Here's a thing that's nice for me, even in the midst of reading this terrible book: It looks to me as though, somehow, there are people even now finding this blog and starting to read this mess from the very beginning. Thanks! Extremely satisfying to see that even this week, some of the most-clicked essays at The Complainist are the first couple chapters of the first book. Thanks! It's almost enough to keep me going straight into the third book with no break! But not enough. I really, really need a break. But I can at least get to the end of these last couple chapters. I know I can probably!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ana and Christian buy a car and ride on a boat.
- Ana and Christian eat dinner and play pool.
- Ana returns to work and Christian follows every little thing she does from afar.
- Ana returns to her apartment to meet Kate's brother Ethan, but instead finds Leila, who holds a gun.
- Christian disarms Leila and Ana has drinks with Ethan.
- Nothing happens in Chapter 14.
- Ana's boss confronts her in the break room after work.
- Ana thwarts her boss's attack.
- Ana is promoted to her boss's job and talks to CG's psychiatrist.
- 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.
- Christian shows up again and he's fine and then Ana says that yes, she'll marry him.
- Ana and Christian decide to have sex.
It's always depressing to me to start one of these chapters knowing that it's going to perhaps just be one long sexual encounter, or, at best, some sex and then a bunch of Ana lying around in bed thinking the exact same thoughts that she always thinks all the time. I wouldn't say that I like the other chapters better--the ones where some weird nonsense happens--but I derive more pleasure from thinking about / complaining about those chapters because at least their tends to be some variety.
But what's going to happen new in this chapter? Oh, right: Christian is going to put a thing in Ana's butt. And that, my friends, is that. So, if you have something better to do with your day, you are welcome to just assume that that's all that's going to differentiate this chapter from any other chapter, and check back in later. Or don't! I don't know. You could also just wait, skip all this, and just read the inevitable summary I'll write of the entire series some number of months from now. I'm giving you options, is what I'm saying. And I'm also saying that I don't want to hear any complaints if you read through to the end of this and say, "Huh well that was a waste," because I did suggest that it might, in fact, be a waste.
But yeah. It's CG's birthday / Saturday morning, so it's time for the rest of his bday present, which is dungeon sex. I predict the following things are left in this book:
- the aforementioned dungeon sex.
- CG's bday party at his parents' house, where we'll probably have some other annoying announcement. Like Maybe Kate and Elliott are getting married too? DOUBLE WEDDING? Dunno. I just feel like there's going to be some other weird announcement.
- An obnoxious little tag where we learn that Jack sabotaged the helicopter somehow, because yeah, literary editors at small presses totally know how to make helicopter crashes happen.
I'm kinda cheating on number 3 because I looked ahead, and 1 is a total no-brainer. We know that's on. It could not be any more clear that that's on, and it's totally on, starting right now. 2 is the only one I'm really making a guess about so we'll see! Ugh I bet I'm right. Gross.
Picking off straight where we left off-
Ana's only condition is that she doesn't want CG to take pictures of her which quite possibly alerts him to the fact that she's been rifling through his stuff but if he makes the connection, it's not clear. Whatever.
I continue to be amazed about how EL manages to take a pointless paragraph and end it in a way that just really makes me cringe. Just that little nudge from "bad" to "terrible" is really her signature. I mean look at this:
He presses some buttons, and after a moment, the sound of a subway train echoes round the room. He turns it down so that the slow, hypnotic electronic beat that follows becomes ambient. A woman starts to sing, I don’t know who she is but her voice is soft yet rasping and the beat is measured, deliberate . . . erotic. Oh my. It’s music to make love to.Right so this book is taking place, somehow, in a pre-iphone universe. In the iphone universe, yeah you can totally push some buttons on your phone and make music happen, but that doesn't work in the ipod universe. Whatever. Who cares. I am confident that this is a particular track that EL is describing. Something from one of her "Pure Moods" cds probably, right? Some like "sexy" compilation she picked up at the drugstore. The detail about the subway is just too specific for EL to have come up with it on her own, I believe. Sorry for not giving you more credit as a writer, EL! But I only say this based on having read 2/3 of your famous trilogy and making myself its most comprehensive scholar. No big deal.
But that last part: "It's music to make love to." Well mutterblushing of course it is. You only came into the sex dungeon for dungeon sex. Give me some credit! Wow. Maybe this is about reciprocity. Maybe if I try giving you some credit, you'll give me some? Probably not. Whatever. Moving on.
Ana takes her clothes off. "My inner goddess is stripped naked and standing in line, ready and waiting and begging me to play catch-up."
Hey if you're reading this, EL, I have a couple questions about this sentence? So like, ok. Inner goddess is standing in some type of naked line? What is this line for? Wait strike that. I don't want to know about the line. But think about this, gentle reader: this metaphor is more transgressive than anything in this entire series. As far as the sex goes, Ana is just basically having regular sex with a few props with a particularly bossy boyfriend. Lot of that going around, but maybe not with so many props. NBD. But inner goddess is at some intense sex party or something where there are literally people lining up outside just to get down. Think about that, right?
Once she's naked CG puts a tie on her? Whatever. And "ties it in what I assume is a fine Windsor knot." I mean, maybe? CG is a young guy, though, you know? I bet he goes four-in-hand. But for reals, my complaint about this line is what the hell does Ana know about tie knots? Either she is watching him tie the knot, and she knows about knots, and she can just say what kinda knot it is. Or she doesn't know about knots, and is just saying it's a Windsor knot because that's the only kind of knot she's heard about.
Why do I get on these little details? Why do I discuss them with such weird thoroughness? I don't really know. I don't know why any of this happens at all, really. I'm not sure how my brain is wired. But this little detail about the assumed Windsor knot just pushes a bunch of buttons for me. I'm annoyed about this tie as a recurring detail because you'll remember that this is a tie that CG mostly uses to tie people up during sex. He doesn't wear it or at least he only wears it once. So I'm sick of the tie. But also--why is the narrator assuming things? Just know things or don't! The narrator is the voice of authority in the novel. She's the only authority available! So what am I supposed to do about her assuming things? Is she right? Well, there's no way of knowing, since I don't get to hear from anybody else. So why have her assume anything? And then lastly: what's the purpose of this Windsor knot detail? I would say it's one of EL's rampant Britishisms but almost every tie knot in widespread use in the US was invented in Britain. So I guess what gets me the most is this: I just can't figure out why, in a book so light on detail, EL chose this particular semi-detail.
(Editor's note: if you look at the cover of the first book? The one with the necktie? It looks more like a half-Windsor. W/E.)
“Turn around,” he orders gently and I obey. Pulling my hair free of the tie, he quickly braids and secures it. He tugs the braid so my head tilts up.Wait so he tied the tie around her hair? What? Didn't see that coming! This book is full of surprises! Weird, weird surprises.
Ok so now we get CG's little lecture about the state of their relationship or whatever:
“I’m your lover, Anastasia, not your Dom. I love to hear your laugh and your girlish giggle. I like you relaxed and happy, like you are in José’s photos. That’s the girl that fell into my office. That’s the girl I fell in love with.”
Here's a fun bit of narration:
His proximity is intoxicating. This man is going to be my husband. Can one lust after one’s husband like this? I don’t remember reading about that anywhere.
Anyway. Soon Ana is on a table with her arms cuffed together behind her back and blindfolded. Somehow we still know what's going to happen next before she does. Like at one point CG is applying some smelly oil and here's what Ana thinks: "Oh, I'm getting a massage. Not what I expected."
Um. Right. A "massage." You can't see it but I'm rolling my eyes.
You'll remember that Ana is always super vague when talking about sex, right? Here come nipple clamps and a vibrator.
“I’m going to put this inside you,” he murmurs. “Not here.” His fingers trail between my buttocks, spreading oil. “But here.” He moves his fingers round and round, in and out, hitting the front wall of my vagina. I moan and my restrained nipples swell.
“Hush now.” Christian removes his fingers and slides the object into me. He cups my face and kisses me, his mouth invading mine, and I hear a very faint click. Instantly the plug inside me starts to vibrate—down there! I gasp. The feeling is extraordinary—beyond anything I’ve felt before.
