So I guess keep a look out for The Botanist, an erotic thriller from E.L. James.
Unrelated, I apologize for the delay on this recap. I recently got my driver’s license and I’ve found that all those people who drove you around when you didn’t have a license? They want you to drive them places now. Fancy that. Also, I’ve been shirking at my job a little bit to enjoy my new freedom. It was a lot easier to stick to my schedule when I wasn’t able to leave the village, anyway. The day after I got my license, I couldn’t figure out a reason to drive somewhere, so I took my dogs to McDonald’s.
Anyway, the novelty is starting to fade on the whole “putting pants on and going outside of the house” thing, so I plan to return to responsible workingness.
Onto the recap!
Maybe it’s because I’m from Michigan. Maybe it’s because I’m angry on behalf of people crushed into poverty under the grinding wheels of racism, government neglect, and corporate corruption. Maybe I just fucking hate this book. But when E.L. James starts the chapter with:
The thought of siting the electronics plant in Detroit is depressing.
I get this red hot ball of fury in my chest and I have to get up and walk away from the computer.
I loathe Detroit; it holds nothing but bad memories for me.
It holds bad memories for a lot of people. Maybe writers and, hell, just anyfuckingbody who wants to talk shit about Detroit can actually read the history of the city. Maybe they can learn how redlining, white flight, and industry decline led to the city becoming the arson and murder capitol of the world. Maybe they can imagine living in a city where, during the 1980’s, the week before Halloween every year could mean as many as eight hundred homes and businesses burning. Maybe they can learn about citizens becoming vigilantes in an attempt to chase out drug dealers and gangs. And maybe they can have a shred of respect for the people who remain, even when some parts of the city are without water, without electricity. Where children are educated in schools where toxic black mold slicks the walls. Maybe they can stop reducing them to nothing but shorthand character’s toughness or tragedy.
If you’ve never actually been to Detroit, if you’ve never actually seen what it’s like there? Don’t fucking write about it.
What makes me extra mad about this? He goes on to think:
But Michigan is offering excellent tax incentives.
ARRRRRGH. Okay, his bad memories come from his mother living in extreme poverty, being hooked on drugs, and being forced into sex work rather than choosing it for herself, right? So…why not bring your company there so that the same thing won’t happen to another kid? Maybe bringing jobs and some economic boost to the local economy–which only emerged from an $18.5 billion bankruptcy two years ago–might be a worthwhile thing to do with your deeply philanthropical philosophy.
But you’re too busy trying to spread tablets around the world.
Anyway, an email comes in from Ana at two minutes after midnight. Which is great, because otherwise all this would still be in the last chapter. He wonders why she’s still awake–because people in their twenties never stay awake until midnight–and reads the email. She says she’s made a list of issues she has with some clauses in the contracts, so he pulls it up. And I laugh and laugh and laugh, because:
Mr. Christian Grey of 301 Escala, Seattle, WA 98889
Miss Anastasia Steele of 1114 SW Green Street, Apartment 7, Haven Heights, Vancouver, WA 98888
are their addresses.
Just to explain briefly for anyone who isn’t American (or who is American but doesn’t send any mail), our address format doesn’t go:
Number Building, City, State Zip Code
Number Street, Apartment number, Neighborhood, City, State Zip Code
The latter looks more like some UK addresses I’ve seen (although I’m not an expert), which would make sense considering E.L. James is from the UK. Ana’s address isn’t real (I checked, out of fear that she’d actually pulled someone’s address off google), so it’s not a huge deal, but I laughed my ass off at Christian’s. The Escala is an actual building. She could have looked up the address. I’m also pretty amused that she picked the 98889 zip code, which was also an easy look-up. It’s also kind of funny that for Ana’s zip, she just changed the nine to an eight. I assume that James thinks every city has one zip code, with the numbers going up by a single digit when you move one city over, which, if you didn’t live here, why not just assume that, right? Because it’s not like anyone (outside of postal enthusiasts, I suppose) really care about that. It’s an insignificant detail, but as an American, it still tickles me. Also, I’m amused that either no editor bothered to correct this, or that they possibly suggested a correction and it was just ignored.
