Tuesday, August 27, 2013

50 Shades of the Complainist: Chapter 16

Spanking, then sex. 

Again--refer above. 

I have this problem where I troll the "Writing Gigs" section of craigslist and respond eagerly to the oddest requests. This has been more fruitful than you might assume! For instance, last year I was contracted to ghostwrite a single chapter of a novel. My employer never did get around to letting me know the last names of any of the book's characters, but he was pleased with my efforts, and paid promptly. More recently, I volunteered to "beta read" a draft of an "erotic mystery." I read and gave quite a few notes because I'm very good at that kind of thing. (I'm friendly about it, too. If 50 Shades were the work of some earnest, anonymous scribe pleading for help on craigslist, I'd be infinitely more generous. But! This thing has made EL James more money than can be found within the borders of certain small countries. The world has already been generous to her, so I don't have to be.)

Anyway, I mentioned on Facebook that this craigslist author got me a gift card for fifty bucks. Quite nice, considering that I volunteered without any offer of payment. The best part is that a handful of my friends conflated the gift card with this blog, and thought, even if only momentarily, that EL was the author mailing me gifts. This, of course, is not the case! However, I would like to state now, as publicly as I can, that I am willing to be bought, and I am not expensive. So, you'll know what happens if, a few weeks from now, I start a post by writing, "Hey you know, I never thought I'd say this, but this thing is kind of growing on me a little!"

In the meantime, I am kind of stuck. I just don't understand how this book gets read by anybody other than people who despise it because seriously. Chapter 16 is a nonsense chapter, totally lacking in plot or intrigue.

There's some sex, but it's not particularly interesting. I mean, it's fine, and I'll give EL a sliver of credit for at least giving the reader the impression that Ana is into the sexy spanking, or, at least, not totally hostile to it while it's happening. Far too often, I read this book and think, "Wait, if Ana hates what's going on, how am I supposed to like it?" EL does a reasonably good job of convincing me that Ana is scared and turned on, so that's something.

But, EL has no idea where to take the story. Like, no idea in the slightest. Lacking any plot threads to pursue, EL relies on an old standby: "What if, for this chapter, it was just a lot of Ana feeling shitty about Christian?" Great idea! I imagine that's more or less what it was like to, say, write for Seinfeld. "Hey what if Kramer has a dumb scheme and Jerry doesn't like his new girlfriend for some reason?" "Great! Problem solved!" (Editor's note: we actually like Seinfeld. But you get the point.) The only new additions to the "story" are uninteresting hints about things that may or may not end up happening in the future. 1) Maybe Ana will get on the pill. 2) Maybe Ana will go visit her mom. Mutterblushing riveting, is what I call that!

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

So where were we?

  1. Ana meets Christian, the dreamy billionaire, for an awkward interview. 
  2. She then encounters him a few days later when he buys supplies for his sex dungeon at the hardware store where she works. Ana gets his phone number and decides to help her friend Kate set up a photo shoot with CG because that somehow makes more sense than just seeing if he wants to hang out like a regular person. 
  3. Ana's admirer José joins Ana and Kate to photograph Christian, after which Christian takes Ana to a cafe, where they both act awkward. Christian starts to push Ana away, for reasons she does not understand. Then, Ana is nearly hit by a bike, but Christian yanks her out of harm's way.
  4. Christian tells Ana that they're incompatible and she gets sad. Ana drunk-dials Christian and he freaks out and traces her phone Batman-style, just in time to chase off José, who's acting rape-y. Ana passes out at the bar.
  5. Ana awakes in Christian's hotel room. Christian explains that he brought her there because he didn't want her to puke in his car. He says that they can't take things further until he's explained his secrets, so they arrange a helicopter ride together to Seattle and make out in an elevator.
  6. Ana and Christian fly to Seattle in a helicopter. Ana signs a non-disclosure agreement and then opens up the door to the sex dungeon.
  7. Ana and Christian tour the sex dungeon and we see some of his much-discussed paperwork, which is an agreement far more all-encompassing than, say, a typical marriage, even though they met less than two weeks ago. CG gets super angry when he learns that Ana is a virgin. 
  8. Ana and Christian have sex and later, when Ana wakes up, CG is playing a piano because he has a case of the feels.
  9. The next morning Ana cooks breakfast and then they have sex in the bath and then in the bed and then Christian hears his mom talking to his manservant, Taylor. 
  10. Mom leaves right away, so Ana and Christian drive from Seattle to Vancouver and also they stop at a restaurant and CG reveals that he played the role of submissive to an older woman when he was a teenager. 
  11. Ana reads the sex contract and gets a new computer from Christian and they exchange some emails and Ana reads about BDSM on wikipedia.
  12. Ana sends a "joke" email to Christian, telling him that she doesn't want to see him again, so he sneaks in and forces himself on her. 
  13. Ana and Christian meet for dinner to negotiate their sex contract, and CG largely accepts Ana's rather cosmetic demands. 
  14. Christian speaks at Ana's graduation and also her stepdad is there and Ana agrees to CG's contract.
  15. Ana and Christian talk about "soft limits" and then have sex. 
The chapter break between 15 and 16 gave me the impression that some time had passed, since 16 starts with Ana doing what can only be described as "waking up." "Slowly the outside world invades my senses, and oh my, what an invasion."

