Wednesday, July 23, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 20

Yes, you're right:

I'm having a hard time finishing this. Each chapter is getting just a little more difficult because each chapter is getting just a little more worse and more painful. If, somehow, I were reading this for not particular reason other than, I don't know, to punish myself or something, I would quit here. There's no book left. There's no story left. So I'd just say, "Look, book. I get you. I've read enough." And then I would put it down and never pick it up again. Ooh or maybe I'd leave it in the bathroom as a sort of conversation starter, for anyone who steps into my bathroom. And when people asked me if I'd finished it, I would say "yes" and not even feel guilty about the fact that there were a couple of chapters at the end that I'd skipped. Because I've finished it. Let's be real. And if you've been reading along? You've finished it too, in your way.

Let's get through this last little bit, though. We are completists, not just complainists. And so we shall continue.

The primary crimes of this book, I would say, are twofold:

1. Total lack of shape. Or, rather, it has a shape but the shape isn't compelling. It has three "acts" kinda, but not in the conventional sense. I just mean it has three bits that are smooshed together into a single book. We get 1) the part at the beginning where Leila is a big problem, then 2) the middle part where Jack is a big problem and 3) this pre-wedding part at the end that's pretty terrible and features a helicopter crash because I don't know I guess because something had to happen and that's what EL decided to have happen?

2. Everything that happens in this book already happened in the previous book. It's exactly like a big Hollywood sequel where the actors are just kind of hitting the same marks as they did in the previous movie, but with more budget. Likewise, many of the false conflicts in 2 are just sort of "bigger" versions of shit from 1. Examples:

    • 1: CG pesters Ana to sign sex contract. 2: CG pesters Ana to marry him.
    • 1: Ana says no, but José persists. 2: Ana is nearly assaulted by Jack.
    • 1: CG buys Ana a car. 2: CG buys Ana a different car. 
    • 1: Ana is prescribed contraceptives. 2: Ana is prescribed different contraceptives. 
These are just the ones that are easy to remember and pop into my mind quickly. I am confident there are more. What's worse is that often, the characters say something along the lines of, "Oh just like last time" as they are repeating themselves. They know that they're just doing the same shit, which means the author knows she's just writing the same shit, and yet she persists in doing it to us anyway. Ugh. 

I'm not sure if it's just the cumulative effect of the two books that's weighing me down further, but I'm pretty sure, now that we're so close to the end, that book 2 is a lot worse than book 1. Book 1 is similarly shapeless and contrived and dum, but at least it follows a certain kind of arc. There is some sense of momentum as we approach the end and the 'final' conflict between Ana and CG. This is not much praise; what I'm basically saying is that book 1 is better than book 2 because book 1 at least kinda sorta kinda feels like an actual book, at least in comparison to its sequel, which is just a bunch of different bullshit happening for no reason. 

I guess I should repeat a version of a warning that I've warned earlier: don't read these books. And if you should happen to read the first book somehow, DO NO read the second book because it's bullshit and I hate it and you will too. I mean, unless you're into that kind of thing, and if you are, you probably aren't reading this blog anyway and so I'm not talking to you anyway so ugh leave me alone already geez.

But I am talking to you so let's get caught up with our backstory, shall we?

Our story thus far:

Ana is a naive college student who dated a billionaire for a couple weeks but broke things off with him because he spanked her too hard.
  1. Ana starts her new job at a publishing company and agrees to let Christian give her a ride to José’s art show. It turns out they both miss each other or whatever.
  2. Ana and Christian eat steaks at a restaurant. They rekindle their “romance” and Christian says that they won’t have to have rules anymore and he won’t punish Ana. They drive back to Seattle and Christian gives Ana back the expensive gifts that she'd returned to him when they broke up, along with a new iPad.
  3. Ana goes to work. She is confronted by one of Christian's ex lovers on her way out for drinks with her coworkers. Christian picks up Ana from the bar, and then they venture to a grocery store so that they can cook dinner at Ana's house. But then they get too horny to cook so they have sex.
  4. Ana and Christian eat dinner and then have ice cream sex and then in the middle of the night Ana has a dream about Christian's ex lover Leila, which worries Christian. Later, Ana and Christian fight about money, eat breakfast, and then go to a hair salon where the woman who introduced Christian to BDSM works.
  5. Ana is upset by the sight of Christian's ex-lover, Elena, and storms out of the salon. Christian insists that Ana come to his house because his other ex-lover Leila may be armed. Christian picks up Ana bodily when she disagrees with him. Ana and Christian retire to Christian's house and Christian allows Ana to draw on him with lipstick so that she knows which parts of his body he is comfortable having touched and which parts are off limits. 
  6. Ana and Christian have sex and get ready for a fancy charity auction at Christian's parents' house. Then they go to the fancy charity auction, and Ana bids $24,000 on a weekend getaway at Christian's Aspen condo. 
  7. Ana gets auctioned off to Christian for the first dance of the evening, but before the dance, the couple retreat to Christian's childhood room for sex. 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.
  19. Christian shows up again and he's fine and then Ana says that yes, she'll marry him. 

