Tuesday, September 17, 2013

50 Shades of the Complainist: Chapter 19

Ana and Christian eat dinner at Christian's family mansion.

Nothing real bad happens in this chapter, but its final moments suggest that some real bad stuff might go down next chapter. 

Hey so I watched Pacific Rim starring Charlie Hunnam, whom you will eventually know as "cinema's Christian Grey" and now I think he's fine for the job. He's still kind of too scruffy, but I'm sure Hollywood can descruff him or whatever, so I'll just assume that he cleans up ok and will look good in pants that hang "in that way" whatever that means. What changed my mind is the reminder about one of his tendencies as an actor, both in Pacific Rim and Sons of Anarchy, is to deliver what's supposed to be earnest wisdom in a way that just sounds patronizing and dumb. I can already imagine him telling Ana how beautiful and smart she is or whatever. Based on his previous work, he'll deliver the declaration like he's talking to a six-year-old who just got home after a hard day at school, which is more or less Christian Grey's style. So forgive me for doubting you, Charlie Hunnam. And forgive me, gentle reader, for acting like any of this matters at all. It does not.

Is this a still from Pacific Rim or a weird sex thing? I'll never tell!
This is my way of saying that, yes, EL, I am willing to do a quick punch-up on your script. You know where to find me. My fee? We'll work it out. Probably just a gift card or something.

Moving on! Let's meet the parents!

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. Christian gives Ana a car. Ana and Christian talk about "soft limits" and then have sex. 
  16. Christian spanks Ana and then they have sex. Christian leaves and Ana sends him sad emails so he comes back and sleeps. 
  17. Christian gives Ana a Blackberry. Ana and Kate move to Seattle. Ana goes to Christian's apartment. 
  18. Ana has an appointment with a gynecologist at Christian's house. She's prescribed birth control, and then Ana and Christian have sex-dungeon sex.

Chapter 19 starts, once again, with Ana waking up. EL James makes you wonder, on occasion, if she's not merely over-using a cliché but actually unaware that there is another way of starting a chapter. It's like she thinks that the definition of a "chapter" is "all the stuff that happens between when a character wakes up and next goes to sleep."

Here's how the chapter begins, which also makes me question EL's understanding of the word "kiss." 

Soft lips brush across my temple, leaving sweet tender kisses in their wake, and part of me wants to turn and respond, but mostly I want to stay asleep.

Isn't that weird phrasing? It's like EL thinks that a "kiss" is like, what--leftover spit after an actual kiss? That's how a five year old boy would describe a kiss, I'm pretty sure. Great. Just more evidence that Ana has the sexual maturity of a pre-schooler. 

It takes about a half-page to establish that Ana has managed to actually be awake again, because sex makes her take coma-naps. Then, we get the sort of summary that makes a lot of sense if you think of this as aimless, meandering internet fanfiction, read by fans reading a bunch of different, terrible stories all at once, who might have a hard time keeping them all straight: 

I'm refreshed but suddenly nervous. Holy cow, I am meeting his folks! He's just worked me over with a riding crop and trussed me up using a cable tie which I sold him, for heaven's sake--and I'm going to meet his parents. It will be Kate's first time meeting them, too--at least she'll be there for support.

It's the sort of thing that makes a reader wonder if there was any point in reading the previous chapter, considering it could be summarized so fully in just a few lines. (Editor's note: the answer, of course, is no. There was no point in reading the previous chapter. Nor this one.)

We then follow Ana as she gets dressed. I had a hard time reading this section, because I was rolling my eyes a lot, and if you roll your eyes too much, you can kind of lose track of where your eyes are supposed to be looking, and it can be kind of a problem. You see, Ana's dress and bra are waiting for her, but not her panties, and Ana doesn't know what to do because I guess she's used to having someone lay out all of her clothes for her so she doesn't have to think too much when she gets dressed?

I realize he's done this on purpose. He wants me to be embarrassed and ask for my panties back, and he'll either say yes or no. My inner goddess grins at me. Hell . . . two can play that particular game. Resolving there and then not to ask him for them and not give him that satisfaction. I shall go meet his parents sans culottes. Anastasia Steele! my subconscious chides me, but I don't want to listen to her--I almost hug myself with glee because I know this will drive him crazy. 

