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?

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. But then they get too horny to cook so they have sex.
  4. Ana and Christian eat dinner and then have ice cream sex and then in the middle of the night Ana has a dream about Christian's ex lover Leila, which worries Christian. Later, Ana and Christian fight about money, eat breakfast, and then go to a hair salon where the woman who introduced Christian to BDSM works.
  5. Ana is upset by the sight of Christian's ex-lover, Elena, and storms out of the salon. Christian insists that Ana come to his house because his other ex-lover Leila may be armed. Christian picks up Ana bodily when she disagrees with him. 
  6. Ana and Christian retire to Christian's house and Christian allows Ana to draw on him with lipstick so that she knows which parts of his body he is comfortable having touched and which parts are off limits. 

We are not off to a good start. First sentence:

My hands fist in his hair while my mouth is feverish against Christian's, consuming him, relishing the feel of his tongue against mine.

Inverting the standard order of noun and pronoun almost makes it read like Ana's got two dudes, right? And that would be an interesting variation I suppose, but no. It's just the usual stuff. Part of how I entertain myself while reading this book is by noting spots where EL pretty much just copies herself from the previous book, and this chapter is pretty dense with that. I, for one, always enjoy hearing about Ana fisting Christian's hair, so that's something.

We also get plenty of the nonsense dialogue to which we've grown accustomed. CG: "I want to feel you." It's pretty transparent that sex is about to happen, which makes it pretty silly for CG to say, "I want to feel you" because that is totes implied, right? 

Now I'm just going to write a list of parts of this that I'm pretty sure I've read already but am too lazy to check:
  • tightens all the muscles around my groin.
  • overheated skin
  • elongating under his skillful touch.
  • "You're so wet."
  • "I want you."
  • possessing him, possessing me.
  • "That's right, baby, feel me," he says, his voice strained.
  • Opening my eyes, I stare down at him, my breathing ragged, and he's staring back at me, eyes blazing.
  • "Oh, baby," he groans as he finds his release, holding me still and letting go.
So they finish, for the time being. It's just the same thing over and over again. I really had no option but to cut that sex scene super short. For my own sanity and so on. 

CG points out something I've brought up myself: all the men Ana encounters want to make out with her. She spends the whole series moping about how uninteresting she is and it's true. She is uninteresting, though I wouldn't suggest moping as a strategy for self-improvement. It certainly hasn't worked for me. But even though she's uninteresting, the only men who don't pursue her are her stepfathers and that hair dresser who was explicitly introduced as gay. This is also an indication that EL is dealing with an extremely small cast of characters. But still. For whatever reason, only CG and I notice that everybody is into Ana.

CG even includes Ethan on his list. Ethan is Kate's older brother. I can't remember CG and Ethan ever meeting but I suppose they maybe did for half a minute at graduation or something. I hope EL pairs off Ethan with a girlfriend promptly so that I don't have to read about CG being all jealous about him. 

Ana says, "Oh, Christian, that's just not true," in reference to the list CG gives her of boys who like her, even though it's totally true, with the possible exception of Ethan. 

CG's response: "Trust me. They want you. They want what's mine." That's a creepsy way of putting things, right? Not just me thinking that? Just another one of the little ways that CG objectifies Ana. Not so much a person as a thing to be possessed. Another one of the privileges of CG's wealth. Whatever. 

They keep lolling around nekkid in Christian's bed. He's wearing lipstick all over his chest and back, you'll recall. 

I note some smears on the duvet cover though, and wonder briefly what Mrs. Jones will make of them.

Another repeat. This book reminds me a lot of watching Iron Man 2 because I was like, "Oh, everything in this movie is just a slightly less fun version of a thing that happened in Iron Man 1 so maybe I should've just watched that again." Except it was different in the sense that Iron Man 2 was only a couple hours long and this book is so boring and forever-taking.

This part about Mrs. Jones is a callback to the morning after Ana and CG's first sleepover date, which involved Ana bleeding on CG's sheets. I am sorry to bring it up again. But I do it just to overstate my point that EL is just writing the same book a second time, only with a subplot about CG's stalker ex-girlfriend. You can basically lay this book on top of the previous one and note all the spots where the two line up. The lipstick on the bed lines up perfectly with the blood in the bed from the previous book. Yawn.

He leans behind me, lifting me again, and removes his condom, dropping it unceremoniously on the floor beside the bed.

