Tuesday, May 6, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 12 part 1

Elena stops by and later Ana and Christian have sex on a piano. 

So. Let's get real for a minute. Google tells me that I'm getting something like 100-150 reads of all these posts and that's not terrible but it's also not particularly impressive. More people could be enjoying this nonsense, I believe, if they knew about it or whatever.

So: if you're reading this, please do me a favor, because I am quite literally posting this on my birthday and you're supposed to be nice to people when it's their birthday. Here is the favor: tell someone else about this blog. 

Doesn't have to be big. Put it on your facebook or your twitter or your myspace or your hashtag or your linkedin or whatever thing you do. And maybe someone else will read it and they'll think it's funny and also we'll have helped some more people decide to never ever read the actual book. Because that's what this is really all about: bringing down EL James evil empire. If we're not careful, the movie versions of this mess will end up in actual movie theaters, and quite possibly bring civilization to a standstill with their terribleness. We are basically all that stands between society and anarchy, so if it isn't too much of a bother, post a link somewhere, and send a little traffic my way.

I'm tired of seeing that all of my hits are courtesy of Chinese search engines because I expect that that's some kind of weird accident, right? Or like, a few nights ago, half of my hits were from the Ukraine and that doesn't make any sense, right? It can't possibly be true that I have anything like a Ukrainian readership, can it? (Editor's note: please prove us wrong in the comment section below, dear Ukrainian readers!)

That wasn't so hard, was it? Thanks!

I should note that you don't necessarily have to send your friends to this particular chapter because even if you've been following along, this chapter makes little sense and is terrible. This is another one of those chapters that's going to be basically totally pointless. We're going to introduce some new nonsense related to Christian's first ex--Elena--and we're going to have a "cliffhanger" ending featuring Christian's most damaged ex--Leila--but mostly this is just padding. I'm really looking forward to telling you all about Leila because for real: it's super obvious where EL looked for inspiration when she was writing Leila's scenes:

We swears to serve the master of the precious.
Yeah that part is going to be super fun! I swears! Well. Kinda fun, sort of. Any excuse for me to talk like Gollum is a huge bonus for me. Maybe even enough to get me through the next couple chapters! Small victories. Small victories.

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. 
  9. Ana and Christian buy a car and ride on a boat. 
  10. Ana and Christian eat dinner and play pool.
  11. Ana returns to work and Christian follows every little thing she does from afar.

Right so when we left off Ana and Christian were chilling at CG's place after work. Relaxing evening after a busy day of spying / being spied on. But then, Elena shows up--often called "Mrs. Robinson" by Ana because Elena did all kinds of sex to CG when he as in high school.

I don't think I mentioned last week that Taylor just sort of announces that Elena is on her way up as a fait accompli. I don't know why this is. I mean, if I were Taylor, and Elena called up from the lobby, I'd be like, "Oh, let me see if he's home. He mentioned popping out and I'm not sure if he left yet or not." And then I'd go ask CG if he wanted to see Elena or not, and then go from there. Right? So I guess Taylor isn't literally a butler, but he's a shitty butler and should take some lessons in how to butle because he's doing it all wrong. 

One tricky thing about this series is that at this point I can't remember what I've talked about and what I haven't. And then I can't remember what I've maybe brought up a couple times but haven't like, totally overdone, and what I've totally overdone. But let's talk about crooked lines anyway. EL is always referring to the mouths of angry people as "hard lines." I think. Different kinds of lines, but lines every time. It's the sort of thing that would be innocuous or maybe even semi-clever if it happened once or twice, but EL uses it just about every time anyone is angry and people are always, always angry. We should total up the cumulative number of pages in which nobody is mad at anyone for anything. Probably like seven pages. Not in this book. I mean in the whole series.

Anyway. CG is mad that Elena is coming by unannounced and why shouldn't he be? It's a weird thing to do. And how is this represented? "His mouth flattens to a crooked line." 

"Flattens" "crooked." Right? This is one of EL's favorite tricks: the variation on a theme that ends up just making absolutely no sense at all. Is his mouth flat, or is it crooked? Oh well. 

So I guess this is how Christian Grey looks? Sure. Why not.

Let's look at Elena's entrance: 

She’s dressed entirely in black: tight jeans, a shirt that emphasizes her perfect figure, and a halo of bright, glossy hair. 

Fun, right? EL is always using "entirely" in this peculiar way. Like I'm pretty sure at one point she says that CG is entirely naked except for his pants and shirt, but I don't care enough to actually look that up. But you get my point. We're told Elena is "entirely" in black but then the first thing we hear is that she's wearing jeans, and yeah, I guess there are black jeans but it's still a weird construction. And yeah, so she's wearing black pants and a black shirt? ZOMG. I guess that's remarkable for non-waiters. If she works at a restaurant or, now that I think about it, a hair place, black is super ordinary. Oh wait she does work at a hair place! So yeah. Super ordinary. Oh and the way Ana describes her hair, it makes it sound like she's "dressed" in hair. Like it's a wig or something.

I personally think that this kind of description is totally useless, because it doesn't do anything for tone or mood. Did Elena dress with intent, or not? Maybe Ana thinks that Elena is dressed all sexy to seduce CG again, or something, and gets all jealous. That would be something. But honestly, it just seems to me like maybe Elena came straight from her job running a salon, and is just looking professional. The point of describing stuff, it seems to me, is to capture what stands out, what's unusual. Here, we're just told that Elena is wearing black and also we're reminded that she continues to have blond hair. Yawn.

Elena is surprised to see Ana there:

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you had company, Christian. It’s Monday,” she says as if this explains why she’s here. 
I mean, it kind of does explain, kind of, Ana, if you'd pay attention to this book that you're in. You see, traditionally, CG only has his lady callers around over the weekend, and then they go back to their regular lives on Monday. This is his established pattern, so Elena figures that Monday would be a good day to chat him up. Makes sense to me, Ana! And I'm barely paying any attention to this mess at all. Try to keep up, Ana. Please. One of us needs to know what's going on.

Some awkward chatter establishes that Elena has come to CG because she's got some problem or something and wants his help. CG is careful to be all hand-holdy with Ana to remind Elena that he's totally spoken for and I'm just like, wait why am I reading this again?

Elena pulls out a note. She's being blackmailed. CG watches to much CSI as evidenced by the fact that he refuses to touch the note for fear of leaving fingerprints on it. This is obviously silly, but CG is a silly man.

They’re only asking for five thousand dollars,” he says almost absentmindedly. “Any
idea who it might be? Someone in the community?”  
“No,” she says in her soft sweet voice.
Linc? Who’s that? 
“What—after all this time? I don’t think so,” she grumbles. 
“Does Isaac know?” 
“I haven’t told him.” 
Who’s Isaac? 
I really hate it when Ana thinks in italics. I mean, first of all, why bother? This is a first-person novel, so everything in it (Editor's note: With a handful of weird exceptions, like in the preface to this book.) is Ana's thoughts. So there's no reason to italicize something just to make it clear that it's a thing Ana is thinking. Every part of this dumb book is a thing Ana is thinking.

But wouldn't it make more sense for her to think, "I wonder who Isaac is"? Because she's not asking anyone a question. Plus, filling me in on this stuff is Ana's job. Don't shirk your job, Ana! Figure out who Linc and Isaac are. I don't care, but if you care, figure it out for yourself.

So, she's getting blackmailed, but not for much money. I mean that's a bunch of money in the real world but in Elena's fancy fantasy world, that's just like, walking-around money. So what does she care, really? And in context, it's clear that Linc is someone from her past. And since her own full name, I think, is Elena Lincoln, seems pretty likely that Linc is like, maybe her ex-husband. And Isaac, I expect, is her current husband, or boyf, or maybe just the dude she has sex with.

I don't know! But also, just by looking at the same information that Ana has available to her, I've once again made a decent guess about who these people are, and now I'm no longer curious. Ana is way more curious, but somehow never asks anyone, and somehow is just still every bit as bad at using context clues as ever.

Ana decides to split because she feels awkward, but also EL wants us to hear the rest of CG and Elena's pointless conversation, so Ana hides partway up a staircase so she can keep listening. She doesn't hear anything worth repeating, though. Elena leaves, and Ana runs upstairs so that it isn't obvious she's been eavesdropping.

CG joins her. And once again asks CG to tell her a buncha stuff about his youth because, I guess, she thinks that if she just keeps asking more questions, eventually he'll explain what his problem is. The only problem with this is that A) we all pretty much know what problems CG has already and B) simply learning about different things that happened to him is not going to unlock anything for Ana. Even if she eventually is like, "Ohhhh! I get it! He's like x because y," that's not going to help change y in the slightest. So what's the point? I dunno. Maybe I'm supposed to be curious about y too. But I'm not.

“She’s gone,” he says warily, gauging my reaction.
I gaze up at him, trying to frame my question. “Will you tell me all about her? I am trying to understand why you think she helped you.” I pause, thinking carefully about my next sentence. “I loathe her, Christian. I think she did you untold damage. You have no friends. Did she keep them away from you?”
He sighs and runs his hand through his hair.
“Why the fuck do you want to know about her? We had a very long-standing affair, she beat the shit out of me often, and I fucked her in all sorts of ways you can’t even imagine, end of story.”
I pale. Shit, he’s angry—with me. I blink at him. “Why are you so angry?”
“Because all of that shit is over!” he shouts, glowering at me. He sighs in exasperation and shakes his head.
I blanch. Shit. I look down at my hands, knotted in my lap. I just want to understand. 

