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. 

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