Thursday, December 25, 2014

50 Shad3s: Prologue


So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
Here's another 50 Shades book
And it's pretty dumb

Oh geez. 

So, here we are. Counting down to the end of the year. Counting down to Valentine's Day and the release of the 50 Shades movie [!]. And now, counting down to the end of our ongoing investigation. 

That's right! There's one book left, and we're going to read it! I mean, you aren't. At least, I hope you aren't. But I am. And I'm going to tell you all about it and you'll be, well, not impressed exactly but you'll be amused, maybe? Or maybe you'll just respect my perseverance. "Well," you'll say, "He sure did do that thing he said he was going to do!" That's right. I am a man of my stupid word.

We're starting this again. I didn't write anything this fall although I did play a lot of music and I think I'm not bragging when I say I went from "total incompetence" to what we might call "regular incompetence" and so I feel pretty good about my sabbatical. But it must end and I hope to write quite a bit more in 2015 than I did in 2014. I'm choosing not to put any of my specific goals into print because sometimes, the more you talk about doing something, the more people you tell you're going to do something, the less of it you end up actually doing. So let's just agree that I have schemes and leave it at that. (Editor's note: Alden actually did write quite a bit in 2014, even if he basically took off the last quarter of the year for reasons of laziness and of being tired of a certain book series.)

The only thing that did kind of stall out was my planned James Bond project. I liked doing it well enough but kept getting interrupted whenever I felt ready to work on a new entry. I have a copy of From Russia With Love sitting right on my desk so what I'd like to do is allow myself to stagger these final 50 Shad3s essays out a little. Take the occasional week off in order to mix in JB or something else. 

One last bit of bizness and then we'll get to the Prologu3 you've been waiting so many months for! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Complainist vs. Dr. No

Dr. No starts off great! It's got this super-sweet 60's-style credit sequence with cool circles and squares bouncing around the screen and obvs the James Bond theme is killer as always. This is the part of the movie where you're like, "Nice! Watching this movie was a fantastic decision! I regret it not even the tiniest little bit!"

You will soon change your mind, however, if you keep watching.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

the complainist returns! the complainst vs. 007


I am not yet prepared to read more 50 Shades so I'm afraid you'll have to wait a bit longer for that. The more you read of EL James, the lower your sensitivity gets, so on the advice of my doctor, I am continuing my sabbatical.

BUT I've gotta put something up here for the international spam robots to read. (Editor's note: we presume that most of our traffic is from spam robots. Feel free to prove us wrong by saying hi or whatever.) So the question is this: whither the complainist? 

Not that long ago I thought it would be fun to re-watch all the James Bond flicks, starting at the beginning. And while I knew I'd seen most of them, I also was pretty sure I'd missed a couple here and there, so why not catch up with the full run?

So I started doing it and you know what? James Bond movies are almost exclusively terrible. Sometimes charmingly so, but often not. Often just regular terrible.

Typical crimes of early the early JB:

  • These plots? They just ooze in all directions. When I was a kid I thought maybe the stories were just complicated and that's why I didn't always get them. Turns out I still don't really get them. The plot feels like it's being made up in real time. It also just sort of feels like JB launches himself places blindly, but always ends up in the right spot based on dumb luck. 
  • I should've put this first: they're even more sexist and racist than I thought they were going to be. I mean, we all know about the sexist tropes like the "Bond girl" but they're weirder and grosser than I recall. And also there's one where JB pretends he's gay so he can catch a villain / sleep with a bunch of ladies. (Editor's note: this is a real thing from a movie! Not a joke!)
  • The action early on is super mediocre. You know how contemporary action stars look all actiony? Early JB just looks like somebody's well-dressed dad. He looks like he works at a bank and plays golf on the weekend. As in, I mean you wouldn't call him out of shape, exactly, but you don't see him and say, "Hey that is a man who can punch his way out of a situation." Because that's not how you see him. You see him and say, "Hey, when I'm fifty, maybe I could look like that. That wouldn't be so bad!" Right? That is not the thing I say when I see Daniel Craig. Also note that I said "fifty." Early JB seems decidedly middle aged. JB basically never seems young, per se. He always seems like his best days are behind him.
SEGUE: that is not how the new movies seem. Full disclosure: I really like the Daniel Craig James Bond movies! I think they're super fun! So I'm not coming into this as like, a pure hater who rejects the whole idiom. And probably I should! Probably I should hate the whole lot of them, but I don't. And can't.

That leaves a bit of a reward for me at the end--eventually, if I stay with it, I'll get to movies that I actually enjoy. So very different from 50 Shades where it just keeps getting worse. Over here, it's going to start out prettttttty bad, but I know that better times are ahead. Sort of a reward for myself, right? That's fair!

Also? I remain a little uncomfortable with my weekly lambasting of 50 Shades. On the one hand, it's a weird thing to do in 2014 because nobody gives a shit anymore. Maybe there will be some renewed interest now that there's a movie forthcoming, but I'm pretty late to the party. And, it's kind of unfair to tear into somebody else's entertainment. Because let's be real: of course I don't like it. It isn't for me. Now, I don't think that that means it should get some kind of "pass" from me or that I'm not entitled to an opinion. But JB is just right exactly in my white man wheelhouse. And that means that I never have to feel like maybe I'm being unfair, or maybe I wasn't supposed to like it and that's why I don't like it. Because I am supposed to like it, and sometimes, I do. 

But these early ones? It is amazing to me that the franchise lasted. It is amazing to me that they made more than like, three of these things because they are rough. Just very, very rough. 

So let's talk about that next!

I think I'm going to try to do this monthly. I don't think that anyone would be interested in reading multi-part essays about these flicks so I'm not going to divide them up. Just one entry per movie. And based on my track record, they're probably going to be pretty long entries and not the sort of thing I could crank out promptly. So I'll try to do one a month and maybe figure out some other things to do on some or all of my off weeks, but I don't know what. 

But anyway. James Bond. First? Dr. No. JB has a super-sweet introductory scene, and then it's down hill from there. Wait the parts before JB shows up come off kinda racist, if I'm remembering correctly, and then he shows up and you're like, "Dope. This is going to be tight." And then it's not. Not tight at all. 

Fun, right!


Anyway. Fingers crossed that I finish up with Dr. No in time to post next week. I might! Watch it yourself if you want! Bad news: it's not streaming anywhere in like, a legal sense? But who's going to tell you not to torrent it or whatever? Not this guy! "Srsly don't torrent it tho," said this guy. "Or do," said this other guy. Ugh. Now you won't know who to trust!

Until next week, though! Dr. No. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: In Conclusion

So, here we are.

First note: I updated my table of contents page, so you might find that an easier way to navigate through these essays if, somehow, you have not read them all. (Editor's note: that's a joke. We know you haven't read them all. We're not judging you. You made a wise choice.)

One time I read a pretty cool trilogy of books, set in the gray north. They were extremely popular a few years ago. The protagonist is an orphan who's been abused sexually and has a cold demeanor and finds it difficult to make relationships with others. She does eventually develop a rapport with a journalist because of course I'm talking about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and not 50 Shades. 

I bring up those other novels because I want to compare the way they work--or fail to work--as trilogies. In both trilogies, the first novel works as a standalone read. I mean. "Works" is a word I'm using in relative terms here--I just mean that in both cases, when you're done with the first book, you feel like you've read something that is complete by itself. And then, in both trilogies, the second and third books run together so much that the division between the two almost feels arbitrary. It feels a little bit less like three books, but rather one short book and one very long book that's been hacked in half for the convenience of its publisher.

But Lisbeth Salander's continued adventures feel logical. She is, herself, a mysterious figure from the beginning of series, and while the first novel in the trilogy is about an unrelated villain, the second and third books are, in part, devoted to making Salander herself less of a mystery. That is how almost all rewarding plots work: there is a relationship between the external conflict and an internal conflict. The narrator must "defeat" herself in order to defeat some external adversary. And in the most compelling stories, like Star Wars or The Girl Who Played with Fire, the villain is secretly the protagonist's dad.

50 Shades is not the most compelling. It's the least compelling. And so the adversaries that Ana Steele faces have absolutely nothing to do with any inner conflict. Her rogues gallery is as follows:

  • Leila, Christian's mentally-ill ex lover.
  • Elena, Christian's most jealous ex lover.
  • Jack, an asshole from Ana's workplace who's jealous of Christian. 
The pattern is clear, yes? All the villains in this series are Christian's villains. With the exception of Jack, who's just some asshole, the external conflicts are driven by Christian's past mistakes. It's also worth noting, though, that Jack's little coda at the end of book 2 suggests that, even though he tried to blackmail Ana into sexual favors, he considers his real beef to be with Christian. So even this villain is repeating a classic chauvinist move--he doesn't give any credit to Ana. In his mind, he leaps over her and considers her boyf his real enemy. (Although, to his credit, he's not wrong to feel that Christian is the one who really matters, since the book asserts the exact same point at every opportunity.)

