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:


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. Christian's ex, Elena, threatens to hurt Ana if she mistreats Christian. After the party, Ana and Christian drive home, where they are informed by Christian's security staff that someone, most likely Leila, has vandalized Ana's car and may have broken into the apartment.
  8. Christian's security goons conclude that Leila is not in the apartment, but soon she sneaks into Ana's room while she sleeps so Christian and Ana go to a hotel because Leila may be dangerous. Ana has another of her famous Sunday morning home appointments with her gynecologist. 
  9. Ana and Christian buy a car and ride on a boat. 

Ana and Christian are lolling around after boat sex but they decide to stop having boat sex so that CG can help his sailor-friend Mac upon Mac's return to the yacht. You see, Mac, in order to give our lovers a little privacy, has gone out in a dinghy on some errand, but he'll be back soon, and CG wants to be available to assist. Or whatever. Who cares.

Ana has her usual beginning-of-the-chapter thoughts:

  • CG is good looking.
  • He just did sex to me.
  • OMG he's my boyf!
  • He said he loves me!
  • I guess I'll keep dating him even though he's kind a weird and usually is a bad boyfriend.
Soon Ana is doing that thing where she overhears part of a conversation and is like, "Wonder what that's about?" even though we know right away what it's about and then Ana looks like a real dummy. Here's CG's side of the conversation: 

“Great news . . . good. Yeah . . . Really? The fire escape stairwell? . . . I see . . . Yes, tonight.” 

We all know what this is about, right? I don't have to explain it to you, right? Right. It'll be obvious to you, if you've been following along, that CG is getting a call from one of his security goons. Most likely Taylor. And Taylor is giving CG an update on his ex-gf, Leila, who broke into the apartment the night before and could've murdered Ana but instead escaped down the fire escape stairwell.

Of course, I don't really know what "The fire escape stairwell" means. But since CG calls this "Great news" I'm guessing that they maybe found her in the stairwell? I don't know. But the closest thing to a plot we now have is encapsulated in that one little sentence there. Who or what is in the stairwell?!? OMG I can't wait to find out!

It's also just ridiculous that Ana is always including these little overheard bits of conversation in the story, you know? Since this novel is written in first person, it's a bit like she's saying, "Well, guys. I don't know what's going on here but maybe you can figure it out for me if I tell you what I saw." Just another example of how Ana seems way dumber than the reader pretty much on every page.

Soon they're on their way back to Seattle. Here's a bit that jumps out at me:

I remember the interview when I first met him. I picked up then on his passion for ships. I thought his love was only for the ocean-going freighters his company builds—not for super-sexy, sleek catamarans, too. 

Ok this is some serious retcon, EL! You know who didn't pick up on CG's passion for ships during that interview? This guy. Because there was nothing about ships in the whole first book! Jeepers creepers. And now EL is slipping in all this stuff about boats as though to say, "Oh, yeah, CG's company has always been a boat company. That's the story. Yes indeed."

And once again I end up circling back to CG's company and how comically unlikely it is that he'd be a billionaire at 27 in some industry other than software. Because srsly. Building "ocean-going freighters" is not the sort of business you can just start in your garage or like, build on kickstarter. Basically, EL only decided during the process of writing the second book that she wanted his company to build boats, but it makes not even a little bit of sense based on what we know about CG and his business. Whatever.

They're still just sailing his fancy boat or whatever but I do want to share this bit of pretzel logic from Ana RE: sex:

He is an exceptional lover, I’m sure—though, of course, I have no comparison. But Kate would have raved more if it was always like this; it’s not like her to hold back on details. 
That checks out, right? Ana must be having the best sex ever, based on the fact that her one friend Kate doesn't talk more about the sex that she's having. Hey maybe Kate just has some goddamned manners! Maybe that's why she doesn't go into excruciating detail every single time she gets laid! Ever think of that, Ana? No? Also: hearing about other people's sex is mostly just boring and annoying. For instance, I've been reading this book that I guess technically fancies itself "erotica" or whatever and is literally the best-selling "erotic" novel of all time, and I gotta tell you: it is boring as hell, especially the parts with sex. Consistently terrible. Remind me to tell you more about that book sometime.

They sail back to Seattle. Yawn. Nothing of note, other than the fact that we learn that Taylor has a first name and it is Jason. I think I'm going to just imagine that Jason Taylor is Jason Statham and this is going to make this book ever so slightly more interesting for me.

Taylor receiving some instructions from Grey. Right?! So much better!

The whole conversation about Taylor is one of those ones where EL's use of speaker tags makes it almost impossible to tell who's speaking when. For instance, when I read the section the first time, I thought that it was CG who states that he's not attracted to Taylor, which I thought was a fun, weird development. In fact, Ana says that she's not attracted to Taylor, which is way less interesting.

Right? Because imagine if CG is going around saying, “I’m not attracted to him, if that’s why you’re frowning. Stop.” Right? You hear him say that, and you immediately assume that, yeah, CG is probably attracted to Taylor, right? And is, you know, maybe going to call him in for a little, you know. A little, uh, nightcap. Listen, Taylor, I know you've had a long day protecting me from one of my ex-girlfriends whom I probably horribly mistreated. But now that you're done, maybe you could join Miss Steele and myself in the old playroom? What say, old chum?

