First of all, yes. The rumors are true. I am one of the 50 Writers on 50 Shades. The book is the brainchild of Lori Perkins and will be out in November, 2012, from BenBella Books. There will be more news to come, I’ll keep you all updated.
So, here we are, near the end of the book, and I’ve got a lot of you leaving comments about how I should read the next two books and blog those, as well. While I rarely say “never,” things aren’t looking so good on the “read the next two and recap them” front. Not because I don’t love you enough. Because I love myself too much. Writing these recaps is a hell of a lot of work. I had to read the book in the first place. One of the reasons I failed so spectacularly in my short editing career was that I was rubbish at forcing myself to read something I had no interest in, and while there was a certain car-wreck-in-slow-motion quality to reading 50 Shades of Grey the first time, rereading a chapter every few days sometimes requires an elaborate self-bribe. Then, there’s the whole “write things that are kind of snarky, but not as mean as what you really want to say” thing where I’m reining myself in the entire time. I have the willpower of a two-year-old, so every recap is an exercise like unto Hercules cleaning out that stable.
So, as it stands right now, I won’t be recapping books two and three. But who the hell knows. Maybe recapping is like childbirth, and I’ll forget how much it sucked a few weeks later. Maybe my involvement in the 50 Writers on 50 Shades book will force my hand. Right now, though, it looks like the summer is going to be dedicated to my own writing. And possibly reading a book that I want to read. Which excites me more than you could possibly know at this moment.
Oh, and before I get into the recap, I want to say thanks to everyone who has posted a link to my blog anywhere, be it at reddit or Jezebel or on tumblr. The traffic is immense, so people are clicking those links. Your work has not been in vain, and I thank you for your support.
Apparently, E.L. James is considering rewriting 50 Shades from Christian’s POV. This is such a great idea! So original! Never before has an author of a hot bestseller considered such a bold move!
Onto the recap!
We last left Ana and Christian on a journey to a boathouse spanking.
Christian bursts through the wooden door of the boathouse and pauses to flick on some lights.
Christian sets me on my feet on the wooden floor.
The floor is wooden, the door is wooden, everything is wooden. At least it matches the prose.
I don’t have time to examine my surroundings-
Remember the earlier chapters, where I complained about logical disconnect? This one is such a disconnect, it’s a POV skew. Ana doesn’t have time to examine her surroundings, but in the paragraph just above the one containing this line, we get the following, detailed description:
He pauses at the doorway and touches another switch – halogens this time, they are softer, on a dimmer – and we’re in an attic room with sloping ceilings. It’s decorated with a nautical New England theme: navy blues and creams with a dash of red. The furnishings are sparse, just a couple of couches are all I can see.
I don’t even blame E.L. James for this, because it’s something an editor should have caught. There should have been a note in the margin, “If she doesn’t have time to examine her surroundings, how is she describing them in first-person present tense?” It doesn’t make any sense. It’s so brutally infuriating, because stuff like this is happening over and over and over. And this is coming from someone who once edited a book where a minor character’s name changed halfway through the book and I didn’t notice. I’m not even a good editor, and I can catch the problems in this, so what gives? Seriously, WHAT FUCKING GIVES?
I am mesmerized… watching him like one would watch a rare and dangerous predator, waiting for him to strike. His breathing is harsh but then he’s just carried me across the lawn and up a flight of stairs. Gray eyes blaze with anger, need, and pure unadulterated lust.Holy shit. I could spontaneously combust from his look alone.
“Please don’t hit me,” I whisper, pleading.
Back in the day, I had this friend, we’ll call him Davis (because that is his name). He used to hate when I’d tell a story, because everything would be going along just fine, and I’d get to a natural stopping point, like, “And it was the biggest fish I’d ever caught,” but I’d barrel on past that and add something like, “And then six months later, Jimmy died of a ruptured bowel.” I would ruin the anecdote with some grim detail that added nothing but discomfort and horror to the listener. That is what just happened with that excerpt. The first two paragraphs? Fine. A little trite, and little under-punctuated for my tastes, but all in all, fine, and they get you invested in Ana’s sexual excitement. And then she’s pleading with him to not hit her. I don’t think there is anything less sexy in the world.
His brow furrows, his eyes widening.
How is that even possible? I can only imagine it looks something like this:
He pulls back suddenly, our collective breathing ragged and mingling. My hands drop to his arms and he glares down at me.“What are you doing to me?” he whispers confused.“Kissing you.”“You said no.”“What?” No to what?
“At the dinner table, with your legs.”Oh… that’s what this is all about.
“No one’s ever said no to me before. And it’s so – hot.” His eyes widen slightly, filled with wonder and lust.