James includes the entire contract, which spans from page 175 to page 186, and I’m so relieved that we can skip those pages. It makes my job a lot easier. Chedward addresses Ana’s points on a case by case basis:
2: Not sure why this is solely for MY benefit–i.e., to explore MY sensuality and limits. I’m sure I wouldn’t need a ten-page contract to do that! Surely this is for YOUR benefit.
Fair point well made, Miss Steele!
Someone, and I can’t remember who, said, “Fair point, well made” to me without a shred of irony, and I wanted to jump down a well and never return to the land of the humans. Dwelling with Mole People in their subterranean cities would be preferable to ever having to hear that phrase again.
4: As you are aware, you are my only sexual partner. I don’t take drugs, and I’ve not had any blood transfusions. I’m probably safe. What about you?
True story: you can get STDs and have them your whole life without knowing, if your mother had them. For example, if your mother had Hep B, you can be a carrier for the rest of your life. If your mom had HPV or herpes, you can get it from a vaginal birth. So no, virginity is not a guarantee that you don’t have an STD, and considering Chedward’s low opinion of his birth mother, the fact that his mother is a doctor, and his fastidious attention to the matter, you’d think he would know that.
Another fair point! And it dawns on me that this is the first time I haven’t had to consider the sexual history of a partner. Well, that’s one advantage of screwing a virgin.
Ah, yes. The myth that fewer partners = no STDs/STIs. That’s fun. See above.
8: I can terminate at any time if I don’t think you’re sticking to the agreed limits. Okay–I like this.
I hope it won’t come to that, but it wouldn’t be the first time if it did.
No shit? I bet you won’t let her talk to those former subs, huh?
12. I cannot commit every weekend. I do have a life, or will have. Perhaps three out of four?
And she’ll have the opportunity to socialize with other men? She’ll realize what she’s missing. I’m not sure about this.
So, he’s just confirmed exactly what critics of the books said all along. He intentionally isolates Ana so that she has no one around to point out how shitty he is to her. Remember when I said that, and people argued with me? “Oh, he’s protective of her, you don’t understand that because you’re a feminist/jealous/a hater/etc. But now we have proof, from the character’s own brain, that he doesn’t want her to be around other men because he doesn’t want her to have any frame of reference for what a real relationship would be like.
I never thought that my closest ally in bashing these books would be E.L. James herself, but here we have arrived.
Can I just make a note about the formatting here? I do not understand the choices they made with it. Ana’s notes on the contract are presented in plain text, slightly indented, while Christian’s lines are italicized. Why? Usually, you’d see this the other way around, with the text the character is reading printed in italics. The book is written in deep first person present tense. His thoughts here could easily be part of the narrative.
Ana’s list of objections and agreements goes on. One of the things I don’t get is where he demands that she sleep a certain amount of hours every night. How could he possibly tell? He doesn’t sleep with her, and she’ll only be with him two nights a week.
Anyway, he reads through them all:
Miss Steele has put some thought into this, more so than anyone else I’ve dealt with over this contract.
Now, wait a second. If this contract is so important, why would you enter into a Dom/sub relationship with someone who hadn’t put thought into it? Chedward’s inconsistency as a character continues to astonish me. He’s making Chedward in the original novels look positively reasonable by comparison.
They have another email exchange in which he tells her to stop emailing him, then she emails him, and he’s like, stop emailing me.
A few minutes pass and once I’m convinced she’s gone to bed, persuaded by my capital letters, I head into my bedroom. I take my laptop just in case she replies again.
You know what abusive people do? They set up contrary expectations so they can chastise you for not meeting them.
Christian decides that Ana has unrealistic ideas about what he wants for her. He sends her an email with the definition of the word “submissive” and tells her to keep it in mind when they meet to go over the contract. So basically, before she even agrees to be his sub, she has to sub during the negotiations, i.e., agree to do whatever he wants, regardless of her own desires.
