Wednesday, April 16, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 9

Ana and Christian buy a car and ride a boat. 

How exciting! A chapter so boring that we can cover it in but a single week! That's pretty impressive, right? Not really, I suppose. It's also certainly possible that I'm just getting tired of this thing, and that's why I'm moving along more quickly. The whole point of this was to talk about terrible prose, but EL just kind of repeats her terrible moves over and over again, so at a certain point, it stops being very entertaining for me to just make the same complaints again and again. I mean, it isn't like EL is listening to me, so I might as well just do what's entertaining to me, right? Sure.

This is perhaps the most obnoxious chapter of the entire series to date. There simply isn't any narrative tension. There is no sense that this thing is moving anywhere. An anecdote is some stuff that happens, but a plot is a series of connected events. This chapter is all anecdote. I almost can't believe how empty and pointless it is, but then, I've read the previous chapters and the previous book, so, yeah, I can believe how empty and pointless this is.

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. 
  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. 

So. We left hour heroes in the shower, after this revelation: Christian is willing to say he loves Ana. Well. Not so fast--he's not yet used the "L" word. He's managed to choke out the phrase "Yes, I do," after Ana was all "Ooh you wuvvvv me don't you?" (Editor's note: that is not a direct quotation.)

So impressive, right? I know I'm terribly impressed. And I see no reason any of us should continue. It's a beautiful day out! Let's all just take a walk, right? Let's just take a quick shower to clean off the stink from this terrible book a little, and then let's go enjoy a nice spring day, right?

I mean, I don't actually know what kind of day it is where you are. Maybe it's awful! I don't know! But being out in it can only be an improvement on this book.

We return to the shower. The lovers agree that they are totes about to do it, but they're going to do it somewhere else so we have an extended hair-drying scene, which, I can assure you, is riveting. JK. Then we segue into an equally unriveting conversation about how CG has never had anyone else dry his hair which I feel like probably isn't true, right? I mean I know he's a dude, right? But has he for reals never gotten a shampoo before a haircut? I have! Although, come to think of it, maybe that's just some precaution they do just for me. Maybe they're like, "This rich guy who sounds like a vampire seems like his hair isn't even that greasy so maybe we don't gotta shampoo him like we do the regular scrubs we get in this place." That's probably it.

This drying scene takes easily a hundred pages. Or, to be more specific, one page that feels like easily a hundred pages. It's just way more of the slow, uninteresting process during which CG accustoms himself to being touched by Ana. This would make more sense if this wren't basically a whole book about people having sex all the time, which traditionally involves some touching.

It could almost work as a nice metaphor for intimacy, only it kind of never happens. I think that's because I don't like CG. I don't want to get closer to him, the way Ana does. And, he just seems irredeemable to me. His weird jealousies, the way he spends money, the way he acts like he owns everyone all the time--I just am not convinced that I'm ever going to like him. I'm not rooting for his redemption, so when we have this attempt at a tender moment, I'm just like, "meh."

EL does do me one favor, though, which is that she skips over the post-towel sex, probably because she's probably exhausted her sex-knowledge at this point. Right? Like her sex scenes are all repetitive, but now maybe she's also run out of different implements to include, and so is just like, "Eh you get the idea." Probably I'm not actually so lucky as to be done reading about the escapades of our heroes, but I can always hope!

Ana returns to a topic that is endlessly interesting to her and not at all interesting to me ever. So that's fun for one of us. The topic? CG's life, pre-adoption. Ana asks about the identity of CG's biological father.

CG has a fairly terrifying habit of only referring to his mother as "the crack whore" which is pretty gross, right? When I think back on my high school vocabulary, I remember that, at least with my peers, I said pretty harsh and terrible thing. Not directed at anyone, but just in a casual way. CG reminds me of that, sometimes. He just comes across as immature all the time. It's part of what keeps me from being so unsympathetic to his plight. If he showed any sympathy, himself, toward his mother, and whatever circumstances pushed her into such a miserable life, I might think of CG more kindly. But he's so awful when he remembers her that I can't help but think of him as being perfectly awful, too.

There's nothing much to the conversation, but there is this dumb gem, in reference to his mother's pimp:

“Do you remember what he did look like?”
“Anastasia, this isn’t a part of my life I revisit very often. Yes, I remember what he looked like. I’ll never forget him.” Christian’s face darkens and hardens, becoming more angular, his eyes frosting with anger. “Can we talk about something else?” 
Just to be fair, I will note that Ana's odd phrasing makes sense in context, based upon the previous line. See, EL? I give credit where it's due! It's just that it's so rarely due.

