Wednesday, March 25, 2015

50 Shad3s: Chapter 6

Ana figures out who the arsonist was. 

At long last our heroes get around to some buttstuff.

It's always a bummer when I know I have to start talking about sex. It's like, c'mon guys. Can't you like, lead up to it a little? Or just, you know. Leave out part of the sex? Because I get it! Christian Grey is so good at sex! Probably the best sexer who ever sexed a sex. But now, I gotta read about it. At least I know that they can only have sex for an hour because CG has to yell at his security people or some shit. Remember how there was a weird car chase last chapter for no reason? Oh and how Ana and Christian just had car sex in the afternoon like, five minutes ago? Well here comes some more! #yay

Wait. Should probably catch you up to speed. I mean just in case for some reason, you decided to start right here and don't know what's happened already. Don't worry! You haven't missed much. You haven't missed anything. 

Where were we?

Ana Steele is married to billionaire / kink-enthusiast / child-abuse survivor Christian Grey. He is domineering and they are usually upset with each other except for when they're having sex. 


  1. Ana takes her top off on a beach while reminiscing about the wedding and Christian gets mad.
  2. They ride a jet-ski back to their honeymoon yacht and riding jet-skis cheers up Christian a bit. Then they have sex. 
  3. Ana discovers that Christian gave her a bunch of hickies and she is angry. But then she gets over it and they look at art together and CG learns that there was a fire in his server room. 
  4. Ana buys a camera.
  5. Ana and Christian return to Seattle. After visiting Christian's parents, they become embroiled in a medium-speed chase on the interstate. After eluding their pursuers, they have sex in a parking lot. 

CG uses the phrases "kinky fuckery" and "carte blanche" right at the top and I hate them both. And also we get an appearance from inner goddess and she always totally ruins my mood. Like I wasn't in a great mood anyway but that inner goddess. Just really can't stand her. Her or subconscious and her mutterflushing collected works of Dickens or whatever she's reading now. It's crazy how much just leaving out this bullshit improved the movie.

The first part of the scene, once they get into the sex room, is lots of CG ordering Ana around about taking offer her clothes and yeah. It is boring. It takes the better part of a page for Ana to get only most of her clothes off and considering that we all know it's going to happen, this doesn't add any tension. Just extra bullshit.

I turn away from him listening acutely—my ears suddenly sensitive to the slightest sound. He’s good at this—building my expectations, stoking my desire . . . making me wait. I hear him put my shoes down and, I think, my clothes on the chest, followed by the telltale clatter of his shoes as they drop to the floor, one at a time. Hmm . . . love barefoot Christian. A moment later, I hear him pull open a drawer. 
Toys! Oh, I love, love, love this anticipation. The drawer closes and my breathing spikes. How can the sound of a drawer render me a quivering mess? It makes no sense. The subtle hiss of the sound system coming to life tells me it’s going to be a musical interlude. A lone piano starts, muted and soft, and mournful chords fill the room. It’s not a tune I know. The piano is joined by an electric guitar. What is this? A man’s voice speaks and I can just make out the words, something about not being frightened of dying. 
Christian pads leisurely toward me, his bare feet slapping on the wooden floor. I sense him behind me as a woman starts to sing . . . wail . . . sing? 
I really can't speculate as to what this part with the music is accomplishing. Here's some trivia for you: if you're a rich person, and your sound system emits a hiss, even if it's subtle? You should go buy some better shit because c'mon. Not how it works. Unless maybe CG is playing a record and I don't really see that happening. Ugh. Now I'm imagining a whole, alternate universe, Portland version of this book where CG is like, I dunno. A food truck magnate and all his sex equipment is artisanal or some shit and he doesn't have a helicopter but instead takes Ana around on his unicycle. Wait that version is better. I wish I were reading that version instead. Goddamn.

But more important--why spend so long describing the music? If we actually knew what it was then maybe we could imagine it or look it up or something but we don't so what good is it? It's no good is the answer. No good at all, but that doesn't prevent EL from spending just all kinds of time on it. Whatever.

CG makes Ana lie over a table and it "smells vaguely of beeswax with a citrus tang." EL once again keeping her pointless details game super tight. Good job EL. I would've hated to have not known how the table smelled.

I'm just dragging this out. Let me just get through it. Anyway. Butt stuff is happening.