Christian goes to sleep and dreams about his childhood–does this guy never have normal, naked at school dreams like everyone else?–and how he beat up his brother, etc. and he’s a monster, what have you. Then there’s a section break and Chedward is coming back from a run. Because he’s always coming back from a run. He immediately checks his email to see if she’s emailed him back (probably so he can scold her for doing so) and since she hasn’t, he decides that he’s going to forget about her for the day.
There’s another section break, and we’re at work with Chedward. Hey, here’s a writing tip. The brief paragraph that just gave us the email information? That could have been part of this next section. “I came in from my morning run hoping to find an email from Ana, but she hadn’t replied.” etc. Didn’t need to experience it in real time.
Actually, we don’t need to experience the next section in real time, either. Because it’s a video call with his assistant, Ros, about the tablet that better have some real fucking significance in this story, boy howdy, because we’ve certainly heard enough about it. Ros is frustrated with Christian’s absence in the office, and they discuss firing an employee. That’s it. It’s just some kind of boring proof that Christian does any work at all.
Nobody cares about the tablet. Get to the fuck contract already. If the tablet was part of a plot point that involved Ana, then it would need to be in the book. But this is (allegedly) a romance novel, right? If the heroine isn’t involved, if it doesn’t have any bearing on her whatsoever, I don’t give a shit.
Okay, here’s a for-example that does this right: Sustained by Emma Chase. The book is written in the hero’s first-person POV, just like with Grey. The hero is a lawyer, and we see two of the cases he’s working on. Both of the cases tie in directly with how the heroine changes the hero’s perspective on life and what’s important, and you see that going through the novel. He has clients who are shitty, shitty people, because at the beginning of the book, he’s a shitty, shitty person. Gradually, as he becomes less of a shitty person, we see him struggle more with representing these people, and we see his desire to be less shitty change the heroine’s life, too. That’s what makes the book so. fucking. good.
That doesn’t work with Grey. One, because the author doesn’t acknowledge, either in the text of the first series or in this book, or even in real life, that he’s not just a shitty hero, he’s the shittiest hero. And this business with the tablet? This isn’t influenced by Ana, and it doesn’t have any influence on Ana. We know this, because Christian Grey is a static character. He never changes. Making the tablet doesn’t change how he interacts with Ana, it doesn’t change their lives as a unit at all, so we don’t need to go on the journey of its creation.
What’s even more bizarre about this is that we’ve already seen in this book where James skips over dialogue between Ana and Christian, presumably to move the story along faster. So why add all this shit we don’t need? For example:
Over the past year, we’ve acquired three tech companies. Two are booming, surpassing all targets, and one is struggling despite Marco’s initial optimism. Lucas Woods heads it up; he’s turned out to be an idiot–all show, no substance. The money has gone to his head and he’s lost focus and squandered the lead his company once had in fiber optics. My gut says asset-strip the company, fire Woods, and merge their technology division into GEH.
But Ros thinks Lucas needs more time–and that we need time to plan if we’re going to liquidate and rebrand his company. If we do, it will involve expensive redundancies.
“I think Woods has had enough time to turn this around. He just won’t accept reality,” I say emphatically. “We need him gone, and I’d like Marco to estimate the cost of liquidating.”
“Marco wants to join us for this part of the call. I’ll get him to log in.”
That, by the way, is the line the section ends on. This whole thing is an elaborate set-up for a conference call we never see, with Marcos, a character we don’t know, and ends on what I assume is supposed to be a hook that will make us keep reading. This book is ridiculously long already, and this should have been trimmed down. I’m assuming it never saw developmental edits, though, because someone would have to be paid to do that, and why cut into the profits when these books are like printing money already?
After a break, Christian goes to the WSU campus for lunch with the president of the university.
As we approach the long driveway I can’t help looking out at all the students to see if I can spy Miss Steele. Alas, I don’t see her; she’s probably holed up in the library reading a classic.
Or, she could be not on campus at all, seeing as how she’s already finished college, and that’s what she was celebrating the night you took her to your hotel room and stripped her unconscious body.
There has been no reply to my last e-mail, but then she’s been working. Perhaps there’ll be something after lunch.
