I have internet again. Our long national nightmare is over.
Here are some interesting things relating to E.L. James and the travesties she commits against humanity and the English language:
- Everyone thinks Christian Grey is a serial killer
- Surprise beyond surprise, James will be rewriting Fifty Shades Darker from Christian’s perspective.
- The world is basically doomed.
- But this guest reviewer at Smart Bitches knows what’s up.
- And if you’re looking to hire a social media consult, I’m pretty sure James’s is looking for a job.
Also, several people emailed me to point this out, and I’m rolling:
But perhaps my favorite of the bunch from this week is Janet Maslin’s review of Grey for The New York Times. Maslin writes:
Speaking of cries for help, Ms. James leaves herself badly exposed by this book’s flagrant air of desperation. Her own fans write better stories about Christian Grey than she does. The fact that hers is the hidebound, trademarked and much-copied version doesn’t make it the important one. She has let time stand still in order to capitalize on one big hit, but she’s working in such a fast-moving medium that her failure of imagination is dangerous. She didn’t exactly invent these characters in the first place: She was a “Twilight” fan who appropriated them, tweaked them and made them hugely salable for a while.
Someone please send Ms. James a whole bouquet of aloe plants for that sick burn.
On to the recap!
For added context, here’s the link to my recap of chapter two of Fifty Shades of Grey.
This Day In History: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund and potential candidate for president of France, was charged with sexually assaulting a Manhattan hotel maid. (He later resigned from the IMF; the charges against him were dropped.) (source)
This chapter begins with the background check on Anastasia Rose Steele, including her address, cell number, social security number, banking info with account number and balance ($683.16, not shabby for an American college student), SAT score (2150, putting Ana in the top 97% of test takers because she’s so bright), where she works, who her father was, who her mother is (including all of her husbands), but nothing about Ana’s sexual orientation, relationships, politics, or religion.
I pore over the executive summary for the hundredth time since I received it two days ago, looking for some insight into the enigmatic Miss Anastasia Rose Steele.
Here’s a revolutionary and completely unconventional idea: talk to her. Don’t order a freaking background check on her. Half the things listed here are things they advise against talking about on a first date, for Christ’s sake.
I’m also confused about “executive summary,” and I think Christian is, too. An executive summary is a part of your business plan where you take all the businessy stuff like your mission statement and what your company does and projected future growth and all sorts of stuff that I don’t understand, and you put it in an outline so people can see that you know what you’re doing. And then, hopefully, they give you money. It’s not a background check.
You’d think that the biggest and most important business guy ever in the whole wide entire world would know what that term meant. Like, if he’d watched even one episode of Dragon’s Den, he would know.
Anyway, Mr. Executive Summary is sitting in his car outside of Clayton’s hardware, where Ana works.
You’re a fool, Grey. Why are you here?
Because you’re a stalker. (Remember, the underlines aren’t in the text, I just can’t figure out italics in the quote function).
I’ve never pursued a woman before.
Because they fling themselves at him so often that he’s had to buy a protective suit, apparently.
The women I’ve had understood what I expected of them. My fear now is that Miss Steele is just too young and that she won’t be interested in what I have to offer.
Wasn’t Leela or Layla or Lila or Lily or who the fuck ever it was pretty young? She was still in college.
Will she even make a good submissive?
This is one of the main problems I have with these books, and with a lot of other BDSM romances. The assumption is that since the hero enjoys BDSM, every woman he sees is a potential sub. It’s not, “This woman seems interesting and I would like to get to know her.” It’s not even, “This woman is sexually attractive and I would like to have sex with her.” Just, “This woman will make a good sub. I can tell without speaking to her,” or “Will this woman make a good sub?” Like, are you interested in these women beyond what she can do for you, sexually, buddy?
Okay, so I know in Christian Grey’s case, that’s exactly what’s going on. He seems to view all women as either obnoxious and dripping for him, or possibly someone he can beat on to get a woody. Nothing in between.
If you’re looking for a book that calls out this trope, by the way, check out Fit by Rebekah Weatherspoon. When the hero tries to pull the instasub bullshit on the heroine, she reacts realistically. I almost stood up and cheered when I read it, but I was on a plane at the time and I didn’t feel like getting shot by an air marshal.
Her background check has produced nothing remarkable–except for the last fact, which has been at the forefront of my mind. It’s the reason I’m here. Why no boyfriend, Miss Steele? Sexual orientation unknown–perhaps she’s gay. I snort, thinking that unlikely.
Seriously? What is up with the “Well, s/he can’t possibly be gay” thing in this entire franchise? I feel like James equates heterosexuality with sexual attractiveness; “This person can’t possibly be gay, for I find them fuckable.”
I haven’t mentioned her to Flynn, and I’m glad because I’m now behaving like a stalker.
Really? You think so? You think now you’re acting like a stalker?
YOU ORDERED A BACKGROUND CHECK ON HER WITHIN A MINUTE AND A HALF OF HER LEAVING YOUR OFFICE.
My favorite part of this paragraph, though, is that he goes on to say that he doesn’t want to mention his stalking of Ana to his therapist is because Chedward feels he just needs a distraction. But, uh, the distraction he’s chosen is the very stalking he feels like he shouldn’t mention to the aforementioned therapist. Yeah, I know I’m stalking this girl, but all I need to keep from stalking this girl is to stalk this girl. Okay, sure. Also, beyond mentioning “solution-based-therapy shit,” Chedward never refers to Flynn as his therapist. This book makes the mistake of assuming that readers will have read Fifty Shades of Grey. A POV-swap retelling has to stand alone. A reader should be able to pick up either Grey or Fifty Shades of Grey and go, “Oh, I understand the whole story now,” (yes, even though it’s a cultural phenomenon), but instead this reads like a fanfic in a particularly ardent fandom that doesn’t need it pointed out to them that Harry Potter is a wizard.
You’ve come all this way. Let’s see if little Miss Steele is as appealing as you remember.
Chedward goes into the store:
I’d forgotten the possibilities that a hardware store could present to someone like me. I mainly shop online for my needs, but while I’m here, maybe I’ll stock up on a few items: Velcro, split rings–Yeah. Maybe I’ll find the delectable Miss Steele and have some fun.
Remember how he sounded like he might be a murderer in the first book? Yeah, he definitely sounds like a murderer.
Also, split rings? They’re good for aesthetic bondage, but they’re “split” rings for a reason. They can’t be used for anything that needs to support weight. Unless he’s talking about split rings as in key chains, in which case I have no fucking clue what he’s going to do with them, but I don’t want to find out. #pinchy
Cheward sees Ana eating her lunch at the counter, and she sucks some crumbs off her thumb and Cheward’s penis takes notice.
My body’s reaction is irritating. Maybe this will stop if I fetter, fuck, and flog her…and not necessarily in that order. Yeah. That’s what I need.
Okay, but…she hasn’t given any indication that she’s interested in any of that. You’re kind of assuming that you get to use her as the cure to your distracting penis issues. Also, does it matter what order you fetter, fuck, and flog someone? Does it make it more naughty if you fuck them, then tie them up? Or if you tie them up and flog them, then fuck them? I’m not understanding why “and not necessarily in that order” is supposed to be lascivious.
Ana spots Christian, and he likes that she gets flustered. Well, you’re in for a treat, pal, because flustered is like her M.O.
She’s dressed in a tight t-shirt and jeans, not the shapeless shit she was wearing earlier this week. She’s all long legs, narrow waist, and perfect tits.
This is interesting. In the original series, Christian goes on and on about how Ana is too thin, she needs to eat more, she needs to go to the gym (as outlined in the contract), etc. He makes these comments about her body again and again, despite her constant state of obvious insecurity. But inwardly he’s thinking that her body is perfect. So let’s whip out our handy chart of signs of abuse, shall we?