There's a compelling story in there somewhere!  Here's my pitch: Christian Grey loses everything in a combination business-disaster / sex scandal, and now he has to find his way in a world he doesn't understand, all while being hounded by women whom he wronged on his way to the top.

That almost sounds like something, right? Almost! But our little story idea points to the main structural failing of 50 Shades: the story doesn't really belong to its narrator. Ana is only the "hero" because she happens to be the character narrating everything for us. Nearly every other character in the entire novel has more agency, more drive, more motivation. Ana gets basically one independent action per novel. In the first book, she tells Christian to go ahead and spank her, so that she can better understand his desires. In the second book, she physically repulses an attack from Jack Hyde.

Besides these two sequences, everything is driven by Christian, not by Ana. Ana is at the center of this book but it's just not really her book. It's Christian's story, as narrated by Ana.

I've read some excitement on the internets about the fact that the forthcoming movie version of this mess is a big-budget movie aimed squarely at women that's directed by a woman and based on a novel by a woman. I won't disagree that that's admirable, particularly at a time when Hollywood seems concerned only with paying boys to make movies for boys starring lots of boys with women thrown in on occasion but only if they have butts that look nice in tight costumes.

But we can do better than this, right? I mean, can't we? Can't we do better than a man's fantasy, narrated by a woman, and then marketed as a woman's fantasy? This is really bumming me out.

But hey! At least I'm done with it for a while! Sort of.

50 Shades things I plan to work on in the near-term:

  • Some statistics on a few of my least-favorite of EL's clichés. How many times Ana says "crap," for instance. Or blushes. Or flushes. Or whatever else she does.
  • Remember that sex contract? We should catch up on it! There was a sex contract in the first book. It was the main thing about the first book. Here's hint: they've done almost none of the stuff on the sex contract. But you deserve a more complete update.
  • Fact: the first book is 150,000 words. I bet a diligent person could cut it down to 50,000 without losing anything that doesn't deserve to be lost. I am nothing if not diligent. 
  • I was thinking about writing some alternate-universe fanfic about these characters. Maybe one where one of them is vampire? I dunno. I'm kicking around a lot of ideas.
In other words: don't worry too much. We have a little more to go. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 22

This is it, friends! The end of the line.

Well. The end of one line. So you do have to get off the train here, but there are other trains you can transfer onto but those are different lines. Sorry. Just didn't want my metaphor to sound too dramatic because if you're reading this you probably don't enjoy things that are too dramatic. Again: this is sort of like when you watched The Two Towers and you were like, "Oh man. I can't wait a whole nother year to watch The Return of the King! I really need to watch that third movie to make sure that this trilogy rights itself after the second entry's slight decline in quality!"

(Editor's note: we're talking about the fall-off in blog quality, which we may be able to correct for Book 3. We're assuming that Book 3 itself is even worse.)

Anyway. Before we get to the last chapter--one of the really great things about writing this blog is that everyone I know considers me basically a clearinghouse for everything 50 Shades-related. Cool, right? V. cool. But anyway this is a pretty interesting read courtesy of someone on reddit. The highlighted comment was sent my way and while it doesn't contain any surprises, it did tell me a lot I didn't know about the particulars of Twilight fanfic and how EL used fanfic boards to build up popularity for her terrible book. The commenter also argues, quite persuasively, that EL will never write anything again. I assumed the same, but more because why should she even bother now that she has all the money in the world. The commenter's point is that EL is a product of a fanfic culture in which lots of writers are working through similar ideas simultaneously. Meaning there's nothing to indicate that EL even could sit by herself and write a book without a fanfic community to help generate all the ideas with her.

Glad I'm so clever and original! I never rely on anyone for anything! Oh except for how I rely on the existence of these books as a launching pad for my cheap jokes. But otherwise I'm practically my own island I swear.

Anyway where were we?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 21 part 2

Ana and Christian eat lunch and then go to Christian's house for his party and learn that Kate is mad at them. 

We're so very close to the end! I mean the end of the first 2/3! That's almost the end of the end tho, right? Getting there!

I'm going to have to figure out something else to do for a while now, because I can't jump into the next book yet. I just can't. So I'm open to suggestions. Optimal scenario: I do a couple of different, ongoing things at the same time. I bet I could start in on the third book more promptly if I weren't only writing about it. Like if I had some kind of palate cleanser, too. That's fair, right? I deserve that. I welcome your suggestions.

Also, what should I do about the first book? Now that the movie is a real thing, There's going to be a lot more discussion RE: all things 50 Shades. Last spring I registered for a one-day seminar about how to find a literary agent and get your book published. I paid money and everything. But then I forgot when it was and didn't receive any follow-up and so I guess I missed it. And that is the true story of how I didn't find out how to get an agent and publish a book. Should I just self-publish an ebook? I mean I might as well, right? What's the worst that could happen--I make zero dollars on it? Get this: I already make zero dollars.

Follow-up question: is anyone interested or should I say "willing" to look at any of the ebook version of my essays on the first book? I did try my best to chop it into something more book-like, but I'm sure there are still plenty of repetitive parts and mistakes. It's also 120,000 words. I know right? I'm the guy who wrote 120,000 words about 50 Shades. Oh and a bunch more about this other book, too. That's how I introduce myself at parties. I mean at party. I don't get invited to many.

But wait where were we?

Our story thus far:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 21 part 1


Here's a thing that's nice for me, even in the midst of reading this terrible book: It looks to me as though, somehow, there are people even now finding this blog and starting to read this mess from the very beginning. Thanks! Extremely satisfying to see that even this week, some of the most-clicked essays at The Complainist are the first couple chapters of the first book. Thanks! It's almost enough to keep me going straight into the third book with no break! But not enough. I really, really need a break. But I can at least get to the end of these last couple chapters. I know I can probably!

Our story thus far:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Finally! The trailer you've been waiting for!

I watched it, so you don't have to. Watch it if you want to.

Everything looks awfully accurate, which is too bad, but makes sense. The producers took a look at the numbers and saw that a hundred billion people read the book, so they concluded that there was no logical reason to try to make a movie that would speak to anyone besides committed fans. So they made a movie for committed fans.

I do predict that this movie is going to be better than the book, even though the trailer is pretty bland. Why? Well, I'll tell you. The first thing is that we'll be missing one of the book's biggest drawbacks: unbearably dum narration. Not having to be in Ana's head for two hours will make the movie goddamn delightful in comparison to the book. Oh that leads me to the second good thing about the movie: it's probably two hours long, and it took me a lot longer to read the book. So points for the book!

The only thing present in the trailer that's not part of the book is the shot of CG jogging. The book is so, so talky, and so static, so it makes sense to me that the director was desperate to find some moments where people actually move around besides when they're doing sex. The only time anyone ever moves around in the books is during sex, and you can't put all that much sex into an all-audiences trailer. That's also, I expect, the reason the helicopter and the glider are in the trailer. Both suggest people going somewhere and doing a thing, even though careful readers will note that these are both completely pointless elements. I guess they actually go somewhere in the helicopter but the glider? The chapter featuring the glider is the most pointless in the entire book. It's like a rich-people version of playing miniature golf. Twenty pages of CG and Ana playing putt-putt would've made every bit as much sense.

But yeah- the book is made up exclusively of conversations and sex. The trailer is mostly conversations, with some attempt to make things seem dramatic, but I think the trailer makes plain the book's biggest problem: nothing actually happens.

The trailer does have one huge thing going for it, of course, and that's the next-level great new version of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love." Right? I mean, can I buy that single yet? Like, it's legit so good that you can almost enjoy the trailer if you just don't watch it and listen to it instead and try not to listen to any of the voice of people talking. It's so good that if, somehow? The movie just had Beyonce sounding like that playing the whole time? Or whatever. Just that song on loop for two hours? ALL THE OSCARS.

But in real life that's a four-minute song and they probably won't even use all four minutes of it in the actual film. Hence, no matter what you think of this trailer, you must must agree that the actual movie will be garbage in comparison, because it will have lots of non-Beyonce parts, and the non-Beyonce parts are just going to make you angry.

Am I overstating this? Perhaps! I'm probably drunk (Editor's note: he probably is, sure, but not in a legal sense.) and more important, this terrible book just makes me desperate to enjoy things. The book itself makes me miserable, and the trailer itself is just kinda bland, so anything that's actually good is going to look so good in comparison.

I think, though, that the song itself kind of points out some of the problems with the book, which are likely going to translate into problems with the film.

CG says something like "I exercise restraint in all things," which isn't really true. He's not restrained so much as calculating and cold. So I feel like the trailer is kind of trying to suggest a romance where a couple of characters are "crazy in love" OH SHIT LIKE THAT SONG CALLED THAT! but that isn't really what happens. I guess Ana kinda gets swept up in things kinda? But not really. It's more like "sociopath in love" and that's why the only way to make this movie truly accurately would really be to cast Benedict Cumberbatch and for the director to say, "Hey just pretend you're still playing Sherlock and just do whatever he would do if he were rich and liked to spank people."