I really enjoy (Editor's note: not really.) how Ana places such emphasis on how she's choosing her words carefully, and then ultimately asks the question in a super inflammatory way. "So, Christian. You perceive your life experience in a certain way, but you're wrong, and also you're messed up and probably can't be fixed, so tell me more about that?"

And then she's all surprised when he's angry! And then does the dumbest possible thing you can do when someone is angry: point out that they're angry! It's like she's never maintained a human relationship before and thus is incapable of doing any of it correctly.

I guess there is in fact blame to go around--CG could make this easier if he weren't chilling with Elena all the time, or, more important--if he weren't always insisting to Ana that Ana could never understand CG and Elena's relationship. I don't know much, but telling your girlfriend that she could never understand what you had with an ex-girlfriend is a super good way to turn your girlfriend into an additional ex-girlfriend. Just sayin!

But why am I even bothering, really? They're just going to keep fighting for a while and then probably get over it and have sex and then fight again and so on and on and on. Right? Most likely.

They keep talking for a long time and it's not interesting at all. But Ana does ask about Linc and Isaac. Linc is in fact Elena's ex husband, only it turns out his name is Lincoln Timber which is super fake sounding and also, yeah--I checked back earlier in the chapter and Taylor announces Elena as "Mrs. Lincoln" and It's completely bonkers to me that Elena Lincoln has an ex-husband named Lincoln Timber. I mean it's the kind of thing that does happen, obvs, but c'mon. Did you run out of names, EL? You've only got like ten characters in this whole book, and you're already recycling names? Pathetic.

Oh and Isaac is Elena's current "sub." So that clears up that I guess. FYI. ICYGAS. In-case-you-give-a-shit. Oh man. That is a dope acronym. ICYGAS! I'm going to make a point to use this one around town. Please. Help me out. try to work it into all your written communications.

CG tries to change the subject by telling Ana that her new car is in the garage. For some reason, Taylor has the keys. Ana isn't allowed to drive, though, because Leila is definitely going to show up and murder her or whatever. Only probably not since then the book would end and there are something like one million chapters left. Then they get to fight some more, and also we get to be reminded about how CG is always treating Ana like a preschool kid:

Whoa . . . the Saab? “Can I drive it tomorrow?” 
“Why not?” 
“You know why not. And that reminds me. If you are going to leave your office, let me
know. Sawyer was there, watching you. It seems I can’t trust you to look after yourself at all.” He scowls down at me, making me feel like an errant child—again. And I would argue with him, but he’s pretty worked up over Elena, and I don’t want to push him any further, but I can’t resist one comment. 
“Seems I can’t trust you either,” I mutter. “You could have told me Sawyer was watching me.” 
Well. This is silly. I know I was operating under the assumption that Sawyer was somewhere watching. I mean, right? Weren't you? Because I totally assumed that he was parked somewhere near the entrance to Ana's office building, spying on her all day. It's super weird to me that Ana didn't assume the same. Whatever. Somehow the fact that Sawyer was tailing her all day--that's what makes Ana say she can't trust CG? CG is totally unworthy of trust! I mean I trust him to flip out and be a huge dick about stuff, but otherwise I don't trust him at all.

CG splits to go work after this bit of fighting.

I exhale. I hadn’t realized I’d been holding my breath. I flop back onto the bed, staring at the ceiling. 
Can we ever have a normal conversation without it disintegrating into an argument? It’s exhausting.
Ha! Wow it's been a long time since Ana forgot to breathe. Thanks for brining that bit of stupidity back for us, EL! I'd almost forgotten about how Ana doesn't always remember that breathing is necessary for human life or whatever. Cute. I also like how, in that second paragraph, she's thinking the exact same thing I am. Can they ever have a conversation that doesn't turn into an argument? Because it's exhausting.

Then several paragraphs of Ana moping on her own, then falling asleep in the billiards room with one of CG's expensive fancy books. And then CG finds her and puts her to bed.

I want you to go ahead and guess what the next scene is. Here's a hint: the next scene takes place in the middle of the night. Would you like to guess what CG is doing?

Who guessed "playing the piano moodily?" Because you're right! You're completely correct! You win a prize. The prize is this: the knowledge that you're paying too much attention to this terrible book.

This is pretty much the third time EL has used this same paragraph, with only slight variation:

In the great room, I stand in the shadows, listening. Christian is lost to the music. He looks safe and secure in his bubble of light. And the tune he plays has a lilting melody, parts of which sound familiar, but so elaborate. Jeez, he’s good. Why does this always take me by surprise? 
It's like I can hear the music with her! It's both lilting and elaborate! Oh man. "Why does this always take me by surprise?" Maybe because you live your entire life like that dude in Memento. Right? Maybe that's why Ana starts every chapter by reminding herself of the plot. Maybe that's the big twist! Ana is literally incapable of generating new memories, and that's why everything that ever happens to her is a shocking surprise.

This is when they have sex on the piano. I kind of feel like this would've been an ok scene if it had happened the first time Ana found CG at the piano in the middle of the night, but because EL teased it so many times, by the time it actually happens, it's really lost any impact. Plus, it's just predictable. They had a fight earlier in the evening, and they always have sex after they fight. So everybody saw this coming.

There's one part that seems cool but then you actually think about it and it'd be pretty miserable: Ana ends up on top of the piano, and receives about fifteen seconds of oral sex, as is CG's tradition. During this, her feet are stomping on piano keys randomly and that's gotta be terrible, right? Like that's kind of cute and funny if it happens once, but after that, it's like, hey you gotta move your feet.

Then they like, sleep on the piano, I guess? Whatever.

The next morning, in bed, Ana is just a wonderful example of how not to relate to somebody with PTSD. I don't know that that's CG's deal, but it seems a fair shorthand based on my limited knowledge. Anyway, Ana is just always bringing up shit that CG probably doesn't actually want to talk about! I don't need to discuss my lack of sympathy for CG because I do that every third chapter or so. But here, I'm kind of on his side! If I've got some shit that I obvs don't want to talk about all the time, I'd really appreciate it people didn't bring it up every mutterblushing day!

“I always sleep well with you, Anastasia.” 
“No more nightmares?” 
“No.” I frown and chance a question. “What are your nightmares about?” 
His brow creases and his grin fades. Shit—my stupid curiosity. 
“They’re flashbacks of my early childhood, or so Dr. Flynn says. Some vivid, some
less so.” His voice drops and a distant, harrowed look crosses his face. Absentmindedly, he begins to trace my collarbone with his finger, distracting me. 
“Do you wake up crying and screaming?” I try in vain to joke. 
He looks at me, puzzled. “No, Anastasia. I’ve never cried. As far as I can remember.” He frowns, as if reaching into the depths of his memories. Oh no—that’s too dark a place to go at this hour, surely. 

Ugh. Where to start. CG probably didn't want to talk about his nightmares, so way to go, Ana. Also, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me that Dr. Flynn is the one who knows what's going on with CG's dreams. Flynn is his psychiatrist, but also, see, psychiatrists can't read your mind, so what the hell does Flynn know?

 “Do you wake up crying and screaming?” I try in vain to joke.
Jayzus! Um. This is not the first time that Ana has come up with a joke so super-terrible that she literally had to say she was joking in order for anybody to know that she was joking. Great job, Ana. 

And then I love the end. Ana now worries that CG is headed to "too dark a place" and it's like, hey! You're the one who sent him there! A little late to worry about that now! Geez. 

Ana asks about happy memories that CG might have about his early childhood, and CG calls his mom "the crack whore" again and any temporary sympathy I might have had for him is once more erased. Also he says his first word was "Mia" which seems completely impossible since Mia didn't enter CG's life until well after his adoption, which I think happened when he was four. So that's a few years late for his first word, right? 

“You said your mom saved you. How?” 
His reverie is broken, and he gazes at me as if I don’t understand the elementary math of two plus two. 

And now I'm back on CG's side again! You're being a huge idjit Ana. Yo, so CG was stuck in a squalid apartment with his dead mother's corpse, and then a nice lady adopted him. (Editor's note: CG tends to refer to his adoptive mother as "mom" and his birth mother as "the crack whore" and while that does keep things easy to follow, it's super gross.) I think maybe that's how she saved him! At times she makes it seem like Ana literally is not paying any attention at all to anything.

And then CG is all, "This is a little deep for so early in the morning," which is funny because Ana thought the same thing like, three lines earlier and hey, I get it. Writing is hard, EL. Writing is hard.

Then they have sex again because that's what they're usually doing.

So. What did we learn, exactly? Not anything, now that I think about it. We had that bit with Elena that was super pointless, and some piano sex, and we really aren't going anywhere at all. Just way more of that thing where CG gets all angry about something that's absolutely nothing, and then they have sex after that.

I realize that this is not doing much to convince you to tell your friends about this blog but hey. Just remember all the fun times we had earlier, yeah? Also, I always like to keep my recommendations qualified. I assume this makes me seem cooler--cool people don't like stuff, I'm pretty sure. So just tell everyone that I peaked way back at about the midpoint of the first book and that I'm in a gentle decline as I get more fed up with EL's writing, but that I still come up with a decent joke now and again. And that is basically the truth. 

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