I'm a little thrown by this whole section, but I feel like it's further proof that EL has no idea at all what straight men think about ladies and underwear. First, I don't know what the "particular game" is that two can play. I mean I guess I know who the players are, and I guess that the game has something to do with Ana's underwear, but I also don't know what the rules are, or what the aim of the game is. I guess it works like this: "You don't want me to wear panties, Christian? Well, I'll show you! I'll just not wear panties then! Who's laughing now? Me! Ha!" 

Am I interpreting all this correctly? I think I am, which makes me sad. I keep wanting it to make some kind of sense, but then it doesn't, and I just have to keep reading. I'm also baffled by the end of the paragraph: "this will drive him crazy." Will it? Yeah, probably! In a manner of speaking! Ana's not wearing underwear! CG probably thinks that that's super hot! Even I think that's kind of hot and I basically think nothing in this book is hot at all! Seriously. I will now list the things that have been hot in this book to me, so far:

  1. Kate's careful supervision of Ana's preparation for her first big date with Christian.
  2. Kate trying on a bunch of swimsuits in anticipation of her beach vacation.
  3. Ana not wearing underwear this one time. 
That's it! End of list! That's basically one semi-hot thing for every 110 pages! In this book that's filled with chapter after chapter of sex! (Editor's note: the sex only started at like chapter ten or so. But then they just keep having the same sex over and over so it seems like there's way more sex in this book than there is. Because boring.)

But then, at the end of this, it seems like Ana is saying, "I know how to piss of Christian! I'll finally do something sexy! He'll hate that!" And the gross thing is that she's probably right! Probably Christian will hate this and he'll punish her or whatever and be like, "You're bad for not wearing panties after I stole your panties so now you get a punishment spanking which is way worse than the spankings I like to give you just for funsies." And then after that, Ana will be all like, "Ick maybe I shouldn't be with this guy after all!" And I'll be like, "Duh." And then Ana will go to sleep.

That's literally my prediction for the rest of the chapter! I honestly can't remember if I've read this chapter or not. I'm kind of winging it, and also drunk? I could do a variation on that old joke: "Well, I only drink while I write about 50 Shades for my blog so I'm down to like, a six pack a night." I guess that's long and cumbersome but you get the idea, and the idea is this: beer. 

Moving on: CG left Ana a drink. OMG I hope we get a paragraph about this goddamned drink! I'm so curious about the things that Ana drinks!

I remove the braid and hastily brush out my hair, then glance down at the drink he's left. it's pale pink. What's this? Cranberry and sparking water. Hmm . . . it tastes delicious and quenches my thirst.

Ugh. I mean, I know this is a short sequence. Two lines. (Editor's note: it's like four lines in the actual book! Because pagination!) But come on. Do you think that ellipsis is literally supposed to represent the time it takes for Ana to drink her drink? That bodes super ill for this chapter that's about meeting for dinner. I hope I don't have to put up with too much of Ana telling me about every dumb kind of rich person food she eats and sticking in ellipses whenever she takes a bite. It's so very difficult to read a book about nothing.

Downstairs CG is listening to Frank Sinatra "over the surround-sound speakers" because he hates women and doesn't realize that it's dumb to listen to music mixed for stereo over surround-sound speakers. 

Geez. This book is just the same shit over and over. Now we get to waste some time with some more of CG being sexy/menacing. It's like cut-and-paste sexual tension, only it's not that sexy and there's not that much tension, since we know they're about to leave for dinner. Ana is all, oh that's weird that you like Frank Sinatra, but she's totally doing that thing that hipsters do where they're like, "Oh, I didn't think you were into the new Kitten Vacation EP" because they are desperate for you to know that A) They are familiar with the new Kitten Vacation EP and B) They want to insert just a hint of condescension in case they decide it tactically appropriate to suggest later that your taste in music sucks. 

"Eclectic taste, Miss Steele," he murmurs, and he paces toward me like a panther until he's standing in front of me. 