We are then reminded that CG is still wearing his shirt, which he wore during sex, and this is super gross. Rob Delaney will confirm, in terms only slightly more crude than the ones you're used to putting up with in these essays. 

I barely get my head around the fact that CG is bottomless but not topless and then he drops this bombshell:

"Why don't you like to be touched?" I whisper, staring up into soft gray eyes.

"Because I'm fifty shades of fucked up, Anastasia." 

What? Oh my god. EL "explains" the title to us and it's total garbage. He sounds like he's riffing on a known phrase, like "whole nine yards" or "six ways from Sunday" or "This one goes to eleven." But has anyone ever heard anything described using this format? 

[Any number] shades of [Any descriptor]

This isn't a thing, right? CG says it as though it's a thing to say, but it isn't. It's just some bullshit that doesn't really make sense. But we understand it because you can shorten it to "I'm fucked up" and "fifty" can seem like a big number in an everyday context, so we assume that most people who are fucked up are fucked up in fewer shades. Of course, modern grayscale typically renders an image using 256 shades of gray, compared to which fifty is not that many at all. But I digress. 

I can't figure out which is more likely--either EL came up with this dumb line and then said, "Oh wow! I'm a genius! This is what the book should be called," or else she came up with this nonsense title and then waited 16 chapters before finding a way to drop in the phrase. Either explanation is sad and makes my head hurt. 

Fortunately, Ana and CG move on to say lots of other gross things, so I am unable to dwell on this enigma for long.

"If you imagine for one minute that I think you ceded control to me, well, you haven't taken into account my GPA." I smile shyly at him. "But thank you for the illusion."

"Miss Steele, you are not just a pretty face. You've had six orgasms so far and all of them belong to me," he boasts, playful again.

Ick. Let's start with GPA. You know who's allowed to know your GPA? Your parents, if you're a minor, I guess. If you're in college, sure, tell your parents if you want. Who cares. And if you're the valedictorian or someone convinces you it would be a good idea to join some honor society, then yeah, I guess people will deduce that you must have good grades. Or if you're an athlete on a team, people will know that you're maintaining at least a 2.3 because the NCAA takes grades very, very seriously. Other than in these specific circumstances, nobody should ever talk about their GPA and anybody who does is an idiot no matter what their GPA says. 

Also, it's fun how Ana claims that she's smiling shyly while bragging about how smart she is. Hashtag NotReallyShy. Also, it's so obvious that CG is was always in charge and will always be in charge that it isn't worth mentioning, even though she mentions it. 

But look at what CG says! "You are not merely attractive. Your body is also capable of experiencing human sexual response, and has done so six times, all in my presence, and also I own you because boys own girls, at least in my world." What a bizarre non sequitur! "You're smart. Oh and I'm keeping a running tally of your orgasms." 

(Editor's note: I bet there are plenty of women doing this tally themselves, and then complaining about this tally after the end of a relationship. "Christian? Eye roll. Can you believe I only had six orgasms with that dumb mutterblusher? Pathetic. All he wanted to do was lick my toes. Gross, right? He spent like, ten times as long on my feet as he ever did on my low, low belly.")