But really, you know that part in the trailer where they kiss in an elevator or whatever? That's right after CG says the famous line, "Fuck the paperwork." As in, he kisses her without first having her fill out certain bits of paperwork. That's how crazy in love he is: he kisses a lady who wants to kiss him without having her sign any forms first. This is not a story about two people getting swept away in an intense romance. It's the story of a guy who's a real asshole slowly bullying a woman into doing whatever he wants. The director is wise, though, and is trying to play up the parts that suggest "swept away" and downplaying the whole "sociopath" angle just a little bit.


I should start a kickstarter. "Send me to see 50 Shades so I can blog about it!" I could probably raise twelve bucks, right? Some of you would throw in a quarter, right? I'm sure you would! Sure you would!

Maybe I should just buy the Beyonce single and pretend I'm watching the movie. That'd be cheaper! And also way better.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 20

Yes, you're right:

I'm having a hard time finishing this. Each chapter is getting just a little more difficult because each chapter is getting just a little more worse and more painful. If, somehow, I were reading this for not particular reason other than, I don't know, to punish myself or something, I would quit here. There's no book left. There's no story left. So I'd just say, "Look, book. I get you. I've read enough." And then I would put it down and never pick it up again. Ooh or maybe I'd leave it in the bathroom as a sort of conversation starter, for anyone who steps into my bathroom. And when people asked me if I'd finished it, I would say "yes" and not even feel guilty about the fact that there were a couple of chapters at the end that I'd skipped. Because I've finished it. Let's be real. And if you've been reading along? You've finished it too, in your way.

Let's get through this last little bit, though. We are completists, not just complainists. And so we shall continue.

The primary crimes of this book, I would say, are twofold:

1. Total lack of shape. Or, rather, it has a shape but the shape isn't compelling. It has three "acts" kinda, but not in the conventional sense. I just mean it has three bits that are smooshed together into a single book. We get 1) the part at the beginning where Leila is a big problem, then 2) the middle part where Jack is a big problem and 3) this pre-wedding part at the end that's pretty terrible and features a helicopter crash because I don't know I guess because something had to happen and that's what EL decided to have happen?

2. Everything that happens in this book already happened in the previous book. It's exactly like a big Hollywood sequel where the actors are just kind of hitting the same marks as they did in the previous movie, but with more budget. Likewise, many of the false conflicts in 2 are just sort of "bigger" versions of shit from 1. Examples:

    • 1: CG pesters Ana to sign sex contract. 2: CG pesters Ana to marry him.
    • 1: Ana says no, but José persists. 2: Ana is nearly assaulted by Jack.
    • 1: CG buys Ana a car. 2: CG buys Ana a different car. 
    • 1: Ana is prescribed contraceptives. 2: Ana is prescribed different contraceptives. 
These are just the ones that are easy to remember and pop into my mind quickly. I am confident there are more. What's worse is that often, the characters say something along the lines of, "Oh just like last time" as they are repeating themselves. They know that they're just doing the same shit, which means the author knows she's just writing the same shit, and yet she persists in doing it to us anyway. Ugh. 

I'm not sure if it's just the cumulative effect of the two books that's weighing me down further, but I'm pretty sure, now that we're so close to the end, that book 2 is a lot worse than book 1. Book 1 is similarly shapeless and contrived and dum, but at least it follows a certain kind of arc. There is some sense of momentum as we approach the end and the 'final' conflict between Ana and CG. This is not much praise; what I'm basically saying is that book 1 is better than book 2 because book 1 at least kinda sorta kinda feels like an actual book, at least in comparison to its sequel, which is just a bunch of different bullshit happening for no reason. 

I guess I should repeat a version of a warning that I've warned earlier: don't read these books. And if you should happen to read the first book somehow, DO NO read the second book because it's bullshit and I hate it and you will too. I mean, unless you're into that kind of thing, and if you are, you probably aren't reading this blog anyway and so I'm not talking to you anyway so ugh leave me alone already geez.

But I am talking to you so let's get caught up with our backstory, shall we?

Our story thus far:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 19

Everything is fine and they're going to get married.

I apologize for the lateness and everything.

I went on vacation and I'm all jetlagged kind of sort of, or at least lately I can't stay up until 2 like I usually do so this didn't quite get posted Tuesday morning like I planned. TRAGIC! I am sure that totally ruined your day. But at least you get to read it Wednesday instead! It can fix your Wednesday after I ruined your Tuesday so it all kind of evens out, right? Kinda? Maybe?

Whatever. This is a short chapter so let's get right to it!

Our story thus far:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fifty Shades Shadier: Chapter 18 part 2

I rushed through the last one because of the World Cup and I'm rushing through this next one because I'm going on vacation and I'll be in an entirely different country by the time this is posted. But really, the really-real reason I keep rushing through these is that this book is terrible and increasingly difficult to deal with. It almost managed a little bit of plot earlier--some of the bits with Leila and Elena introduced some legitimate tension into the first third or so. But those situations have all been seemingly dealt with handily, so we're just left to wait for Ana to decide if she'll  marry Christian. EL does introduce some new bullshit at the very end of this chapter, but I'm sure that's going to disappoint.

Our story thus far:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 18 part 1

Ana and Christian look at a mansion and then start eating dinner.

Look I know nobody is reading this anymore. I'm not even reading it anymore. Nobody is, except for maybe my friend Selena who sends me quote-texts that I am always extremely happy to receive because that is basically the highest possible compliment. Oh and also? I mean I'm not going to say I'm drunk because that wouldn't be entirely true but it wouldn't be entirely false either. Because I just watched the US lose to Germany by a single goal and that game started at 9 and what? Am I going to not drink during it? No. I'm not going to not drink during it. Are you following me? I barely am.

What's a bummer tho is that by the time you read this, the US may well have played Belgium and you're going to be like, "This guy is behind the times! I thought this blog was up to the minute!" And it isn't.

Whatever. I'm going to delete all this later probably anyway. (Editor's note: delete all this later anyway.)

Our story thus far:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 17 part 2

Ana gets promoted to Hyde's job. She and Christian meet with Christian's psychiatrist, and then they drive somewhere. 

Guys! I get it! We're all watching the World Cup of soccer, not reading about this book, which is the World Cup of terrible books. I respect that. So please, you know. After the thing is finished and Costa Rica has won it all (Editor's note: we like underdogs!) come back and catch up on Ana and her adventures or whatever. I wrote this? But I didn't like, edit it? So there you go! This is old-skool blogging! No proofreading! So who knows what I said this week! I don't! I'm like EL. I just write it! I don't pay any attention to it!

But at least I got through this terrible chapter! Lucky me! And lucky you! Wait no. None of us are lucky. We're just whatever. Anyway here's this terrible book!

Where were we?

Our story thus far:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 17 part 1

How can anyone do anything at all during the World Cup? I obviously don't know, since I haven't done anything at all. Instead I'll just have to leave you with some bits from the beginning of Chapter 17 that I was working on before the World Cup started. Maybe when this is all done I'll be productive again but I'm just being optimistic. I cannot say for certain.

Somebody sent me a super-nice email about this blog which provided me with a considerable amount of momentum. However, even that is starting to wear off, and now I'm just hoping to be able to post something before I fall asleep. #Discipline.

Wait so where were we?

Our story thus far:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 16

Ana narrowly escapes being sexually assaulted by her boss and Christian thinks it's all her fault. 

Chapter 15 ended with a cliffhanger, or as near a thing to a cliffhanger as we’re likely to ever see in this series: Ana, alone in the break room at work, is confronted by her skeezy boss who gives every indication that he intends to rape her.  Dramatic stuff!

Only, not really. The central conflict, to the extent that there is a central conflict in this book, is the conflict between Ana’s boring life and her new life with Christian. Although Christian is the new secret owner of Seattle Independent Publishing and thus, Ana’s boss’s boss’s boss or whatever, when Ana got the job at SIP, she did so on her own merit. So however things play out at SIP is unlikely to have much bearing on that central conflict between life with Christian and life without Christian. And because Jack Hyde, Ana’s boss, is separate from the central conflict, I doubt many readers actually read Chapter 15 and then worried that Ana was actually going to be assaulted. EL is a terrible writer, yes. But if Ana were to be raped by her boss in Chapter 16, the entire story would be overwhelmed, right? I mean, how could we be convinced to give a shit about CG’s birthday party or José’s plan to deliver photos in the aftermath of a traumatic assault carried suffered by the narrator? 

Right so EL’s bad, but she’s not that bad. She’s not going to introduce something so big that it derails the boring back-and-forth she’s got going between Ana and CG, so when I start reading Chapter 16, I’m not thinking, “Holy shit! Is this actually going to happen?” Instead, I’m wondering how, exactly, EL is going to keep the thing from happening that seems like it’s about to happen. 

Here’s how, after the jump:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 15

Ana's boss gets super creepy. 

Eight chapters left in this book, and then I'm going to take a break from this shit. If it's insane to keep doing the same thing and expect different results, what do you call it when you keep doing the same thing, knowing that it's going to keep being terrible? Masochism?

Whatever. I hate this book and I hate it all the more now that I can't help but wonder what a man like Christian Grey would be like if he didn't have quite so much money, if he couldn't afford quite the lavish lifestyle that's so central to his ability to arrange for women to come and get beaten by him at his convenience. Would he be writing manifestos and posting videos of himself on youtube? Running over people in his Audi? Because let's be real: his wealth keeps CG from looking like an obvious sociopath. It's not fair, but it's true: if your sex dungeon is actually your mom's garage, somehow that looks worse than a dedicated sex dungeon in your billionaire bachelor pad. "Well, he spent so much money on this! He must be safe!" Right? I mean that doesn't actually make any sense but it's also kind of what's happening here, right? It's like the line between "crazy" and "eccentric."

Anyway. I mean we've made it this far. Might as well continue!

Just before I left New Orleans a dear friend and I went to Creole Creamery and took the Tchoupitoulas Challenge. That is, we each tried to eat the entire contents of a bucket filled with eight scoops of ice cream, eight toppings, and something like a half-can of whipped cream. The interior of the place celebrates those ice cream gladiators who've successfully eaten that much ice cream with photos and a plaque. Makes it seem like they really want you to eat all that ice cream! "Please! Gorge yourself on $25 worth of ice cream! Gorge yourself and be immortal!"

But in practice, when you say you're going to do it, the people assembling your ice cream bucket just see you as a future puker they're going to have to deal with, and they hate you the most. They do everything they can to dissuade you from this fool's errand. My friend did it. He ate the entire thing! And thus is a better human being than I am. (Editor's note: He is a superior human being, but not for any reasons related to ice cream.) I failed. I failed so hard and fast that it honestly shocked me. The main problem is this: Creole Creamery makes wonderful ice cream! But when you mix it all together like that, it just tastes like sugary garbage and your body says, "What the fuck are you doing to me?" And then tries to go into a coma so as to keep your brain from making any more mistakes. I'm confident that I could eat two pints--one quart!--of ice cream right now and I'm not even hungry. But you mix it all up like that and it's just goddamn impossible and I had the good sense to quit well before I hit the halfway point because I knew that the people who built my ice cream bucket were right.

I'm well past the halfway point here. I'm staring into this melting bucket of eight-different, poorly-chosen flavors, my body rebelling against my brain, and yet I carry on. Because who knows why.

Wait where were we?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 14

Ana and Christian are sad about things. 

Hey so after I wrote this, Elliot Rodgers murdered a bunch of people because women weren't blushing and forgetting to breathe around him the way Ana Steele does around Christian Grey.

I'd like to say more but I haven't managed to put together anything sensible yet, but I feel like I ought to mention it, particularly since last week, we read about CG's ex, Leila, who almost shot Ana and and CG.

EL James misrepresents the world on basically every page in large and small ways. It doesn't matter that EL, for instance, doesn't understand how popular mac and cheese is in Seattle. But I think it does matter that the big "danger" in this book is an unstable ex-girlfriend. It matters because even though Christian exhibits nearly all the textbook traits of an abuser, EL creates straw-men in order to make CG look better by comparison. José refuses to accept "no" in the first book. And now Ana's boss is a super-creep. And then Leila shows up in Ana's house with a gun.

But of course, statistically, Christian has always been the biggest danger to Ana. Because he's the boyfriend! And it's always, always, always the boyfriend. It's basically never not the boyfriend. Almost all women who are victims of gun violence are attacked by an intimate partner, not a stranger. Women who are shot in their own homes, like Ana almost was, are virtually always shot by a partner or former partner. In the US, three women are murdered by an intimate partner every day, on average. Women get killed by their boyfriends, not by their boyfriends' ex-girlfriends. Women get killed by men.

I bring this up because Christian Grey is exactly what a dangerous misogynist thinks he sees when he looks in the mirror--a clever man who knows what's best for women. A "gentleman" ready to treat a woman like a piece of property--but for her own good! A "catch" who's not like the other guys! No not at all! I bring this up because I find this entire shitty book indicative of a culture that tells men that women are things to be possessed.  And that is a mindset that gets people killed.

We're not starting out with a lot of jokes, I'm afraid. But sometimes this shit just isn't that funny.

There are some jokes after the break, I swear.

On to Chapter 14!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 13

Leila doesn't shoot Ana. Ana has some drinks with Ethan. 

I’m typing this from the bar at a bar. (Editor’s note: meta!) It took me ten minutes to screw up the courage to be the one weird jagoff typing at a computer and I mean, what’s the big deal? All these other jagoffs are looking at their phones, so is it really that weird for me to put my set up my Compaq Presario tower? I mean I had to get somebody to run an extra extension cord, but I really don’t see what the big deal is. 

I worked way too hard at that joke. I’m sorry. I’m just trying to kill some time before I have to start in on this chapter. Because let’s be real: it starts with one of the absolute most terrible starts of all time. I mean check this out: 

Holy fuck.
She’s here, gazing at me with an unnerving blank expression, holding a gun. My subconscious swoons into a dead faint, and I don’t think even smelling salts will bring her back.

Right? I mean look at that. Do I even have to say anything about it at this point? I don’t, right? You’re right there with me. I mean here’s my one question: who administers the smelling salts to subconscious? Inner goddess? I don’t even know what’s happening anymore.

So, let’s talk about what’s happening anymore:

Our story thus far:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 12 part 2

Ana goes back to her apartment and Leila is there with a gun. 

The other day, I took a call at work and helped someone make a tour reservation. Pretty often people inquiring about tours will describe their party like this: "x adults and y children," perhaps presuming that the children will receive a discount. They will not! Because that would encourage more of them to attend, and perhaps create the false impression that the tour is aimed at children, and it isn't.

The reason I bring this up is as follows: I let the caller know that the tour is recommended only for children ages seven an older, but that that was a recommendation and not a rule. But in the midst of a busy day, hurrying through this explanation, I now realize that rather than using the perfectly good word "rule" I used the 50 Shades nonsense phrase "hard limit" and I find this deeply embarrassing. Fortunately, there's still some chance that the caller hadn't read the book, and even if she had, there's that chance that she might've given me the benefit of the doubt and thought to herself, "Oh, there's no way that this nice man answering the phones at a chocolate factory sees any connection between this simple phrase and Ana Steele, Seattle's most famous fictional resident."

Fingers crossed! is all I'm saying.

So. We're nearly halfway through this book, and, by extension, halfway through the trilogy. We're going to get a bit of movement in one of our subplots at the end of this chapter, but let's be real: Leila is a subplot. She didn't even appear in the first book, except for in the form of a few words in a hushed phone conversation in the final chapter. The resolution we seek is between Ana and Christian--we want them to either break up, or we want CG to stop being such a dick. Halfway through this mess, he's ceased to be a dick all the time but is still a real dick lots of the time, and I see no evidence that he'll ever totally change his dickish ways.

But whatever--I bring this up because even when EL does some things that feel like plot, it's not really plot, because it has nothing to do with the Ana's character, and she's the protagonist. It's just some stuff that happens while she happens to be in the neighborhood. Plot, if it's any good at all, has to have a specific relationship to our protagonist. The best plots resonate with the weaknesses of a protagonist and give the protagonist an opportunity to grow in order to overcome those weaknesses. Ana has so many weaknesses that I think she might just be a lost cause. Oh well!

So where were we?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 12 part 1

Elena stops by and later Ana and Christian have sex on a piano. 

So. Let's get real for a minute. Google tells me that I'm getting something like 100-150 reads of all these posts and that's not terrible but it's also not particularly impressive. More people could be enjoying this nonsense, I believe, if they knew about it or whatever.

So: if you're reading this, please do me a favor, because I am quite literally posting this on my birthday and you're supposed to be nice to people when it's their birthday. Here is the favor: tell someone else about this blog. 

Doesn't have to be big. Put it on your facebook or your twitter or your myspace or your hashtag or your linkedin or whatever thing you do. And maybe someone else will read it and they'll think it's funny and also we'll have helped some more people decide to never ever read the actual book. Because that's what this is really all about: bringing down EL James evil empire. If we're not careful, the movie versions of this mess will end up in actual movie theaters, and quite possibly bring civilization to a standstill with their terribleness. We are basically all that stands between society and anarchy, so if it isn't too much of a bother, post a link somewhere, and send a little traffic my way.

I'm tired of seeing that all of my hits are courtesy of Chinese search engines because I expect that that's some kind of weird accident, right? Or like, a few nights ago, half of my hits were from the Ukraine and that doesn't make any sense, right? It can't possibly be true that I have anything like a Ukrainian readership, can it? (Editor's note: please prove us wrong in the comment section below, dear Ukrainian readers!)

That wasn't so hard, was it? Thanks!