But how plausible is that, right? So he has a memory from a quarter-century ago, and yet has total confidence in it? I don't have to tell you, for instance, that eye-witness accounts are the least-reliable kind of court evidence, right? You know that. I'm terrible at faces. I frequently lead tour groups through a chocolate factory (Editor's note: this is true but seems fake, we know. Sorry.) and then lead them into the chocolate store, and then promptly forget which people in the store were just on the tour with me for an hour and which weren't. It's tough! But CG has, he thinks, some kind of super-memory for faces, so that's neat, I guess.

But here's another fun thing! This declaration, that he'll never forget this guy? It's kind of a Chekov gun, right? Almost nothing in this book matters at all, and so leading details always leap out and seem insanely obvious. Right? Doesn't it now seem like this figure from CG's childhood is going to appear in the story? And doesn't it seem like CG's going to recognize him, even though he only saw him when he was four? And the dude will have aged twenty-three years?

I literally cannot say with confidence that I remember anything from when I was four. I mean maybe I do? But honestly it's all kind of a blur before about the fourth grade. Is that weird? Maybe we're just learning that I'm the one with a bunch of problems? Twist ending!

CG wants to change the subject so they're now talking about going out somewhere to do something or whatever. Yay. Did I warn you that this chapter is about nothing? Because it's about nothing. They're going shopping. Ugh. It's really the worst.

CG is happy again once the subject has changed:

He grins at me with his boyish, carefree, I’m-only-twenty-seven smile, and my heart lurches into my mouth.  
Again, we see EL unable to maintain the charade that she is writing from the perspective of a woman of twenty-two. When you're twenty-two? Somebody who's twenty-seven literally seems like they were from some different generation, or maybe a different planet. They seem impossibly old! And yet Ana is always talking about how young her boyf looks. Gross. Also, that thing with her heart lurching into her mouth? I guess that means she's happy but mostly it sounds like she's puking. Whatever.

They get dressed and we spend a half page of that and it's crazy boring. Also, I really wish that CG would learn about viruses, and how they are what causes a person to get a cold, not wet hair. We just went through a hundred pages of towel-drying! And then as they're getting dressed, he's hassling Ana about her hair! Ugh.

“Dry your hair,” Christian orders once we’re dressed. “Domineering as ever.” I smirk at him, and he leans down to kiss my hair. “That’s never going to change, baby. I don’t want you sick.”
Translation: I'll always be a shitty boyfriend who bosses you around! This is maybe the thing I hate about him the most--CG telling her to dry her hair all the time. I hate it so much because he's just bossing her around for the sake of bossing her around. He's not actually getting anything out of bossing Ana around other than whatever enjoyment he gets out of the act of bossiness itself, since he's not actually keeping her from getting sick. And yeah, that's never going to change, because he's a terrible person.

Srsly tho: is there anybody left in the world who thinks you get sick if you leave your hotel room with semi-damp hair in June or whenever this takes place? I mean I know it's Seattle and all and the coldest winter I ever experienced was Seattle in June. But come on.

Really enjoying EL's eighties eye for fashion:

Christian drags a large, cream, cable-knit sweater out of his bag and drapes it artfully over his shoulders. With his white T-shirt and jeans, his artfully rumpled hair, and now this, he looks as if he’s stepped out of the pages of a high-end glossy magazine. 

No. What he looks like is the villain from the rival camp. He's exactly the guy who the lovable losers have to organize to unseat because he's a rich bully and his camp is called Camp Snobbington Manor or something. Ana has never seen a high-end glossy magazine, I guess. Or maybe she did, one time, when she was four.

It's ok that he's super shitty, though! Ana doesn't mind, somehow!

This is my Fifty Shades; this is the way he is.
As I reach for the hairdryer, a tangible ray of hope blossoms. We will find a middle way. We just have to recognize each other’s needs and accommodate them. I can do that, surely?
I gaze at myself in the dresser mirror. I’m wearing the pale blue shirt that Taylor bought and had packed for me.  
Yeah, so Ana just recapped the whole conflict of the trilogy yet again. Can she find a middle way? OMG I DON'T KNOW! Let's spend 1.5 more novels figuring it out since we haven't yet. Ugh.