"I hate those things. I've a good mind to call Dr. Greene around to give you a shot."

Oh hell. This is one of the absolute worst group of sentences I've ever encountered in my life.

We've got more of CG's weird condom thing, where he just mutterblushing dumps them wherever.
Dude! That's not cool. That's really not cool. I mean, it's your house, I guess. So knock yourself out. But srsly guy? You can't take a quick sec and run to the bathroom? Or, barring that, EL could just exclude this bit of business, because none of us are thinking about CG's condom at the end of the sex scene. There's no reason to bring it up again except for EL's super ridiculous non-reason reason:

We're going to waste another chapter on Ana's birth control regimen. How bonkers is that? When we had to read all about Ana's birth control prescription in the first book, we were like, "Wow that's just unhinged! Oh well! At least it would be impossible for EL to spend a second chapter on Ana's birth control since she's on the pill now and not even EL James could come up with some reason to bring the gynecologist around a second time."

But no. We were all mistaken! Somehow, EL has deemed it necessary (Editor's note: and here Alden is just guessing. We shall see if he's right.) to give us another scene where Seattle's most available gynecologist stops by CG's house to prescribe something to Ana. 

One time, I saw this amazing thing on youtube where somebody took two different Nickelback tracks and layered one on top of the other. They had different lyrics, of course, but everything else was effectively identical. Same tempo, same length, same structure, so they both hit the chorus at the same time. Almost sounded like one song with two singers who weren't listening to each other.

(Editor's note: we know it's passé to make fun of Nickelback but this is legit hilarious.)

This is like the book version of that. Same song. Slightly different lyrics. This is probably really great for anybody who enjoyed the first book! Which I did not do.

Oh and I barely need to draw attention to the fact that CG is once again asserting his authority over Ana's choices in reproductive health. You're right there with me. It's like we finish each other's sandwiches.

Anyway last chapter CG guided Ana while she drew an outline in lipstick marking off his no-touch area, and so after birth control gets brought up again, Ana proceeds to touch all of CG's allowed areas. Basically that just means she rubs his belly, like CG is some kind of billionaire stalker puppy. Aww. Ugh. Oh and then they have sex again because fifteen seconds have elapsed and CG is once again good to go. 

I found this guy searching google images for "christian grey puppy."

We don't have to read any of this next sex scene though which is great because I'm sure it was just the same thing again. After that implied scene we join Ana in the shower which seems like it could be interesting since this is "erotic" "literature" but of course it's not interesting. This is the requisite moment in which Ana thinks about her whole situation, thus summarizing the entire book for some hypothetical reader who decided to start this terrible trilogy at Chapter 6, book 2. 

And you know what? What the hell. Here it is. More than you want to read, but suffer along with me for a while. Here is Ana in the shower, thinking the same things she always thinks, time after time after time. Every chapter has a moment like this. 

What a delicious way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I stand beneath the shower, absentmindedly washing myself, careful not to wet my tied-back hair, contemplating the last couple of hours. Christian and vanilla seem to be going well. 
He's revealed so much today. It's staggering, trying to assimilate all the information and to reflect on what I've learned: his salary details -  Whoa, he's stinking rich, and for someone so young; it's just extraordinary - and the dossiers he has on me and on all his brunette submissives. I wonder if they are all in that filing cabinet? 
My subconscious purses her lips at me and shakes her head -  don't even go there. I frown. Just a quick peek? 
And there's Leila - with a gun, potentially, somewhere - and her crap taste in music still on his iPod. But even worse, Mrs. Paedo Robinson, I cannot wrap my head around her, and I don't want to. I don't want her to be a shimmering-haired specter in our relationship.
He's right, I do go off the deep end when I think of her, so perhaps it's best if I don't.
I step out of the shower and dry myself, and I'm suddenly seized by unexpected anger. 
But who wouldn't go off the deep end? What normal, sane person would do that to a fifteen-year-old boy? How much has she contributed to his fuckedupness? I don't understand her. And worse still, he says she helped him. How? 
I think of his scars, the stark physical embodiment of a horrific childhood and a sickening reminder of what mental scars he must bear. My sweet, sad Fifty Shades. He's said such loving things today. He's crazy for me. 
Staring at my reflection, I smile at the memory of his words, my heart brimming once more, and my face transforms with a ridiculous smile. Perhaps we can make this work. But how long will he want to do this without wanting to beat the crap out of me because I cross some arbitrary line? 
My smile dissolves. This is what I don't know. This is the shadow that hangs over us.
Kinky fuckery, yes, I can do that, but more?
My subconscious stares at me blankly, for once offering no snarky words of wisdom. I head back to my bedroom to dress.
Right? That's the whole conflict of the book, recapitulated for us once again, and we're not closer to a resolution. Of course, we get some added in stuff re: Leila and Elena, but c'mon. We know that's just pointless distractionism. 

All these cliché moments, too. Checking herself out in the mirror. The head-clearing shower. But look at the phrasing Ana uses! "But how long will he want to do this without wanting to beat the crap out of me because I cross some arbitrary line?" OMG SWOON HOW SEXY. 

Also, subconscious, "for once offering no snarky words of wisdom." I don't think "subconscious" has ever offered Ana any words of wisdom, snarky or otherwise. Mostly "subconscious" just makes faces at Ana. It's like EL isn't even reading this either! And let's be real. We know she isn't. 

Ana goes to get dressed for whatever charity thing she's supposed to go to with CG later that evening, because that's what billionaires are all about. Giving back!

As well as all the dresses in the closet, I have drawers full of new underwear. I select a black bustier corset creation with a price tag of five hundred forty dollars. It has silver trim like filigree and the briefest of panties to match. Thigh-high stockings, too, in a natural color, so fine, pure silk. Wow, they feel... slinky... and kind of hot... yeah.

Two points about this. So, first, I'm not an expert on ladies' undergarments. I mean I've scarcely ever worn any. But this really doesn't sound like the sort of thing meant to be worn under a dress, right? I mean yes perhaps in the Victorian Era this would make sense, but not in 2011 or whenever this book is set. Also, EL is just so, so bad at making things sexy. "Wow, they feel... slinky... and kind of hot... yeah." What the hell? I mean srsly...yeah. It's easy to read this sentence and kind of imagine that Ana is annoyed by her stockings and trying to convince herself that they're cool, kind of like you'd do while opening a gift from a friend and it's something you'd never use in a million years and you're trying to work out whether or not it's a gag. "Wow, this is... fun...and kind of surprising... yeah."

CG shows up and EL gives us one of those paragraphs that amateur writers write when they're trying to be descriptive. Writers just starting out sometimes try to be "descriptive" by listing lots of colors. EL does it all the time. That's why we get this sort of line whenever Ana walks into a room: "It's very modern! It's all blues and greens and reds and whites and vermillions and aquamarines. Very now." But eventually your brain gets overloaded and you forget what color goes with what thing and you wish you were reading a different book.

You see, we get the black underwear with silver accents. And the "natural color" stockings. (Editor's note: C'mon, EL. "Natural"? Does "natural" mean "pale northwest white people skin"? I'm pretty sure that's what she's saying here. Ugh.) And then we get Christian's gray eyes, and then Ana blushes crimson because of course she does. And CG is wearing black pants and a white shirt and I'm astounded by the pointlessness of it all.

He stands immobilized, staring at me, gray eyes glimmering, hungrily. I blush crimson everywhere, it feels. He is wearing a white shirt and black suit pants, the neck of his shirt is open. I can see the lipstick line still in place, and he's still staring.
 This is obviously a single image: CG standing there and all the colors happening and the staring. No time passes between the first line and the end, but EL thinks it necessary to remind us that he's "still" staring. Even though no time has passed. Whatever.

CG likes how Ana looks in her underwears or whatever.

"Remind me to send a personal note of thanks to Caroline Acton."
I frown. Who the hell is she?
"The personal shopper at Neiman's," he says, spookily answering my unspoken question.
I hate everything about this terrible book. Why is EL dumping this dumb information on me? And why does he have to be such a prick about even a basic compliment? Why can't he just say, "Oh, you look sexy." Is that really too much to ask? He has to make it this weird reminder of his money and authority. "The lady I gave all that money to sure did do a good job picking out expensive clothes in which to decorate my arm-candy."

Also, one of the easiest expressions to read is "wtf." And so CG says this dumb thing, and Ana is all "wtf" and then CG explains wtf he was talking about. And then Ana is all "ZOMG he read my mind!" even though it was super obvious.

Hey I just googled caroline acton fanfic and got 307,000 hits. So that's just another depressing thing in a long line of depressing things.

I'm afraid we're going to get into some sex-adjacent territory again.

"I can see that. What do you want, Christian?" I give him my no-nonsense stare. 
He retaliates with his crooked smile and pulls the silver ball egg-things from his pocket, stopping me in my tracks. Holy shit! He wants to spank me? Now? Why?
See, they have a fun relationship. Ana sees her boyfriend and is immediately all "Explain yourself!" because she does not actually enjoy spending time with her boyfriend. That's how you know they're meant to be!

CG stops Ana in her tracks, which is very original writing and barely even a cliché at all j/k. But a cliché means something, right? It's not just nonsense words. The reason clichés stick around is that they often describe phenomena that happen frequently, and so are useful as a shorthand. In this case the cliché suggests that CG interrupts some action of Ana's. The idea that Ana is stopped in her tracks suggests that she is "stopped" in some manner, right? But of course she isn't.

Readers of the previous book will recognize the "silver ball egg-things" as a sex toy designed to be inserted into Ana's down-there. EL never used the erotically-charged phrase "egg-things" in the earlier book, but whatever. We get the idea. The toy has a name, but I suppose EL has inspired some number of people to trot over to their olde sex shoppe and say "Gimme a couple of them silver ball egg-things" so perhaps we should just accept that as the official name and not worry about it.

And of course Ana sees the toy and is like, ugh, spanking time again? See, they have a fun relationship.

"I thought you could wear these tonight." 
And the implications of that sentence hang between us as the idea sinks in. 
"To this event?" I'm shocked. 
He nods slowly, his eyes darkening.
Ana's point of view is basically missing from this whole sequence. Doesn't really let us know how she thinks about any of this. And she can barely keep up with the events that are actually happening to her, whereas the reader is once again waiting for Ana to catch on, because we know what's happening. Ana is going to go to this fancy charity auction or whatever with silver ball egg-things as stowaways, because last time she met CG's parents, she was sans culottes and that was awkward for her and this book is exactly the same as the previous one, basically, and so we know that since she's meeting Ma and Pa Grey again she'll have to do some different, awkward sex thing.

Keep up, Ana! You've done all these things before. It's like Groundhog Day, directed by the late, great Harold Ramis. Use this knowledge to your advantage somehow!

Before Ana lets us know whether or not she's going to go along with CG's toy scheme (Editor's note: SPOILER ALERT: she is going to go along with CG's toy scheme.) she notes his "recently fucked hair" and I guess that's less messy than "just fucked hair"? Whatever. Ana did make a point to not wash her hair in the shower earlier in the chapter, so doe she also have "recently fucked hair"? Do you see what this book is doing to me? Ugh. I'm thinking way too much about their dumb hair.

"Okay," I acquiesce softly. Hell, yes! My inner goddess has found her voice and is shouting from the rooftops.
Ana outsources her feelings of arousal to her inner goddess, which always makes it seem like Ana is totally not into anything at all and I hate it.

Here's the next line of this terrible book that I hate:

"Good girl," Christian grins. "Come here, and I'll put them in, once you've put your shoes on."
Gross gross gross gross. Not the sextoy part. That's fine or whatever. This is how you talk to someone who's five! Or maybe who is a dog! Right? If you say "good girl" to your dog when your dog does something good, I think that that is completely fine. If you say that to an adult human you should be aware that you are a terrible person. And the whole shoes thing is just making it worse. Right? Because it sounds exactly like what a parent says to a child who is not putting her shoes on, but who needs to put her shoes on. Ick. Maybe this is another one of those foot fetish things. Probably. (Editor's note: longtime readers will already be aware that Alden thinks maybe EL James has a thing for feet. For you newer readers: be advised that Alden has a pet theory that EL James has a thing for feet and he's always looking for more evidence.)

He holds out his hand to support me while I step into the Christian Louboutin shoes, a steal at three-thousand two hundred ninety-five dollars.
Ugh.  Remember how Ana didn't own a mutterblushing dress before CG bought her a closetful of expensive clothes? And now I'm supposed to believe that Ana knows how much these shoes cost? Because I don't believe it. We've all bought shoes at shoe stores, right? Some of us are old enough to remember a time before Zappos.com right? Because at a fancy shoe store, they kind of keep the shoes in the back? And so there's no need to mark the price on each individual box? So there isn't a tag on these shoes that says $3,295. Literally every paragraph of this mess lacks credibility.

Oh also these shoes are crazy tall so there's no way Ana is going to be able to walk in them. She can barely walk in regular shoes. Whatever.