Ugh. I'm probably going to have to look for that scene in some fan-fiction website, right? Because nothing so interesting is ever going to happen in this book, is it? Probably not.

(Editor's note: we have looked at a little bit of 50 Shades fanfic and have reached two conclusions: 1. It's basically written as well as the original books, which is not a compliment, but also kind of is? 2. It's depressingly straight! We thought the whole point of fanfic was that we got to see bros totally do it! Why are you even writing 50 Shades fanfic if you aren't writing about CG and Taylor getting it on?)

We're getting fairly deep into this chapter and it's proving every bit as pointless as the previous one. Just some sailing, a little background information that is completely unimportant, and now that they're done sailing, they go to a restaurant. And now Ana is going to ask some more questions and I'm going to be so, so bored.

Ana notes that CG doesn't have any friends, and asks why, and he basically says he's too busy for friends. He does not mention that he's a shitty person, which is, I imagine, the bigger reason that he has no friends. It's hard to have all that many friends when you're a shitty person nobody wants to spend time with.

But it's a weird thing for Ana to mention considering that she also has no friends. Well. She has Kate, and José kinda but basically she has no friends either. So she's not exactly the person you'd expect to worry that CG doesn't have enough pals.

Next Ana spends a long time being worried that CG must be miserable because she isn't as kinky as he'd like her to be or whatever. And CG is kind of sensible about the whole thing. Says he's very happy with her, says that it's no big deal not using his "playroom," says that there's no reason to rush back into BDSM but that maybe they'll get there eventually. 

So, why are we reading this? This happened in the first book, too: when they were eating their pancakes, toward the end, it kind of seemed like they'd reached a compromise and were going to be fine. And now CG has basically said that it's cool if they aren't super kinky, so the core conflict of the book is resolved, right? So why go on? 

Things that I guess we're still supposed to care about:

  1. Leila. Is she dangerous?!? OMG
  2. Will CG ever let Ana touch him all over everywhere? OMG I DON'T KNOW!"!&$Y%
  3. Ana's boss seems kinda creepy. IS THAT SOMETHING?!?
  4. There was that lady feeding a dog at a hotel late at night. IS SHE SOMEONE?
Right? So basically nothing at all left to care about, is the thing. EL has never convinced me that Leila is dangerous, nor do I care if CG manages to get more chill about being touched all over or whatever. And 3. is a no-stakes situation. I happen to know that Ana's boss is going to emerge as some kind of villain, but he hasn't done anything but seem skeezy so far. So that's not yet an issue. And 4. is just a weird thing that I liked in a previous chapter. I don't think it's actually anything. 

So. They leave the restaurant and go back to CG's place, which undercuts my earlier theory about his phone call. One of the goons, Sawyer, says that there's been no sign of Leila, so I dunno what the phone conversation was about earlier and also who cares? 

CG gets all shitty again after being basically chill all day. He's all concerned about Leila, I guess. Ana is pretty much not at all bothered by this, which is cool for her I suppose? Whatevs. Then they make out in an elevator because that's what they are always doing in elevators and EL is like, "Why ever do anything different ever?" And I sure can't think of any reason! You know what they say! Variety is the spice of life, and spice is a real drag so let's never eat any ever. 

Next we run into Taylor and Ana flirts with him and CG is all, "Don't flirt with the help, Anastasia," only actually he says "staff" but I'm pretty sure what he really means is "help" so I misquoted him. Or did I? Didn't I also kind of just like, get to the subtext? Right? Whatever.

Next Ana goes to her room and all her stuff is missing! OMG! But then it turns out that her stuff all just moved into CG's room, and Ana is weirdly unimpressed with this. Doesn't this seem like the kind of thing that would be a big deal to her? CG opening his personal space for her? Instead, this is what she thinks: "When did this happen? Why does he never warn me before he does things like this?"

This book is super predictable for the most part, but then these little out-of-character things just happen all the time and leave me pretty confused. Oh well!

Leila update from CG, who finds Ana in his room:

“Taylor thinks Leila was getting in through the emergency stairwell. She must have
had a key. All the locks have been changed now. Taylor’s team has done a sweep of every room in the apartment. She’s not here.” He stops and runs a hand through his hair. “I wish I knew where she was. She’s evading all our attempts to find her when she needs help.” 

Does this emergency stairwell bit make sense to you? Because it makes no sense to me. I've never been in an apartment that had more than the one entrance but maybe that's just because I'm a plebeian or whatever. But I'm just having a hard time imagining this. There's an emergency stairwell with its own, separate key? Because if she had a regular key, she could just come in the front door like a regular person, right?

I also have a hard time feeling like CG would be very helpful for Leila. I worry that he'd "help" her in the sort of way that a big country might decide to "help" a small country, but then, I hate CG and don't trust him, so perhaps I'm a bit biased.

