Wednesday, April 24, 2019

El Misterino: Chapter 1

In which ELJ introduces us to an extremely unlikeable narrator who's basically Christian Grey's little brother. 

You know that thing where British actors play Americans in movies and they kinda overdo the accent and it sounds weird? Hugh Laurie does a perfect American accent; everyone else sounds bad. Yes that's right! I said "everyone." Sorry, Colin Farrell! That's the one cool thing about being American (other than you know that America won't bomb you with drones probably maybe) is that when you see Robert Downey Jr play Sherlock Holmes, you get to be like, yes this is great. This is an authentic Englishman. 

And the good thing about this book so far is that ELJ went ahead and just put it in England. She set the 50  books in Seattle, and I live there, and also I'm an American, so just absolutely every last detail about the way the characters lived felt completely wild. I have no way of knowing whether she's getting things right or wrong this time--I suspect wrong--but basically you could tell me almost anything about England and I'd be like, sure why not seems likely and I've even been there! (Once.)

But I am also a man, and just like actors tend to overcorrect when trying to use an accent other than their default, ELJ goes way overboard in terms of making the bro narrating this story just a total bro. Just the broiest bro who ever broed a bro.

Maxim only thinks about fucking, and about the fact that his brother has just died. And that's kind of how privilege works, I guess. The greater your privilege, the fewer things you ever have to think about. So in that sense, sure: great job, ELJ. You don't have to make this guy worry about anything at all because he enjoys literally every imaginable privilege and thus leads a life nearly free from conscious thought.

Isn't that an odd narrative choice, though? So there are different ways of plotting a story, of course. But a very simple, yet effective way is to give a character an external obstacle that can serve as a metaphor for an internal obstacle. Here's a bad example that comes to mind immediately: you remember how in Die Hard Carl from Family Matters is really nervous about shooting anybody because he accidentally shot a kid or something and then at the end of the movie he shoots a guy and everyone is like, "Oh great! Carl Winslow can shoot people again so all is right in the universe!"

Right so it's not just that Carl has to shoot some villain or whatever. He also has to overcome the "problem" where he thinks that shooting people is bad. [Editor's note: Alden is really upset that this is the example he chose but he's just going to stick with it.]

So what I'm saying is this: the whole thing about a plot, typically, is solving a problem. Things cannot stay the way they are--they can either get better, or worse. That's a plot!

But when you start your story with a rich white guy who is a literal English "Lord" whatever that means, you really back yourself into a corner! Because our dude has ZERO problems. It's sad that his brother died, yes, but that's really not a problem for him in any kind of meaningful way. And to the extent that it is a problem, it's a resolved problem, because the dude idn't coming back.

And yes, I get it. I have literally everything going for me in life. In a sort of global sense, I have all the advantages that Maxim Tarpaulin enjoys other than the fact that I'm not a literal English "Lord." And I know that I worry about everything literally all day long and most of the night. But you can't write a novel about me worrying about stuff because almost none of my worries make any sense.

So maybe Maxim Magazine here worries about stuff too! [Editor's note: not really. He mostly doesn't.] But the fact is that he has basically zero problems, and that's a pretty weird way to start a book!

But hey let's get into it. This intro is more than long enough!


Monday, April 22, 2019

El Misterino: Prologue

Do you think I should stick with this El Misterino bit? It's kind of hard to make up a joke about a title that is so bland to begin with! I can't imagine this title entering our lexicon the way Fifty Shades has. And that's nothing to do with the book--just the title.

I think when something like Fifty Shades catches fire, it's basically impossible for the author to reach that height again, regardless of the quality of her subsequent work. Fifty Shades has the privilege of coming first, and so I expect that The Mister is largely going to go unheralded. It'll be hugely successful compared to, like, books, but I doubt ELJ will stick around as a household name and keep inspiring think pieces and so on.

I also kind of expect this book to be better. Fifty Shades suffers firstly from being chained to the corpse of Twilight. "Will you become a vampire?" is an interesting question. ELJ's human version--"Will you sign this sex contract?"--is not interesting. Plus ELJ waited until quite late in the second book of her trilogy to introduce any stakes, and didn't do it well.

So I'm guessing that in the most basic sense of plotting, this book is going to be an improvement! Our author has done this before, and to my knowledge, isn't writing fanfic. I don't mean that specifically as a knock on fanfic--I just mean that ELJ wrote this new book without having to ask herself pesky questions like, "so what do I do about the werewolves?"