Oh, but wait! CG is going to cram a sex toy inside of Ana. Ana's really not interested in it, but inner goddess is down so I guess it's toy time!

So that happens. And EL does a truly terrible job of convincing me that this is in any way pleasant for Ana. Just like last time the silver ball egg-things were in play, Ana mostly comes across as bored.

Then CG gives Ana some expensive diamond earrings and for some reason, this strikes Ana as thoughtful or whatever. She's rolling her eyes about how expensive all the clothes are that CG bought her, but then he pulls out some even more expensive diamond jewelry and she sees no particular need to remark on its price. Whatever.

"I bought these for you to wear to last Saturday's gala." He puts his arm around me and holds out his hand. In his palm rests a small red box with Cartier inscribed on the lid. "But you left me, so I never had the opportunity to give them to you."

What the hell was last Saturday's gala? These books are so long but time moves so slowly, so I can't even pretend to be keeping track of the calendar. Maybe last Saturday was graduation. I don't mutterblushing know.

Ana finishes getting ready. Last book she complained about not really knowing how to apply makeup but this is a few days later so now she's great at it. She joins CG, who's chilling with Taylor and a couple of extra security goons. The security goons and Taylor all leave to do some gooning or whatever and our happy lovers pop open some champagne.

"How are you feeling?" he asks, his eyes heated. 
"Fine, thank you." I smile sweetly, giving nothing away, knowing full well he's referring to the silver balls.

This is basically an exact copy of the previous book, only now we're talking about silver ball egg-things, and last time we were talking about how Ana wasn't wearing underoos. History repeats itself. The first time as farce and the second time as farcier farce.

Hey so this book is super terrible, but at least we can be thankful for the fact that EL hasn't yet indulged in any bootleg Eyes Wide Shut shit.

Next comes the bootleg Eyes Wide Shut shit.

"Here, you're going to need this." He hands me a large velvet pouch that was resting on the kitchen island. "Open it," he says between sips of champagne. Intrigued, I reach into the bag and pull out an intricate silver masquerade mask with cobalt blue feathers in a plume crowning the top. 
"It's a masked ball," he states matter-of-factly. 
"I see." The mask is beautiful. A silver ribbon is threaded around the edges and exquisite silver filigree is etched around the eyes. 
"This will show off your beautiful eyes, Anastasia. 
I grin at him, shyly. 
"Are you wearing one?" 
"Of course. They're very liberating in a way," he adds, raising an eyebrow, and he smirks. 
Oh. This is going to be fun. 

I don't even really have the energy to discuss this turn of events. It's just so obvious. It's so obvious that by the time it happens, I feel like it's been happening forever and I'm tired of it and want it to stop, even though we aren't even at the party yet. EL is just grabbing every shopworn "sexy" image she can think of and it's the worst.

My only hope is that this party gets real weird but I'm sure it won't. Like, I'm hoping that some real uncomfortable stuff is going to go down, but probably the only thing that's going to happen is that CG is going to get mad about some nonsense thing and they're going to have sex somewhere at CG's parents' house. (Editor's note: Alden definitely hasn't read ahead. This is an actual prediction he's going to make now, and then either verify or falsify when he concludes his notes on this chapter.)

For some reason, it is at this moment that CG decides to show Ana his library / billiard room and Ana is legit more excited about this library than maybe anything that's happened in the book so far. She's even excited about the pool table because she used to play pool with poor José. I'm not going to draw out the comparison further, but just take my word for it: Ana is way more excited about the prospect of chilling in CG's library than she is about the sex toy she's carrying around hands-free. Not anything wrong with that. I only bring it up because the library makes it clear that EL knows how to make it seem like Ana is excited about a thing. I believe that Ana is excited about the library! But the contrast between the library and the silver ball egg-things makes her seem so, so bored by CG's sexual escapades.

And soon, after that pointless side-trip into the library, Ana and CG set off in one of CG's fancy cars to their fancy party.

That is where we will leave things. EL spent about sixty percent of the chapter getting us ready for the dumb party, so when next we meet, we will discuss the actual party. Can't wait, right? I guess it could be interesting maybe if Leila shows up and decides to do some stalker stuff. Maybe she's my new favorite character since she's dangerous or whatever. This book could use some danger. I mean some danger beyond the near-constant threat of CG wailing on Ana for no reason. I'm talking about entertaining danger. Not, like, abuse-danger.

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