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?

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. 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. 
  6. Ana and Christian have sex and get ready for a fancy charity auction at Christian's parents' house. Then they go to the fancy charity auction, and Ana bids $24,000 on a weekend getaway at Christian's Aspen condo. 

So, we're still at that abysmal party. This is kinda what counts for "plot" in this book: Ana bids on--and wins!--a weekend at Christian's Aspen condo. I will keep specifying "Aspen" because CG probably has a bunch of condos in a bunch of different places. Anyways. Her winning bid is $24k, which is the hilarious made-up amount that Christian sold Ana's VW bug for in the previous book. You know how you can just sell other people's cars legally, right? When you sell a car there aren't any documents or anything that go along with it, proving that you own it or anything like that. You can just take any car and sell it, and it's fine. New VW Beetles start at like $20k before taxes, and you know how cars work. The older, the better! Like wine! That's why it's always the best idea to get the absolute newest car that you can, because it will be the cheapest, by definition.

So anyways. Back to Ana and the weekend that she just agreed to pay for at the condo that her boyfriend owns. I guess I should applaud EL for not ending Chapter 6 by sending everyone to bed, as is her custom. But I won't. I'm withholding my applause, EL. I'm not even doing ironic slow-claps. I'm just advancing into Chapter 7.

Holy shit, did I really just do that? It must be the alcohol. I've had champagne plus four glasses of four different wines.

Should we check EL's math here? Is this a word problem? Can't tell if Ana has had 5 glasses or 17 glasses. I'm going to go with 5 because 5 is a lot but not fatal, whereas 17 is bonkers, particularly since we only know of one trip to the restroom, and also I don't think she puked. But you see the ambiguity, right? I already forget the name of EL's editor, but her editor did not do a good job at editing. That's a fair understatement, right? Great.

Here's the first terrifying thing of the chapter that CG says to Ana:

"I don't know whether to worship at your feet or spank the living shit out of you."
I better go have a lay down on my fainting couch! Because I'm basically passing out with arousal here! So that's terrible. But Ana just kind of makes it worse. Next paragraph:

Oh, I know what I want right now. I gaze up at him, blinking through my mask. I just wish I could read what's in his eyes.
Wait, so this was a sex thing? What's the name of that fetish where you get off on spending a lot of money at charity auctions? That's a thing, right? And then Ana's like, "Oh I wish my boyf would stop being so coy and tell me what he really means." Ana! He just listed "spank the living shit out of you" as one of the options he was contemplating! I don't know that he is really capable of being much more specific.

This whole section is another great example of EL's inability to control tone. The fact that Ana made the decision to bid so quickly, and the fact that she immediately seemed to regret the decision, makes this read less like some kind of power-game and more like a weird mistake. Almost every time I read something in this book that's supposed to be sexy, I'm able to imagine an alternate version of it that would maybe be sexy, but EL always misfires and gets the tone all wrong. And usually this is the problem: EL never lets Ana be in control of anything. Things just happen to Ana and then she's like, "Oh noes! Why did I do that?" And it's the worst.

EL bumbles from this mishmash into a few pages of Ana straight-up lusting for Christian, weird threats and all. EL's inability to manage tone has a lot to do with the fact that she's always telling instead of showing.

It's kind of like this: maybe in EL's mind, Ana's decision to bid a bunch of money on a weekend at CG's Aspen condo was somehow about sex? And wanting to have it with him? And also his threat to "spank the living shit out of" Ana was more of their foreplay? But after writing all that maybe EL looked back at it and was like, "Huh maybe some people won't understand how this is sexy. I better tell them that it's sexy." And then we get a couple pages of Ana repeating the same tired stuff about how turned on she is or whatever. We all know that EL never looks back on everything she's read; my example here was purely hypothetical.

I wrote a longer version of the last couple paragraphs and then accidentally deleted it because Blogger often fails to save properly if you leave a post open in your browser like I do all the time. I think that's basically what prompted me to go to bed instead of finish this post. I lost like, several paragraphs of work! That's unbearable! I mean, I don't have to tell any of you about how I slave over these paragraphs for minutes at a time! I think about the jokes, write the jokes, and then usually at some point go back and make sure I haven't made too many typing mistakes that make me look dumb. That's a three-step process!