- Criticizes or puts you down; says you are crazy, stupid, and/or fat/unattractive, or that no one else would ever want or love you.
Christian makes negative comments about Ana’s body in the original trilogy, and we see here that he actually thinks her body is fine. So the entire point of his “you need to eat/you’re too thin” thing isn’t because he didn’t get fed enough as a child. It’s because he’s an abusive psychopath.
There’s a weird line that I’m pretty sure was supposed to be italicized, but got fucked up in the formatting:
I’ve flown from Seattle just to see you, and the way you look right now, it was really worth the journey.
Okay, but…he was in a car a minute ago.
Ana reiterates that she would prefer to be called Ana, and a paragraph later he thinks:
Game on, Miss Steele.
Chedward tells her he’s looking for cable ties:
My request catches her off guard; she looks stunned.
I have to be really snotty here and say that over the past week, I read a writing book that went all sorts of anti-semicolon, and I know for a fact that one of the people who worked on the book will fight to death defending these books, so the semi-colon here pleases me beyond belief because that person is so super obnoxious and I got a mean little thrill writing this paragraph. And I’m going to celebrate it, because I deserve something good, damn it.
Oh, this is going to be fun. You’d be amazed what I can do with a few cable ties, baby.
For example, you can hold all your cords together under your desk so they don’t tangle. Seriously, if he thinks Ana is so meek and mild, why is he assuming her thoughts are going immediately to bondage?
Oh, right. She’s an instasub.
Ana offers to show him where the cable ties are, and he muses about what she’d look like naked in high heels.
“They’re with the electrical goods, aisle eight.” Her voice wavers and she blushes…
She is affected by me. Hope blooms in my chest.
She’s not gay, then. I smirk.
Or, she has social anxiety. Or, she thinks it’s weird that you’re in the store she works in, when she knows you live in Seattle, and she’s pretty sure you could just pay someone to do your shopping for you, and she’s flushed as a reaction to danger. But A+ for assuming that a woman having any sort of physical response to you is an indication of her sexuality.
Letting her walk ahead gives me the space and time to admire her fantastic ass.
Again, in the original series, Chedward repeatedly criticized her body because she was “too thin.”
She really is the whole package: sweet, polite, and beautiful, with all the physical attributes I value in a submissive. But the million-dollar question is, could she be a submissive? She probably knows nothing of the lifestyle–my lifestyle–but I very much want to introduce her to it. You are getting way ahead of yourself on this deal, Grey.
Yes, you are definitely getting way head of yourself. When we read Ana’s POV, we knew she was into him. But from Christian’s POV, we don’t know that. He’s decided that since he sexually desires her, the reverse must also be true, by virtue of his wanting. Earlier in the chapter, he has a thought about how he doesn’t like to wait for anything, and coupled with the rest of the scene, it’s really starting to feel like Cheward believes he’s entitled to every woman he’s attracted to, and disgusted by the ones he isn’t.
He’s also assuming a lot here, besides the part where he’s decided she’d want any sexual relationship at all. Why does he feel like Ana wouldn’t know about BDSM? Even before Fifty Shades of Grey, it wasn’t exactly a secret that BDSM existed. For all he knows, Ana is out there grinding cigarettes out on her sub’s tongue at night. But of course, the idea that he could possibly be wrong about anything doesn’t enter his head.
Ana asks if he’s in Portland on business:
Her voice is high; she’s feigning disinterest. It makes me want to laugh. Women rarely make me laugh.
Her disinterest must be feigned, because of course he’s the most desirable man who’s ever existed, and all women fawn over him. And he wants to laugh, not at something witty she’s said, but at her, for being so bad at disguising her obvious sexual interest in him. And women, other women? They don’t make him laugh.
How to tell if your heroine is made of wallpaper paste and inept characterization: You can only make her seem desirable if your hero is constantly putting down other women.
He tells her he’s there on business:
“All part of your feed-the-world plan?” She arches a brow, amused.
“Something like that,” I mutter. Is she laughing at me? Oh, I’d love to put a stop that if she is.
It’s totally okay for him to laugh at her, but if she seems even slightly amused by him, it must be stopped.
As Christian peruses the cable ties, he wonders if Ana would go out on a date with him. I think we’re supposed to get some feeling of anxiety from him, but how can we possibly believe he would be worried about Ana turning him down, when he’s clearly convinced that all women want him?
I select the longer ties. They are more flexible, after all, as they can accommodate two ankles and two wrists at once.
They can also shred the skin off those wrists and ankles, and they can be difficult to safely cut in an emergency. But we’ve read the original trilogy, so we already know that you don’t give a shit about the safety of your subs.
“Have you worked here long?” Of course, I already know the answer. Unlike some people I do my research.
I don’t know, guys. I feel like there’s very fine line between research and stalking. I’m not sure what side of that line ordering a background check for someone you’ve spoken to for like, ten minutes is on, but then again, what do I know? I’ve been told repeatedly on various forms of social media that I just don’t get this whole BDSM/romance/book thing.
Ana helps him find masking tape:
“I’ll take that one.” The wider tape is much more effective as a gag.
Why don’t you slap a piece on, pal?
She pales. “Anything else?” Her voice is soft and husky.
Christ, I’m having the same effect on her as she has on me. Maybe…
Maybe she has something caught in her throat. Note that here, Ana paling is an indication of her favorable response to Chedward, when before it was blushing. In other words, no matter what she does, he knows she’s into him.
Now he needs some rope:
“This way.” She scoots up the aisle, giving me another chance to appreciate her fine ass.
Excuse me, Cheddie, but her ass was fantastic just pages ago. Now it’s “fine.” Are we downgrading her ass status here?
Christian takes the “natural filament” rope (Manila? Sisal? Hemp? Jute?) and admires Ana’s ability to measure five yards. He asks her if she was a Girl Scout, she says that’s not her thing, and he asks her what her thing is.
“Books,” she answers.
“What kind of books?”
“Oh, you know. The usual. The classics. British literature, mainly.”
British literature? The Brontës and Austen, I bet. All those romantic hearts-and-flowers types.
That’s not good.
Mr. Too-Smart-For-Harvard has distilled the whole of British literature down to three authors. I don’t think it’s that far-fetched to presume that he’s picked these specific “hearts-and-flowers types” because Ana is a woman, and therefore naturally only into romances. But fear not, dear Chedward. If she’s into the Brontës, she’s into deeply disturbing, abusive heroes.
Christian asks what Ana would recommend he buy, and she recommends coveralls.
You wouldn’t want to ruin your clothing.” She gestures to my jeans.
I can’t resist. “I could always take them off.”
“Um.” She flushes beat red and stares down.
Yeah, this isn’t sexy. She’s at work. She literally cannot escape you, because you are a customer and she could lose her job if you complain about her. Especially because you’re a bajillionaire and could spend all sorts of money in the store. But making Ana uncomfortable gets Chedward all hot under the collar:
She’s mortified, eyes still cast down. Christ, she does things to me.
Like getting a restraining order, hopefully.
“How’s the article coming along?” I ask, in the hope she might relax a little.
She looks up and gives me a brief relieved smile.
That’s what she said.
Ana tells Christian that Kate wants an original photo of him to use for the school paper. You know, I don’t remember that striking me as odd when I first read Fifty Shades of Grey, but it’s pretty ballsy for Kate to expect to get an original photo of someone as big and important as Christian Grey. I’m actually quite impressed with Kate now.
Christian says he’d be willing to do a photo shoot, and makes mental plans to have Taylor (his bodyguard, another detail that isn’t mentioned because it’s assumed that the reader has read Fifty Shades of Grey) bring him some clothes and a laptop to the Heathman hotel. And of course, Chedward is willing to do this photo shoot because it means he’ll have more time to spend with Ana. She never once mentions that she’ll be at the photo shoot, but he assumes she will be, because Christian makes a whole lot of assumptions.
Christian gives Ana his card and instructs her to call him before ten A.M. the next day. Then this happens:
“Ana!” We both turn as a young man dressed in casual designer gear appears at the far end of the aisle. His eyes are all over Miss Anastasia Steele. Who the hell is this prick?
I’m sure I’ve seen this on the list of abusive qualities…oh yeah:
- Is excessively jealous and accuses you of being unfaithful.
“Er, excuse me for a moment, Mr. Grey.” She walks toward him, and the asshole engulfs her in a gorilla-like hug. My blood runs cold. It’s a primal response.
Get your fucking paws off her.
I fist my hands and am only slightly mollified when she doesn’t return his hug.
- Has a history of abusing others.
Maybe this guy is her boyfriend. He looks the right age, and he can’t take his greedy little eyes off her. He holds her for a moment at arm’s length, examining her, then stands with his arm resting on her shoulder. It seems like a casual gesture, but I know he’s staking a claim and telling me to back off.
So…here’s the thing. Christian has known Ana for about twenty minutes to a half hour, total. None of that time was about interaction on a personal level. She came to his office on a professional errand, and now he has come to her place of employment as a customer. And he’s already this possessive, that he has to restrain himself from punching a guy she already knows, and who he reasons could be her boyfriend. Already, Ana is his property, and she’s not allowed to have a boyfriend, or really just any man at all in her life that she talks to. Because it makes Christian angry. And you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
Or, you know. All the time. I basically don’t like him all the time.
Ana explains to Christian that the guy is Paul, brother of the store’s owner:
“I’ve known Paul ever since I’ve worked here, though we don’t see each other that often. He’s back from Princeton, where he’s studying business administration.” She’s babbling, giving me a long explanation and telling me they’re not together, I think.
Actually what she’s doing is already apologizing to you for daring to have friends. The fact that she feels the need to justify hugging someone she’s known for a long time is a good indication that she knows you’re already jealous and will possibly react unfavorably.
I’m relieved, but the extent of the relief I feel is unexpected, and it makes me frown. This woman has really gotten under my skin.
So, Chedward’s irrational and scary behavior isn’t his fault, you see. It’s Ana’s fault, for being so attractive to him, regardless of whether or not she’s courted that attraction.
- Takes no responsibility for his or her behavior and blames others.
Christian handles this introduction with his characteristic kindness:
“Mr. Clayton.” My tone is deliberately clipped.
“Mr. Grey.” His handshake is limp, like his hair. Asshole. “Wait up–not the Christian Grey? Of Grey Enterprises holdings?”
Yeah, that’s me, you prick.
Every time I read the company name, it sounds worse.
In a heartbeat I watch him morph from territorial to obsequious.
Wait, he was being territorial? PAUL is territorial one in this situation? At least he knows the person he’s being territorial over.
Christian has what he needs, so his excuse has run out and he has to leave:
I’m out of time and I still don’t know if I’m going to see her again. I have to know whether there’s a hope in hell she might consider what I have in mind. How can I ask her?
I don’t know. How about after you’ve talked to her for more than an hour? Or when you’re in some kind of semi-regular sexual relationship? Or when you have any idea what she’s like as an actual person and not an object for you to project your sexual fantasies on? Any of those times would be appropriate.
Am I ready to take on a submissive who knows nothing? She’s going to need substantial training.
HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY KNOW THIS?! HOW? YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY KNOW THIS BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE A FUCKING CLUE WHAT THIS PERSON–NOT AN OBJECT, BUT A PERSON–IS LIKE!
This is INFURIATING, even more so than the original trilogy. I’m only on the second chapter and I’m ready to burst something vital in my head. He hasn’t gotten to know anything about her at all, he’s decided on a personality for her and slapped it on like a decal on a stoner’s skateboard.
Ana rings up his purchases:
“That will be forty-three dollars, please.”
Is that all?
I know this is meant to convey that he’s ballin’ in the majors and can throw away forty whole bucks on stuff he doesn’t need, but I kind of thought the same thing. The coveralls alone should have been like, at least twenty-six bucks on their own.
Christian tells Ana that he’ll see her tomorrow and that he’s glad Kate didn’t do the interview, and he thinks Ana looks flattered by the remark. And she probably is, because in the original books, Ana consistently judges herself based on how much better she is than Kate.
Yes, against my better judgment, I want her. Now I have to wait…fucking wait…again.
Truly, you are a martyr.
Utilizing willpower that would make Elena proud, I keep my eyes ahead as I take my cell out of my pocket and climb into the rental car.
So it’s a rental car. That clears up the whole flying business. But what exactly constitutes willpower in this scenario? Not asking a woman you don’t know if she’ll be your sex slave? Not just grabbing her and fucking her right there in the store? What he’s impatient with are normal human boundaries that everyone is expected to mind every single day.
My eyes flick to the rearview mirror, where I can see the shop door, but all I see is the quaint storefront. She’s not in the window, staring out at me.
This is going to be a long ride, folks, if this is how highly Chedward thinks of himself. He’s truly expecting this woman he barely knows, whose sole interaction has been–say it with me–required professional contact, to be standing at the window, staring longingly at him.
WHAT PERSON IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WANTS THAT LEVEL OF OBSESSION COMING AT THEM LIKE THAT?
You know, having read the original trilogy, I now kind of understand what happened to Lela or Leela or Layla or who the fuck ever. She wasn’t broken by Christian’s constant abuse, she was already in that obsessive state when their relationship started, which made her attractive to him. Then he manipulated the situation for his own edification until he was done with her. It’s all becoming so clear now.
Plus, this is a guy who’s like, “I don’t do romance,” and who doesn’t want any romantic entanglements with any of his sex partners, but he wants them to look after him with big, longing puppy eyes? And then he wonders why they fall in love with him?
This book is giving me new insight to his character, all right. I feel like I’m reading an “erotic” novel about a seven year old with poor impulse control.
Christian makes arrangements with Taylor (still doesn’t explain who Taylor is or what his function is, making him even less of a bodyguard and even more of a valet than he was in the original), and decides he’ll go for a hike to get some of his adrenaline out.
It’s been five hours with no phone call from the delectable Miss Steele.
You know what women get called if they contact a guy five hours after they last saw them? CRAZY. We get called CRAZY, Chedward.
I loathe waiting.
What a waste of time it’s been chasing this woman.
I didn’t get what I wanted immediately, and I still haven’t gotten it five hours later, so she’s a waste of my time. SWOON.
Finally, as night falls upon the palace of loneliness that is Chedward’s soul, Ana calls him.
My face erupts in a shit-eating grin.
Can we strike the phrase “shit-eating grin” from the English language altogether, please? Everything about this sentence is a train wreck, from his erupting face to the fact that he’s attributing the wrong description for the emotion he should be feeling. A “shit-eating grin” is something someone has when they know they’re being purposely antagonistic, or they think they’re getting away with something. All Chedward did was answer the phone and get the result he’d hoped for when he gave Ana his number.
I hear her breath hitch and the sound travels directly to my groin.
Great. I’m affecting her. Like she’s affecting me.
If you’re not reading along at home, Chedward keeps using the word “affecting” to describe Ana’s reaction to him. He’s “affecting” her. I feel like at this point, she’s a medical experiment.
Ana tells him that the photoshoot is on, and she asks him to pick a convenient location.
In my room. Just you, me, and the cable ties.
And probably a chainsaw and some of his mother’s clothes.
I hang up before she senses my excitement and how pleased I am. Leaning back in my chair, I gaze at the darkening skyline and run both my hands through my hair.
How the hell am I going to close this deal?
I guess it’s a good thing you have all those kidnapping supplies, huh?
That’s all for this chapter. Stay tuned for further recaps, and recaps of Jamie McGuire’s Apolonia, which no, I have not abandoned in favor of this mess. I can handle more than one mess at a time.