I don't know about you but I just find this unbearable. Down there! Goddamn but I never ever want to hear the phrase "down there" ever again unless I'm like standing somewhere way up high and somebody else is like, "Hey look down there! It's an ice cream truck! Let's hurry down and buy a ice cream!" Then it's cool. But I never ever ever want to hear anybody say "down there" in any kind of anatomical way because it's terrible every time. Here. There. Some other place. Ugh. So he touches her one place but then is like, no I'm going to touch you in this other place and then Ana starts to feel really good in that other place because he's using a thing down there to make her feel good and everything.
I guess I shouldn't complain. Do I want more detail? No. I don't really. I just want to finish this book and never look at it ever again ever.
But wait! Let's read about Ana's orgasm! It's totally not silly j/k it totally is. CG's finger is in her butt, fyi:
I’m suspended high—high above a wide, wide ravine, and I’m soaring then falling giddily at the same time, plunging to the Earth. I can hold on no more, and I scream as my body convulses and climaxes at the overwhelming fullness. As my body explodes, I’m nothing but sensation—everywhere. Christian releases first one and then the other clamp, causing my nipples to sing with a surge of sweet, sweet painful feeling, but it’s oh-so- good and causing my orgasm, this orgasm, to go on and on. His finger stays where it is, gently easing in and out.
I have two favorite parts! The part where she's soaring and falling at the same time. That part is great! Because doesn't it like totally blow your mind? She's like up and down at the same time, right? She's just got like, so much going on, you know? And also I like the part where she says "my orgasm, this orgasm" because she answers the question that is on all our minds. We read the phrase "my orgasm" and we're like, "wait which orgasms again?" and she answers it for us and then we're like, "Oh, cool, I get it."
Here comes a gross part:
“I think you’re trying to kill me,” I mutter. “Death by orgasm.” He smirks. “There are worse ways to go,” he says but then frowns
ever so slightly as an unpleasant thought crosses his mind. It distresses me. I reach up and caress his face.
“You can kill me like this anytime,” I whisper.
CG mostly acts like a serial killer who's totally going to murder Ana, so this is not a good part, I don't think. Hehe! Murder! Hehe! V. V. cute guys.
Here's the end of this bit, before a section break:
“This is what I want to do,” he murmurs and reaches beneath his pillow for the music center remote. He presses a button and the soft strains of a guitar echo round the walls.
“I want to make love to you,” he says gazing down at me, his gray eyes burning with bright, loving sincerity. Softly in background, a familiar voice starts to sing “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” And his lips find mine.
OMG GUYS! Remember in the first book when he was all, "I don't make love. I fuck. Hard." NOW HE WANTS TO MAKE LOVE OMG WHAT A CHARACTER ARC! He's come so far! He cured himself of kinkiness, which is obvs a disease obvs that he caught from Elena and now he got rid of it but also Ana kind of got a little kinky herself LOL and now they met up in between hurray!
This is the thing that we said was going to happen like, a long time ago. Way back in the first book at some point, we knew we were headed toward this totally obvious conclusion. And now we're here! So that's cute I guess. Great.
I would like to take another opportunity to point out that 1) EL thinks that people are interested in kink only if they were abused and 2) EL thinks that all a man like CG needs, even though he got infected by the kink virus at a young age, is the love of a good woman or whatever bit of fairytale-ism EL is working with. Not exactly an endorsement for kink!
Maybe we're supposed to know who the "familiar voice" is that's singing "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" but I have no idea so I asked wikipedia for a list of notable cover versions of this song so I'm going to presume that they're listening to the Ol' Dirty Bastard version.
“Because I love you so much,” I whisper. He half-closes his eyes as if drugged, absorb- ing my words. When he opens them again, they blaze with his love.
“And I you, Ana. You make me . . . whole.” He kisses me gently as Roberta Flack finishes her song.
Oh and for anyone wondering, itunes is happy to sell me versions of the song that are either 4:20 (Yeah bro!) or 5:19 in length. So good job with that, CG! CG needs either 4 or 5 minutes to 1) Suggest intercourse, then 2) Engage in intercourse and then 3) Have some pillow talk. Very efficient!