His mom calls and asks him to pick his sister up from the airport–wait, aren’t they super rich? Do they not have a driver? Can’t they afford a taxi, at least? Grace also asks about Ana, and Christian gives non-answers. Then he asks Taylor if he’ll see his daughter that weekend. And there’s another section break. So, it’s another pointless scene that could have easily been referred to, rather than lived through.
The next section begins:
I have managed to keep Anastasia Steele out of every waking thought today.
Unless he’s thinking about how he’s waiting for that email, and he hopes he’ll see her on campus, and he thinks of her reading in the library, etc.
During lunch there were times when I found myself imagining us in my playroom… What did she call it? The Red Room of Pain.
Oh, okay. The other thoughts he had of her weren’t sexual, so those don’t count. Because Ana isn’t a person. She’s a concept. She’s potential. So any thought of her beyond the contract is superfluous.
As Christian gets ready for yet. another. workout, Ana sends him an email. She counters his definition of “submissive” with the definition of “compromise”, and he replies by telling her that he’ll pick her up at seven the next day. Then, Elliot calls:
“Hey, hotshot. Kate’s asked me to hassle you about the move.”
“Kate and Ana, help moving, you dipshit.”
Again, aren’t the Greys rich? Isn’t Christian, specifically, the most rich person in the world or some bullshit? Can’t they hire movers to help Ana and Kate out?
And of course, Christian can’t possibly help, because he doesn’t want to give Ana “expectations.”
Ana emails him again and tells him that she would prefer to drive her own car and meet him somewhere. Which is reasonable, right? Because the last time she went anywhere with him, she ended up staying there until he decided he was ready to take her home. His response?
Yes, how irritating that someone would rather not commit to an entire evening at the mercy of your whims, especially when you’ve already made it clear that you consider her your submissive, regardless of her acceptance of the proposition.
He writes back:
Dear Miss Steele,
I refer to my e-mail dated May 24, 2011, sent at 1:27, and the definition contained therein.
Do you ever think you’ll be able to do what you’re told?
She isn’t his sub yet, but she should be submissive to him. Because that’s what he wants. Because his antisocial personality disorder leaves him unable to empathize with other people and see them as anything more than players in a grand show starring and directed by him. Ana has gone off script by not behaving exactly as he wishes her to behave.
Her response is slow, which does nothing for my mood.
Yet another example. She isn’t complying with what he thinks he’s owed.
She emails him again, with the subject line, “Intractable Men”, this time asking permission to drive.
Intractable? Me? Fuck. If our meeting goes as planned, her contrary behavior will be a thing of the past.
So, here’s something that bothered me throughout the first series, and I don’t know if I ever touched on it, because I couldn’t really put my finger on what was bothering me. With this line, I had a lightbulb moment. See, Christian doesn’t want to play a sexual game with Ana on the weekends. He doesn’t want a part-time sub. And he doesn’t want a full-time sub. He wants to fundamentally change Ana’s personality on every level. Not just in the playroom. Not just between them. He plans to make her into the woman he thinks she should be for him. He doesn’t want her to display “contrary behavior” ever again, because he doesn’t like it.
Now, changes like that? Would last beyond the temporary relationship he wants with her, if he chose to end it. But that doesn’t matter. Beyond servicing him, Ana has no other purpose in life as far as he can see. She exists to be the thing he wants her to be, and so what if she comes out the other side as a completely different person.
No fucking wonder Leila needs serious psychological intervention.
Christian tells Ana to meet him at the hotel bar, and she emails him back, signing it, “Ana x”.
And I’m rewarded with a kiss. Ignoring how that makes me feel, I let her know that she’s welcome. My mood has lifted as I head to the hotel gym.
She sent me a kiss…
At this point, we’re all meant to swoon, because him having feels over that little x is supposed to be enough for us to overlook the rest of his behavior.
That’s the end of the chapter. The chapter where literally nothing important happens and the story doesn’t move forward at fucking all. All this one really did was further expose how scary and dangerous Christian Grey is.