I should note that you don't necessarily have to send your friends to this particular chapter because even if you've been following along, this chapter makes little sense and is terrible. This is another one of those chapters that's going to be basically totally pointless. We're going to introduce some new nonsense related to Christian's first ex--Elena--and we're going to have a "cliffhanger" ending featuring Christian's most damaged ex--Leila--but mostly this is just padding. I'm really looking forward to telling you all about Leila because for real: it's super obvious where EL looked for inspiration when she was writing Leila's scenes:

We swears to serve the master of the precious.
Yeah that part is going to be super fun! I swears! Well. Kinda fun, sort of. Any excuse for me to talk like Gollum is a huge bonus for me. Maybe even enough to get me through the next couple chapters! Small victories. Small victories.

So where were we?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 11

Ana goes back to work and her boss is creepy and her boyfriend stalks her all day.

So earlier I was dividing up these chapters into parts pretty consistently. The sequel, you see, is even longer than the first book, which was itself almost impossibly long. (Editor's note: try as we might, though, we haven't been able to track down a word count for 50 Shades of Grey. Shadier is about 159k which makes it a pretty long book. As in, it's longer than most books any of us have read. The first books is somewhere in the neighborhood of 150k. FYI: our analysis of the book checks in at about 125k because we are thorough.)

But, when so little actually happens, that allows me to condense just one of these super-long chapters into one quick essay. I think I'm paying less attention to the prose as we go along because it's just all the same dumb problems again and again. EL isn't improving as she goes. I'm just not worrying as much about it or bringing it up that often because why bother?

Well. We're off to a pretty depressing start, aren't we? Kinda. I'm finishing up a writing class in which I was supposed to write a complete first draft of a novel and I totally didn't. I wrote a lot, which I find pretty pleasing, considering I kept up my schedule here more or less. But I didn't write a novel. I just wrote a bunch of words about stuff and nothing much happened.

But you know what? I know how good books work, and so I'm not sharing any of that project with you. Because I'm not going to just take a terrible non-story and add in a bunch of redundant sex scenes because I respect you too much for that, gentle reader. Anyway I'm in kind of a bad mood about that so I can't wait to just really torch chapter 11 with some sick burns.

Now just to look over at the first page and oh shit. I'm sick of it already. Ugh. I started with such promise and enthusiasm, too. Damn.

This chapter is, on the one hand, super dense with "stuff" but of course, almost none of it matters at all. Basically, it's just a lot of Ana being mad about Christian stalking her while she's at work, and then they make up when she gets home. The only other part of note is that Ana's boss is super creepy, which is extra obnoxious because it kind of "proves" that CG was right. He's still not justified in monitoring every little detail of Ana's life, nor is it reasonable for him to dictate what she can and can't do. But because CG's stated reason for stalking Ana--Jack's creepiness--is an actual fact, CG kind of ends up looking better than he deserves. Gross. But yeah--nothing is going to happen in this chapter. The only thing that "matters" at all is that Jack outs himself as a creep, whereas up until this point, he was just a dude who gave Ana kind of a weird vibe. Scintillating!

Our story thus far:


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 10

There's just no way I could read this thing if I weren't writing about it. There's just nothing at all in this thing to keep me turning pages. A simple definition of a plot is a series of events with a causal relationship. A "story" can just be some stuff that happened but a "plot" has to have some connective logic, which this book completely lacks. It's just some stuff that happens, and it isn't interesting. You know that. I tell you every week. But I just need to keep reminding you, gentle reader, what a favor I'm doing you here because this thing really is a disaster. It gets very hard, sometimes, not to just skip an entire chapter.

For instance, I started looking at Chapter 10 and it looks like it's about nothing at all. It looks like it's going to be every bit as empty and pointless as Chapter 9 and I don't know if I can endure two chapters wasting my time quite this thoroughly in two consecutive weeks. Wish me luck!

Where were we?

Our story thus far:


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 9

Ana and Christian buy a car and ride a boat. 

How exciting! A chapter so boring that we can cover it in but a single week! That's pretty impressive, right? Not really, I suppose. It's also certainly possible that I'm just getting tired of this thing, and that's why I'm moving along more quickly. The whole point of this was to talk about terrible prose, but EL just kind of repeats her terrible moves over and over again, so at a certain point, it stops being very entertaining for me to just make the same complaints again and again. I mean, it isn't like EL is listening to me, so I might as well just do what's entertaining to me, right? Sure.

This is perhaps the most obnoxious chapter of the entire series to date. There simply isn't any narrative tension. There is no sense that this thing is moving anywhere. An anecdote is some stuff that happens, but a plot is a series of connected events. This chapter is all anecdote. I almost can't believe how empty and pointless it is, but then, I've read the previous chapters and the previous book, so, yeah, I can believe how empty and pointless this is.

So where were we?

Our story thus far:


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 8 part 2

Ana and Christian go to a hotel so that they can avoid Leila. They have sex there and Christian tells Ana that he loves her. 

I'm trying to improve my writerly discipline by taking a class at Hugo House which is a Seattle writing center. It's possible that I have damaged my skills in some way by reading this terrible book, as evidenced by my classwork. I'm supposed to be writing a novel but mostly I'm just using my story's narrator as a conduit for my complaints about working in customer service. Also I keep thinking up different pointless phone apps that I'm pretty sure don't actually exist and largely ought not to, but I keep including them in the story too. I don't really know what my problem is. I know part of the problem. I go a little off the rails whenever my medical consultant is scheduled for night shifts. Things get pretty weird around Complainist HQ during these times. Really not pretty. Oh except for how I just eat pho all the time. That part is great!

I wrote that paragraph because I figured everyone was super curious about what I might be up to. Do you think it's weird how often I use the word "super"? I do and also I've stayed up too late and have gone a little off the rails. See previous paragraph. 

Wait what were we doing again?  

Our story thus far:


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 8 part 1

Leila breaks into Christian's apartment so Christian and Ana leave for a hotel. 

So if the previous book was about the immediate problems caused by a Ana's relationship with Christian, this sequel introduces the reader to additional, unsurprising reasons that Ana ought to run away. Because, you see, the trouble is not just with Christian. It makes perfect sense that someone as unstable as Christian has a series of even less stable skeletons in his closet.

But wait! We get a strange alchemy. The young lovers face a number of problems, all of which were caused by Christian alone. Now logically, this should push our heroes apart. But instead, so far, it's bringing them closer, despite all the evidence that Ana will become just the latest link in a long, disturbed chain if she doesn't get away. Ana largely absolves Christian for the role he's played in causing all this trouble. He is, after all, the common denominator across all of Ana's problems, but Ana is quick to regard him as the victim rather than the instigator. She continues to follow him, knowing that he's treating her basically the same as he's treated the women who now threaten her. 

And what're we to do? Stick around for the ride, I guess! We do see a gun drawn in this chapter. Now, the rules of drama demand that it get fired, but this is fan-fiction, not drama, so I don't know if the gun is ever going to fire or not. I do know that I hope this just dissolves into a series of dumb action sequences. I don't think anything could improve this book, but I would like to move from one version of inanity to another for a while. Y'know. Just so I have a break. 

But hey where were we?

Our story thus far:


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 7 part 2

So, my computer died. I'm using it again, to type this very sentence! So I guess it's undead now? A zombie? And my backup habits were poor. You might think, gentle reader, that we've reached the point where people just don't have poor backup habits anymore. The point where people don't even have to really have their shit together because they have machines to keep their shit together and they don't even have to think about it.

You'd be wrong, though. I feel dumber than you can possibly imagine. And yet, I still see this status update from somebody basically every week: "Lost my phone, guys, so can everybody please message me your number?" That is the only thing that keeps me feeling semi-sane about the fact that I had to restore my computer with a backup that was several months out of date. Months! Downright criminal. I'm only sharing this with you, gentle reader, and this is pretty personal stuff so please don't tell anyone. Got it? Thanks.

It couldn't have happened at a worst time, since now I'm taking this class that swears that I'm going to write a novel in 5 weeks. And maybe I will. What am I paying for, really? Pretty much I'm just paying to make sure that there's a group of strangers who will know if I don't write 1,200 words a day like I said I would. I'm paying for a shame-mechanism.

Which, to be fair, I think is worth it. I no longer have a shame-mechanism. It's not like I get desperate emails when I don't publish this on time. It's not like anyone knows whether I'm writing anything or not, or particularly cares. That must be some indication of the trouble I still have in my new, northwest life. I have to pay money so that strangers will ask me whether I'm doing any writing or not. I'm sorry. I'm in a terrible mood because of this computer thing? And for reasons general? And also because I just listened to George Saunders talk about writing and he's just a mutterblushing charmer and his thoughts on writing hit me at just the wrong time and now I feel like maybe I should just never write anything ever again. But then what would I do? I don't know! Netflix?

Is that enough of that? I suppose so. Let's rejoin our heroes. When last we saw them, Christian had just gotten finished buying Ana at an auction, and he was competing with some mystery man. Then they retreated to CG's childhood bedroom to do it. (Editor's note: by "it" we mean sex.) And there on his wall was a mystery photo of a mystery woman so we've got two mysteries! OMG WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE and also who cares.