“Ah!” I groan loudly at the unfamiliar sensation, my muscles protesting at the intrusion. He circles his thumb inside me and pushes the plug harder, and it slips in easily, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m so turned on or if he’s distracted me with his expert fingers, but my body seems to accept it. It’s heavy . . . and strange . . . there! 
I don't know if I'm going to be able to deal with the fact that EL has introduced a second "there" into our trilogy. "There" is expanding. I used to always know what "there" meant but now I have to scrutinize every use of "there" so I know where "there" is. It's like a word game! And everyone loses.

I guess I should give EL a tiny bit of credit for legitimately doing something different in this scene, since this is actually something different from the previous scenes. But it's not that different and Ana just doesn't come off all that excited. Right? Ana describes the sensation as "heavy . . . and strange" so obvs millions of readers are rushing out to sex shops saying, "Help me feel heavy . . . and strange!"

Anyway. Then they have sex on the table and actually, that was pretty fast. Thanks guys. More painless than I thought. Plus I'm skimming. That's likely the more important side of this--me no longer giving a shit is speeding up this whole process.

Scene break.

"The woman is still singing. Christian always puts songs on repeat in here. Strange."

Correct! That is strange. All I can do is agree, Ana! That is a strange thing. Maybe CG only knows like, four songs. Possible! Maybe he's one of those weird audiophiles with $16,000 speakers but only six cds. Oh wait. His sound system hisses when he turns it on so he probably didn't spend that much on it. 

CG describes Ana as looking "thoroughly well fucked" and that is a phrase that I had never encountered before this book but somehow it has already become a clich√©. Pretty typical of EL's writing style. Moving language so very quickly from "obscure" to "drastically overused." Ana helps this process by repeating the phrase like, two paragraphs later. 

“Will you wear your . . . er . . . other jeans?” 
He frowns down at me. “Other jeans?” 
“The ones you used to wear in here.” 
“Those jeans?” he murmurs blinking with perplexed surprise. “You look very hot in them.” 
“Do I?” 
“Yeah . . . I mean, really hot.” 
He smiles, shyly. “Well for you, Mrs. Grey, maybe I will.” He bends to kiss
me then grabs the small bowl on the table that contains the butt plug, the tube of lubricant, the blindfold, and my panties. 
“Who cleans these toys?” I ask as I follow him over to the chest. 
He frowns at me, as if not understanding the question. “Me. Mrs. Jones.” 
Very interesting! I mostly am only including this because this is one of those book-details that gets even more ridiculous once translated into a movie-detail. CG is well-dressed for the whole movie but then when he's going to do sex he puts on these stupid "distressed" jeans that are probably from Hot Topic or some shit and they just feel like a joke. One of those fashion cues that feels laughable in 2015 but maybe worked 20 years ago or something. It's just silly. And c'mon. What would you think of a dude who was like, "Hold on! Gotta put on my sex jeans!" 

I'm asking because I need to know if I should buy some sex jeans. I'm thinking "no" but I'm willing to be persuaded. 

And then--sex toy hygiene. 

EL has this weird way of bringing up supremely unsexy details about sex that I find puzzling. Nobody else read this scene and thought, "Hey I wonder who's gonna wash that buttplug! Hope This is explained here in the text and I don't have to consult the reader's guide or any of EL's original notebooks."

Hey you know how after The Silmarillion JRR Tolkien's son edited all those books of notes and stuff? Now I'm amusing myself by imagining some descendant of EL James poring over copious notes and publishing ten volumes of EL James ephemera that's like, the pre-history of the Grey family and like, biographies of every pointless side character. Right? There's a cool joke in there somewhere, right? Right? And then some shit about when Christian's parents sail west to the Grey Havens? ZING! I'm totally killing this today. You're v. welcome.

Right back to buttplug hygiene: this attention to mechanics always falls just short of feeling didactic. So like, if EL stuck with it just a little more, you'd be like, "Oh I get it. EL is writing this book for people who don't really use sex toys, and as a service to her readers, she wants to make sure that they are familiar with etiquette, cleaning, storage, etc. Kind of dull reading but I see her point and on an intellectual level I can appreciate this as proof of her care for her audience and I support her sex positivity."

But it doesn't ever quite get there so you're left just kinda scratching your head. Also? The more Ana worries about the buttplug getting clean the more I'm worrying about it being dirty. Feel free to not use your imagination here; so doing might spoil the sexy mood I'm trying to create between you, me, and the Russian spam-bots comprising the majority of my "readership."