1) CG's taste really isn't that eclectic. He listens to a bunch of operas you've never heard of, and the stuff your dad who hates music listens to. It's a pretty predictable list, really. For instance, I am going to predict right now that CG thinks that "Hotel California" is a good song. I hope I am eventually proved right! 2) If I ever find out that any of my friends in relationships or whatever refer to each other as "Mr." or "Miss," then I will never be friends with those friends ever again ever. And then I'll call someone. Maybe not the police, but maybe like, their parents? I'm not sure whom I'd call, but someone. Is what I'm saying. 3) This "paces. . . like a panther" bit is one of EL's famous modified clichés. Where like, she takes a cliché, and then adjusts it so that it makes no sense. The image she's alluding to is the panther in the zoo, bored out of it's mind, pacing back and forth in it's little confined area, trying to make it clear that it would murder the shit out of you if it got the chance. But actually, CG is just walking over toward Ana. So what's panther-like about that? Anything? No? No. Unless he's on all fours. And has a tail. And is a panther.

I've said this before, but there's some chance that I said it one of those chapters that none of you read so I'm giving myself permission to say it again. It's annoying when authors fall back on cliché to make a specific point that is well-made by the cliché. That's how the cliché got to be a problem in the first place! It worked well for describing a phenomenon, so people kept using that phrase to describe that phenomenon. But what EL does is just kind of borrow the words of the thing, without paying any attention to content. Much more annoying, because typically, a cliché clarifies but feels stale and generic. Not for EL though! A cliché for her feels stale, generic, and yet somehow obfuscates. You get the annoyance of feeling like you've read this shit before, and the extra annoyance of saying, "Oh, wait but what the hell does this mean?"

CG touches Ana's face and she feels it "all the way down there" which is great because it's been literally pages since she felt something "down there" and one of my favorite things about reading this book is continuing to marvel about the fact that even in a book that's all about sex, Ana still talks about her body in the guarded terminology of actresses in a daytime tv advertisement for some hygiene product. 

Next, they dance around the room, which is the kind of fake romantic thing that characters do in poor works of fiction that they would never, ever do in real life. Ana sees "Seattle twinkling outside, a dark and magical mural to our dance." This is fun because allegedly they're still going to go eat dinner. In real life, Seattle is practically the North Pole and when you take the cloudy days into account, it can kind of feel like early evening for like, several weeks at a time. I feel like it's totally dusk outside and not really twinkly, but I guess that's what happens when you write about a city you've never seen? Probably. 

CG keeps hinting that Ana ought to ask for her underwear back, which makes sense. Any dude will tell you that there's nothing worse than a lady not wearing underwear. That's the worst and definitely not super hot at all and I'm surprised that CG doesn't break up with her literally right there on the spot. I know different strokes for different folks or whatever, but ladies, if you're reading this, and you probably aren't, let me assure you of one thing: It's really better to go ahead and just wear extra underwear. Three, four pairs. CG is super bothered by Ana's failure to ask for her clothes back because he thinks it would be way better if she were wearing way, way more. At least, that's my interpretation. 

Ana needs to remind us basically every paragraph that she's going commando, so this is definitely a major plot point. Maybe EL knows that readers are probably skimming, if they're smart, but she still wants this sort of vital detail to get across? So like, it's a redundancy system? Sure why not. 

What was I thinking? I'm going to see his parents, and I'm not wearing any underwear. My subconscious gives me an unhelpful I-told-you-so expression. In the relative safety of his apartment, it seemed like a fun, teasing idea. Now, I'm almost outside with no panties! He peers down at me, and it's there, the charge building between us. the amused look disappears from his face and his expression clouds, his eyes dark . . . oh my. 

The elevator doors open on the ground floor. Christian shakes his head as if to clear his thoughts and gestures for me to exit before him in a most gentlemanly manner. Who's he kidding? He's no gentleman. He has my panties.

Taylor pulls up in the large Audi. Christian opens the rear door for me, and I climb inside as elegantly as I can, considering my state of wanton undress. I'm grateful that Kate's plum dress is so clingy and hangs to the top of my knees. 

Ana reminds us about her underwear three paragraphs in a row. I have not adjusted the context at all; this is exactly how the sequence goes on page 334. It's like a whole page of Ana being all, oh hey, I'm still not wearing panties. In case you forgot. Oh! Hey! Quick reminder! RE: me, and my panty situation. Still none. Carry on. Oh! But wait. One thing I may have mentioned--Ugh. It would be neat if she would quit? Right now? Yes. Oh well! She won't. 