And then, they return to the party.

But let's do that thing where we catch up all the way, shall we?

Our story thus far:


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 7 part 1

Ana gets auctioned off to her own boyfriend and then they have sex in his childhood room. Ana gets spanked but this time she kind of wants to be I guess? 

Guys: I didn't finish my homework.

That's pretty terrible, right? Not completing a task scheduled for completion at a certain time for arbitrary reasons? I do feel bad about it. I know there are literally seven or eight of you who probably noticed this delay and probably said to yourself "Huh," before figuring out some other thing to look at for five minutes while trying to ignore everybody else in the break-room or doctor's office or sex dungeon or wherever.

I decided on Tuesday as the publishing day because that's the day that new books come out and in my hubris I imagined one day being one of those people who'd have his name on a book on new-book Tuesday. But Monday is sort of my Friday so maybe I should just give up and move everything on over to Wednesday. Whaddaya think, Wednesday? Are you prepared to be the host of weekly five-thousand word screeds about terrible novels that the world has already basically forgotten about?

I'll wait and see if Wednesday gets back to me before making any decisions.

So where were we?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 6 part 2

Ana and Christian go to a charity auction and Ana buys a weekend at one of Christian's houses. 

Well. Mardi Gras was a fun opportunity for me to not think about this terrible book for a while, but that's all over now. We are into the Lenten season, and that means I have to like, give up my vices or whatever and buckle down and focus on the task at hand: getting through this terrible novel.

Expect fewer block-quotes because the website I was copying all the block-quotes from seems to have been shut down. It was convenient for me to copy and paste but I guess I can't really complain. My whole mission is kind of to catch people before they decide to  read 50 Shades so the disappearance of a website where the books were available for free is basically right in line with my goals.

It's kind of appropriate that we're talking about masked parties and stuff, right? Since Mardi Gras just happened? Just so you know, there are lots of Mardi Gras "balls" and I don't know anything about them because they're the things rich people go to and they sound like kind of a drag. I'm going to assume they're not as bad as this terrible party that Ana and Christian are about to go to, because it's just kind of the worst. Are you so surprised? No? Ok good. Because I'm not going to lie. I just got back from vacation and I'm going to kind of rush this. I had only like, nine views the other day? And that's basically none. That's like a rounding error. It might've really been zero. It's not very many, is what I'm saying. So I gotta get my act together and publish something so here's what I'm publishing: The rest of Chapter 6, in which our heroes go to a party. Yawn. 

Wait where were we?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 6, part 1

Ana and Christian have sex and get ready for a party. 

I have some bad news to share with you.

Here's what's happening: I haven't been reading ahead for a couple of weeks. I don't know what's going to happen except for in the most general way, since I haven't read this whole book but I have read some plot outlines. Hence, I thought that the end of Chapter 5 was suggesting an implied sex scene, and that we'd start Chapter 6 right after its conclusion.

I was wrong. Chapter 6 starts with a quick trip to Sexville, Population: 2. So that's what we're starting with today. I don't like that any more than you do. I probably like it less! You, after all, might be able to derive some kinky pleasure from my suffering, but I'm just here, suffering. Oh well. We've endured worse.

Oh and here's another thing:

My medical advisor asked me today why I highlight text the way I do rather than doing block quotes like a sensible person. And I said "because I don't know how to do block quotes like a sensible person" and then she said, "I bet if you hit that button there with the big mutterblushing quotation mark icon it'd make block quotes ya dumb idiot." And so of course it did and now I know how to make block quotes and also I learned how to be even more embarrassed about myself. (Editor's note: Our medical advisor may have phrased things much more gently but we don't remember. We were too busy being embarrassed.) So that's why this week's entry is a mix of highlighted text and block quotes. You can pinpoint the exact point where we learned the error of our ways! The highlighting reportedly doesn't transfer well if you're reading this via an RSS reader, so I'll switch to more traditional quotations entirely next week.

Also, next Tuesday is Mardi Gras so we may post something but Mardi Gras is a time for enjoying life and this book interferes with my enjoyment of life so, vacation!

But before that? Work! Where were we?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fifty Shades Shadier: Chapter 5 part 2

Ana and Christian go to Christian's house. Ana draws on Christian with lipstick. 

When last we saw our heroes, CG had just finished carrying Ana around downtown Seattle while simultaneously spanking her. That was pretty gross. Then EL displayed some woeful unfamiliarity with American gun culture. See, EL thinks that you get a concealed weapons permit, and then you get a gun. If you're dangerous and unstable, you probably just get the gun, right? Probably. But anyway. I guess we can't assume yet that Leila has a gun. She's maybe the most polite, Washington-style gun owner ever, and is going to get a bunch of permits first and then maybe get a gun later. But hey. A gun has entered our story. So probably somebody is going to get shot. I know I've got a particular "somebody" in mind I'm hoping for, but I will not tell you his name because I am superstitious like that.

But where were we, exactly?

Our story thus far:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 5 part 1

Ana storms out of the hair salon because she's jealous of Christian's ex-lover, Elena. Christian carries Ana around for a while like he's a goddamn Viking and she's the spoils of war because he's worried that a different ex-lover, Leila, might be armed and dangerous. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must inform you 50 Shades Shadier is both easier to read than its predecessor and more frustrating. It's easier to read because the occasional thing actually happens. Ana and Christian worrying about CG's ex-lover Leila is more plot that we got in the entirety of the first book, and we're only a handful of chapters in. And, eventually, Jack Hyde over at Ana's publishing company is going to turn into a plot point as well. He hasn't yet. He's sort of a proto plot point. Great! When you're writing a book it's a good idea to have some kind of plot.

But CG is continuing to make Ana miserable most of the time. He's terrible to her and infantilizes her at every opportunity. So Shadier is a book that presents us with a central conflict (Ana vs. Christian) but displays no curiosity about it. EL seems to think that we ought to become invested in the side story and forget about the main conflict. Or maybe she doesn't even realize that there is still a central conflict. I'm not sure how that could be possible! Once again, Chapter 5 sees CG utterly ignoring clear requests from Ana because he knows better or whatever. Ugh. It's a bit like the government taking every opportunity to say "The terrorists are out to get you! So don't worry that the bank is booting you out of your house! Worry about the terrorists!"

Here's another thing about Leila. Leila, who was once in a Dom/sub relationship with Christian, is a pretty good representation of how EL wants to have it both ways when it comes to BDSM. On the one hand, EL wants to write (bland) sex scenes involving improvised restraints and a few modest signifiers of kink. Fine. Whatever. Enjoy! She wants the trappings of the lifestyle, but she makes sure to let us know that everybody who actually enjoys the stuff is diseased. CG only likes to tie people up because he was abused as a child. And Leila--we don't know exactly what she's into? But we know that she suffered some kind of mental break and now is insane. 

So basically, Ana is magic. Via the power of her (relative) virginity she is able to handle CG's sexy-times, even though the power of his sexiness would surely ruin a "regular" lady! Only she can endure! Because she isn't really that into it anyway. Am I making sense? Leila is just going to serve as another bit of "proof" that Ana is special and that anybody who likes kinky stuff must be a dangerous maniac. 

And that's why this book is also kind of worse than the previous one. Shocking!

Our story thus far:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fifty Shades Shadier: Chapter 4 part 2

Ana and Christian fight about money, eat breakfast, and then go to a hair salon where the woman who introduced him to BDSM works.

This weekend I'm attending a seminar about how to write a proposal for a non-fiction book and I'm feeling increasingly silly about it. The instructor asked for a one-sentence explanation of the book everybody wants to write and I haven't done it yet because this is the book I want to write. I already wrote it, really. It's long as hell! The current draft of my readers' guide for 50 Shades is like 120,000 words! That's not as long as the actual book, but it's book-length. Maybe I could've intrigued some publisher if I'd done this a couple years ago but really I think it's just too late, right? And I'm taking a day off from work for this! Whatever. Maybe it'll teach me how to write some different book. I can write my memoir. That's what you all want to read, right? Kinda? Great.

Two posts this week. It only seems fair to publish the end of Chapter 4 now because there really isn't much of it left. Mainly just CG and Ana having awkward conversations, followed by one little bit at the end dropped in to set up the next chapter. Yawn. Oh well! Here you go anyway!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fifty Shades Shadier: Chapter 4 part 1

Ana and Christian eat some food and have more sex and then talk about Leila, one of Christian's ex-lovers, who may be stalking Ana. 

Stray thought:

I'm watching this tv show called The Following about this English professor who leads a murder cult. Anyway the murder professor is played by James Purefoy who's a British actor and the more of the show I watch, the more convinced I am that Purefoy would be a perfect Christian Grey. Yes, I know CG is supposed to be 27 or whatever, but everything Purefoy does in The Following fits CG super well. I think they should hold off on the movie and just put Purefoy in instead of whatever young guy they signed up.

