Wednesday, July 16, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 19

Everything is fine and they're going to get married.

I apologize for the lateness and everything.

I went on vacation and I'm all jetlagged kind of sort of, or at least lately I can't stay up until 2 like I usually do so this didn't quite get posted Tuesday morning like I planned. TRAGIC! I am sure that totally ruined your day. But at least you get to read it Wednesday instead! It can fix your Wednesday after I ruined your Tuesday so it all kind of evens out, right? Kinda? Maybe?

Whatever. This is a short chapter so let's get right to it!

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.
  12. Ana returns to her apartment to meet Kate's brother Ethan, but instead finds Leila, who holds a gun.
  13. Christian disarms Leila and Ana has drinks with Ethan. 
  14. Nothing happens in Chapter 14. 
  15. Ana's boss confronts her in the break room after work. 
  16. Ana thwarts her boss's attack. 
  17. Ana is promoted to her boss's job and talks to CG's psychiatrist. 
  18. Ana and Christian visit a mansion he wants to buy and then eat dinner. Ana goes to work the next day and after work she learns that CG's helicopter is missing.

Guys guys guys! Are you still reeling from the shocking cliffhanger that ended Chapter 18? The revelation that Christian Grey and his favorite helicopter had gone missing? (Editor's note: we don't know how many helicopters the dude has. Could be just the one. Could be a bunch. We dunno.) Shocking stuff, right? And it's the kind of plot twist that, though surprising, perfectly resonates with the novel's themes such that when it happens, it amazes and feels utterly inevitable at the very same time.

Just kidding! It comes from absolutely nowhere. It could have been foreshadowed quite easily, tho. So for instance, what if Ana were terrified of the helicopter? What if she had imagined it crashing earlier? Or what if EL established that CG is a bit of a show-offy pilot? I bet that he is kind of a show-offy pilot, so it would make perfect sense if he were a bit reckless. AND this would actually fit nicely with the idea that CG, as an abuse survivor, has surprising self-esteem issues. So what if the flip-side of his manic concern about Ana's safety were his own fascination with needless danger?

Look how easy that was! We solved it, just by thinking about it for a couple seconds. We gave CG this whole other character arc where he has to learn to love himself and not be so pointlessly dangerous whenever he's alone. And just when we think that he's overcome it--in some earlier scene that I'm not going to think about very much--we get the news of this possible helicopter crash and Ana has to worry not only that he's dead, but that he hasn't, in fact, made any progress.

This brings us to another of our book's truly obnoxious qualities: it's not just that it's terrible. It's that it could so easily be so much better! You could keep the same basic story, with the same basic plot-points, such as they are, and make some slight adjustments in order to have them, like, "make sense" or whatever.

It's also kind of what makes this book a real accomplishment, if you want to think of it in more positive terms. Because here's the thing: I think it would be rather easy to write a romance about a naive college student and her rich, mysterious boyf, if you aspired only for mediocrity. EL, though! She has all these opportunities to elevate her novel up to mediocrity. But she doesn't! She sees those places where slight changes could lead to a vast improvement in quality, and runs in the opposite direction. Slow clap for EL James and her studious work in the field of anti-literature!

Anyway Chapter 19 starts with Ana staring at a fire for some reason. Quick update on the color of fire incase you have forgotten what fire looks like!

I stare at the flames, mesmerized. They dance and weave bright blazing orange with tips of cobalt blue in the fireplace in Christian’s apartment.  

Weird that EL settles for "bright blazing orange" rather than some other comparison. Like a chemical element or whatever. Meh. And only the two colors! No yellows? No reds? You're slipping, EL. Also I guess the fire is because Ana feels all cold because of the bad news or whatever? About CG being missing? She has complicated responses to emotions. This one is to feel very cold, even though I forget what month it is but it's totally some version of summer. And I get it--the coldest winter you ever experienced was June in Seattle. We get it. But even a cold Seattle June is just cold in comparison to how June ought to be in the civilized world. It's not actually cold. You're just sick of Seattle-spring and so sixty degrees seems like the Arctic. You don't actually make a fire in your fireplace. You just keep your sweater(s) and your rain jacket on like a regular Seattle person. And then you're like, "Hey thank goodness I don't have to buy my annual small bottle of sunscreen yet! I've got another month of rain still!"

Wait what were we talking about? Did I just go off on another weird tangent? Sorry. I'm very jet-lagged so please bear with me while I try to make sense or whatever.

For reasons unclear, basically every character who's ever appeared in this book congregates in CG's house to watch the news on tv or whatever. I mean there are only like, six characters, so I guess it's not that many. But still. I cannot remember when they showed up or why, but there they are.

This is a fun paragraph:

Somewhere, Taylor and Carrick are talking to the authorities who are drip-feeding us information, but it’s all meaningless. The fact is—he’s missing. He’s been missing for eight hours. No sign, no word from him. The search has been called off—this much I do know. It’s just too dark. And we don’t know where he is. He could be hurt, hungry, or worse. No! 
Hey so how does Ana know that Taylor and Carrick are talking to "the authorities"? She's just staring at the fire. What the hell does she know about what other characters are doing? Whatever.

And he's been missing for eight hours. Do you even count as missing if you've been missing eight hours? And the search has been called off? I mean there isn't even a search yet, right? A helicopter can get pretty far in eight hours, right? So I srsly doubt that there's an actual "search" happening. I'm quite confident that there's not a search happening. Just some cops saying that they'll call CG's parents if they hear anything. That's the "search" right?

I also like Ana's fear that CG could be hungry! He's been missing for eight hours! Therefore he might not've eaten for eight hours! Who can even go that long without eating? I can't. I get up in the middle of the night for an extra meal. I call it "secret dinner" and it's delicious.

There are like two whole more pages of Ana moping and quoting back shit that CG said to her earlier and looking at the fire and watching everyone else be all sad or whatever and then CG walks in and he's fine.

BUT THAT WAS A CLOSE ONE! He was gone for literally three pages, and wow. That's dangerous. This is a reminder of another element of EL's "style." Once CG is introduced, he dominates every page. I'm not going to confirm this because it sounds like work, but once the idea of CG enters the novel, I don't think that there's a single page of it that's not about him. Ana and CG are never allowed apart for more than two or three pages at a time, particularly if you count their endless emails, which are just a way of keeping CG in-scene because Ana doesn't have a life of her own. And so it was inevitable that CG would not stay missing for long. EL has absolutely no idea what Ana ought to do besides talk to CG or have sex with him, so CG has to return promptly.

So where was he?

CG is totally like, "What the shit, dudez? I'm only a couple hours late."

“Christian, you’ve been missing. Your flight plan—you never made it to Seattle. Why didn’t you contact us?” 
Christian’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “I didn’t think it would take this long.” 
“Why didn’t you call?" 
 “No power in my cell.” 
“You didn’t stop . . . call collect?” 
“Mom—it’s a long story.” 
“Oh, Christian! Don’t you ever do that to me again! Do you understand?” she half shouts at him. 
“Yes, Mom.” 
Haha. "No power in my cell." I love how EL manages to explain incredibly mundane ideas in ways that nobody has ever said ever, and never will.

Anyway, there are a few pages of hugs and tears before we get any sort of explanation. The scene of relief about CG's return is about as long as his actual absence. There are probably some dumb bits that I could mention for you but but I'm pretty much just scanning at this point because this book is so boring and forever-taking.

Here's one of those bizarre little asides that EL is so fond of:

“Your daughter?” 
“She’s fine now. False alarm, sir.” 
“Good.” Christian smiles. 
Daughter? What happened to Taylor’s daughter?
I don't know either, Ana! I have no idea what happened to Taylor's daughter! I have only the dimmest recollection that he had a daughter because my policy is not get too attached--or at all attached--to any of these characters so I forgot that Taylor's daughter was a thing. Maybe we'll get some follow-up on this important "what happened to Taylor's daughter?"-question that we're all worrying so much about! Fingers crossed!

Check out this amazing story! 

Christian launches into his story. He was flying with Ros, his number two in Charlie
Tango to deal with a funding issue at WSU in Vancouver. I can barely keep up I’m so
dazed. I just hold Christian’s hand and stare at his manicured fingernails, his long fingers, the creases on his knuckles, his wristwatch—an Omega with three small dials. I gaze up at his beautiful profile as he continues his tale. 
“Ros had never seen Mount St. Helens, so on the way back as a celebration, we took a quick detour. I heard the TFR was lifted a while back and I wanted to take a look. Well, it’s fortunate that we did. We were flying low, about two hundred feet AGL, when the instrument panel lit up. We had a fire in the tail—I had no choice but to cut all the electronics and land.” He shakes his head. “I set her down by Silver Lake, got Ros out, and managed to put the fire out.” 
“A fire? Both engines?” Carrick is horrified. 
“Shit! But I thought.” 
“I know,” Christian interrupts him. “It was sheer luck I was flying so low,” he murmurs. I shudder. He releases my hand and puts his arm around me. 
“Cold?” he asks me. I shake my head. 
“How did you put out the fire?” asks Kate, her Carla Bernstein instincts kicking in. Jeez, she sounds terse sometimes. 
“Extinguisher. We have to carry them—by law.” Christian answers levelly. 
Ugh. Can you just fly helicopters wherever the hell you want? Probably, now that I think about it. Rich people own helicopters. Rich people can go wherever they want. Hence, helicopters can go wherever they want. That's logic!

I hate-hate-hate the way EL looks up these little bits of jargon and dumps them in. TFR! AGL! CG knows that he's talking to a roomful of non-helicopter people. Or, mostly non-helicopter people. He's a smart enough dude. He wouldn't use all this dumb jargon. But more important, his use of jargon just points out how poor EL's research is. By sharing this super arcane knowledge about this one little pointless part of the book, she reminds us that she's writing about people in a city she hasn't researched at all, and doesn't understand in the slightest. I'm not going to look up TFR or AGL because FTB.

I like notice, as you will, the quiet sexism here: “I set her down by Silver Lake, got Ros out, and managed to put the fire out.” Ros couldn't get out of the helicopter by herself? Really? Really? 

Christian and Ros, file photo.

Three last points:

Is Ana a finger fetishist? And is that a thing? Or is there some thing that I don't know about where it's like, "Hey you know what they say about guys with long fingers!" Is that a thing? It's weird how she keeps bringing it up. And also I'm supposed to believe that Ana knows enough about men's watches to recognize CG's? Whatever.

Oh and the last thing: I hate 1) that weird "Carla Bernstein" bit because it's the kind of weird joke that you have to think about for a second, and then when you figure it out, you're just annoyed for having wasted your faculties decoding something so unrewarding. And 2) the fire extinguishers. Mutterblushing of course that's how he extinguished the fire. 

Oh and the last-last thing: I always hate it always whenever EL uses the word "murmurs" but take a look at this one in particular:

“Shit! But I thought.” 
“I know,” Christian interrupts him. “It was sheer luck I was flying so low,” he murmurs.
So, we've got CG interrupting his dad or whoever I don't know. But he's like, interjecting with a murmur? Try that one at home. Try to cut someone off mid-sentence with a murmur, and let me know how that goes for you.

Hey but here's what's most important: CG is safe! I know you were all very worried during the like, two pages where his safety was in question, but you can rest assured that he's still around to shame Ana about her eating habits, to be jealous of any interactions she has with other men, and to generally make her life miserable whenever they aren't in bed. Phew! Close one!

There's some more bullshit about CG hitchhiking back or whatever but who cares. And also Ana speculates that CG was in such a hurry to get home because he knew José was going to be in town and he wanted to be back in Seattle so that he could be jealous in person rather than from a distance. Whatever.

Lots of goodbyes and whatever. This chapter just starts with worry, then endless pages of "Oh hai Christian is alive!" and then more endless pages of everyone leaving again. To call it a waste would be an understatement.

OH NOES THO! Mia and Ethan are already fighting. I think they met, what? Earlier this same day probably? I think maybe it was earlier this same day that they met and their romance immediately started. But look out! Trouble in one of the many of this book's paradises!

Behind me, I’m aware that Mia and Ethan are having a heated whispered conversation, but I can’t hear it. 
Mia is smiling shyly at Ethan, and he’s gaping at her and shaking his head. Suddenly, she folds her arms and turns on her heel. He rubs his forehead with one hand, obviously frustrated. 
INTRIGUING! I guess they aren't an instacouple like Ethan's sister and Mia's brother.

Hey here's a rule we can all get behind I think:

If your brother is dating someone, and that someone has siblings, those siblings are off-limits to you because let's be real. That shit is weird, and don't do it. We can all get on bored with that can't we? That that's weird and you shouldn't do it? That your brother shouldn't also be your brother-in-law? Wait would that happen? I can't keep track! It's too complicated! And that's why you should do it. Thank you for not doing it.

You know what I hate? Subtext. That is the worst. I wish that every character's dialogue would just reflect exactly what they think, and also serve as a summary of past events for the reader. Look at this!

Kate hugs me hard. “I can tell some serious shit’s been going down while I’ve been
blissfully ignorant in Barbados. It’s kind of obvious you two are nuts about each other. I’m glad he’s safe. Not just for him, Ana—for you, too.” 
Thanks a lot, Kate. I thought you and I were on the same team. #ChristianSucks. But I guess not! Ugh. Nobody is on my team. Typical.

So everybody leaves. Next José goes to bed and says he's leaving early in the morning. There was absolutely no point in bringing José back for this visit. Didn't add any real tension because he's such a tertiary character that nobody reading could possibly be rooting for him to get together with Ana. All he can do is spark a little extra jealousy in CG, and making CG jealous is like making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Let's wrap this up with the absolute cheesiest shit I've ever seen ever in my whole life ever:

So it's just Ana and CG, hanging out in the kitchen. And remember Ana gave CG a present for his birthday and made him carry it around but not open? Remember? What the shit was that about? Ugh. Anyways it's after midnight so it's CG's birthday now so this happens and I swear I'm not making this up:

With deft long fingers, he unwraps and opens the box. His brow creases as he fishes out a small, rectangular, plastic keychain bearing a picture made up of tiny pixels that flash on and off like an LED screen. It depicts the Seattle skyline, focusing on the Space Needle, with the word SEATTLE written boldly across the landscape, flashing on and off. 
He stares at it for a moment and then gazes at me bemused, a frown marring his lovely brow. 
“Turn it over,” I whisper, holding my breath. 
He does, and his eyes shoot to mine, wide and gray, alive with wonder and joy. His lips part in disbelief. 
The word yes flashes on and off on the key ring. “Happy birthday,” I whisper. 

Are you mutterblushing kidding me EL James? Ana accepts CG's proposal with this shitty souvenir keyring? Oh helllllllllllll no.

This is so brutal. I cannot even handle how brutal this is. How dumb dumb dumb and brutal this is.

And yet we still have three more chapters to go. Somehow, there's still more. There's always still more. 

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