Okay, but… Ana has said no to you a lot, Chedward. She said no to the books, to the car, she put up massive resistance about signing the contract… Ana says no to you a lot, but you usually just steamroll over her objections with alcohol or threats. Clearly, the characters and the author did not pay attention to the entire first part of this book. But he’s not just lust-angry (langry?) because she said no to digital penetration five feet from his mother, but because of other stuff, too. Stuff that makes me angry, and not in a “I want to hump you in a boathouse” way:
“I’m mad because you never mentioned Georgia to me. I’m mad because you went drinking with that guy who tried to seduce you when you were drunk and who left you when you were ill with an almost complete stranger. What kind of friend does that?
Excuse me, sir, but aren’t you the complete stranger who took an unconscious woman back to your hotel room? The first time I read this, I thought he was blaming Kate, but on second read I went, “whoa, hold the phone.” Because it was undeniably shitty of Kate to have let Ana get spirited away by a stranger while unconscious. But we can’t put the onus for Ana’s safety in that situation on Jose. Jose wasn’t there when Ana was unconscious, he was there when she was puking and both Chedward and Ana were telling him to leave. We absolutely can hold Jose responsible for assaulting Ana and not taking “no” for an answer. But it takes some incredible balls for Christian to be saying, “Well, that guy is terrible, because he didn’t stop me from taking you out of that club unconscious even though he wasn’t there when it happened. Never mind that I shouldn’t have been doing that in the first goddamned place.“
But Ana doesn’t really object to this twisted logic, because Christian wants to fuck her, and as we all know, Ana is nothing but an open vagina with a bachelor’s in English.
“We don’t have long. This will be quick, and it’s for me, not you. Do you understand? Don’t come, or I will spank you,” he says through clenched teeth.
Holy crap… how do I stop?
Yeah, that’s a good question, when we’re talking about Ana. Am I the only person who finds it a little… I don’t want to say “totally unbelievable”, because I’m sure there is some woman out there who orgasms at the drop of a hat without any prior sexual experience. But I’d go so far as to say that the majority of women did not have the experience that Ana has had in this book, where, without any prior sexual exploration of her own body, orgasm after copious, gushing orgasm, happens from the tiniest touch or a whisper of her name. Seriously, just saying Ana’s name causes her to orgasm in this book. I’m not saying such a state of arousal isn’t possible, I’m just saying that it’s not plausible every single time. And yes, this is fantasy, but the fantasy becomes less enjoyable once the boundaries of incredulity are stretched as thin as a hymen.
This time, though, Ana doesn’t come like an automated orgasm machine. He leaves her unfulfilled, to punish her:
“Don’t touch yourself. I want you frustrated. That’s what you do to me by not talking to me, by denying me what’s mine.” His eyes blaze anew, angry again.
Let’s examine what Christian believes is his:
- The right to sexually humiliate his girlfriend by fingering her in the presence of his entire family and her best friend.
- The right to control who Ana spends time with.
- The right to control whether or not Ana can leave the state.
This guy. This fucking guy.
Mia comes to the boathouse, and the someone calls her irritating. I’m not sure who, because this is how it’s written:
He turns and raises his eyebrows at me.“Just in time. Christ, she can be really irritating.” I scowl back at him, hastily restoring my panties to their rightful place, and stand with as much dignity as I can muster in my just-fucked state. Quickly, I attempt to smooth my just-fucked hair.
She was just-fucked, in case you missed it. But seriously, who is speaking that dialogue? It seems like something a big brother would say about a little sister, but it’s attached, for some reason, to Ana’s action.
Lots of commenters have pointed out how skeevy it is that there are characters named Ana and Mia in this. If you’re unaware, Ana and Mia are the “friendly” names that very, very sick individuals use to refer to their “friendly” eating disorders. You’ll find these names peppered liberally on Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia websites, where people (usually young girls in their tweens, teens, and twenties) who view their eating disorders as beautiful and positive gather to share tips on how to starve themselves to death. The presence of the names become even more disturbing when you realize that Ana never wants to eat, and Christian constantly pushes her to do so, and all the stuff about Christian having suffered hunger and now his company is feeding starving people in Africa. But I think the names have to be just a horrible coincidence. I don’t think E.L. James actually used them to hurt anyone, or to support the tragedy of Pro-Ana subculture.
And it’s time for a Pride and Prejudice reference:
“But it was tolerable?” he asks softly.I flush.“Barely,” I whisper, but I can’t help my smirk.
Mia tells Ana that Kate and Elliot are going to leave, and comments that they’re just awful for not being able to keep their hands off each other. This is the exact moment Ana becomes a true Mary Sue. Other characters are taking an instant liking to her and complaining about the awful behavior of a character who is behaving exactly as the Mary Sue does. If there were any remaining doubts that this was a fanfic, they have just been blown to smithereens. This is like every Lord of The Rings fanfic where Galadriel’s long lost daughter whines and bitches and has to be saved constantly, and then mid-rescue, Legolas is all, “I love you, because you’re not like other girls, who whine and bitch and have to be saved constantly.”