This even looks like a scene from our book, right? I mean, minus the hoodie. Christian Grey doesn't ever wear a hoodie I don't think. Yes, I do think it's creepy that I'm watching this show about a murder professor and thinking, "Hey you know what? This is really making me think of Fifty Shades." Oh well!

Back to our heroes!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 3 part 3

Ana and Christian have sex again.

Sometimes when I'm reading a particularly good book, I feel like I have to hurry through it, as though its characters might proceed without me while the cover is shut. With Shadier I feel the opposite. I return to, disappointed to find Ana and Christian precisely where I left them. If only something would've happened to them while I wasn't reading! But no. Nothing. Still boring. Still up to nothing.

Let's catch ourselves back up to speed, shall we?

Our story thus far:

Ana is a naive college student who dated a billionaire for a couple weeks but broke things off with him because he spanked her too hard.
  1. Ana starts her new job at a publishing company and agrees to let Christian give her a ride to José’s art show. It turns out they both miss each other or whatever.
  2. Ana and Christian eat steaks at a restaurant. They rekindle their “romance” and Christian says that they won’t have to have rules anymore and he won’t punish Ana. They drive back to Seattle and Christian gives Ana back the expensive gifts that she'd returned to him when they broke up, along with a new iPad.
  3. Ana goes to work. She is confronted by one of Christian's ex lovers on her way out for drinks with her coworkers. Christian picks up Ana from the bar, and then they venture to a grocery store so that they can cook dinner at Ana's house. 

Isn't that depressing? I feel like I wrote a lot last week, but what happened? "Christian picks up Ana from the bar, and then they venture to a grocery store so that they can cook dinner at Ana's house." That's it? That's it! That's it. And what's worse: I didn't really even get us out of the grocery store. So I guess let's go back to the grocery store! Fun!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 3 part 2

Christian picks up Ana at the bar near her workplace and then they go to her condo and then they buy groceries.

As you will understand, thanks to the lateness of this post. I'm not sure that I can manage this twice a week schedule. I like the idea of covering a chapter a week, if only because that gets us to the end faster, but if I'm to maintain this level of rigor, I might have to slow down. The chapters in Shadier are longer than those of 50 Shades and also, you haven't really been talking up this blog with your friends in publishing, and as a result, I still have some day jobs that I must attend. Hence the lack of a Friday post last week. (Editor's note: also the Tuesday post was completed with more haste than we usually prefer, too.) 

Nothing to do but struggle on, though! Well, that or quit, which would be sensible. But we have never been accused of being sensible! So, we carry on. We will have, I expect, one post again this week, but may find ourselves able to return to a faster schedule as time goes on. I should mention, though, that the presence or absence of Friday posts does little to affect my overall tally of clicks for the week. In case you are wondering, my average is something like fifty, though I do have exceptional days which can vary widely in either direction. Also, I should definitely mention that mostly what I get are "false positives" from spam robots. If anyone is smarter than I am and knows how to remove these spam robots from my blogger statistics, I would appreciate the advice. I hate logging in, seeing that I got a bunch of new reads, and then seeing that they were, in fact, all spam robots. Boo.

Our story thus far:

Ana is a naive college student who dated a billionaire for a couple weeks but broke things off with him because he spanked her too hard.
  1. Ana starts her new job at a publishing company and agrees to let Christian give her a ride to José’s art show. It turns out they both miss each other or whatever.
  2. Ana and Christian eat steaks at a restaurant. They rekindle their “romance” and Christian says that they won’t have to have rules anymore and he won’t punish Ana. They drive back to Seattle and Christian gives Ana back the expensive gifts that she'd returned to him when they broke up, along with a new iPad.
  3. Ana goes to work. She is confronted by one of Christian's ex lovers on her way out for drinks with her coworkers.
Let's see how Ana is doing at the bar, shall we?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 3, part 1

Ana is confronted by one of Christian's former lovers.

Just so you know, I'm aware that a lot of these posts seem nit-picky. I know that you may read some of my complaints and say, "What's the big deal? EL James doesn't understand iTunes? Fine. Who cares?"

And yeah. Does it matter that EL doesn't understand that the songs on Ana's new iPad are available to her for use on her other devices? No. No writer is going to get every little detail right in a 1,500-page trilogy. And even if a writer were to get everything right about these little technical points, that's the sort of thing that won't matter in a few years anyway. So, for instance, Ana's excitement about the iPad already seems a little silly now that the things are everywhere. The fact that EL doesn't seem to understand how iPads work is obnoxious, but it takes more than a little thing like that to ruin a scene.

The problem with this book isn't that EL gets the occasional detail wrong. The thing about this book is that EL gets absolutely everything wrong. Ana is confused about every detail of modern life, and then most of the details about modern life that are offered to her are at least slightly askew. And as the mistakes pile on, smaller little issues start to take on added significance. A mistake that we might've overlooked if it were an isolated incident starts to seem huge.

So, yeah. It's completely insignificant that EL James doesn't get how iPads work, but when you've been suffering through all these similar screw-ups for hundreds of pages, you find yourself yelling at your book over the most insignificant bullshit.

Plus, EL James is a billionaire because of these terrible books. If this thing were just another story on a fanfic message board, I wouldn't complain in the slightest. But somehow, EL James is the most widely-read author of the 21st century, but can't even be bothered to figure out how an iPad works, and I'm pretty upset about it.

But back to our story, such as it is.

Our story thus far:

Ana is a naive college student who dated a billionaire for a couple weeks but broke things off with him because he spanked her too hard.
  1. Ana starts her new job at a publishing company and agrees to let Christian give her a ride to José’s art show. It turns out they both miss each other or whatever.
  2. Ana and Christian eat steaks at a restaurant. They rekindle their “romance” and Christian says that they won’t have to have rules anymore and he won’t punish Ana. They drive back to Seattle and Christian gives Ana back the expensive gifts that she'd returned to him when they broke up, along with a new iPad.
So, Chapter 3.

Friday, January 10, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 2 part 2

There are several things I think you should know about my life right now.

  1.  I just spilled an extraordinary amount of latte on myself. I can’t explain it. One second I was taking a dainty, sophisticated sip of latte and the next, I was doing my best to mop up milk and coffee with a handkerchief and silently cursing this fancy-pants cafe. 
  2. The script on the baked goods was real complicated so I accidentally spent five bucks on something called a Luchador Cake and I ordered it because Luchadors are great, not because I’m some kind of jerk who spends five bucks on cake. 
  3. The cake is pretty good tho. 
  4. I am, at the moment, too angry to ask for the wifi password so I’m typing this offline like a caveman, so that I can load it into Blogger later.
  5. I have finished Draft 2 of my opus, Fifty Clichés of Grey: a Fifty Shades Readers Guide and it’s wonderful and I think we can all agree that it is exactly what your local bookstore needs, so go ahead and start lobbying for it now because I think that’s how these things work.

Where were we? Somewhere. Oh right. 

Our story thus far:

Ana is a naive college student who dated a billionaire for a couple weeks but broke things off with him because he spanked her too hard. 

  1.  Ana starts her new job at a publishing company and agrees to let Christian give her a ride to José’s art show. It turns out they both miss each other or whatever.
  2.  Part 1: Ana and Christian eat steaks at a restaurant and then drive back from Portland to Seattle. They rekindle their “romance” and Christian says that they won’t have to have rules anymore and he won’t punish Ana.

And now, here we are, with just a few loose ends to tie up before we part ways with Chapter 2. 

Ana falls asleep in CG’s car and when she wakes up, we’re outside her apartment in Seattle. I wish she took these power naps more frequently. Gives me a nice little break from her nonsense. 

Ana’s reactions are typically indicative of her passive relationship with CG. 

"No. We're nearly at your place."

Oh? "We're not going to yours?"


I sit up and gaze at him. "Why not?"

"Because you have work tomorrow."

"Oh." I pout.

He smirks at me. "Why, did you have something in mind?"

I flush. "Well, maybe."

He chuckles. "Anastasia, I am not going to touch you again, not until you beg me to."


"So that you'll start communicating with me. Next time we make love, you're going to have to tell me exactly what you want in fine detail."

"Oh." He shifts me off his lap as Taylor pulls up outside my apartment. Christian climbs out and holds the car door open for me.

"I have something for you." He moves to the back of the car, opens the trunk, and pulls out a large gift-wrapped box. What the hell is this?

"Open it when you get inside."

"You're not coming in?"

"No, Anastasia."

Fun, right? I get that Ana doesn’t want to share with Christian exactly what she has in mind, but she sees no reason to share any thoughts with us, either. And, as always, CG is completely in charge. And how gross is that line about Ana telling CG exactly what she wants in “fine detail”? Can you even imagine what a drag that’s going to be? “Put your impressive length down there, so I can feel it in my low, low belly.” Ugh. Terrifying. I hope she sleeps through that sequence too, just like this car ride.

I also like her reaction to CG handing her a present. “What the hell is this?” Hey, Ana! Are you familiar with this phenomenon? Sometimes, people will obscure the identity of a gift by wrapping it in some kind of festive paper, so as to build anticipation while the recipient opens it. It does not surprise me that Ana is confused by the idea of a gesture meant exclusively to build anticipation. 

