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that keeps me feeling semi-sane about the fact that I had to restore my computer with a backup that was several months out of date.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:


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. 
  7. Ana gets auctioned off to Christian for the first dance of the evening, but before the dance, the couple retreat to Christian's childhood room for sex.
Of course, their timing couldn't be any more perfect. The dance is just exactly ready to start when they return from sexing. Several pointless announcements from the stage happen, and then the music starts. Ana notes that CG's sister, Mia, is not with her date from earlier, Sean. You'll remember perhaps that Ana was kinda lukewarm on Sean which suggested that we'd been introduced to him even though he was probably about to be abandoned again right away. Looks like we're already done with him. Sorry Sean! Oh well.

The first song is "I've Got You Under My Skin" which is very important because of this dumb joke that's about to happen while Ana and CG dance.

"You're under my skin too," I respond. "Or you were in your bedroom."
Hehe. Get it? She's talking about earlier, when his penis was inside her. Get it? I'm pretty sure everybody gets it but I just like being certain. 

Soon the mystery man is revealed! The mystery man--the one who was also bidding on Ana earlier--shows up and says, "May I cut in?" 

Wait why are we pretending that this is a thing still? This is just a thing from certain weird old movies, right? That thing where like, a couple will be dancing? And some dude will come over and say, "Oh, hey. Remember how the ladies at this party are all the communal property of all the rich dudes like us at this party? Well, I've decided that it's now my turn with this particular bit of property, so beat it." 

I mean, am I wrong? I don't think I am. This arrangement is super weird, but I guess it's kind of one of those things where we all know it's weird but for whatever dumb reason we just kind of accept it as a thing and don't talk about how weird it is.

Anyways. The dude who now wants to dance with Ana? That dude is John Flynn, AKA CG's psychiatrist or psychologist or therapist or something. If I can figure out his particular duties I'll tell you. But still. That's super weird, right? He shouldn't be at this party! Or bidding on his client's girlfriend! I mean nobody should be bidding on human people at all of course but if you're some type of doctor, you not only should not bid on people, you particularly should not bid on people who have sex with your patients. That's just my old-fashioned values I guess!

"How do you do, Anastasia?" Dr. Flynn says smoothly, and I realize he's British.
Wait so Ana recognizes his nationality based on his smoothness? Is that what's happening here? That seems like what's happening here. When you write confusing sentences, people get confused!  
“I’m glad to finally meet you, Anastasia. Are you enjoying yourself?” he asks. “I was,” I whisper. “Oh. I hope I’m not responsible for your change of heart.” He gives me a brief, warm
smile that puts me a little more at ease.“Doctor Flynn, you’re the shrink. You tell me.” 
Ugh. Is that like, a required line in any bit of writing with terrible dialogue? Does someone always have to point out to the shrink that the shrink is a shrink. I feel like I've probably heard / read this line more than anything in this book: "So-and-so, you're the shrink. You tell me." 

Ooh! This will be fun! Here's a list of my least-favorite lines:

  • So-and-so, you're gonna want to see this.
  • We've got company!
  • So-and-so, you're the shrink. You tell me.
I'm sure there are more that should be on the list, but these are like the elite-terrible. Oh and also every line in this book could be on the list but then the list would just be as long as the whole book. 

So they're dancing and whatever and have the most boring conversation. Like maybe as boring a conversation as I've ever read. Thankfully it's over soon, and oh wait. Never mind. It's over, which is good I guess, but next CG takes Flynn's place and now we have to put up with CG and Ana dancing again and it's neither better nor worse. Just equally draining and tiresome.

“Oh yes, he told me everything,” I tease. Christian tenses. “Well, in that case, I’ll get your bag. I’m sure you want nothing more
to do with me,” he says softly. I stop. “He didn’t tell me anything!” My voice fills with panic.
. . .
Why would he think that I’d want to leave? It makes no sense.

Ha! Wow. Ana is really not good at not being a big ol' idiot. I mean, seriously. There are two ways of interpreting Christian in this scene, and Ana does neither. Ana could read this as a joke. CG could be exaggerating for comedic effect, which seems unlikely since he never does anything funny but I suppose it's possible. Or, alternately, she could believe him, which is far more sensible. She could take what he says to mean that he has far, shall we say "shadier" secrets that he's revealed to Flynn but that Ana does not yet know about. And isn't that the obvious way of reading this? CG "tenses" and generally behaves as though he's been caught. Once again, Ana fails to interpret obvious signals. "Why would he think that I'd want to leave?" Well, pretty much anyone else would have left already, Ana!

So you remember last week? How Ana was all, "Good thing I won't have to run into my boyf's first lover from back in high school, since she's not going to be here!" And how I was all, "Well, I've been reading this book? And so I pretty much guarantee that anytime you say something definitely isn't going to happen, that thing is definitely about to happen.

