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.