Anyways when we left our heroes, they'd just decided to get married or whatever. I'm not sure how this leaves us anymore book, let alone one more entire other book after this book. The marriage part usually signals the end of the traditional romance plot. I mean, what else is there to do once you're married? Nothing, as far as I know. Get old I guess. Oh! Maybe try to reboot your romance in like 15 years or whatever. It seems like that's kind of a new sub-genre: romance reboot. But until then? What is left to happen in this book? Dunno. Whatever.

This is a wonderful little passage we get near the top of the chapter:

“Oh, Ana,” he breathes against my lips, and it’s an exultation that leaves me reeling. He loves me, of that I have no doubt, and I savor the taste of this delicious man, this man I thought I might never see again. His joy is evident—his eyes shining, his youthful smile— and his relief is almost palpable. 
“I thought I’d lost you,” I murmur, still dazzled and breathless from his kiss. 
“Baby, it will take more than a malfunctioning 135 to keep me away from you.”

“Charlie Tango. She’s a Eurocopter 135, the safest in its class.”  

Ha! We have this opening bit of just pure romance schmaltz and then? Helicopter advertising. Every few chapters, EL does a tiny little bit of research into some esoteric detail, and then drops it in, and it doesn't fit in even a little. It feels exactly like sloppy product placement, though I can’t imagine that she got any money from Eurocopter, if that even is a real thing. Whatever. 

Oh and stick with one gender pronoun when you're talking about helicopters. That seems fair, right? CG gives his helicopter a boy's name, calls it a she, and then says "safest in its class" and it sounds awkward, right? It's not a person, so just call it an "it," right? I get that there are plenty of languages that assign a gender to different items in the world. But it's weird for people speaking English to call everything an "it" with the exception of certain vehicles, right? That's not just me who thinks that's weird, is it? There's some weird sexism in there somehow, right? So let's chill out with that and just call the helicopter an "it." Cool.

Next they decide to make out or whatever. Just like we knew they would. Only we get another bit of recycling--CG chases Ana around. This is exactly what happened at about this point in the previous book, only at that point we were building toward their big (temporary) breakup. Now we’re leading toward their wedding or whatever I guess. It’s such a bummer reading this terrible book and confronting the sense that you already endured it one time but here you are, reading it again. 

CG drags Ana into the shower and soaks her with cold water, fully clothed, and I guess she’s basically in to it? Whatever. I’m not, but she is, so that’s fine for her. Then they take each other’s wet clothes off and soap each other up or whatever and it’s pretty tame. Yawn. Here’s the first next thing of any note:

“I thank God you’re back in one piece, Mr. Grey,” I whisper, sobering at the thought of
what might have been. He tenses and I immediately regret reminding him. “I was scared,” he confesses much to my surprise. 
He nods, his expression serious. 
Holy shit. “So you made light of it to reassure your family?” 
“Yes. I was too low to land well. But somehow I did.”

OMIGOD RIGHT? CG was scared, but like, he said he wasn’t scared? And that’s like the bravest thing of all, really, is being scared and then lying about it. This is a completely fine thing for CG to do. I just am so annoyed by Ana’s ubiquitous Holy shit. Holy shit! CG almost crashed his helicopter, which is probably real mutterblushing scary! And what do you know but he admitted to being scared! During this super scary thing! Shocking, right? Absolutely goddamn shocking, if you ask me. I’m astounded! Yawn. 

Next scene:

I am sitting up in bed. Christian insisted on drying my hair—he’s quite skilled at it. How that happened is an unpleasant thought, so I dismiss it immediately. It’s after two in the morning, and I am ready to sleep. Christian gazes down at me and reexamines the keychain before climbing into bed. He shakes his head, incredulous once more. 
“This is so neat. The best birthday present I’ve ever had.” He glances at me, his eyes soft and warm. “Better than my signed Guiseppe DeNatale poster.”

I mostly only included this bit because of CG saying “This is so neat.” Right? Neat? Really? Aw shucks! Sure is neat that we’re gonna get hitched, by gosh and by golly! And then comparing it to the poster makes it even more strange. Right? Because the keychain itself is completely dumb. It’s a bit of Pike Place Market tourist garbage that’s given extra weight because of their forthcoming marriage. On its own, the keychain is a complete piece of shit. I’m sorry, keychain, but you know I’m right. You’re no sort of gift for an adult.