So yeah, Ana next runs into Elena on her way to the bathroom. EL doesn't do anything to tell us where CG is during any of this. Is he, what? Dancing by himself? Whatever. Can't say that I care. But anyways. There's "Mrs. Robinson," the lady who started sexing CG back when he was fifteen. Also, she infected him with kinkiness like a vampire or whatever because we all know that that's how it works.

Mostly Elena spends a long time telling Ana that CG loves her, which is pretty annoying because it's clear to us that, yes, in his weird, jealous, stalkery way, CG loves Ana. Insofar as he is capable of love, CG loves Ana. You really gotta stack on a lot of qualifiers, but yeah. He loves her. Grand. Very exciting for one and all I'm sure. Ana spends the whole conversation acting like this is way shocking and that she never considered such a thing ever, but literally everything that happens to Ana shocks her, even when it's just a repeat of something that already happened.

But wait! There's a threat in the end! Quoth Elena:

"But what I wanted to say is if you hurt him again, I will find you, lady, and it won’t be pleasant when I do.” 
Heh. Hey you know how sometimes you'll have a friend, and then you'll meet your friend's friend, and that person is terrible? And then you're like, "Wow maybe I should really re-evaluate my opinion about my friend, since my friend has terrible friends?" Ana doesn't do that, but should.

When Elena threatens Ana, she's referring to that time at the end of the first book where CG spanked Ana and she was super upset and said she didn't want to see him anymore. But Elena has decided that, in that traumatic experience, it was really CG who was the victim there. That makes sense, right? So take note, Ana! if CG ever does anything to you again that makes you really uncomfortable, and you say so, Elena might come and murder you. So that's cool, right Ana? Your stalker boyfriend has an ex girlfriend who's kind of a stalker too. Oh and we're not even talking about Leila right now. So remember her too.

Here's the thing: when you get stalked by Christian Grey, you're not just getting stalked by him. You're getting stalked by everybody he's ever stalked as well.

Yes, I am proud of that joke. But can you blame me? Really? No? That's what I thought.

Anyway, Ana's comeback to this threat is clever, by her standards at least, and then she does a pretty good storm-off. She stomps "toward the entrance of the tent where Taylor is standing just as Christian arrives, looking flustered and worried."

No suggestion of what's got CG flustered and worried. I mean, Ana did, we presume, tell him that she was leaving for a minute to pee. And now she's been gone for a minute, and then he sees her again, and is all "ZOMG where'd you go?!?" So that's silly.

He's also not verrrrry sympathetic about the fact that, for a second time, his girlfriend is being threatened bodily by one of his ex-girlfriends.

Okay, I can see this will end in a fight if I don’t tell him. “She’s threatening to come after me if I hurt you again—probably with a whip,” I snap at him.
Relief flashes across his face, his mouth softening with humor. “Surely the irony of that isn’t lost on you?” he says, and I can tell he’s trying hard to stifle his amusement. 

Um. The irony is lost on me. Is there annnnnybody who wants to explain the irony? Oh maybe I get it. Is he saying that the most likely way for Ana to hurt him is to refuse to be whipped by him? And that such a refusal would then result in a whipping from Elena? Is that what we're talking about? Or, more likely, is EL using "irony" in the incorrect, vague way that people often do? Which is to say basically as a synonym for "interesting"? Even though this is less interesting to Ana and more terrifying?

But srsly. CG has told us a buncha times about how Elena beat the shit out of him, and now she's threatening to beat the shit out of Ana, and he's like, cute! Actually, what're the chances that that's like one of his absolute top fantasies? His ex girlfriend whipping his current girlfriend? That's gotta be like, top 5 for this guy, right? I'm going to assume that that's an all time top 5.

So next CG walks Ana to the luxury port-a-potties so that no more of his jealous ex-girlfriends will ambush Ana again because he probs has way more waiting around there somewhere, right? Probs.

When she comes out again, CG is just getting off the phone with Elena, and he's pretty much telling her to stay away from Ana which I suppose is good of him but I can't imagine that it will actually work. And Ana sees this and thinks, "Why is he phoning her?" And that is a silly thing to think because the answer is quite obvious. He's doing it because Elena just threatened Ana, and Ana felt threatened. It's one of the more considerate things that CG has done in this entire series, so I guess it makes sense that Ana is confused by the gesture. "Why would he do a thing just because I want him to? That's never worked before."

They decide to dance some more, but then CG's dad "Carrick" asks Ana for a dance. At least this dude has the decency to ask the lady if she wants to dance, rather than asking the dude for permission to dance with his lady. Because c'mon. Srsly. Oh and I put quotation marks around "Carrick" because c'mon. That's not anybody's name ever.