I also pasted this part in because she's once again wearing that same goddamn shirt. I mean c'mon! Over and over and over! If she isn't stealing Kate's clothes, she's wearing that one outfit that Taylor bought for her when she was drunk that one time. Get some clothes, Ana.

We're four pages into this chapter. Roughly two thousand words. And absolutely nothing has happened except for two people we're sick of patting each other with towels. I cannot believe how inefficient this is. And then when we finally get them dressed, finally get them out of the hotel, there's a pointless mini-scene in which CG tips the valet and Ana complains about it! It's probably the nicest thing CG has done to anyone in this entire mutterblushing book, and Ana is like, "Ew what a showoff!"

In case you're wondering? When people get big tips? There might be like, a half second where they're like, "What a show-offy tip that guy gave me!" But then that wears off and the person who got the tip is like, Score. And then gets extra mileage out of telling people about the jagoff with the fancy car who gave such a big tip. So let CG tip the valet, Ana. It'll be ok. Geez.

So they're driving somewhere. Nobody knows where. Look at this paragraph:

As we cruise through the traffic, Christian is deep in thought. A young woman’s voice comes over the loudspeakers; it has a beautiful, rich, mellow timbre, and I lose myself in her sad, soulful voice. 
Look at how terrible and awkward that second sentence is! Ugh. Is it a British thing to say "loudspeaker" instead of just abbreviating it to "speaker" or is it just a weird thing that certain weirdies do of all nations? Dunno. Or care. But the way she describes this music is goofy as hell. Right? There's such a crazy amount of sentence real estate between "voice" and "speakers" that the sentence kind of redefines itself as it goes. And then the description? Ugh. I get so angry when I read these stacks of adjectives that don't actually explain anything. The whole purpose of writing is to clarify. But why not throw in some more empty descriptors, EL? Here's some that might help! Melodic. Mellifluous. Musical. Try those next time, too!

Soon revealed that we're headed to the Saab dealer. It's weird that Saab didn't get any sort of bounce from its association with Ana and Christian. Sorry, Saab! I'm now going to assume that all remaining Saab drivers are doing so to be closer to their favorite literary heroin, Ana Steele.

Buying her a Saab instead of an Audi is CG's way of expressing to Ana the fact that she's his girlfriend and not his "submissive" and it makes sense because that's a pretty huge distinction, right? Buying one car instead of a different car? Huge, huge deal.

EL's little attempts at setting the scene, at characterization, always kind of make me laugh because she's so terrible.

Troy Turniansky, the salesman, is all over Fifty like a cheap suit. He can smell a sale.
Weirdly his accent sounds mid-Atlantic, maybe British? It’s difficult to tell. 
Really? We get a full first and last name for this guy we're never going to encounter again? And an indecipherable accent? How very pointless. How very, completely pointless. I mean right? Wow that's so weird about his accent! I'll be sure to make a note of that completely pointless bit of detail for later, when I'm sure it will come in handy maybe.

They fight a little bit about what color the car should be. This argument is every bit as interesting as you doubtless expect it might be.

Also somewhere in here Ana consciously thinks of CG as "God's gift to women" which is hilarious both as a cliché and as a gentle reminder of how women in his life have an unfortunate habit of totally losing their grip on reality after he's done with them. Some gift!

That was quick, though. CG buys a car but they have to wait a couple days for it and I can almost not stand the anticipation, but I think I'll manage. Then they hop into CG's car again to do whatever it is that they're doing.

I'm going to share a longish bit with you so that you get a gentle reminder of just what absolute garbage this garbage book is.

Christian opens my door, and I climb back into the passenger seat. “Thank you,” I say when he’s seated beside me. He smiles. “You’re most welcome, Anastasia.”
The music starts again as Christian starts the engine. “Who’s this?” I ask. “Eva Cassidy.” “She has a lovely voice.”
“She does, she did.” 
“Oh.” “She died young.” 
“Are you hungry? You didn’t finish all your breakfast.” He glances quickly at me, dis- approval outlined on his face.
Uh-oh. “Yes.” “Lunch first, then.” 

Sorry about the weird extra line breaks. They're some formatting thing that strikes me now and then and not a weird formatting thing from the book.The parts that get me the most are when Ana says "Oh." Isn't that pathetic? I mean this is the narrator. The person we expect to understand best of all. And all we get is "Oh." Makes the sequence feel like product placement, right? Like Eva Cassidy's estate paid EL a couple bucks to throw this in. Right? Right. Anyway it's terrible and I can't stand it.