Let's discuss, for a moment, the words "gentleman" and "gentlemanly." I don't know what sort of gesture CG makes and I don't care. What is of interest to me are the sort of gentleman "trappings." Archaic gestures of overstated politeness. Archaic formality. Weird, nonsense modes of address, like "m'lady" or whatever. What I'm saying is that this is the shit that the absolute worst people in the world do. I'm not like, calling for rudeness, or something. I'm just saying that this kind of weird, fake old-timey "gentleman" shit is the kind of shit that men do if they think that women are basically soldiers in an opposing army that one needs to capture using subterfuge and psy-ops. Someone who makes a show of politeness is just a rude mutterblusher putting on a little show. And that's exactly what CG is. Ick.

Taylor drives. Ana rehashes the same conflict she's been working through her brain for the last couple hundred pages. She gets upset when she asks CG who taught him to dance and he says it was Mrs. Robinson, their shared pet name for the woman who did a bunch of sex to CG when he was still a minor. Ana thinks back to their kinky afternoon delight from the chapter before, and this car ride is intolerable. Whenever Ana isn't talking, and sometimes when she is, she just repeats every worry that she's ever had ever. I'm not saying this isn't realistic; I do the exact same thing, particularly late at night when I should be asleep. It's quite realistic. It's just unbearable to read again and again and again. 

I want to be with him. My inner goddess sighs with relief. I reach the conclusion that she rarely uses her brain to think but another part of her anatomy, and at the moment, it's a rather exposed part. 

Are we on the same page here? Inner goddess--the personification of Ana's id, or else maybe a full-on alternate identity--thinks with her vagina, which is also Ana's vagina. Or, maybe inner goddess took off her symbolic underwear in solidarity? Or there's a weird third-person thing happening? I don't know what's going on here at all. But I sure as shit know that Ana isn't wearing underwear! Thanks for the reminder, Ana! 

Anyway, they drive to CG's parents' house in Bellevue. This makes sense because Bellevue is east of Seattle and is a good place for rich jerks to live, so way to get one thing right about the Seattle area, EL! Only took you 336 pages. Everyone is happy to see Ana because CG doesn't introduce his other sex-contractees. Yawn. Also, here are the names of CG's parents:  (Or, I guess, his adoptive parents, who adopted him after he suffered a bunch of early-life hardships that we'll eventually learn about whether we want to or not.)  

Dr. Grace Trevelyan-Grey and Carrick Grey

I don't need to comment further, do I? I'll just congratulate EL for her singular vision. Great jorb! 

Anyway Grace hugs Ana and then  CG's sister Mia hugs Ana and then Kate hugs Ana and then Elliot hugs Ana and then Ana thinks, "What is this, Hug Ana Week?" because she does not understand gestures of affection and also has no sense of humor so it's possible that she regards this as a joke? When you read a terrible book like this one as carefully as I'm reading it, dumb little lines that hardly anyone else would notice become real puzzles. Here's a puzzle: Why "Hug Ana Week?" Why not "Hug Ana Day"? Can you think of any celebration that gets a whole week? Or any designated time that gets a whole week? All I can think of is "Fleet Week." So wouldn't "Hug Ana Day" make more sense? Or is this whole thing so empty and pointless that I shouldn't even be thinking about it? Yes, that, I suppose. Puzzle solved!

Ana spends a minute being weirded out by all the hugs, which is weird, but also kind of makes sense when you think about how CG is. Ana can be forgiven, I guess, for having expected the rest of his family to be on the cold side, too. Then, "Carrick" offers drinks. (Editor's note: we're using scare-quotes around "Carrick" because this has to be a codename, right? Part of some twist to be revealed later, right?)

"Drinks?" Mr. Grey seems to recover himself. "Prosecco?"

Can't figure out what Mr. Grey is recovering himself from, or what it means that he seems to recover himself. But then, I'm writing this the night before publishing it and it's late and I haven't had a drink in a few hours and this is really taxing me. What's this? Beer. Hmm. . . it tastes delicious and gives me the strength to finish this essay. 

But what comes next is great!

"Please," Christian and I speak in unison.
Oh . . . this is beyond weird. Mia claps her hands.
"You're even saying the same things. I'll get them." She scoots out of the room.

OMG SO WEIRD. A question was asked of Ana and CG simultaneously, and they answered simultaneously! With one of the more logical and likely responses! This is not beyond weird! It isn't even weird at all! Imagine, instead, that after being offered prosecco, Ana and CG had both said, "Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!" That would be pretty weird, and also wonderful, but no, saying "please" at the same time as someone else is just the sort of thing that happens to people maintaining a bare minimum of politeness. 