Ana thinks that Carick is just trying to figure out of Ana really has the money to pay for the weekend at CG's house that she bought a half hour ago at the auction, but I think that's silly. If I were Carrick I'd just assume Ana were bidding with CG's money, since CG has already said he makes a billion dollars an hour or whatever. Anyways they talk and we get more nonsense about CG's childhood:

"In fact, he didn’t speak for nearly two years. It was playing the piano that eventually brought him out of himself. Oh, and Mia’s arrival, of course.” He smiles down at me fondly. 
Really, EL? That's how you wanna play this? CG didn't talk for two years? Instead, he just played the piano? He was healed through art! This book is just cliché on top of cliché next to more cliché. Plus this is just another one of many conversations where someone comes up to Ana to tell her how good she is for CG. These repetitive little conversations are quite necessary because CG still seems totally terrible and miserable. Rather than showing CG transform, EL just creates this stream of characters who come over to Ana and say, "Wow! CG sure is transformed!" She does this because she's bad at writing, as we have already established.

Speaking of which: let's take a look at how EL mangles a pretty simple conversation and leaves us confused!

As the final strains of “Come Fly with Me” fade away, Carrick releases me and bows, and I curtsey, mirroring his civility.
“That’s enough dancing with old men.” Christian is at my side again. Carrick laughs.
“Less of the ‘old,’ son. I’ve been known to have my moments.” Carrick winks at me playfully and saunters into the crowd. 
See what I mean there? The paragraph that comes just before this part that I quoted was speech from Carrick. Then we have a paragraph that includes action from both Ana and Carrick, but no speech. Then we get "That's enough dancing with old men." Now, for the past page or so we've only been dealing with Ana and Carrick, so when we read that speech, we presume that it's a self-deprecating line from Carrick, but in fact, we eventually figure out that it's CG, newly arrived in scene. We're not totally sure who says "That's enough dancing with old men" until we get to the last paragraph of this cutting, where we get more speech from Carrick. Personally, I think that the scene would be stronger if, in fact, it is Carrick who refers to himself as an old man, rather than CG. It's a nice little line, nice, fatherly thing for Carrick to say, and a nice way for him to wrap up his conversation with Ana. But then Carricks' actual final line is kind of weird and I don't even know quite what he's talking about.

Worst, though, is the way that EL forces us to kind of puzzle our way through the thing to figure out who says what. It's particularly annoying because EL's default is to over-identify speech, often including a few extra speaker tags that are extraneous and show the author's hand a little too aggressively. But in this case, she bring CG back into the scene in an awkward way, and makes it hard for us to figure out who's who. This book is bad enough without us having to this extra, pointless detective work.

Next everyone is getting ready to watch fireworks or whatever because this chapter just hasn't gone on long enough already, ok? And we need some more of it.

Seeing Taylor reminds me of Leila. Perhaps she's here. Shit. The thought chills my blood, and I huddle closer to Christian. 
Jesus. Well, I guess we're going to see Leila soon! Ana basically summoned Elena with her mind by thinking about her earlier, and so I'm going to assume that Ana has some kind of psychokinetic powers that are going to make Leila appear next. Oh well! At least maybe a little bit of Leila could mix things up a little. I am still pretty grossed out by Leila as a character. She's just more "proof" that, in EL's mind, anybody who likes any kinky stuff is dangerous and mentally ill.

Then we get a whole lot of fireworks-watching and it's pretty bland. Just another one of many, "rich people stuff" moments that we have to put up with in these books, and they never quite feel accurate. Not convinced that EL really understands rich people but whatever.

Then, some boring banter re: the sex toy Ana was using earlier which basically didn't seem to do anything for her besides make her stomach hurt. At least, that's basically all she ever talked about while the silver balls were stowed inside her. I liked using the word "stowed" back there because it made the toy seem pretty unexciting, like a piece of luggage. And I was pretty unexcited about hearing Ana talk about them earlier.

I do enjoy the fact that Ana refuses to hand the toy over to CG. Not handing the balls over to CG is one of the very few gestures from Ana that assert any sort of agency over her own sexuality, and I'm always on the lookout for moments where Ana actually acts like a human being with her own desires and whatever, so I'm glad Ana doesn't comply with CG's request to have the balls back.

EL really misses an opportunity, though. Here's CG's response to Ana's refusal:
He narrows his eyes at me.
Could you be any more ambiguous EL? Jeez. Ugh. Ana saying, "Nah, it's cool. I'll hold onto these" is basically the sexiest thing she's done in the entire book, but it kind of looks like CG's response is to pout about it. Wah wah wah! I'm Christian Grey! I wanna be in charge of all the sex stuff! Wah wah wah! Wait have you guys figured out that I hate this dude? You have, probably, right? Sorry if I'm being too obvious.