Hey you know what I want to read? Let me rephrase: You know what I don't really want to read, but hope exists? A sexy book where there's this guy who fancies himself a Christian Grey-style "Dom" who is actually being subtly directed by a much cleverer woman who pretends to be as naive as Ana. I would swear that I were already reading this book were it not for the first person point of view. If Ana weren't narrating herself, I would presume her a clever liar. Ooh! Maybe I can work that into my rewrite. Note to self: what about a book that's just like Fifty Shades only Ana is lying to Christian the whole time. Maybe she borrowed a shitty old car just because she knew doing so would inspire Christian to buy her a new one? This book sounds awesome! "Omigod, Kate! You'll never believe this shit. I told Christian I didn't have a computer and he believed it and bought me a new MacBook! Now back to you trying on the new swimsuits you bought for your vacation." 

Ahem. Sorry. Back on track. Like all vampires, CG has some telepathic abilities so he reads Ana's mind and soon knows that, gasp, she had a secret sleep-orgasm, so the full tally is seven, not six, but that's ok because he was in the dream. Good thing! If you have a sleep-orgasm and there's somebody in the dream besides your boyfriend, that's cheating and you're an adulteress and people should throw rocks at you. Hashtag OldTestamentJustice. 

Here comes another fun topic change: 

"When is your period due?" He interrupts my thoughts.


"I hate wearing these things," he grumbles. He holds up the condom, then puts it on the floor and slips on his jeans.

"Well?" he prompts when I don't reply, and he looks at me expectantly as if he's waiting for my opinion on the weather. Holy crap . . . this is personal stuff.

"Next week." I stare down at my hands.

"You need to sort out some contraception."

He is so bossy. I stare at him blankly. He sits back on the bed as he puts on his shoes and socks.

"Do you have a doctor?"

I shake my head. We are back to mergers and acquisitions--another 180-degree mood swing.

He frowns. "I can have mine come and see you at your apartment--Sunday morning before you come and see me. Or he can see you at my place. Which would you prefer?"

No pressure then. Something else he's paying for . . . but actually this is for his benefit. 

"Your place." That means I am guaranteed to see him Sunday.

I'm sorry that I quoted such a lengthy section. But this part made me feel a lot of feelings. More feelings than the whole rest of the chapter combined, and if things are going to work out with us, I need to be able to be honest about my feelings. 

First, what the shit is CG doing, asking this shit anyway? First of all, he's a vampire, so he'll probably just know anyway because his senses are hyper-attuned to blood. And secondly, don't make me point out how inappropriate CG is being since you already agree with me. 

Second, let's talk about condoms. Can we just all be adults here for a moment, and go ahead and agree that they're not that bad? Probably one of the absolute greatest inventions in history? Simple? Effective? Portable? Available wherever the Pope isn't in charge? 

And if you're the type of sex-connoisseur who's all, "Ew. I have so much great sex all the time that I'm disgusted by the idea of condom sex because it's infinitesimally inferior to non-condom sex," well, fuck you, is what. You're a real asshole, because probably you don't even care that much and are just trying to brag about how much sex you have and I don't believe you anyway and shut up. 

Then, the more obvious: CG is such a prick. "You're the one with the uterus. That's the part that can get pregnant. I'm basically an innocent bystander in this. It's your job to not make any babies. Oh, and also, I'm just going to take it as understood that we're only talking about pregnancy here. No possible way a dude who literally has a sex dungeon could have contracted any STDs." He just throws this out like it's no big deal--this very literal assertion that it is he, not Ana, who is in charge of Ana's body. Gross. 

Also, I want to talk less about condoms in general, and more about "the condom," as in, "He holds up the condom, then puts it on the floor and slips on his jeans." Did he just hold up a used condom and dump it on the floor of Ana's apartment? I mean, probably not, I guess, because that would be the weirdest / grossest, even for EL. But c'mon. All evidence suggests that he just held up a used condom and dumped it on the floor of Ana's apartment. In the last chapter, he had two condoms. Ana removed the two unused condoms from CG's pocket, and placed them on the bed. They used one. So a few pages later, "the condom" can either refer to the fresh condom, or (gasp) the used one. It's completely outlandish for CG to pull it off and dump it on the floor, right? But then he's sitting on the bed, where the fresh condom is likely still hanging out. Why would he pick that off the bed and put it on the floor? Wouldn't he just put it in his pocket? 

Turn the page and we have our answer: 

"I'd like you to stay and use this." I hold up the second condom.

So there you have it! There are two condoms. One is "the condom" and that means "the one that Christian already filled with vampire semen" and the other one is "the second condom" and that is the one that remains enclosed in its wrapper. What type of goddamn barbarian goes around taking off condoms and leaving them on the goddamn floor? Reprehensible. 

Returning back to the birth control conversation: he has a doctor who just goes and does doctor stuff at people's houses? On Sunday morning? A doctor on call for dispensing birth control on Sunday mornings--it's like EL read a lunatic tweeting about the made-up horrors of "Obamacare" and used that as her "research" into the American health system. 

Lastly, it's so depressing that Ana is appropriately shocked by this whole conversation, pretty outraged about it, and then quietly acquiesces. It's not that I want her to do something different, although obviously I do wish she stood up for herself on occasion. It's that I wish more people would acknowledge that this is basically how an abusive relationship operates. Most of the time, Christian doesn't have to make specific threats to get his way. He just creates such a general aura of danger that it never even occurs to Ana that she has a choice. She just goes along with whatever has been chosen for her. 

PS--and then we'll actually move on. When I read CG ask, "Do you have a doctor?" I can't help but change it, in my mind, to "Do you have a gynaecologist?" (Editor's note: CG would obviously pronounce the word in such a way as to make it clear that he had the British spelling in mind, since he is British.) This makes the later sentence hilarious to me: "I can have my gynaecologist come and see you at your apartment."

Next, CG admits to having purposefully gotten Ana drunk so as to be more communicative. "Easier to get your fuck on, too, right bro?"--some other bro. 

CG says no to sex, but it's a very temporary "no." 

". . . I'll have the revised contract ready for you, and then we can really start to play.

"Play?" Holy shit. My heart leaps into my mouth.

"I'd like to do a scene with you. But I won't until you've signed, so I know you're ready."

Are they speaking English? I'm so confused! Why is the word "play" worthy of "Holy shit"? No idea. What does "I'd like to do a scene with you" mean? No idea. 

And how the hell is EL trying to milk this contract-signing for tension? They've negotiated and negotiated and negotiated, and Ana's like, "Fine, I'll do it, but only if I can be miserable all the time and just go along with whatever you want and never really express my own opinions." (Editor's note: Alden makes up quotations sometimes, but he's usually pretty obvious about it.) And yet we still have to keep going through the motions, pretending that this contract is a thing. Pretending that it matters either way. Pretending that a) there's some chance that it won't get signed and b) that CG doesn't just do whatever the hell he wants all the time, contract or no. 

This second part--CG does whatever he wants--is made explicit on the next page when CG declares that he's going to spank Ana for rolling her eyes. 

The only good part about this is that, for once, Ana seems on board: 

His voice is so soft, menacing, and it's damned hot. My insides practically contort with potent, needy, liquid, desire.

But, of course, the more horny Ana gets, the more she makes it sound like what she really wants to do is just destroy a bathroom. I'm talking about the kind of situation where like, they'd probably just burn the bathroom down rather than try to save it. But I guess sexuality is a complicated thing? 

I think I'll spare you the actual spanking because it's kind of not that interesting. Let's pretend, gentle reader, that you're intrigued by the idea of this sort of sexual humiliation. NBD! If that's your thing, that's your thing! Here's why it completely doesn't work for me: I just feel like CG is humiliating Ana on every page, only now her butt actually hurts. So? I mean, yeah, it's unusual, I guess. But Ana does opt in to it, after contemplating running away, so this is as consensual as anything that's happened in the book up until this point. (Editor's note: which is to say, it's only borderline consensual.) My complaint is that there's just not enough contrast between how Ana feels getting spanked and how she feels every dumb second in this dumb relationship. 

I would like to talk about how positively chatty CG is during sex, though. Ana never says anything. She just groans and thinks Holy crap! and puts up with whatever's happening. Let me just share with you CG's chatter from pages 274-275, during and after the spanking:

"Keep still, or I'll spank you for longer."
"I'm just getting warmed up."
"No one to hear you, baby, just me."
"Enough. . . Well done, Anastasia. Now I'm going to fuck you."
"Feel this. See how much your body likes this, Anastasia. You're soaking just for me."
"Next time, I will get you to count. Now where's that condom?"
"I'm going to take you now. You can come."

Now, of course this all sounds much, much worse isolated from the rest of the text, but since that other text is pretty bad too, I feel that while I may be doing these specific lines a disservice, I'm being basically fair to the text as a whole. The only thing Ana quotes herself as saying during any of this is one single "Aargh," the sexiest of all noises. 

Let's all take a moment to imagine how truly, truly terrible it would be to deal with anyone who talked this much during moments of intimacy. Wouldn't that just be abysmal? 

And here, I'm not even talking about what's being said. Just the amount. Everything he says is either dumb and pointless or super gross. "No one to hear you, baby, just me," is something that a kidnapper / murderer says. "See how much your body likes this, Anastasia," is just rapey. Translation: "Your mouth say no but your body says yes so you must really mean yes so here we go!" To be fair, Ana never actually has the sense to say "no," except for that time a few chapters ago when she was like, "You're dumped!" and that was a pretty big "no" that CG totes ignored. 

Let's just cut to this eye-roller at the end: ". . . and my traitorous body explodes in an intense, body-shattering orgasm." "Body-shattering" is a pretty crazy thing to say if we're not talking about land mines. But I do like to note how often EL takes a dumb bit of symbolism, then makes it weirdly literal, which breaks the symbolism. It's one thing for her body to "explode" in orgasm. It's pretty gross, but we've all read worse, for instance, in every chapter of this book. But not only does she explode, but then the orgasm is "body-shattering" and then the sentence goes from "meh" to "wait what the hell?"

After, CG rubs baby oil onto Ana's ass. Oh, sorry--onto her "behind." This is Ana's word of choice for her ass, and it's the dumb, and gets worse every time she does it again. Examples: "I found some baby oil. Let me rub it into your behind." "Christian squirts baby oil into his hand and then rubs my behind with careful tenderness. . . " And later, when she explains her sore ass to Kate: "I feel over and landed on my behind." Let's all agree to keep "behind" as a preposition, ok? Because when you use it as as a synonym for "ass" it sounds like you're an adult talking to a toddler, and it's gross. Just say "ass." Every other word choice just makes it sound like you're trying not to say "ass" and just say "ass" because it's a perfectly reasonable word. (Editor's note: we will also accept "butt" and "booty" but only in very specific contexts. Mainly: the lyrics of songs by New Orleans brass bands.) 

Ana feels good and bad at the same time, which is how she feels pretty much every single moment of this entire book. "I put my head in my hands. I just don't understand." 

CG drives off in his Audi, leaving Ana's Audi behind (Editor's note: heh. Behind.) and making careful readers wonder how, exactly, the extra Audi got there. Probably some type of Batman-style rich guy shit. 

Ana calls her mom. The first time I read this chapter, I thought that CG had spent the night. The way 16 starts, it feels like the pair are waking up the morning after. But this is not the case. That was just a brief pause. Sex, spanking, sex, in short order. Great. But what that means is that Ana is calling her mom at 10:30, PDT. PM! Ten-thirty at night. For reasons that I hope will eventually be explained to me (Editor's note: Alden doesn't expect anything to make sense, though he does sometimes hope for it.) Ana's mom lives in Georgia, while Ana chose to go to a small university in Washington with no particular reputation. It's weird- usually when people skip across the country for college, they do so to go somewhere with some kind of fake prestige. (Editor's note: like the author of this essay, as an example.)

College questions aside, Ana is still calling her mom at 1:30 AM. That is a good time to call your mom if you're in an emergency, or you need to like, pass on an evacuation order because you're up late and and you heard that a tornado was headed to her house and you wanted to make sure she got into the storm shelter. It is an insane time to call up for a friendly chat. Of course, mom answers the phone like this is no big deal, perhaps because mom isn't familiar with American time zones either. 

Mom gives some pretty dumb advice and they get off the phone pretty quickly. Mom must be kind of an idiot, because if my kid called me this late, whining about her new boyfriend, I would assume shit had just gotten real and book myself a flight west. 

Here's some of her advice, though:

"How can you possibly know someone in that kind of time frame? Just take it wasy with him and keep him at arm's length until you decide whether he's worthy of you." 

Ana thinks that this is very insightful, which kind of fits the whole style of the book. People are praised as being insightful and smart and witty when all we get is evidence of the contrary. It's not just that EL "tells" when she should "show." She "tells" us the opposite of what she "shows" us, but that's hardly worth complaining about at this point. 

The only point of this conversation is to dangle the notion that Ana may soon visit Mom. This is what passes for a plot point in this book: a character may decide to visit her mother. The suspense! OMIGOD GUYS! This is crazier than LOST! 

