Tuesday, August 5, 2014

50 Shades Shadier: Chapter 21 part 2

Ana and Christian eat lunch and then go to Christian's house for his party and learn that Kate is mad at them. 

We're so very close to the end! I mean the end of the first 2/3! That's almost the end of the end tho, right? Getting there!

I'm going to have to figure out something else to do for a while now, because I can't jump into the next book yet. I just can't. So I'm open to suggestions. Optimal scenario: I do a couple of different, ongoing things at the same time. I bet I could start in on the third book more promptly if I weren't only writing about it. Like if I had some kind of palate cleanser, too. That's fair, right? I deserve that. I welcome your suggestions.

Also, what should I do about the first book? Now that the movie is a real thing, There's going to be a lot more discussion RE: all things 50 Shades. Last spring I registered for a one-day seminar about how to find a literary agent and get your book published. I paid money and everything. But then I forgot when it was and didn't receive any follow-up and so I guess I missed it. And that is the true story of how I didn't find out how to get an agent and publish a book. Should I just self-publish an ebook? I mean I might as well, right? What's the worst that could happen--I make zero dollars on it? Get this: I already make zero dollars.

Follow-up question: is anyone interested or should I say "willing" to look at any of the ebook version of my essays on the first book? I did try my best to chop it into something more book-like, but I'm sure there are still plenty of repetitive parts and mistakes. It's also 120,000 words. I know right? I'm the guy who wrote 120,000 words about 50 Shades. Oh and a bunch more about this other book, too. That's how I introduce myself at parties. I mean at party. I don't get invited to many.

But wait 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.
  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. 
  20. Ana and Christian decide to have sex.
  21. They have sex.

So anyways. Ana cooks lunch while CG makes important businessman phone-calls. Ana finishes cooking and goes to tell CG, who's now on the phone with his sister, Mia. And of course, Mia is saying some type of lady stuff so of course CG is rolling his eyes at her over the phone because you know how ladies are, right bros? Right.

CG takes a moment to shame Ana for wearing a short dress and tells her he doesn't want her wearing it outside of the house and in her head Ana is all, "OMG srsly?" because I guess she hasn't been reading the book either? She seems surprised but this sort of thing is exactly CG's style. He even paid for the dress! Whatever.

Next phone call is CG asking Ana's step-dad for "permission" to marry Ana. Here's a rare bit of self-awareness from Ana to end the scene:

He’s acting like he’s just negotiated a major new merger or acquisition, which I suppose on one level, he has. 
I suppose it's unlikely that Ana is thinking this sentence the way I'm reading it, right? Oh well. Anyway what's the logic here? Ana's birth father is dead. So I guess CG is like, "Well, some man must be the boss of her, so I must discuss with some other man the change in Ana's ownership." Right? That's how it works? Sorry I'm just not entirely sure what the rules are in this manner of contract negotiation.

I don't know why I insist on spending so much time on these pointless little bits but here look at this pointless little bit:

“Damn, you’re a good cook, woman.” Christian swallows his last mouthful and raises his glass of white wine to me. I blossom under his praise, and it occurs to me I’ll only get to cook for him on weekends. I frown. 
It's totes gross for CG to call her "woman" like that but the weirder part of this, to me, is Ana's concern about only cooking for him on the weekend. I mean she's cooked for him like, what, four times ever? And now she's worrying about their work schedules preventing her from doing it literally every day? What? Why? She's weird. Really, though, this is just more of their gentle descent into the absolute most boring clichés of domesticity. How are they possibly going to stretch this out into another book? And more important: how am I ever going to manage to read said other book?

Anyway, CG asks Ana why she asked him not to take photos of her earlier, and she tells him that she found his nudie photo stash. CG says that the photos were supposed to be in his safe, not in his dresser, and that "There's only one person who could have done that," and of course that means that for some reason, Leila moved his photos from the safe to his dresser? Well, that's weird. And is this something that she did during an earlier break-in, or is she doing more break-ins?! Oh is that how EL is going to stretch this out for another book? She's just going to keep going to that same well, and pretend that we're worried about Leila and / or Jack? She's just going to keep trotting out these two unscary non-villains?  That's going to be her excuse for stakes? Grand.

Here's how CG explains the photos!

“This is going to sound cold, but—they’re an insurance policy,” he whispers steeling himself for my response.
“Insurance policy?”
“Against exposure.”
Ha! What an ass. So yeah that's his blackmail book. Fun! At least he has enough understanding of human emotions to be able to guess that this is going to sound super gross. And it does! It does sound super gross! Does kinda make me wonder just who he's had in his sex dungeon tho, right? So he's this boy-genius billionaire. He doesn't hold political office, and I don't even know exactly how his company works. Like how easy or hard it might be for him to get booted from it. He could very well own most of it for all I know. So what I'm saying is: it seems like, sure, he places himself in some amount of risk entering into these arrangements with women whom he invites into his sex dungeon, sure, but we really don't know how much.

The women, though, what's their risk? I mean, it seems pretty likely that they're going to be murdered. I guess at this point there's probably not going to be a big twist where we learn that CG is a serial killer. But what I'm saying is that these arrangements likely come with wildly uneven power dynamics. I can't imagine that other billionaires are joining CG in his sex dungeon. So while it seems safe to assume that women who join CG in his dungeon feel extraordinarily vulnerable, I can't really figure out how CG's photos could offer him any protection. Just imagine this as a hypothetical conversation:

"Christian! Give me a million dollars or I'll tell the Seattle Times about all our kinky sex!"
"I'll never pay you! And besides! If you do tell anyone, I'll publish these photos of our kinky sex!"
". . . thus providing additional proof of my otherwise unsubstantiated claims?"
". . . hold on. Let me find my checkbook."
Right? I mean, is there something I'm not seeing? I don't get what CG stands to gain, insurance-wise. But what do I know! I've never maintained a blackmail folder on anyone before, so perhaps this is just my ignorance showing.

“Look, I’ll destroy the photos. Now, if you like.”
“They’re your photos, Christian. Do with them as you wish,” I mutter.
“Don’t be like that,” he says, taking my head in his hands and holding my gaze to his. “I don’t want that life. I want our life, together.”
Holy cow. How does he know that beneath my horror about these photos is the fact that I’m paranoid? 
Ha! Ana doesn't get that she's the second-most jealous character in this novel, and thinks that CG is just a mindreader. But cmon! This would make anybody paranoid! It's super creepy to find your boyf's blackmail folder! Ana is always thinking completely obvious thoughts, and then CG often anticipates them, and then she's like, "OMG GENIUS!"

They get over this bit about the pictures awfully quickly. Like, ten more lines left in the scene, and then CG goes to do work or whatever and Ana is now totes fine with the blackmail folder and everything is back to normal. No idea what the point of the pictures was; seemed like it was going to be a point of tension but it was immediately resolved so why bother? Oh well.

Ana calls her mom and says that she and CG are going to get married. I won't tell you anything about the 1.5 pages they spend on the phone together because there is nothing I can say that will make it seem like anything other than a total waste of your time. I wasted my time on it; you should not have to as well.

Next is a godawful scene in which Ana announces that she has to leave to buy chocolate for the birthday cake she's making and CG tells her to put on pants because her dress is short and Ana tells him that he's not the boss of her and keeps her dress on and then worries about him being angry when she gets back. This is likely; he is always angry about dumb nonsense all the time so yes I do anticipate that he will indeed be furious at her later for demanding the right to dress as she sees fit.

Here's a rather loaded paragraph:

I have a tiger by the tail. He’s going to be mad when I get back. My subconscious is glaring at me over her half-moon glasses, a willow switch in her hand. Shit. I think about what little experience I have with men. I’ve never lived with a man before—well, except Ray—and for some reason he doesn’t count. He’s my dad . . . well, the man I consider my dad. 
Lots weird going on here but let's just point out that once again, Ana finds herself dealing with some particularly terrible aspect of CG's crushing jealousy, and her response is basically to be like, "Huh guess I'm just not used to being around men." Yeah that's probably it!

Next scene is a mere paragraph. Ana takes $50 from the ATM and notices that 50k extra has been deposited into her checking situation by CG. Have you ever used an ATM that let you take out 50? I have. It was in England. They have cool ATMs there that will let you have any old amount of pounds you want. They're all different sizes, too! Different sizes of money! It's very nice. Oh but this book takes place in America, where you can only take out amounts of money divisible by twenty! The way god intended!

Then there's another scene. Less than a page. Ana comes back and says she's sorry and CG says he's sorry and then they do sex in his office. UGH THIS BOOK. Remember that dumb conflict we were reading about in the previous page? It's all ok now and it's over. WHY WHYWHY HWYHWYWH

Sorry. Got stuck in a sort of anger-trance. Moving on.

Another scene. It's just dialogue. Ten lines or so. Should all be cut. Is all pointless. Here's one line that I'll share with you tho:

“Looking forward to it. It smelled delicious, evocative even, while it was baking.”

He's talking about a cake. The cake smelled evocative. For realsies? Evocative? Cool.

Then there's a scene of literally ten lines. They eat some birthday cake. It is good cake. Very important!

Then they go to CG's parents house for his party or whatever. I share with you now the final bit of the chapter:

Before we can set foot in the living room, Kate comes barreling down the hallway toward the two of us. She looks furious.
Oh no!
“You two! I want to talk to you.” She snarls in her you-better-not-fucking-mess-with- me voice. I glance nervously at Christian, who shrugs and decides to humor her as we follow her into the dining room, leaving Carrick bemused on the threshold of the living room. She shuts the door and turns on me.
“What the fuck is this?” she hisses and waves a piece of paper at me. Completely at a loss, I take it from her and scan it quickly. My mouth dries. Holy shit. It’s my e-mail response to Christian, discussing the contract. 
Okayyyyyyy. Do you like how Ana is all Oh no! before she has any idea what's going on? I do.

Also, I like how we see that Kate is "barreling" and that she "looks furious." And then she's pushy, and then she snarls, and then she uses her "you-better-not-fucking-mess-with-me voice" and it's like wait is she mad? We get it, EL! Kate is mad! We get it. We get it. She's mad. She's mad about something. Give us a chance to like, read the book, and find out what she's mad about, ok? Stop telling us she's mad! Ugh.

Also, Kate? C'mon. You used to be my favorite. But nowI have some big complaints.

First, the obvious one: what the hell are you doing snooping in Ana's email? That's gross. And this is not like, "Oh you left your email open on our shared computer and I saw it accidentally!" This is an email from weeks ago, so that's some pretty hardcore snooping. Like, Kate is putting effort into this. She had to have read a ton of emails to get to this one email, right? Seems that way! Terrible. Anybody who spies on their friend's personal email really needs to re-evaluate their life.

Also do you really gotta do this shit in front of poor Carrick? The dude has a sociopath for a son, and he's named Carrick and that's probably pretty much ruined his life so just let him be, you know? Let him be. You don't gotta drag him into this, you know? No matter how you might feel about your friend's sex life, you can maybe go ahead and have the decency to not make it everybody's business because it really isn't everybody's business.

Oh and the last one:

Forget about the snooping and everything. Who the hell prints out emails? What is this, 1996? What, are we re-electing Clinton and listening to Bush and doing some other 1996 thing that I can't think remember right now? (Editor's note: the band, not any of the various Bush-named politicians.) It is just weird as hell to print an email. Especially when you forget to press the correct print button and the formatting gets all messed up. Everybody who remembers 1996 will totally know what I'm talking about. Ana won't understand, of course, because she was born in like 1989 but somehow didn't have an email address until 2011 and I don't think she owns a printer so she's probably completely mystified by the very idea of an email leaving a computer and ending up on a piece of paper somehow.

But anyways: this is pretty dumb. This is an outrageous thing that Kate is doing, and I'm going to have to revamp my 50 Shades Power Rankings and move her down. I guess I have to put Jack at the bottom since he's a legit villain. And then CG is next worst and then Ana is next worst. And then pretty much I had everyone else tied for "best" by default. But now I guess it goes Jack, CG, Ana, Kate, then everyone else. Something like that? Sure why not.

One last complaint about the shape of this book: this is how we end the penultimate chapter? This is really a moment where we should be cleaning up the major conflict of the novel, but there was no major conflict in this novel. Instead, we get this late-novel fight between Kate and CG and Ana that totally comes from nowhere. And I expect it's going to go nowhere, too. Like, it'll be wrapped up in a couple pages probably since that's what always happens always in this awful book. So yeah.

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