Sorry, I read a lot of fanfic over the weekend.
Mia thinks something is definitely up, and that makes Ana “blush scarlet”. I’ve actually had people ask if Ana really flushes or blushes as much as she appears to in the excerpts I post. With the exception of the occasional formatting issue (which, btw, totally plagues this post, so sorry for that, blame Blogger), the excerpts I’m posting are straight from the book. I don’t add anything to them. If I was going to add anything, it would be correct punctuation. Ana flushes/blushes that much, and more.
Back at the house, Ana says a tender goodbye to her friend Kate:
“I need to speak to you about antagonizing Christian,” I hiss quietly in her ear as she embraces me.“He needs antagonizing, then you can see what he’s really like. Be careful, Ana – he’s so controlling.” she whispers. “See you later.”I KNOW WHAT HE’S REALLY LIKE – YOU DON’T! – I scream at her in my head. I’m fully aware that her actions come from a good place, but sometimes she just oversteps the mark, and right now so far that she’s into the neighboring state.
Said every woman in every abusive relationship EVER.
I flush, and Christian rolls his eyes again. I purse my lips. Why can he do that when I can’t? I want to roll my eyes back at him, but I do not dare, not after his threat in the boathouse.
I’m not even going to point out why it’s wrong for someone to hit you if you roll your eyes. I’m just going to stop commenting on the abuse at all, really. Because if it isn’t fucking obvious, well…
Ana watches Christian say goodbye to his parents, and then they join Taylor in the car, and Ana brings up how she got invited to the dinner.
“I think that you felt trapped into bringing me to meet your parents.” My voice is soft and hesitant. “If Elliot hadn’t asked Kate, you’d never have asked me.” I can’t see his face in the dark, but he tilts his head, gaping at me.“Anastasia, I’m delighted that you’ve met my parents. Why are you so filled with self-doubt? It never ceases to amaze me. You’re such a strong, self-contained young woman, but you have such negative thoughts about yourself. If I hadn’t wanted you to meet them, you wouldn’t be here. Is that how you were feeling the whole time you were there?” Oh! He wanted me there – and it’s a revelation. He doesn’t seem uncomfortable answering me as he would if he were hiding the truth.
Yeah, Ana. That’s how things work in real life. People have boundaries. They don’t do things just to even the score between roommates. This is another part that screams Mary Sue to me. We’re constantly told, by Christian, by Kate, by Ana’s dad, by the doctor who sees her just long enough for a pap smear, that Ana is strong, self-contained, bright, smart, mature, etc., but we never actually see her being those things. Ana hasn’t done one smart thing yet. Self-contained? She curled up in the fetal position and cried on the floor of a parking garage. It’s almost like E.L. James thought, “Ah, characterization. That’s when other characters tell the reader what I want them to know about Ana. I’ve solved it!”
“Yes, I thought that. And another thing, I only mentioned Georgia because Kate was talking about Barbados – I haven’t made up my mind.”“Do you want to go and see your mother?”“Yes.”He looks oddly at me, like he’s having some internal struggle.“Can I come with you?” he asks eventually.What!?
If there is one thing, just ONE THING that publishing takes away from the phenomenal success of 50 Shades of Grey, I hope it is that interobangs become acceptable punctuation again.
Ana and Christian have a flirty little conversation about how funny he is (spoiler alert: he’s not) and then things get serious when he asks why she wants to go to Georgia. She wants to think about their relationship. He doesn’t understand why she needs to think about it, because on his end, shit is hunky-dory:
Holy crap. How did this suddenly become such and intense and meaningful conversation? It’s been sprung on me, like an exam that I’m not prepared for. What do I say? Because I think I love you, and you just see me as a toy. Because I can’t touch you, because I’m too frightened to show you any affection in case you flinch or tell me off or worse – beat me?
That’s right. She’s still not viewing this as consensual BDSM. She’s still thinking that if she does something bad, he beats her.
I shrug, trapped. I don’t want to lose him. In spite of all his demands, his need to control, his scary vices. I have never felt as alive as I do now. It’s a thrill to be sitting here beside him. He’s so unpredictable, sexy, smart, and funny. But his moods… oh – and he wants to hurt me. He says he’ll think about my reservations, but it still scares me.
Why does Ana love this guy? I can’t figure it out. All he has done, from the very beginning of this book, is stalk and intimidate her. She can’t just be in love with him because the author says so. That’s not how books work, E.L.
We’re coming near to the end of the bridge, and the road is once more bathed in the neon light of the street lamps so his face is intermittently in the light and the dark.
Oh. Oh please. Please, Ana, it’s all I’ve ever wanted –
And it’s such a fitting metaphor.
Yes, yes, OH GOD YES.
This man, whom I once thought of as a romantic hero – a brave, shining white knight, or the dark knight as he said.