Now they're driving around feeling happy. This is the fanfictioniest part of this whole garbage fest. This is going nowhere and nothing is happening and it's just so bullshitty.

Christian drives toward the waterfront then heads north along the Alaskan Way. It’s another beautiful day in Seattle. It’s been uncharacteristically fine for the last few weeks, I muse. 
OH TELL US MORE PLZ. Ugh what even is this? How do you feel about that final tag? "I muse." Let me tell you how I feel about it: it makes my soul hurt. Now that's not really a thing I believe in per se. But it gives me an almost physical pain to see that pointless extra couple of words. What's the point? Is she giving herself an out? Like, making it clear that this is just her opinion? In case I'm like, "Ugh no the last few weeks have been awful!" That way she can be like, "I was just musing! I'm not a meteorologist! This is so pointless.

We stroll arm in arm to the waterfront where the marina stretches out in front of us.
“So many boats,” I murmur in wonder. There are hundreds of them in all shapes and sizes, bobbing up and down on the calm, still waters of the marina. Out on the Sound there are dozens of sails in the wind, weaving to and fro, enjoying the fine weather. It’s a whole-

some, outdoorsy sight. The wind has picked up a little, so I pull my jacket around me. “Cold?” he asks and pulls me tightly against him.
“No, just admiring the view.”

Just look at this shit! The whole thing is completely terrible in every possible way. But why the shit are the boats bobbing up and down? The water is calm and still and the boats are bobbing? I guess it's not that still after all is it, EL!

They sit in some restaurant and it is seriously the worst and taking forever. This is maybe the absolute low-point of the novel: EL is just writing about people dicking around in Seattle doing touristy shit, but she has never actually dicked around in Seattle doing tourist shit so it's just the absolute worst. We get the shit that doesn't matter in scene, like where they order their soup. Yawn. But the shit that actually might help us understand the book better is glossed over. Like this:

We talk through our meal, as we never have before. Christian is relaxed and calm—he looks young, happy, and animated despite all that transpired yesterday. He recounts the his- tory of Grey Enterprises Holdings, and the more he reveals, the more I sense his passion for fixing problem companies, his hopes for the technology he’s developing, and his dreams of making land in the third world more productive. I listen enraptured. He’s funny, clever, philanthropic, and beautiful, and he loves me.
In turn, he plagues me with questions about Ray and my mom, about growing up in the lush forests of Montesano, and my brief stints in Texas and Vegas. He demands to know my favorite books and films, and I’m surprised by how much we have in common. 
I still can't figure out what the hell GEH does, or why Ana was moving around all the time. And I'm going to assume that EL can't figure it out either, because she skips it. Ugh. Have I mentioned how absolutely terrible this book is? Because it's so terrible.

This is the worst chapter in this series since that one in the last book where they went glidering or whatever. If only there were some way to make this dumb chapter more explicitly a remix of that dumb chapter.

Ooh! I solved it. Let's see CG's boat because that's a thing we care about probably.

“Built by my company,” he says proudly and my heart swells. “She’s been designed from the ground up by the very best naval architects in the world and constructed here in Seattle at my yard. She has hybrid electric drives, asymmetric dagger boards, a square- topped mainsail—” 

Wait so now it's a boat company? What's even happening at that place? It's building boats! It's saving refugees! CG is diversified! He is part-owner of a bunch of hair salons! Whatever. Asking how CG made his money is as useful as asking where Richie Rich got his. He's just rich, ok! Stop asking so many questions!

The boat is named The Grace after CG's mom. This is going to make it more awkward when they have sex in like two pages, right? Because you know that's where we're headed, right? To boat sex? I mean there's no other thing that could possibly be happening. No way at all we're headed anywhere other than boat sex. No way at all.

Ana thinks that it's weird that he named the boat after his mom. Also: she is correct. Fellas: don't name boats after your moms, especially if you're going to try to bang a lady on said boat. She's going to think that's weird. Although, in Ana's case, she claims to just think it's weird that he named a boat after his mom despite the "strange ambivalence" he feels toward her. Whatever. This is just another one of those attempts that EL makes sometimes to create extra tension. Not working. I don't need any extra explanation of any of this. So he named the boat after his mom! Who cares? I don't.

