Sunday, November 3, 2019

El Misterino: Chapter 4

I'm real irritated about the demise of Deadspin so I'm going to try to write more. The internet is an increasingly worthless place and I'm not doing much to help that. But every little bit helps or something, probably, right? So let's see if I can stick to it!

To recap? this book is about our primary narrator--Max--and his journey from playboy to patriarch. He's going to assume the mantle of head of the family--a role thrust upon him by his older-brother's death. He's also going to quit boning down with his dead brother's widow, which will symbolize his newfound respect for the family unit.

He's also going to marry his housekeeper. You see, it's incorrect for a patriarch to be paying a lady to do domestic labor. Instead, he's going to marry her, because the patriarch is a sort of pre-capitalist institution that ought not be sullied by things like wages and market forces.

Oh and of course his housekeeper is from Eastern Europe. This is about rehabilitating British colonialism. But see, she's from a white person so it's good, right guys? It's fine and good now, right?

On the one hand, I'm saying all this because it seems silly to do all this half-assed marxism, but also I believe it's completely correct.

At first, I thought that the death of Max's brother was merely about proving to the reader that this was a different book from 50 Shades. I still think that that's a significant element, of course. But I also now think it's an important plot detail. It's the true inciting event in our story, as the end of the book is just going to be TADA! max is now comfortable in his duty as an old-timey aristocrat, and this all would've been his brother's job had he not died.

I'm honestly a little disappointed to have cracked this one so early. I hope we get some weird complications along the way. After all, EL does introduce a "villain" of sorts in the second book of her 50 Shades trilogy. So maybe we'll get some other curveballs thrown at us, and that could be fun. But I'm pretty confident in my assumptions about the general plot.

And, our heroes are only finally meeting in chapter four. And not cute!

--So how did you two meet?
--Well get this! She was my housekeeper!
--(Takes imaginary call on phone. Leaves party.)


Friday, October 25, 2019

El Misterino: Chapter 3

I am seriously not going to remember what anyone is named in this book from chapter to chapter. I don't see this being a serious problem, but I mean, it could be. It could be!

I'm going to have to admit something, and here goes:

I think 50 Shades is the better book. 

There. I said it! The writing here is probably a little better in the strictest, most technical sense. But for all her faults, Anastasia Steele was not unpleasant to be around, really. At least, years later, I don't remember her being as unpleasant to be around as the main guy is in this thing. Max! Sorry. Yes. Max. I do not care for Max. And this chapter really makes me wonder if I'm supposed to like him.

Obviously you don't have to like the main guy in a book. But an unlikable character in a romance novel is a pretty tough needle to thread, I think! EL isn't pulling it off so far, but who knows!

Oh and as silly as the stakes are in Fifty Shades at least they're introduced quickly. Right at the top BAM! Here's this guy, and here's our narrator, and there's something between them, so will they or won't they? And then it gets pretty weird pretty fast with the thing where CG wants Ana to sign a bunch of paperwork before they can get bizzy but at least the story doesn't waste a lot of time before letting us know what the book is about.

I still don't know what this book is really about. We've got Max grieving and dealing with his brother's widow, but no particular sense of how that will play out. And we've got Alessia, who wants to play the piano.

Now, of course we know that these two things are going to intersect, because that's why both stories are in the same book. But I feel like we're getting fairly far into this thing and still haven't been offered much in the way of a roadmap. Still not sure where an actual conflict is going to emerge. Here's a hint: not in this chapter!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

El Misterino: Chapter 2

I had every intention of like, actually doing this, and posting every week or every other week or like, at the very least not letting quite so much time past in between chapters.

I have a hard time doing things anymore. No, I won't be clarifying--"things" is the appropriate word. Anything less general would fail to capture just how few "things" I do these days. I find it exhausting to do anything that doesn't allow me to completely shut down my brain, and these days, no one else really cares whether I do anything or not, so there's very little upside to breaking with my recent form and doing things.

But, last weekend I met a couple of people who admitted to having read some of these entries and they weren't under duress or nuthin, so maybe if I write a little more it won't go entirely unnoticed. Or maybe I'll feel better. Anything's possible! [Editor's note: most things are impossible.]

The hell was going on in this book, anyway?

I don't remember; I'm going to have to reread the second chapter, and that's a real bummer and I don't advise anyone do it. I usually end up reading these chapters twice. Once straight through, and then once in chunks as I dissect for larfs. This chapter is going to be at least three passes and that's three too many!

So. Christian Grey died and his little brother is kinda-sorta involved with his widow, Anastasia, but also has a new housekeeper who's from somewhere war-torn or also maybe just Poland? Anyway I think this book is about Christian's brother's housekeeper getting adopted like she's a rescue pet or something, and also probably they have sex. It's going to be like that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is dating his housekeeper and he doesn't want to pay her because she's not really working and somehow when we watch we're supposed to identify more with the guy who employs a housekeeper than with the housekeeper. I'm on to you, Seinfeld! [Editor's note: Alden is on one of his classic Seinfeld rants but will try to actually read the book after the jump.]

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?