Ana realizes that she was only invited because Kate was coming and CG wanted to maintain parity in the relationship arms-race he's locked into with his brother. Then we learn that Elliot is going to join Kate on her upcoming Barbados vacation. Ana's reaction to this revelation is beyond weird.

I glance at Kate, and she grins, her eyes bright and wide. She's delighted. Katherine Kavanagh, show some dignity! 

Don't get it. Is it undignified for Kate to be delighted? Is it undignified of her to invite her boyfriend along on her vacation? Both sound reasonable to the point of mundanity to me, but what do I know. I'm nowhere near as judgmental as Ana, so maybe I'm doing life wrong. Whatever. 

Ana follows by mentioning that she's thinking about visiting her mom in Georgia, which is delightfully ridiculous. CG, of course, gets super pissed because that is his reaction to everything, up to and including the idea that his girlfriend might want to spend time with her mom. Christian is literally jealous of Ana's mother. And who can blame him! CG can do all sorts of weird sex stuff to Ana, but he will never be able to give birth to her, which kind of makes their whole relationship a waste, right? So sad that they'll never be able to experience that together, and it's kind of selfish of Ana to have been carried around in her mother's womb rather than saving her own birth for later in life so that she could share it with her boyfriend. Right? 

But here's another moment where EL's lack of familiarity with America just gets comical. 

"When were you thinking of going?" His [CG's] voice is low.
"Tomorrow, late evening." 
. . . 
"For how long?" Christian asks, his voice deceptively soft. 
Holy crap . . . he's angry. 
"I don't know yet. It will depend on how my interviews go tomorrow."

One of my best friends in high school liked to say that outrageous events made him want to poke his eyeballs out. This was about as much as we got out of reading Oedipus. But Rob, if you should happen to read this: Fifty Shades of Grey makes me want to poke out my eyeballs. 

Because look at this! Ana is contemplating a trip of indeterminate length, across the country, and she doesn't have mutterblushing tickets! It's like booking a flight were like going to the movies. It's like she's planning on going to the airport, and looking at the marquee where they list all the places you can fly to and when the planes are going. She'll make her decision, and go up to the teenager selling tickets, and say, "One for Atlanta, please." And then the teenager will say, "Did you want Atlanta at 8:05 or Atlanta 3D at 8:35?" And then Ana will ask the price difference, and the teenager will say, "The flight is twelve dollars, plus three dollars extra if you go 3D." And then Ana will choose, pay, and get on an airplane and go to Georgia. 

I also like how nobody else mentions to Ana that she's being ridiculous. Maybe it's because they're all rich jerks. Maybe in an earlier draft, "Carrick" said, "Oh, that's cool. I was thinking about going to Buenos Aires tomorrow night myself, but only if I can get the DVR set right." C'mon EL! We're talking about Seattle to Georgia! Not London to Ipswitch! Take CG's advice! Read the wikipedia entry on America and realize that it's a big country and crossing from one side to the other involves a little bit of advanced planning! Guh. 

Kate gets mad at CG for being angry at Ana. And then Ana reminds us that she's dumb. Maybe so dumb that she doesn't know that Georgia is far away from Seattle either: "Why is she [Kate] so antagonistic toward him [CG]? What is her problem?"

Maybe she's your friend and she's noticed that your boyfriend is a huge asshole who makes you miserable all the time? Oh and also he's trying to control your movement and limit your access to other people in your life, and doing so right in front of her? Maybe that has something to do with Kate hating Christian? 

They have a little fight while everyone else moves to the dining room for dinner. 

"This conversation is not over," he whispers threateningly as we enter the dining room.

Oh, crapola. Don't get your panties in such a twist . . . and give me back mine. I glare at him.


I hope we never have to see the word "crapola" in this book again, but probably we will. EL is smart enough to notice that she probably shouldn't use the phrase "holy crap" on every page, but not smart enough to replace it something better. So instead, she finds an even dumber synonym and uses that. (Editor's note: yes, "crapola" is a synonym for "holy crap." They both mean the same thing, which is nothing.)

They sit down and Ana and CG turn their fight into a little whisper-fight that everyone notices. Kate decides to make it worse by bringing up the fact that José and Ana went to a bar together in a recent chapter, and CG basically announces that he's going to spank Ana later, which is very surprising to anyone who somehow started reading this book on page 341 and skipped literally everything that came before this moment and also doesn't read English. 

One of the Greys' housekeepers brings food out from the kitchen and she has pigtails and she's pretty and Ana knows right away that the housekeeper is feeling some feelings down there about CG because everyone in this book operates like one of those cartoon characters whose hearts bulge out of their chests whenever they see someone who's marginally attractive. 

Here's a paragraph that I should mark in case anyone ever asks me to summarize my hatred of this book using just one example: 

It smells delicious--chorizo and scallops with roasted red peppers and shallots, sprinkled with flat-leaf parsley. And in spite of the fact that my stomach is churning from Christian's veiled threats, the surreptitious glances from pretty little Miss Pigtails and the debacle of my missing underwear, I am starving. I flush as I realize it's the physical effort of this afternoon that's given me such an appetite. 

Groan. This really does cover a lot of ground. We've got
  1. the pointless over-description of the food. We've got all these bland, empty descriptions of characters and their motivations, but then when it comes to a plate of food, EL even lets us know that the parsley is flat-leaf. OMIGOD WHO CARES POKE MY EYES OUT
  2. Ana expressing her feelings by describing her irritable bowels.
  3. the misused words, like "veiled." The threats are completely explicit. They are not veiled.
  4. Ana's hatred of all women.
  5. Ana's tendency to repeat every point of tension ad mutterblushing nauseum. 
  6. Ana flushing.
  7. Ana reaching the super-dumb conclusion that she's hungry because she did so much sex, and not because it's, you know, dinner time, when most of our bodies are expecting to eat or whatever.
Oh and just so you know: "5" was about Ana's underwear and how she won't shut up about it. Just want to hit you over the head with that because EL is hitting me over the head with it and I thought I'd kinda pay it forward for you. Cool? 

Mama Grey has to go talk on the phone because she's a doctor and doctors get phone calls about trivial shit all the time. Just kidding! I live with a doctor! This is not actually how it works! Anyway Mama Grey returns to the table and complains about someone getting the measles because of not getting vaccinated and I'm actually on board with EL on this one because yeah, get your kids vaccinated. And spayed or neutered or whatever all you're supposed to do to kids. I forget. 

But this time-waster is an excuse to tell us that CG had a very mild case of the chicken pox when he was a kid, which is to tell us that the scars he has are not from the chicken pox, which we already knew, because we're not idiots. I wonder if we're going to learn that when CG was young, he was abused and burnt with cigarettes. Just kidding! I don't "wonder" that because it's completely obvious. There's really something remarkable about how this book manages to telegraph its forthcoming twists even though nothing ever happens. How is that even possible? I know everything that's going to happen already, even though nothing ever happens. Enigmatic!

Like this, for instance: Ana starts wondering if CG is going to punish her, and I know that he will, and also that it won't matter at all because nothing ever matters. I guess that's a better way of discussing events in this book. It's not quite that nothing ever happens, although nearly nothing ever happens. The thing is that when shit does happen, it never matters. It's just some shit that happened, without changing any relationships. So yeah, Ana is going to get punished, and it won't effect her relationship with CG because nothing ever does. She'll just keep having the hots for him while worrying about getting beaten by him. Delightful!

Here's a fun sentence: "Perhaps I'll stay in Georgia where he can't reach me." Hey if you're thinking about skipping across the country to stay away from your boyfriend, it's probably a great idea to dump his ass! And get a restraining order!

But of course, Ana wants to double down. 

As we finish our starters, Gretchen [pretty housekeeper] appears, and not for the first time, I wish I felt able to put my hands freely on Christian just to let her know--he may be fifty shades of fucked up, but he's mine. She proceeds to clear the table, brushing rather too closely to Christian for my liking. 

That was the starters?! Does that mean I have to read about a bunch of other goddamn courses before I manage to escape this chapter? ugh. 

Ok so Ana never beats CG or threatens to beat him nor does she try to control his life against his will, so obviously he's the villain and she isn't. But look at how jealous she's being! She's losing her shit because "the help" is smiling at her boyfriend! Maybe these two are right for each other after all! I also love that Gretchen is wearing pigtails. This is very important because you remember CG has a thing for ladies in pigtails! No pedo! But seriously. If CG were to go to a bar with Gretchen, Ana would absolutely be as angry at him as he is angry at her for going to a bar with José. Because they're both wildly insecure and immature. I bet they'd be super compatible on OK Cupid! (Editor's note to self: have the interns start fake OK Cupid accounts, one for CG and one for Ana, and see how compatible OK Cupid thinks they are. So, so glad we got these interns.)