Plus, I feel like the little bit I know about this book suggests that ELJ basically wrote a gothic romance. Alessia is the virtuous woman with the mysterious past who's going to work in a castle. Guessing like we may see some beauty and the beast type stuff too, only our main dude probably looks super hot but maybe has some like, beastly attributes he needs to work on.

So what I'm saying, basically, is that I think ELJ has some pretty shopworn elements available to her, and while I doubt this book will be good, I do expect that on the most basic, technical level, we're going to get less shit that just makes no sense at all. Fingers crossed!

The prologue, however, does not inspire confidence!


Friday, April 19, 2019

El Misterino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing

Look, pals: I don't know what I'm doing either.

Everything about the world is a whole dumb nightmare. We've got ten years before everything melts and maybe twenty before we're full-on Mad Max and I will be squarely middle-aged at that point and that's just not a good moment to be learning how to do stunt driving and improvise weapons and everything. Even if I start now I won't be ready! So what I'm saying is, we were already at one of the most dire moments in human history, and then EL James had to go and write another book.

Years ago, when I was writing about those other EL James classics, a friend told me I should stop doing this because it seemed like it was making me miserable.


But that's my secret, Captain: I am always miserable.

Well not always. Or at least, not always-always. But I just want you to know this from the get-go: when it seems like this book is making me unhappy, please understand that it is not. The books is merely a vessel! A conduit! The means through which I reveal my true self. Those who do not move do not notice their chains. Those who do not look at my terrible blog don't have to hear me whine. The choice is entirely yours!

Hey so what've you been doing these past many years? I wish I had more to report on this end! Truly I do!


I play in this band. I take little credit, but I do take some credit! That video rules, right? Just agree with me. I really need this. Thank you in advance.

I had a podcast going for a while, and may again in the future. We'll see.


The podcast is called Beyond the Beaded Curtain and if you are interested, you can basically hear me doing exactly what I do hear, only you listen to it instead of reading it, and I have friends doing it too, and also we're talking about weird porn flicks rather than EL James. See??? I'm not exclusively about EL James. I sometimes branch out into other kinds of erotic fare. [Editor's note: change this part. It makes you look just bad and weird. You can keep the depression part, or the porn part, but you've got to cut one of them. The combination is really a bad look.]

I'm optimistic that there will be more episodes later, but the show is on hiatus and has been since like, Thanksgiving 2018 or so. 

Anyway! EL James wrote a new book. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

50 Shad3s: The Last Bits

There are nearly fifty pages of bullshit after Chapter 25. I know right? It's like, srsly? For reals? That's just really a whole lot.

Here's maybe a more fair way of talking about the plot of this trilogy: I've said a few times that Ana isn't really the protagonist, and I'm more or less going to stand by that. It's not that Ana is completely passive. It's more that her activity is limited to the early part of the series, the will-they-or-won't-they part. So at some point--and I'm not going to go back and decide when this was, precisely, the will-the-or-won't-they is thoroughly resolved and Ana ceases her role as an active participant in the story. She does make the rather bold choice to step out on her own to save Mia, and that's neat and everything. But it's still really Christian's story by that point. I think the shift happens gradually, but it's complete by somewhere in the second book. Eventually, the story, to the extent we can say it's about anything, is about Christian confronting his past, as represented by Jack Hyde.

What's even more of a bummer is that the sex gets kind of boring as the story becomes more about Christian's arc. I mean, I guess if I were to go through and pick my "favorite" sex scenes in this mess, I certainly would have to say that I enjoy them more in the last two books than in the first one, just because Ana develops quite a bit more agency. But EL runs out of kinks in the very first book. Even though CG had that big ol' list of kinks that he wanted to kink, our heroes never get very far into it.

In that first book, there's a feeling that CG is raising the stakes with every encounter--introducing new surprises every time they do it. Even though these scenes often feel gimmicky or even gross, CG's little surprises bring significant variety to the proceedings. It's much less fun once we're no longer wondering, "Hey so what're they gonna do this time?" And you can only read that same basic thing so many times without being prettttttttttttty bored IMO.

I bring this up because I think that Ana kinda runs out of story once CG has tried out all his sexual tricks. She's seen him at his kinkiest or whatever, and didn't run away, so pretty much once Ana takes CG back at the beginning of the second book, she's pretty much done. Right? Yeah for sure.

But then there's like, a book and a half left just for Christian and it's boring, particularly since they go on all these pointless fetch-quests, like their trip to Aspen for absolutely no reason whatsoever. This third book is just so, so padded. The whole first section--the honeymoon section--is worthless. The Ray's car accident section is worthless. And the Aspen section is worthless. That's literally about half of this book. What an absolute waste! These three books really should've just been two. Or zero, I guess, really.

Wait so what happened?






50 Shad3s: Chapter 25! THE LAST CHAPTER!* *not really the end tho

Hey you know how at the end of Lord of the Rings there's like ten different endings? And then after that there's all those appendixes and whatever? And you read about how Gimli and Legolas sailed off to the Gray Havens together? To the west? Meaning they literally sail off into the sunset together and therefore your Gimli / Legolas fanfic is totally supported by the text and anyone who says otherwise should maybe crack open their copy of Lord of the Rings and like, you know, read it?

Anyway EL does pretty much the same thing here. There's just all this assorted stuff at the end and I mean, this thing is done, right? There's nothing else to happen. Ana threw the one ring into the lava and that totally destroyed Christian and then she and Kate rode on the back of an eagle. But then there's so much stuff after! SO MUCH. After this chapter, there's an epilogue, and a Christmas special, and a ludicrous "Author's note" and also the opening of what would eventually be released as just Grey--the first of these dumb books, only from CG's perspective only. I won't talk about that. I'm just now remembering that, oh shit, I think I read that. Right? Yeah I totally did! Goddamn. It's pretty bad!

But anyway. What I'm saying is that we're not quite up the mountain yet. I'm going to bash on through this chapter, and then do one final post on all the shit that comes after the last chapter. Pretty unfair, I think.

But we're close! We're very close.

I know I sound miserable when I'm doing this. Part of that is just for fun; I sound miserable most of the time. All my friends will attest to this fact. FACT! But anyway. There are parts of each chapter that I really enjoy writing about, or at least that are fun springboards for me to do whatever nonsense joke I want to do.

But yeah. This is a bad book. A thing I mentioned last chapter is that this shit would go a lot faster if I wrote more in line with how I'd normally read a book like this. So here's a confession: like if I'm reading a book, and there's a whole big section in italics? I'm basically not going to read it. Or if a character in a book has a dream? I'm skipping ahead to when they wake up, even if that character is having a green dream. Just can't really be bothered. Or if some character is like, "Oh here let me sing you the song about the maiden and the bear, because that's like Westeros's 'Stairway to Heaven' basically," yeah. I'm totally skipping it. So if I were somehow reading this book for my own amusement, I'd give the emails the most cursory glance and move on. And I basically would've skipped Chapter 23 entirely because it's like, I get it. I get it. She's in the hospital. I get it.

But instead, I'm a completist, so I go through all these little things that have no right to be in this book and there's no reason at all for you to know about them because they don't matter, but somehow I'm like, I SWOAR AN OATH! and I tell you all this shit that doesn't matter. I don't know why either, really!

But hey. We're almost done. We're almost done! There will be much rejoicing!

Oh but where were we?





Saturday, June 18, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 24

Did you even see that shit? When I dropped TWO mutterflushing chapters on your head in the Same Day? Ridic. Shit was ridic.

AND NOW this third one like a day later? I'm putting you on notice, book from ten years ago that nobody cares about anymore. I'm like some kind of sports team that started out hot and then lost for like several years but is now looking like maybe, maybe, maybe it's going to put together a little bit of a comeback maybe.

We only have two chapters left. You're going to want to go slow. Savor it. JK let's hurry through this together. There's nothing left. This is the end of the party and there's nothing to drink but the stuff no one likes like "melon liqueur" and nothing to eat except for crackers and not even any cheese. You should've come earlier. No. You should've left earlier. Only the dregs remain. We're deep into the mop-up stage and there's not really anything left to mop up but EL is still swishing that same dirty mop water all over the floor again and again. 

Oh but where were we?





Friday, June 17, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 23

TLDNR
Ana recovers in the hospital and everything is fine. 

Seriously tho: we're almost done. Almost done with this whole thing. We can do this, friends. We can do this. And in order to move shit along, I'm no longer on any type of schedule. I'm just making this happen. I'm getting that last burst of energy you get when you're real close to the finish line and you're just so, so sick of the marathon you're running because it's repetitive and clich├ęd and sexist and my metaphor may have broken down there somewhere.


Oh but where were we?