Kate shows up and they drink some wine. This is what clued me in to the fact that Chapter 16 is the same night as Chapter 15. Kate busts out some wine, and I'm like, "Damn! I thought it was 10:30 in the morning! I knew I liked Kate!" But, no. Still the same night--hours after graduation. 

Here's a fun moment--Ana has a rare moment of reflection RE: her terrible relationship: "All the warning signs were there, I was just too clueless and too enamored to notice."

Hey you know what you can do pretty easily when you're a couple weeks into a relationship and you're using the phrase "warning signs"? You can, to borrow an acronym from Dan Savage, DTMA! Dump the motherfucker already! 

Then we get another pretend plot point, this time during Ana's chat with Kate. "The hot news is that Ethan may be coming to live with us after their vacation." Ethan is Kate's brother. This is bonkers though. This suggests that a) They have enough room in their apartment for a third person, meaning that they've grabbed an apartment that's fifty percent bigger than necessary, even though they're newly-minted college grads with no real career prospects. (Editor's note: for evidence, note the fact that the author of this post has far better credentials than either of these ladies, and he also lives in Seattle, and this is how he's using his various degrees--writing this thing.) And, b) that Kate is all, "Oh, hey, BTW, I'm probably adding an extra roommate into our place. That's cool, right?" Try that one at your place, people with roommates! See how it goes!

Here's Ana's next thought: "I don't think Christian will approve." Oh, man. Oh, geez. If you're worried that your new boyf will be weird and jealous about you being in close-quarters with your bff's brother, you should really DTMA, because srsly. That is so bonkers. That kind of person--the kind incapable of dealing with the fact that his girlfriend must interact with other men in order to function in society--should just not be allowed to be around other people at all. You heard me, CG. You should really join some kind of hermitage. 

Here's most of the shitty email that Ana reads on her "mean machine." 

"You are simply exquisite. The most beautiful, intelligent, witty, and brave woman I have ever met. Take some Advil--this is not a request. And don't drive your Beetle again. I will know." 

Do you like how he manages to combine empty flattery with deplorable threats? Fun! He might as well have thrown in something like, "Oh and bee-tee-dubs, one of my weird manservant army guys is watching your place and sending back reports to me." Because I assume that is what's going on. 

They exchange some more pretend witticisms and we get more threats from CG, like this one: ". . . and you really wouldn't like me when I'm angry." 

It's like "50 Shades of Green" right? LOLOL<3
Ana's last email complains about how CG never stays the night, so of course he shows up again like one minute later. At least Kate yells at him a bunch and, sure, I complained when Kate was all, "Oh yeah my brother is gonna live with us" but she totally redeems herself kinda. "Do you want me to throw this asshole out?" I like how she calls CG an asshole and he's right there, and also he's an asshole, so it's not like he can complain about getting called an asshole. 

"I shake my head, and she rolls her eyes at me. Oh . . . I wouldn't do that near Mr. G." Not sure if Ana is actually worried that CG is going to spank Kate because she rolled her eyes at him. Creepy, though!

Kate leaves our heroes to their confusion. CG: 

"Part of my role is to look after your needs. You said you wanted me to stay, so here I am. And yet I find you like this." He blinks at me, truly bewildered. "I'm sure I'm responsible, but I have no idea why. Is it because I hit you?"

Ugh. "Is it because I hit you?" Maybe! Also, look at EL's little "trick" here: "He blinks at me, truly bewildered." She does this all the time. She wants to make it clear that CG is "truly bewildered" but she's not good at writing dialogue or describing gestures. CG's dialogue and gestures, of course, are the only bits of evidence that Ana has for figuring out his state of mind. So EL tries to give us a hint of a gesture ("He blinks at me") and then somehow Ana puts everything together from that, Sherlock Holmes-style. He blinks, so he must be truly bewildered! Really, it's a POV break. Ana knows something that she can't really know. CG has not done anything yet to suggest that he's bewildered, but Ana declares that he must be. Whatever. Nobody ever said EL was good at writing! Oh, what's that you say? A bunch of people said that? Ok, rephrasing: Nobody who knows what they're talking about ever said EL was good at writing!

CG's next trick is to blame Ana for everything. "Anastasia, you can't tell me what you think I want to hear. That's not very honest, "he admonishes me. "How can I trust anything you've said to me?"