They all talk about Paris and even speak French a little I guess because EL is the sort of dumb writer who uses Paris as the highest possible signifier of culture, and she wants us to know that the Greys got all type of culture. The only thing I really enjoy during this section is the moment when Ana associates Gretchen with an even more complicated epithet: "Little Miss European Pigtails." So we have this whole conversation about how great Paris is, but when Ana wants to be insulting, she calls the housekeeper European. Oh, and also, this is one of those households where the "the help" are European imports. This is very common in the Seattle area. Just kidding. 

For dessert they have "lemon syllabub" and fuck this book for making me learn what a syllabub is. It's "milk or cream that is curdled with an acid beverage (as wine or cider) and often sweetened and served as a drink or topping or thickened with gelatin and served as a dessert" according to Merriam-Webster. Oh, great! Syllabub is some kind of shitty pudding. Whatever. Their whole menu is basically what an out-of-touch older person in Britain might imagine rich people eating. It seems kind of fancy without being contemporary and just doesn't seem right for the northwest. I know I pick some odd things to get annoyed by in this book,  but it's just made so obvious so consistently that EL has no idea what people are like in America, to say nothing of how wrong she gets Seattle. 

Here comes a major turning point: 

I sigh and peek up at Fifty Shades. I could stare at him forever. He has light stubble over his chin, and my fingers itch to scratch it and feel it against my face, against my breasts . . . between my thighs.

This is maybe the most explicitly sexual thought Ana has had that wasn't 1) in the midst of actual sex or 2) in a sex dream, and I applaud it. I assume that Ana is never going to have any real sexual agency, but I appreciate this tiny glimmer of hope. Also, she called him Fifty Shades. I have two reactions to this twist. 1) Mutterblush this mutterblushing book and 2) I'm calling CG "50" from now on. 

After dinner, 50 is all, oh hey let's go outside, and Ana is nervous and worried that 50 plans to spank her. 50 picks her up forcibly and says he's taking her to the boathouse, which is a thing that the Greys have, I guess. And why the boathouse?

"Because I'm going to spank and then fuck you." 
"Why?" I whimper softly.
"You know why," he hisses. 

And it's true. We all know why, at least in a general sense. That's just the kind of shit that 50 does, is why.

That's the end of the chapter. One of EL's many problems is controlling tone. During their previous sexy-time, EL did a decent job of painting Ana as both scared and turned on, and if EL managed to hit that mark regularly, this book wouldn't be nearly as terrible. Instead, EL usually only gets the "scared" part and not the turned on part. Yeah, just as they leave the dining room Ana has one of those intestinal spasms that we've come to associate with her horniness, so it's not as though sex isn't on her mind. But when EL mismanages tone, her tendency is to overplay "scared" and underplay "horny." I feel like there's a word for sex that you're scared of and don't want to have, right? That seems like the sort of thing that we'd have a specific term for, wouldn't we? Well, anyway. It's late, and I'm tired, and I'm going to post this even though I haven't properly edited, and I can't be bothered to look up that word for sex-someone-doesn't-want-to-have. Maybe someone will remind me what the word is in the comments. Maybe it's one of those complicated German compound words? 

Whatever. All I'm saying is that at the end of Chapter 19, it sure seems like 50 is carrying Ana bodily to the privacy of the boathouse, where they will have sex, even though EL is really making it seem like only one of them wants this to happen, and there is probably a word for this type of situation, and I'm trying really hard to remember what the word is, but I just can't think of it. Is it syllabub? No, that's that shitty dessert. 

Either way, we'll get to read about whatever happens in the boathouse next week. 

Ooh! I just had an idea for a new feature!

Remaining chapters: 7
Remaining pages: 168

We can do this. I know we can. 


HaroldTGoldfish said...

Favorite line " and bleep this book for making me find out what a syllabub is"

Alden Eagle said...

Thank you, Harold. FYI: I turned off swear-blocking in the comment section. It's ok to say swears if you want to. See? I do it all the time! Swears, swears, swears, swearing-swear swears.