Next we get a bunch of boring goodbyes. CG's sister Mia invites Ana to "hit the mall" which is delightfully dumb. Seattle is a major urban center, so there are lots of malls. And also Mia is rich, and Ana is effectively rich, so they're not going to go to a goddamn mall. Right? What, does Mia really want to stop by Spencer Gifts? Or Abercrombie? Sorry. I don't really remember what they have at malls because even though I'm not rich? I don't go to malls because I'm an adult and malls are terrible places that no one, including Mia, ever goes unless they absolutely have to. Or are fourteen and not allowed anywhere fun.

Oh here's a particularly disgusting part to finish our chapter:
“What did you mean about a big day tomorrow?” I ask to distract myself. “Dr. Greene is coming to sort you out. Plus, I have a surprise for you.” “Dr. Greene!” I halt.

“Because I hate condoms,” he says quietly. His eyes glint in the soft light from the paper lanterns, gauging my reaction.
“It’s my body,” I mutter, annoyed that he hasn’t asked me.
“It’s mine, too,” he whispers.
I gaze up at him as various guests pass by, ignoring us. He looks so earnest. Yes, my

body is his . . . he knows it better than I do.
Dr. Greene is the famous gynecologist who came to CG's house in the previous book to give Ana a prescription for oral contraceptives. And that part was so mutterblushing riveting that all EL's fans were like, "ZOMG! We need more of Dr. Greene! She's our favoritest character and we wanna see her come and give Ana a different birth control prescription because we're so fascinated with EL's weird misunderstanding of the US healthcare system!"

But I can't even talk about how gross this cutting is. Do we even need to talk about it? Can we just agree that it's the absolute worst? Is there anything I can say that will create in you any deeper understanding of how terrible this is? Probably not, right? Probably we all already understand what horse shit this is, and we can just move on, I guess.

Ugh. I gotta break for a second I think. I gotta like, take a walk outside or something, or take a shower. Or just like listen to recordings of whales or something. Anything to create a bit of distance between myself and this terribleness.

Ok, I'm back. Yay.

So at this point Ana and CG are hustled into CG's car, and Ana is given an envelope with a note from Elena that's basically like, "Let's be bffs! Oh but also I'll still murder you if you make CG cry!" She doesn't say that exactly. She says that but in more words. Whatever.

Ana falls asleep on the drive back to CG's house and CG offers to carry her inside because he is an adult and she is a small child, remember? They get back to the Escala building and are told that somebody slashed Ana's tires and threw paint on the car. The tire-slashing makes sense to me, I guess, but the paint is pretty weird, right? Carrying around some kind of slashing device (Editor's note: weird that there isn't a simpler word for that term. Oh well.) is the sort of thing that plenty of people do regularly. But paint? That's a weird combination of pre-meditation and harmlessness. I mean yeah, her car is going to  be pretty messed up but there are lots of ways to mess up a car that don't involve carrying in extra stuff. Whatever.

Also we're talking about Ana's Audi which I don't think she's driven anywhere. Has she? Maybe. I dunno. There was a big fight earlier about the car, and about how CG insisted that Ana take it back. But now I can't remember if she's actually driven it since last book. Wait did she ever drive it? I don't know anymore. When you've got this kind of  book where nothing ever happens, it's hard to keep track of what happens.

Somehow CG has security guys named "Ryan" and "Reynolds" so from now on I'm just going imagine that all of his security goons are Ryan Reynolds. That's fair, right? I mean we all gotta keep ourselves entertained.

And then the chapter ends with CG insisting that Ana wait outside while he goes into his apartment to be all heroic or whatever, because maybe Leila is in there being evil and stuff.

Really not very compelling. Basically what we've got is a protagonist who used to be miserable around her boyfriend except for when she was having sex with him. And now she's both miserable and perhaps in serious danger whenever she's around him. Really not convinced that this is worth it at all. I mean I know she is into him or whatever but is it worth worrying about getting murdered by his ex-girlfriends? Really doesn't seem like it to me, at all. But what do I know!

I kind of like the fact that this chapter ends with one of the ladies stalking Ana (Elena) playing nice while the other (Leila) gets nastier. Because wouldn't it be fun if Elena and Leila were actually, like, working together? The ol' good stalker / bad stalker routine? And wouldn't it be Even Better if CG were still seeing both of them, and were in on the whole thing?

Basically, I want this book to come clean and expose CG as the villain. He's a great villain! I mean, he's Dracula, really, who's a classic villain. And think about it this way: he's way too terrible to be a good guy, but he's just nice enough to be a particularly dangerous villain, right? Because the most dangerous villains are the ones who create just a tiny bit of sympathy.

So I'm calling it now: I'll re-examine some of my feelings about this book if EL eventually shows us that CG was the real villain all along. I won't say that that's enough to make me like these books, because it isn't enough. Nothing is enough. But that's a twist that I could really get behind.

And since that seems fun to me, I'm completely confident that that won't happen. Oh well!

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