I’m particularly annoyed by that last part--”You’re not coming in?” Would be a pretty sensible moment to let us know what Ana is thinking. I mean, I’m pretty confident she wants to join CG in the bone-zone but c’mon. The main thing that a first-person point of view has got going for it is the ease with which the author can share with us the protagonist’s perspective. Instead, all we get are Ana’s weird nonsense surprises. A gift? From my billionaire boyfriend who’s always buying me expensive gifts? What a perplexing gesture!

They arrange to see each other again the next night and I can’t wait! I’m so very, very excited! Aren’t you? Probably, right? Right. Ana mentions that she’ll be getting drinks after work with her boss, and of course CG is super jelly. In fact, the whole “drinks after work” thing is not nearly as weird as it seemed when introduced by Ana’s boss, Jack, in the previous chapter. He made it sound like a date; when it actually happens, it’s much more of a “people getting drinks after work” thing and not weird at all. But of course when Ana tells CG about it, it’s as though she’s confessing that she’s taken a lover during their time apart. 

"My boss wants me to go for a drink with him tomorrow."

Christian's face hardens. "Does he, now?" His voice is laced with latent menace.

"To celebrate my first week," I add quickly.

Latent menace, y’all! Well. At least he isn’t breaking with tradition in the slightest! Fun. 

Pretty soon Ana gets into her fancy apartment and investigates her gift. Mostly it’s just CG returning her expensive shit that she gave back to him when they broke up. Computer. Blackberry. But here’s one of my absolute favorite (read: most hated) paragraphs in the whole thing: 

Opening the case, I find an iPad. Holy shit... an iPad. A white card is resting on the screen with a message written in Christian's handwriting: Holy cow. I have a Christian Grey mix-tape in the guise of a high-end iPad. I shake my head in disapproval because of the expense, but deep down I love it. Jack at the office has one, so I know how they work.

On the one hand, the iPad makes more sense that the computer of the Blackberry. He should’ve bought it for her in the beginning. So, whatever. Cheap in comparison to the computer. But wait. Did CG write Ana a note that says “Holy cow”? Because that would actually be kind of cute. But I fear it’s just more of EL being bad at writing. I expect that there’s some other note. Maybe a song list? Because the “mix-tape” part makes absolutely no sense. 

Also, iPads are not hard to work. But once again, EL can’t just let Ana know a thing. She has to have a reason for know a thing. And the reason has to be some education provided for her by a man, because that’s how it works in this book. Men know things and women can sometimes learn things from men. Gross.

The iPad is terribly exciting to Ana because she’s a real doofus and whatever. 

I switch it on and gasp as the wallpaper image appears: a small model glider. Oh my.

It's the Blanik L23 I gave him, mounted on a glass stand and sitting on what I think is Christian's desk at his office. I gape at it.

He built it! He really did build it. I remember now he mentioned it in the note with the flowers. I'm reeling, and I know in that instant that he's put a great deal of thought into this gift.

A great deal of thought? Eh. Maybe. More like six hundred bucks and five minutes of thought but whatever. 

There are a bunch of photos loaded in as well which of course is super-duper exciting and must’ve taken CG easily two minutes so that’s fun as well.

Holy shit! The British Library? I touch the icon and a menu appears: Historical collection. Scrolling down, I select novels of tHe 18tH and 19tH century. Another menu. I tap on a title: The AmericAn by Henry James. A new window opens, offering me a scanned copy of the book to read. Holy crap - it's an early edition, published in 1879, and it's on my iPad! He's bought me the British Library at a touch of a button.

My favorite part is this British Library app. I don’t care to discover whether or not this is a real thing. Let’s say that it is. Tell me: how would you feel about reading a scanned, 1879 edition of a novel instead of just reading the thing in Kindle or iBooks or whatever? Exactly--that sounds tedious and terrible. Also old-ass novels are free, and if this app exists, it probably costs actual money. Probably costs actual money to do the same thing in a way more annoying fashion, so I can see why Christian was drawn to it. Totally makes sense.

I’m going to go ahead and share with you a pretty long chunk. Ana checks out the music pre-loaded onto her iPad. (Editor’s note: what do you think she’ll call it? I mean, not the mean machine. That’s taken. So what, then? Guesses?) And this part is so, so terrible. It’s a pretty dense dump of information, and it’s mainly absolute nonsense, but it’s also hilariously revealing. 

I go back to the main screen, hit the iPod icon and a playlist appears. I scroll through the songs, and the list makes me smile. Thomas Tallis - I'm not going to forget that in a hurry. I heard it twice, after all, while he flogged and fucked me. "Witchcraft." My grin gets wider - dancing round the great room. The Bach Marcello piece -  oh no, that's way too sad for my mood right now. Hmm. Jeff Buckley -  yeah, I've heard of him. Snow Patrol - my favorite band - and a song called "Principles of Lust" by Enigma. How Christian. I smirk. Another called "Possession"... oh yes, very Fifty Shades.

And a few more I have never heard.

Selecting a song that catches my eye, I press play. It's called "Try" by Nellie Furtado.

She starts to sing, and her voice is a silken scarf wrapping around me, enveloping me. I lie down on my bed.

Does this mean Christian's going to try? Try this new relationship? I drink in the lyrics, staring at the ceiling, trying to understand his turnaround. He missed me. I missed him. He must have some feelings for me. He must. This iPad, these songs, these apps - he cares. He really cares. My heart swells with hope.

The song ends and tears spring to my eyes. I quickly scroll to another - "The Scientist"
by Coldplay - one of Kate's favorite bands. I know the track, but I've never really listened to the lyrics before. I close my eyes and let the words wash over and through me.

My tears start to flow. I can't stem them. If this isn't an apology, what is it? Oh, Christian. Or is this an invitation? Will he answer my questions? Am I reading too much into this?

It’s comical how happy this makes Ana. This is just another rich-guy present, but somehow, the tiniest bit of personalization is enough to make it seem thoughtful as hell to poor Ana. In the hands of a better writer, I’d think that we were witnessing an author skillfully illustrating Ana’s sad delusions. “Am I reading too much into this?” Yes. Yes you are.

So on the one hand, we have all the songs that were mentioned in the first book. And then we just have the absolute worst easy listening schlock pop-rock. Nellie Furtado, Snow Patrol, and Coldplay is like a grand slam. It’s the perfect grouping of music for somebody to listen to if that person is boring and doesn’t like anything at all in the world.

But even worse is the way EL describes Ana listening to music. Why do this half-assed shit? Am I supposed to go look up the lyrics to “The Scientist” so that I know why they’re washing over Ana or whatever? Because I am absolutely not going to do that. Nope. Well, I might. But only to make fun of her for listening to Coldplay. 

Why can’t Ana be cool?! That’s what I really want to know! It’s like EL read my mind and created two characters custom-made to be annoying to me in every possible way. 

Oh and then Ana turns on her computer so that she can send CG a thank-you email because obvs she couldn't do that on her iPad. Oh wait, she could? Never mind. I think maybe EL thinks that an iPad is just a flat iPod. That seems likely, right? That in EL’s mind, you can only read books and listen to music on iPads? Can’t do music or whatever? I’ll assume that’s true.

This quick thank-you devolves into a succession of six total messages, back and forth. And then Ana switches from her computer back to her iPad. Of course, since it's most likely that CG just bought all this music on the iTunes store, Ana could listen to it on whatever device suits her best, but that kind of maneuver might be just too complicated for those with Ana's lack of technical skill / basic ability to function in the modern world.

As is the case with almost every chapter EL James writes, she ends this one with Ana falling asleep. And it makes sense because you've got to break things up somehow, right? And it isn't like EL can place chapter breaks in a way that serves to break up key moments in the development of the plot, since there is so little plot. Ana and CG have, as of the end of Chapter 2, given us no reason to read on. Everything has wrapped up quite nicely--they've agreed to a punishment-free sex situation, and that was all that Ana really wanted. Am I forgetting anything?

Well, a couple small things. We still have Jack Hyde, Ana's new boss, whom we've been told quite clearly is a villain, despite the fact that EL has not yet shown him doing any villain stuff. So I guess we have to wait around for him to do villain stuff. And also we have the "situation" from the end of the last book. For those not yet initiated, we know very little about the situation, other than the fact that it took place in Seattle, it bothered CG very much, and it involved a woman somehow whom CG's goons were trying to keep track of. So maybe we'll learn some more about these two elements.

Doesn't say much for this thing as a trilogy though, does it? We have this primary conflict between Ana and Christian that's basically resolved. And the secondary conflicts, at least so far, have nothing to do with Ana and Christian's relationship. Jack Hyde is just a shitty guy who does villain stuff for his own reasons, we will eventually learn. And the "situation" is really just a skeleton from CG's closet and has very little to do with Ana, as we will also eventually learn.

But, I suppose we can keep reading, on account of EL's scintillating prose.