Anyway. What's done is done! Let us forge ahead.

Pretty soon CG makes Ana grope him surreptitiously under the table while the auction continues and that's fine I guess. Honestly it's probably one of the better "sexy" parts if only because it's the closest thing we've seen yet to some actual sexual tension. Most of the time, the sex scenes in these books are preceded by one of the characters saying, "Ok! Sex time!" after which the sex starts. At least here EL is easing us in that direction, so I guess that's good. But it's pretty trite, right? We've only encountered some variation on surreptitious, under the table gropage a billion times, right? Basically.

Hey remember when Christian's sister Mia showed up just in time to keep Ana and CG from slipping off for bathroom sex? Here she is again! Thanks, Mia! She's like some kind of weird superhero to me now. Just when I think I'm going to have to read yet another of EL's copy-and-paste sex scenes, Mia shows up with this nonsense announcement:

"Ana!" Mia calls. "It's time!"
What? No. Not again! "Time for what?"
"The First Dance Auction. Come on!" She stands and holds out her hand.
Oh man. This is so weird. Mia announces this thing as though it's a thing that anybody knows about when of course it's just more weird nonsense. I particularly enjoy all the Caps. First Dance Auction. Trademark! You know! That thing.

Time for another EL James Single Entendre! Trademark! This one is from Christian. They're basically all from Christian, so you won't be surprised.

"The first dance will be with me, okay? And it won't be on the dance floor," he murmurs lasciviously into my ear. My giggles subside as anticipation fans the flames of my need. Oh, yes! My inner goddess performs a perfect triple Salchow in her ice skates.
 Do you guys get it? See, he's talking about them having sex together, instead of dancing. Get it? I just want to make sure you guys get it, because sometimes EL's little hints that Ana and CG are about to do it can be pretty subtle, and I don't want you to be surprised.

I didn't have to include the rest of the paragraph but I did because you just need to experience some of this nonsense with me so that I don't have to do it all alone. Because srsly. Look at how many dumb metaphors we've got in the same paragraph! So, so many. And EL is just straight-up copying them from earlier, too. I'm pretty sure inner goddess did a triple Axel earlier, which you will all note is the more difficult jump, suggesting that maybe inner goddess isn't quite at her horniest? Because she's only doing Salchows and not Axels? Honestly not sure how this ice skating metaphor is supposed to work so we'll move on.

Ana notes that CG "looks . . . happy. Wow." This is funny to me. Is that true? Is this the first time that CG has looked happy in 1.5 books? Maybe! What a buzz kill!

Mia drags Ana on stage with ten other ladies. Also, there's a stage? Whatever.

"The moment you've all been waiting for! These twelve lovely ladies have all agreed to auction their first dance to the highest bidder!"
Ugh. I legit don't remember Ana ever agreeing to this at all, or any previous mention of it, or anything remotely related to this weirdness. Goddamn! Get your shit together, rich people. At least throw in some dudes, too, right? That would make it a tiny bit less weird, wouldn't it? Ick. This book is so gross.

Ana feels kinda weird about this because it's super mutterblushing weird. So that's just sensible of her I suppose. 


"Now, gentlemen, pray gather round, and take a good look at what could be yours for the first dance. Twelve comely and compliant wenches."
Wenches! I didn't make up that part! It's right there in this terrible book what the hellllllllll.

The first lady gets auctioned off and it's, you know. Gross. Mia think it's fun because I have no idea why.

"See? This is fun!" whispers Mia. "I hope Christian wins you, though . . . We don't want a brawl," she adds.
"Brawl?" I answer horrified.
"Oh yes. He was very hot-headed when he was younger." She shudders.
Christian brawling? Refined, sophisticated, likes-Tudor-choral-music Christian? I can't see it.
Wait wait wait wait wait. Is this a joke? I guess not, right? Are we supposed to take this seriously? Christian just got done threatening to "spank the living shit out of" Ana! And now Ana's like, "Christian? Violence? Does not compute!" Has she not been reading this book? "He was very hot-headed when he was younger." He's super hot-headed now! He's the very definition of hot-headed! Is this shit supposed to be some kind of revelation? Goddamn this book is terrible.