On the boat is another of CG's many manservants. This time some sailor dude named Mac. Here's a real cringe-inducing couple of lines:

“How’s she shaping up, Mac?” Christian interjects quickly, and for a moment, I think he’s talking about me.
“She’s ready to rock and roll, sir,” Mac beams. Oh, the boat, The Grace. Silly me. 

Is there anything for me to say about that? Not really, right? That's just some weird shit that no one could explain. Like probably if EL were to accidentally read this book at some point, she'd probably be like, "Oh shit wonder what I was thinking there. Oh well! Now I need to go back to that chore I was doing: figuring out a new place to stash some of this additional money that I have made thanks to the surprising popularity of this book that I wrote one weekend while the cable was out."

They wander around this boat and this is not that short a chapter, but it's so, so pointless and dumb that I'm just going to push through to the end. I'm pretty sure nothing is going to happen other than some boat sex and me being bored and making more cocktails. I mean they literally wander over to the master bedroom and that's finally when Ana is all, "Ohhhhh right. He might want to have sex with me like we always do all the time" because she is not a smart person. But CG is like, "No, no. Not now. Ten minutes from now."

Everything that happens in this book is just a repeat of a dumb thing that happened in the previous book, so all my jokes are just dumb versions of jokes I already made months ago when I was less jaded.

He delves into a chest and pulls out a bright red lifejacket. “Here.” Putting it over my head, he tightens all the straps, a faint smile playing on his
lips. “You love strapping me in, don’t you?” “In any form,” he says, a wicked grin playing on his lips. “You are a pervert.” “I know.” He raises his eyebrows and his grin broadens. “My pervert,” I whisper. “Yes, yours.”
Right? So the first time that CG straps Ana into a thing it was way back in that first book, and compared to all the inanity that follows, CG putting on Ana's safety harness before a helicopter flight almost seems like clever foreshadowing. It's not clever. It's just that everything that happens after is so aggressively dumb, that the original incarnation starts to seem clever in retrospect.

Here's some more of this dumb book for you to read. I mean, I had to read it. So the least you can do is also read a little bit of it. I'm just including this bit because it's simultaneously so baffling and so obvious.

“Come.” He grabs my hand and leads me outside, up some steps, and onto the upper deck to a small cockpit that houses a big steering wheel and a raised seat. At the prow of the boat, Mac is doing something with ropes. 
“Is this where you learned all your rope tricks?” I ask Christian innocently. 
“Clove hitches have come in handy,” he says, looking at me appraisingly. “Miss Steele, you sound curious. I like you curious, baby. I’d be more than happy to demonstrate what I can do with a rope.” He smirks at me, and I gaze back impassively as if he’s upset me. His face falls. 
“Gotcha.” I grin.His mouth twists and he narrows his eyes. 
“I may have to deal with you later, but right now, I’ve got to drive my boat.” He sits at the controls, presses a button, and the engines roar into life. 
Mac comes scooting back down the side of the boat, grinning at me, and jumps down to the deck below where he starts to unfasten a rope. Maybe he knows some rope tricks, too. The idea pops unwelcome into my head and I flush. 

Right? My first question is EL's use of the word "innocently." Ana is pretty explicitly into some innuendo, here, so is she actually being all innocent, or is she actually doing the opposite? That's one of those classic indications of terrible writing--where you can't tell if the writer means one thing, or the exact opposite of that thing. Fun.

And "rope tricks" is just a repeat of the thing with the life vest. It's the exact same joke made again, and it wasn't clever before and it isn't clever now.

But what's the deal with Ana and sailor Mac at the end?? Is she for realsies imagining herself getting tied up by CG's sailor-guy who she just met? Because that is legit weird, right? I mean, maybe not. Maybe Mac is super sexy. I don't know!

Oh then they sail around on his fancy boat for a while. Yawn.

Then they stop sailing somewhere and CG sends his sailor-guy Mac out on an errand or something so that he can do sex to Ana in private.

It's pretty typical. We've got some foot stuff, so that's fun, if you find dirty feet erotic. Ana is wearing some new underwear so that's cool I guess.

And you know what? This is honestly not that bad a scene. If I were capable of enjoying any of the sex in this series, this is probably the moment I'd enjoy. But I'm just so bored by these two that it doesn't work. I'm not intrigued in the slightest. Also, it's pretty ordinary sex. Just imagine "ordinary sex" and you probably have a decent understanding of how things happen between our heroes here at the end of Chapter 9.

And that's it. They bought a car, and went to a boat, and had sex on a boat. This is not a good book.

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