He’s not a hero, he’s a man with serious, deep emotional flaws, and he’s dragging me into the dark. Can I not guide him into the light?
Remember those universal red flags? “You have the urge to ‘love him into emotional wellness,’ if that were possible.” Just saying.
But of course, her love for him wins out, and she ends up in his lap, making out with him and vowing that she’s going to sign the contract. He tells her to wait until after she gets back from Georgia, and he’s willing to try to be a normal boyfriend for her. He wants her to stay the night with him, and it’s all romance and hearts until they get out of the car and Christian realizes that she’s not wearing a jacket. She’s afraid she’s going to get spanked, and then she’s relieved when she doesn’t.
I gaze up at him in the elevator. I have assumed he’d like me to sleep with him, and then I remember that he doesn’t sleep with anyone, although he has with me a few times.
He has with you a lot of times. I can only think of one time he didn’t sleep with you, and that was when he didn’t take a nap before going to his parent’s house. There is some elevator hanky-panky, and it makes me realize… this is a real building. In a real city. And they’re selling condos there right now to capitalize on the success of the book… and since some crazy woman not only had a replica Twilight wedding, but forced her husband to legally change his last name to Cullen… some deranged 50 Shades fan is going to buy a condo there and fuck in the elevator, making the Escala building #1 on my top ten biohazard sites in the fucking universe.
Ana points out that having sex in bed is “vanilla”, and Chedward tells her that he’s fine with vanilla.
“Since when?”“Since last Saturday. Why? Were you hoping for something more exotic?” My inner goddess pops her head above the parapet.
Back that shit right up? That bitch has a castle now? Ana, you better get your inner goddess under control before she starts building siege engines.
There’s some dialogue while they go into the bedroom and get Ana naked, and then it’s all:
“Don’t you want to fuck?” he asks.“No,” I breathe.“Oh.” He frowns.Okay, here goes… deep breath.
“I want you to make love to me.”
This makes Mr. Grey furious. He tells her that touching is a hard limit, and then he’s all, “Just put on this t-shirt and go to bed.” Ana goes to the bathroom and checks herself out in the mirror.
After all that I’ve done today, it’s still the same ordinary girl gaping back at me. What did you expect – that you’d grow horns and a little pointy tail? My subconscious snaps at me. And what the hell are you doing? Touching is his hard limit. Too soon, you idiot, he needs to walk before he can run. My subconscious is furious, medusa-like in her anger, hair flying, her hands clenched around her face like Edvard Munch’s Scream.
What do Medusa and the guy in The Scream have in common? THEY DON’T HAVE FUCKING HAIR, ANA. That’s like, Medusa 101, okay?
Ana realizes that she’s rushing him, because you know, that’s too much intimacy to expect from a guy who thinks it’s acceptable to stick his fingers in your hooey at dinner with his parents. Too much intimacy to touch him, but she does use his toothbrush again. And Christian catches her this time.
Christian stands in the doorway, his PJs hanging off his hips – in that way that makes every little cell in my body stand up and take notice. He’s bare-chested, and I drink him in like I’m crazed with thirst and he’s clear cool mountain spring water.
This book brought to you by Evian.
He gazes at me impassively, then smirks and comes to stand beside me. Our eyes lock in the mirror, gray to blue. I finish with his toothbrush, rinse it off, and hand it to him, my look never leaving his. Wordlessly, he takes the toothbrush from me and puts it in his mouth. I smirk back at him, and his eyes are suddenly dancing with humor.“Do feel free to borrow my toothbrush.” His tone is gently mocking.
Of all the things that I consider “okay” to hit another person for, and he doesn’t use the opportunity. Let this be a warning to anyone thinking about spending the night at my house: if I walk in on you using my toothbrush, I will punch you in the face.
Fuck, this is sexier than the toothbrush.
Anything, Ana, literally ANYTHING is sexier than using another person’s toothbrush.
So, he puts the Ben Wa balls in her and asks her to get him a glass of water, and then he makes her ask him to spank her, and she does. And then he spanks her, and of course it’s mind-blowing and erotic, and then he takes the balls out and they have sex. I would excerpt some of it here, but it’s all the same words as she used in the rest of the sex scenes. Then he rubs lotion on her butt and we get the weirdest fucking pillow talk I have ever read in my entire life:
Careful not to touch my stinging behind, we are spooning again. He kisses me very softly beside my ear.“The woman who brought me into this world was a crack-whore, Anastasia. Go to sleep.”
Right, because it’s super easy to sleep after your boyfriend calls his biological mother a crack-whore. He tells Ana that his mom died when he was four, and he doesn’t really remember much.
And I slip into a dazed and exhausted sleep, dreaming of a four-year-old, gray-eyed boy in a dark, scary, miserable place.
Sweet dreams, Ana!