EL does one of my absolute least favorite things in that first bit of dialogue: the pointless double speaker tag. Cut "she adds" because it's redundant and dumb! Serves no purpose other than to waste my time and make me angry. Get it together, EL's editor!

But c'mon. How is this surprising at all to Ana? "I know Christian likes to spank his girlfriends, but I'm shocked that he ever had any other tendencies toward violence. I mean, spanking the living shit out of me in the privacy of our own sex dungeon would be one thing! But brawling? I'm shocked!"

Mia goes on to tell Ana about how we got into all these fights until he was "fifteen or sixteen" and astute readers will note that this is when we started having sex with Elena. So I guess statutory rape really turned things around for the guy. Hooray!

Here's the part where Ana gets auctioned off:

"And now, allow me to introduce the beautiful Ana."
Oh shit, that's me. 
DO YOU SEE THAT? "Wait, the auctioneer just said 'Ana.' And wait. What's my name? Banana? Rihanna? Oh shit! My name is Ana! He's probably talking about me now!" It is weird, though. Ana keeps reminding us that everybody is wearing masks and whatever, but then the auctioneer uses Ana's real name so it's not like this thing is anonymous, what with the using people's names and all. Whatever.

Next, something happens sort of! Some dude gets into a bidding war with Christian over Ana! Are you so excited?!?!? I'm pretend excited! But who's the other dude? He's described as "a tall, impeccably dressed man" which is helpful because they're at a fancy rich people party so it's not like everybody is impeccably dressed or anything. But we do get one detail: "It's obvious Christian knows him." Intriguing! Right?

Anyways CG ends up dropping 100 grand to dance with Ana at the end of a bidding war. Whatever. Isn't this just another thing we feel like we've seen before? This bidding war? It just sort of goes exactly the way you think it will--back and forth a few times, but then CG quadruples it with his final bid to get it over with because he has all the money.

After CG wins he tells Ana that she can meet the mystery man later but he rushes her outside. He says it's going to take the rest of the ladies a half hour to get auctioned off but even though I'm pretty bored by this scene, it still seems like it's taking about one minute per lady, and Ana is the third person auctioned. So it seems to me like the rest of the auction will maybe take another nine minutes but whatever.

Soon we follow our heroes to CG's old bedroom where I can only presume they're going to do it. The description of his room is kind of hilarious.

It's large, stark, and sparsely furnished. The walls are white as is the furniture; a spacious double bed, a desk and chair, shelves crammed with books and lined with various trophies for kickboxing by the look of them. The walls are hung with movie posters: The Matrix, Fight Club, The Truman Show, and two framed posters featuring kick boxers. One is named Guiseppe DeNatale--I've never heard of him. 
EL calls the room "stark" and then makes it sound like it's full of stuff. And she says it's "sparsely furnished" but what the hell else would you expect in a kid's bedroom? A sofa? A fainting couch? A settee? A love seat? I don't know what most of these things are so I presume they'd be inappropriate for a kid's bedroom.

But I do like all the movie posters. They're generic, but fit CG's alleged age pretty well. It's almost a humanizing detail, but it just seems ridiculous, right? I dunno. It's weird to think of CG ever being ordinary enough to enjoy watching The Matrix. 

The kickboxing thing is even more silly. How is it that Ana knows enough about kickboxing to identify the trophies? I guess it did come up earlier that CG trains with a kickboxer, but still. And why is EL namedropping this kickboxer? And why does Ana think it necessary to tell us that she's never heard of the guy? Of course she's never heard of the guy. Nobody has ever heard of a single kickboxer ever.

So! It's sex time. Nothing new here. I do want to share a paragraph of EL's purple sexy-time prose with you, because wow. It's just hard to read, is all:

I needed him then. I need him more now. The ache is worse, and I know he can soothe it, calm this roaring, salivating beast in me with the beast in him. His mouth presses into a line, and he slowly licks his upper lip. I want that tongue on me. 
I can't even read that paragraph inside my own head without imagining it in this super breathy "sexy" voice. It's so over the top! You know how when there's a movie or a tv show and one of the characters is a writer? And then you get an example of their writing on the show? And it's just way, way overwrought? To sounds like WRITING in all caps? So that we can "tell" that the character is a great writer or whatever? Ok good. That's what all of EL's sex scenes sound like. They never feel naturalistic. You never just kind of go with it. You're always reminded that you are reading something composed, thanks to these over the top bits of phrasing, like "beast in me with the beast in him." And then it gets hard to read because you are rolling your eyes a lot.