But then! The fact that he compares it to some mutterblushing poster makes it seem like maybe he actually is talking about the keychain itself. Because he couldn’t possibly be comparing his commitment to his beloved fiancee to some goddamn signed poster, right? Because that would be truly bonkers. EL is pretty bad at speaker tags, and as a result, I am not infrequently confused about who's saying what in a particular scene. This is one of those times where I'm like, "Ugh who's saying this? Christian couldn't be saying it. But wait. Nobody else could be saying it. What is even happening?" 

I don't know. I don't know what's happening. 

This past scene was one of those transitions-to-nowhere that EL is so famous for. We get a kind of "waking up from sex" scene, although it's not a true "waking up from sex scene." Sort of a modified wake-up because I don't think Ana ever slept, but the effect is the same. A sex-scene, then a pointless wake-up scene in which our heroes talk about all the stuff that they always talk about all the time. Oh and then a cut to another scene in which Ana is actually waking up. Let's see if anything happens in this scene! (Editor's note: of course nothing does.)

Ana wakes up and mets José in the kitchen, who's eating a bowl of cereal. My question is this: why is there cereal in this kitchen? Does CG ever eat cereal? Is anyone else's food in this kitchen? Whatever. 

José and Ana talk about nothing, kinda like all characters do all the time. Oh and they talk about CG for a little bit because all characters do that all the time too.

Here's a weird bit from Ana, I mean since we were already talking about sexism and everything:

“Want a real man’s breakfast?” I tease. 
This is how Ana offers to make breakfast for a man who's already eating breakfast. Whatever.

CG comes out all shirtless and whatever and basically puts on a show for José's benefit. It's gross but not at all surprising. What is surprising is that the scene devolves into another pointless discussion of fishing. This seems like a rule for EL:

  1. Two women having a conversation will inevitably talk about men.
  2. Two men having a conversation will inevitably talk about fish.
Granted, in this case it's because José is going to go fishing with his dad and Ana's dad who are totes bff because all characters in this book are either friends or lovers and literally everyone knows everyone else, just like IRL. But still. How many people do you know who fish with any kind of regularity? Or who have gone fishing past the age of about ten? Not that I'm saying people shouldn't! More than I'm saying Ana has a disproportionate number of fishing enthusiasts in her life because c'mon. I get that it's the outdoorsy northwest and all but it just feels as though EL was only able to think of one thing in the whole world that a man might enjoy doing and then just generalized it to all men. Whatever.

José leaves and it's time for more presents! Yay presents! CG's birthday is my favorite day of the whole year facepalm. Ugh. Who cares.

First, Ana gives CG a model helicopter. This is exactly, exactly, exactly like the thing in the previous book where she gave him a model glider. CG even acknowledges that we're watching a repeat:

“I’ll add it to the glider in my office,” he says distractedly, watching the blade spin.  

See? He gets it. He knows. He gets how repetitive and terrible this terrible book is that he's in.

OK one more present:

“Do rude things to you?” he murmurs. I nod and swallow. He cocks his head to one side warily, assessing my reaction, and frowns. Then turns his attention back to the box. He tears through the pale-blue tissue paper and fishes out an eye mask, some nipple clamps, a butt plug, his iPod, his silver-gray tie—and last but by no means least—the key to his playroom. 

Ana: that's a bullshit present and you know it. You just gave him all his own stuff back to him and that's cheating.

Would you believe that that's the end of the chapter? Them getting ready for more sex?

What an absolutely pointless chapter. The whole chapter just ends with the understanding that they're going to go have sex in the other room. And it's like, obvs. Of course they are. But the last chapter ended with sex, and it's like, "Oh, but wait! This is going to be more complicated sex," but I don't care at all or have any patience at all for that. I don't need to read about Ana and nipple clamps. In fact, I really need to not read about that because now I'm going to reveal something about myself: that just seems way unpleasant. I know that nipple clamps are all the rage right now. I get it. Everybody wants clamps on their nipples. I mean you go out and public and if you look carefully you'll see that probably half of people are just wearing them around right now like it's no big deal so I get that they're very mundane at this point and so on and so on, but they're not for me and I don't much want to read about Ana being clamped in any way.

But I guess that's happening next. A whole chapter that was just some post-engagement sex, some more variations on the one conversation that they always have always, breakfast with José, and then this pointless transition over to different sex.

Makes me think of an old Onion headline: "Stoner Architect Drafts All-Foyer Mansion." EL has written the literary equivalent of the all-foyer mansion, and that is the all-transition novel. Nothing ever happens. Everything is just a segue over to something else, which ends up not being anything but a segue to some different thing, and so on. 

These essays are getting shorter. In part that's because I'm so sick of this book, but also it's because the chapters are themselves getting shorter and more pointless as the book goes on, so I'm not entirely to blame. EL is helping too.

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