Gross. The entire basis for their relationship is Ana doing exactly what CG wants, but now he's going to lecture her for it? Seems fair! He also might as well be saying, "What, you didn't enjoy the stuff I was doing explicitly to punish you? Weird!"

In a rare moment of logic, Ana turns the conversation from How do you feel about me spanking you? to "Why do you like it?" Good question! Because really, somebody better be enjoying this! Ana isn't! I'm not! And Christian is incapable of human emotions. So who's left, really?

"I like the control it gives me, Anastasia. I want you to behave in a particular way, and if you don't, I shall punish you, and you will learn to behave the way I desire. I enjoy punishing you. I've wanted to spank you since you asked me if I was gay." 

Ick. It's like he isn't even listening to himself. "Be honest with me!" "Wait do exactly what I want or else I'll punish you!" "Wait don't do quite what I want because I want to punish you sometimes because that's fun for me." Also, he dodged the question. "I like the control it gives me" is a bullshit answer coming from a man who's in charge of everything all the time. 

They go back and forth, Ana pointing out the contradiction that neither CG nor EL is able to resolve. And the contradiction is irresolvable, so of course they don't figure it out. The problem is that this sort of relationship actually requires two people interested in this sort of relationship. Not that complicated! 

CG returns to his old trick: "You were sexually aroused by it, Anastasia." As in, you just think you don't like it, but actually you do like it. 

CG says that Ana is much more honest and clear over email than she is in real life, which is silly because their emails are always one sentence long and never express anything other than snark. It's like twitter, only just for two people to read. They agree to exchange some emails and work things out that way, which is just another way of kicking the can down the road. "Let's talk over email later on about how we're totally wrong for each other!"

They end up going to sleep. 

Standing, he empties his jeans pockets of BlackBerry, keys, wallet, and money. Holy cow, men carry a lot of crap in their pockets. He strips off his watch, shoes, socks, and jeans and places his jacket over my chair. He walks around to the other side of the bed and slides in.

What a tedious paragraph! What jumps out at me first, of course, is Ana's amazement that CG has four things in his pocket, two of which (wallet and money) are the same thing. Makes one wonder if Ana carries any of these things. Maybe we'll learn next chapter that money, like email, is a thing that Ana has somehow managed to avoid despite being a legal adult. 

But Ana's reaction is just a small part of the tedium. The list of things in the pockets. The list of clothes removed. The exact place that the jacket is left. This is a romance so what we really need is a discussion of how people feel. We don't need this stupid laundry list. We need intent. Is he being particularly slow and deliberate? Is that what this list suggests? Because that would be kind of cool, right? Like, he's going extra-slow because he dreads climbing into bed with Ana because he really wants to go back home to his coffin of dirt from his estate in Transylvania. That would mean something. But, no. In this book, nothing ever means anything. Just a list. Just Ana saying "Holy cow" and then these two obnoxious characters getting into bed and falling asleep.

Here's Ana's takeaway from all this: ". . . maybe I should weep more often in front of him." Groan. There's an idea! Don't find a better boyfriend! Just turn on the ol' waterworks! God I hope that is not where this book is headed although, hey. Probably it is!

And that's the end of the chapter. Spanking, then sex, then feelings, then sleeping, with no hints about the future other than CG demanding that Ana get on the pill and Ana contemplating visiting her mother. Maybe that's the appeal: "This books is just like my boring life, only with a billionaire vampire as my shitty boyfriend, instead of my actual shitty boyfriend as my shitty boyfriend. It's so relatable!" Maybe that's it! Maybe I figured it out: the appeal is that it's an "erotic novel" where nothing happens. And that's why other novels are so unpopular in comparison to this one-- too many things happening. Too much plot and whatever. 

Let's get pumped up for next week, though! It's some more emails! And Ana and Kate move to an impossible apartment in Seattle! Help me pretend to be excited by any part of this before it crushes my soul entirely! 


1 comment:

mkeagle said...

Probably someone has already pointed this out, but "play" and "scene" are very specific to the BDSM context, and would be super familiar to anyone who had spent much time in the community. Which is why Ana's reaction makes even less sense--despite all that Wikipedia "research," she still knows virtually nothing about BDSM, and certainly not enough to be all excited/terrified by two code words. I'm a little surprised that EL didn't take this as yet another opportunity for CG to demonstrate how totes smart he is.

"Play? Like... with dolls?"
He shakes his head, a wry smile on his lips. "No, Anastasia. With... more advanced toys."