The weird thing about this scene is that Ana wants to be spanked. I mean, that's cool that she wants to be spanked. That's her thing! No worries, Ana! But it seems like Ana's logic is basically like this: "Well, see, I'm so uncomfortably horny because of the sex toy I was using like an hour ago that now I just need to be spanked." And I'll be honest: I am neither familiar enough with sex toys nor spanking to know if any of this adds up but it doesn't seem like it adds up.

I will also admit that I don't really understand what Ana is going through in this sequence. Hey you know how in commercials for Viagra, there will be that warning at the end where they say, "Hey if your boner lasts all day you should probably see a doctor or whatever." Is this like the lady version of that? Only the cure is spanking? I honestly am confused by what I'm reading, but nothing new there!

CG is super reluctant to spank her even though it's obvs his favorite thing to do. Whatever. There's a lot of negotiating before CG gets his spank on, and however interested I was in this, I'm less interested by the time it actually starts because it's so boring and forever-taking.

Also? CG ties Ana's wrists with his bow tie. This could actually be hot if EL hadn't made this her personal cliché already since he's always tying her up with a bow tie. Whatever.

So CG spanks Ana and this time she finds it super great instead of awful and I have no idea why. Then they have sex and here is a line from this book that I'm going to make you read:

He's hitting the bellyache square on, again and again, eradicating it with each sharp, sweet thrust.
Right? This totally sounds like Ana was like, "Ugh I'm out of Imodium! Guess I'd better have sex instead as a backup plan." Also when I think of the anatomy here? It gets a little terrifying, right? Oh well!

Also? Ana actually like, tries to move around a little bit while this sex is happening, and of course CG tells her to stop because, contrary to what he said early in the first book, he does want his lovers effectively, if not literally, comatose. It's kind of his thing.

Our heroes get dressed and prepare to return to the party. Ana takes a moment to snoop around CG's room a little more. Here's a part I love:

There are ticket stubs to various concerts: U2, Metallica, The Verve, Sheryl Crow, the New York Philharmonic performing Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet--what an eclectic mix!
Ha! Not it isn't. That is precisely the list of concerts that fits a late 90s teenager with money but no taste. The classical show? That was a thing he went to with his parents because that's what they wanted to do. And those other bands were just popular in the late 90s. Hey do any of you guys remember The Verve? They had that one song, right? What a weird band to include in this list. Ugh I just realized that their song would probably fit really well on the soundtrack for the movie version, which is flattering neither to them or to this book.

Moving on, Ana sees a photo of a lady tacked up on CG's wall and it's not Elena, but the face does seem familiar to her. She asks CG about the photo and he's super evasive. He could just say, "Oh, that was a girl I liked in high school" and that would probably be the end of it, but instead he acts super weird and tries to change the subject so now it's an Important Mystery! Wow two Important Mysteries in one chapter! The dude from the auction, and now the photo on the wall! I'm so intrigued! (Just kidding.)

What's weird is that Ana doesn't react to CG's mysteriousness at all. Doesn't think about it. Doesn't remark on it. Just goes with it. It's so unpleasant being led by a narrator who possesses no curiosity whatsoever.

Ana and CG emerge back at the party just in time for the all-important first dance. The timing is so perfect that it's hard for me not to imagine everybody else waiting around. Like, there's probably a lookout somewhere, who spots their return, and then turns to the crowd and says, "Ok guys! They're done! Now remember: we're all gonna pretend we don't know they just had sex!"

A bunch more weird stuff is going to happen in this chapter, but I'm going to stop there because this is already delayed from Tuesday and then delayed again because I usually like to publish earlier in the day because I know you all like to read these with your morning coffee, right? Exactly. And also, I'm playing fast and lose with my editorial process here too! The last quarter or so of this? Unedited! Ugh I hope that isn't as obvious as I suspect it is.

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