Oh also according to wikipedia, having sex while this song plays was popularized by the film Play Misty for Me so nice job being super original, EL James! Isn't that terrible? I think that's terrible.
Also I just hate reading about a song. You can't have a film score for a book, EL! Do you not get that? That we can't hear the music that you're describing and thus don't give a shit? I guess not!
Two more false transition scenes appear next. The first one: our heroes are talking and Ana tells us all about how they've been talking for so long and it's so great! Only we don't really see them talk and so I continue to think of them as boring and awful. Then there's this whole fun speech by Ana about how great CG is and literally none of it sounds true:
“You’re so smart and witty and knowledgeable, competent in so many things. But most of all, I love what’s in here.” I press my palm gently against his chest, feeling his steady, beating heart. “You are the most compassionate man I’ve met. What you do. How you work. It’s awe- inspiring,” I whisper.
Show don't tell! The only things that EL has shown CG to be good at are 1. sex and 2. being an asshole. No evidence that he's smart and omigod his heart? Compassionate? Don't see it. Oh but he gives fiction money to fiction people with fiction problems! Yawn. All that matters is how he treats the other characters in the book and how they react, and he's a real dick to everyone. Oh well!
Then another pointless scene. Eleven lines.
HEY WRITERS: NEVER MUTTERBLUSHING DO THIS EVER IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE EVER EVEN IF YOU WRITE AS MANY WORDS AS STEPHEN KING:
“Hungry?” he whispers“Hmm, famished.”
I'm mutterblushing serious about this. If you read this blog, and you like it? And you're a writer? And I hear that you did this bullshit? I will hunt you down. I will find you, and I will make you feel embarrassed for writing this shit in your book. You will not like it because I will look so sad and pouty and you'll just feel like a bad person and you'll deserve to feel like a bad person. Hungry? Famished! is one of those clichés that's just a goddamn virus. It's probably never ever been said like that by any two people in real life ever but it's in So. Many. Books. And scripts. And it really just needs to go away.
Anyway they end up not eating but instead go do more sex in the shower. Yawn.
Next Ana is making lunch because she's the lady! And yeah CG has a housekeeper but I just really think that, as the presumptive lady of the house, it's really just proper for Ana to be cooking meals, right? Because that's lady business? Good points all around.
CG and Taylor are in the study because who cares. Also Taylor's "looking serious but casual in jeans and a tight, black Tshirt" because who cares. Why am I being offered this information? What possible value could this information be to me?
“Hi, Taylor.” “Ana.” He nods. “Your daughter okay?”Hey you remember the previous chapter? Where there was some throwaway line about Taylor's daughter? I do remember but only barely. But anyway- it was a thing. Something about Taylor's daughter. Anyway now I hate Taylor for engaging in the novel's standard, casual sexism. I hate this shit. LOL you know how ladies are! Always concerned about the welfare of their children! Am I right bros? That's pretty dumb of ladies to want their children to be healthy!
“Yes, thanks. My ex-wife thought she had appendicitis, but she was overreacting as usual.” Taylor rolls his eyes, surprising me. “Sophie’s fine, though she has a nasty stomach bug.”
So it's gross. But what the hell was the point? Did EL think she was going to do something with Taylor's daughter as a plot element, but then drop it? But decide that, rather than editing it out, she'd bring it up a second time, thus wasting even more of our lives, and then assuage any concerns we might have had about Taylor's poor daughter who has not appeared in the books. FTB.
Taylor reveals that the helicopter is going to be ok too. THANK GOODNESS I was getting way worried about that helicopter.
The next thing that happens before lunch is the worst:
Ana starts sending CG emails on her blackberry even though he's in the next room over, doing business talking with business people about business. Can you even believe this shit? I barely can, and I'm reading this book. EL resorts to these depressing back-and-forth emails between these terrible people even though they're in the same building together. What absolute garbage.
I think that's where we're going to break this off. Leaves a few pages for the next entry. We leave our heroes as we've found them so many times previously: sending dumb emails to each other about nothing.
I've really just had enough of this. I mean the end is so soon! Tantalizingly soon. But I can only take it in doses, so it is time to leave you. But we're almost there. We can make it.
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