Next our heroes take a bath. These are, in some ways, the most obnoxious scenes in this series. Their pillow talk is always so empty. Nothing but the endless repetition of obvious themes. In this one, we get more of Ana's concern about CG's wellbeing after the car chase and arson, plus a dash of Ana's pointless jealousy when the sexy architect charged with fixing up their mansion gets a mention. It's never even the tiniest bit of stuff that we need, and yet, there we are, having it repeated to us, ad nauseum.

Scene break.

CG yells at one of his security goons. Ana worries about the housekeeper seeing her sex toys. Here's a fun exchange with the housekeeper:

“Would you like to run through the menus for the week?” she asks, looking at
me expectantly. 
“Um . . .” This is not a question I have ever anticipated being asked. 
She smiles. “When I first worked for Mr. Grey, every Sunday evening I would run through the menus for the upcoming week with him and list anything he might need from the grocery store.” 

Style note first. Look at that italicized word. Menus? The question is implied by "um" and then repeated by her thoughts. So we get this same note three separate ways. Dropping Menus? would fix the problem. I don't think that the rest feels repetitive, even tho it kind of is. It's efficient enough that we wouldn't stumble over it. But I'm so annoyed by Ana repeating everything that's said to her that I'm on the lookout for it all the time and sigh audibly every time she repeats herself pointlessly. 

But then the real reason I posted this is the shit about the menus. Translating for Mrs. Jones: "I used to always talk about menus with Christian but since the kitchen is where we do reproductive work for maintaining the home, we should free up Christian for doing more productive work in the domain of business and man-things. It is appropriate now for you to oversee how I carry out lady-work since you are now the lady of the house." Way to keep those binaries binary, EL!

I dump Christian’s shoes on the floor and my clothes on the bed, and take the bowl with the butt plug into the bathroom. I eye it suspiciously. It looks innocuous enough, and surprisingly clean. I don’t want to dwell on that, and I wash it quickly with soap and water. Will that be enough? I’ll have to ask Mr. Sexpert if it should be sterilized or something. I shudder at the thought. 
Don't worry guys! It's surprisingly clean! Phew. I know I was v. worried so now I'm not so v. worried. Quite a relief!

I'm not sure why she's shuddering, exactly, but also I don't care and wish she would quit because cmon. I'm so tired of this topic and sincerely hope that Ana and CG never ever use any more toys because Ana worrying about their proper handling is pushing me to new depths of boredom. My boredom is like the ocean. Just when you think you got that whole place figured out, you find a new, deeper part, with stranger, scarier fishes than anyone's ever seen before. #Analogy.

Next Ana goes through their honeymoon photos so things are really picking up, excitement-wise! JK. But here check this part out! Not making this up!

Here this isn't the important part. Just annoying: "Taking the memory card out of the Nikon camera, I load it into the laptop to transfer the photographs." Ana and Christian use Macs. I believe I am correct when I assert that there has never been a Mac built with a memory card reader. Whatever.

Holy crap! 
Picture after picture of me. Asleep, so many of me asleep, my hair over my face or fanned out across the pillow, lips parted . . . shit—sucking my thumb. I haven’t sucked my thumb for years! 
What the actual fuck. "I haven't sucked my thumb for years!" How many years, Ana? 

See, I haven't drunk Mountain Dew for years. I used to drink a non-trivial amount of that radioactive sugar water, but I quit because I decided that I didn't need to drink all those calories and I  find artificial sweeteners super gross so I find diet drinks undrinkable. I think I did that like, I dunno. Let's say five years ago. Give or take. Meaning, when I say that I haven't done something "for years" I think people will understand that phrase in the following way: "You used to do that thing earlier in your adult life. A long time ago, but not that long ago."

So when Ana says she hasn't sucked her thumb for years, I do hope she means like, maybe 18 years. Like maybe she did it when she was four. But based on her phrasing? I'm now wondering if people in her high school were like, "Oh hey there's that weird girl who sucks her thumb." This is some adult-baby stuff and I am not into it. Just not not into it. 

I do want to know more tho. Like, what the hell was EL thinking? Does she really think of Ana as an infant? Because that's how it seems pretty often. Goddamn. How did she expect readers to respond to this? Is my other question. Oh that's so cute! Ana sucks her thumb! Cute! More like, wow Ana sucks her thumb? This is probably a response to some trauma and I hope that she gets the help that she needs.

EL is also terrible at segues. One of the problems with writing in first-person, like if you're bad at it, is the way you get these strings of thoughts that crescendo into strong emotions just driven by nothing. Well. By nothing other than the demands of the next scene. Like this for instance:

I frown, gazing down at his image, suddenly overwhelmed by my feelings for him. Someone out there wants to harm him—first Charlie Tango, then the fire at GEH, and that damned car chase. I gasp, putting my hand to my mouth as an in- voluntary sob escapes. Abandoning my computer, I leap up to find him—not to confront him now—just to check that he’s safe. 

Right? Ana left CG's side like ten minutes ago. They're in the apartment together. Surrounded by security goons. But looking at CG's picture is enough for Ana to be like, "Oh shit haven't seen that guy in a while." It's like she's responding to a photo of a distant family member she hasn't seen in years, rather than her husband she just saw in the tub a minute ago. It's terrible writing, but the reason for it is clear: EL couldn't think of a reason to get these two characters back in the same place again after separating them, and she knows, just like we know, that this book is garbage when Ana is alone. She has no relationships aside from Christian, and therefore basically ceases to exist when he is in another room. And it's hard to have book where the narrator basically doesn't exist so as soon as she separates them from each other she's already thinking about how to reunite them. 

Ana finds CG in his office where he's talking to his security hacker guy network expert guy or whatever. Barney. And he's doing exactly that mutterblushing thing they do on tv where they're like, there! That blurry face in the crowd! Enhance! ENHANCE! ENNNHANNNNNNCE! Because even though this is a shitty security camera photo, of course it's a billion pixels and you can just keep on enhancing until you're literally looking deep inside someone's nostrils, right up inside his brain. I'm not good at anatomy. BUT I do know that all this enhance! Enhnace! ENHANCE! is bullshit and I also know that I hate it.

Get ready for a huge surprise tho guys!!!1! This is really going to blow your minds!!!!!!

So anyway this is security camera footage from the arson. You know. When somebody tried to burn up CG's internet or whatever. Ready for the big reveal????? Ok I don't know if you're ready. Can't tell. But I'm going to have to assume that you are even tho there's a very good chance that you're not because of how totally mind-blowing this new twist is!

Holy crap! I know who it is. “Christian,” I whisper. “That’s Jack Hyde.” 
Oh christ. Oh goddammit. 

You knew I was kidding obvs. Because we all knew who did the arson already! Goddammit. The end of Book 2 revealed to us that Jack Hyde sabotaged the helicopter, and thus when we heard about the arson, we all naturally assumed that Jack Hyde was the arsonist.

So we all learned at the end of Chapter 3 that there was this fire, and we assumed arson, and we assumed Jack Hyde. And now a full three more chapters later,  here we see the characters learn what's going on. Ugh.

I kind of hate old mysteries where the great detective reveals the secret in the final scene and seems to have access to all this extra-textual information that we, the reader / viewer had no way of knowing. Makes the whole thing seem fakey. This is the opposite. We, the reader, knew about this shit ages ago and are just like, cmon Ana. Catch up. Catch the fuck up.

Makes you wonder why EL chose to break POV and give us those extra Jack Hyde bits. They obviously make the book worse. I mean lots of parts of this make the book worse. But if we didn't already know it was Jack Hyde behind all this, maybe we would've been interested to learn it when Ana does.

Also does Christian need to have Jack Hyde identified for him? Of course he doesn't know him as well as Ana does, but didn't Christian help beat the shit out of him sometime in the last book? Seems like the kind of experience that would help you remember somebody's face pretty well but whatever. I don't really care about that. That's unimportant. I don't care about either of their reactions. What I care about is how terrible this writing is. How silly it is for EL to undercut what little suspense she manages to create. How dumb she makes all her own characters seem since we always know what's going on better than they do. Ugh.

Just makes the whole thing seem so comically slow. This thing is glacial. And not like an iceberg, which is an ocean glacier. Because we all know that icebergs have most of their mass below the surface. There is nothing below the surface here. Nothing at all. 

Cool let's do this again soon tho! xo


mkeagle said...

"I believe I am correct when I assert that there has never been a Mac built with a memory card reader."

Pedantic, but if she means an SD card, there are in fact Mac models with SD slots.

Alden Eagle said...

This almost unbearably weird to me. But hey, you win this one, EL James.

Also I should keep in mind that I can lure people into commenting by making false claims about Apple products whenever I feel lonely.