Also just when it seems like CG is getting a tiny bit more reasonable, he flips out when Ana mentions that she'll  be going to work at her job the next day like a regular, employed-type person. The only fun part is where Ana says "You're being irrational" because that is a cliché thing for men to say to women, only now it's a woman saying it to a man! I take it all back! EL is a feminist! I should have known from the beginning!

But then he quits flipping out as soon as Ana consents to bringing a bodyguard along for her work day. Dealing with this dude is exactly like dealing with a toddler, because that is the only other type of person who ever indulges in this type of mood swing. And once he's in a good mood again, he starts giving Ana a "tour" of the condo. What the hell? She's been there a bunch of times. And now a tour? At this point? Feels awfully late in the game and also I really just don't care at all. It's super-pointless.

Also Ana learns that Taylor has an office with video feeds from different spots in the apartment, and I'm all "obvs" because of course this is the kind of paranoid shit that CG would insist on. Only wait- somehow the stairway that Leila used isn't being filmed? C'mon, CG. If you're going to be super-paranoid, at least go all the way, right? Maybe Leila even knew about this lapse in his panopticon and exploited it. Guess CG's kind of a big dummy. Who knew?!

Next we're back at CG's pool table. And I'm basically going to skip through to the end because I don't even understand what's happening anymore. I mean, I don't understand why any of the things that are happening are happening, which is basically the same idea so whatever.

So. Somehow Ana is good at pool kinda, because José taught her. Note that Ana can only be good at things when a man has taught her how to do them. That's how it is in the world, you know. Men are permitted to merely possess talents. Women, on the other hand, can only acquire skills if they are taught by men. You see, there's no way that Ana could have just practiced pool a lot until she was good at it. No way she could've learned by simply playing in a lot of casual matches with different people, picking up skills here and there, until finally she was an accomplished player. No way! No way that she could've even, I don't know, watched some videos on youtube and learned some trick shots or whatever. Actually, that part I know she couldn't have done because we've established that she doesn't understand the internet. But still--it's a little gross that Ana is so talentless that any time she's any good at anything, she has to "prove" she's really good at it by explaining that a man taught her. Whatever.

That's just the regular sexist part. Let me get to the bonkers part: they bet on the outcome of a game of pool.

“A wager, Mr. Grey.”
“You’re that confident, Miss Steele?” He smirks, amused and incredulous at once.

“What would you like to wager?”
“If I win, you’ll take me back into the playroom.”
Ok so I'm not really paying any attention to this book anymore, really. I do pretty much zone in and out because that's the only way I can manage to not give in to misery entirely. But what? They've already had sex twice today, I'm pretty sure. I'm not that good at counting or whatever but I'm pretty confident in that figure: once at the hotel, once on the boat.

And now Ana wants to go back into the playroom. This is annoying to me. Partially just because I don't want to have to read about it and I probably will have to read about it, and so now I'm sad.

But why is this even happening? When has CG ever demonstrated any unwillingness to have sex with Ana? I mean I guess he basically said that the playroom was not on the agenda for the time being because they don't sufficiently trust each other and because they're having a nice time with non-playroom sex so it doesn't seem terribly necessary to anyone's happiness. Sensible!

I guess what I'm getting at is that Ana's motivations are completely incomprehensible. She's been spending a book and a half, desperate for CG to love her without bossing her around so much, without being kinky. And so as soon as she gets the thing that she's been after, she says, "Oh wait! Let's have something else instead."

In a first-person novel, particularly in a romance, the plot really has to focus on the protagonist's desires. And I know that real people don't always know what they want or whatever. And I also know that lots of stories have this format: "Protagonist searches for x, ends up with y, decides that y is better after all."

But Ana is more like this: "Ana has x, but wants y. Ana gets y, but then is like, ooh maybe gimme a side of x again, too." And fine! I don't care what Ana wants. But the whole "plot" such as it is hangs on Ana's desire, but she keeps moving the goalposts around. As a result, this book just seems totally unhinged from any standard sense of plotting. I have no idea what Ana wants, or where this book is headed, or where Ana's relationship with Christian is headed, or why anyone would ever read this book ever.

And honestly, the pool scene is kind of fun, in its way. They're playing pool and actually kind of flirting which is something that they basically never do. I mean, they do it, but it's always dumb and so blandly obvious that it just makes me roll my eyes. The fact that they're literally playing a game makes their back and forth a little, dare I say, playful, so I'll just say that there have been way worse things in this book than their little billiards game.

But what's the point? That's what I can't figure out.

Here's another way of phrasing this: in a typical novel, the protagonist has some need. Ana has all kinds of problems, but does she want anything that she does not already possess? I mean, I think her relationship with CG is pretty terrible, but she seems pretty happy about it, so who am I to judge?

But why am I still reading this mess if Ana doesn't need anything else? When you're writing, and your protagonist finally has everything she needs? You hit ctrl-S and quit because you're done. 

So why are there all these other chapters left? Twelve more. What could possibly happen?

Probably nothing, right? Probably. 

No comments: