Tuesday, July 21, 2015

50 Shad3s: Chapter 9 part 1

So obvs I took a sabbatical. Mainly because I felt like I'd run out of ways to keep this interesting for myself and, by extension, for you, I expect. But I am a completist, and I received a handful of generous notes of support and for all I know there are only like 5 people reading this and the rest of my hits are all Russian spambots but still--still think that beats trying to win short story contests or whatever because hey. Five people is five people, and if three of them let me know that they'd keep reading if I kept writing, that's good enough for me.

I do intend to do *something* about Grey but I'm not sure what. Maybe just present a few selections of cuttings on themes, for your entertainment. One obvious one: "Every time Christian introduces the reader to a different woman" because every time a new lady enters the book, CG is careful to make sure we know that she's terrible and dumb but also wants to have sex with him and won't be allowed to.

Part of the reason I don't feel like writing a whole book about this book is that my sense is that it's been pretty strongly rejected by all but the most committed fans. Perhaps none of this ever needed taking down a peg, but Grey in particular seems to have been received at a pretty low peg and doesn't have much lower to go.

Perhaps I'm being optimistic, and perhaps I travel in small, biased circles but I do feel as though Grey's poor reception is indicative of a bit of a shift even in the last few years. The conversation when this book was new tended to focus on two boring points: 1) Oh hey did you hear that this started out as fan fiction? 2) Oh hey did you hear some women think about sex sometimes?

Very little to do with the book's content except for the (accurate) implication that since this was a watered-down, sexed-up version of a book for young adults, it probably wasn't very good.

And now, if anyone mentions anything about Grey it's to complain about what a gross money grab the thing is (boring but accurate) or to talk about what an absolute murderer CG acts like all the time. I like to think we've grown up a little bit and maybe, maybe can accept the idea that women think about sex every once in a while maybe while also being aware of what absolute misogyny fills these books.

But then again Grey is still #1 on Amazon so probably I'm deluding myself. (Editor's note: it's now down to 11 so that's something!)

Anyway moving on!

BONUS: When I decided to give this another try, I totally forgot that I'd actually written a fair bit on Chapter 9 already so this could be easy! Possibly! It's like finding five bucks in your own pocket. It feels like you're ahead even though, of course, you aren't.

Plus the chapter is like half bullshit emails and the rest of it's going to go quickly. That's my hope, at least! Fingers crossed! Nothing can stop us if we work together! As a team!

Hey remember how Avengers: Age of Ultron was like an action-movie adaptation of a motivational poster about teamwork and how great teamwork is? Very cool. I hope Hollywood adapts some more motivational posters! To help keep me motivated!

Ok here we go: CHAPTER 9! The nineliest chapter to date!

But 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. 
  6. Ana figures out that Jack Hyde was the arsonist.
  7. Christian bullies Ana until she agrees to go by "Ana Grey" in her professional life. 
  8. Ana is extremely jealous of the architect hired to remodel the new home she will share with Christian. Ana cuts Christian's hair.

Quick update: Chapter 9 begins with Ana waking up. Previous chapters that start with Ana waking up include such hits as Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and Chapter 5, not to mention the various scene breaks timed around Ana's sleep patterns. No character in all of literature has had her sleep schedule more carefully documented than Anastasia Steele Grey. It's great for realism! Jk. It's annoying. Grey makes sleep the official organizing principle instead of a secondary one, by using calendar dates instead of sequential numbers to label chapters. Really doubling down on a bad idea! Oh well. Why not?

It’s always the same, if we argue the night before, this is how he ends up, coiled around me, making me hot and bothered. 
Oh, Fifty. He is so needy on some level. Who would have thought? The familiar vision of Christian as a dirty, wretched little boy haunts me. 
Who would have thought? Mutterflushing everyone! He is the neediest character in all of literature. There is literally nobody you can think of, real or fictional, who is more needy than Christian Grey! Holy shit pay attention Ana!

Ugh let's think up some equivalent observations.

  • Oh, Scrooge McDuck. He is so greedy on some level. Who would have thought?
  • Oh, Dracula. He is so bloodthirsty on some level. Who would have thought? 
  • Oh, Hulk. He is so angry on some level. Who would have thought?  
Being needy is pretty much CG's only defining characteristic. Oh and rich. Oh and good looking. Oh and an asshole. There! You've got him figured out. Really don't need a whole book from his POV to learn these "lessons."

EL is doing that thing again where she tries to mash up current-day Christian Grey with his childhood trauma as a weak stab at making him seem sympathetic. He's not! Not at all sympathetic. Oh boo hoo! Kane really loved that sled! (Editor's note: spoiler alert. Ooh should've put that earlier. Sorry.) Doesn't make me wanna be pals with Kane! Also: how is CG as a wretched little boy a familiar vision to Ana? She's never seen a photo of him as a dirty, wretched little boy. I reject the premise of this vision!

I guess they have sex before they get out of bed? Whatever. Ana: "I wouldn't change a hair on his head." That's probably some sort of defense mechanism, right? CG is so obviously in need of a personality overhaul. Ana realizes this on some level, and thus, unprompted, declares the opposite. One of the many little moments in which EL seems to accidentally hint at something with much more psychological complexity.

Let's look at what Ana's saying: "I wouldn't change a hair on his head." Look I feel very secure in my relationship. Would I change anything about my partner? I mean, no, not really. But I mean, I do sometimes wish that she was, you know, an accomplished sniper who drove a twin-engine war machine carefully stocked with tons of carefully hidden weapons. I'm sure she'd say something roughly equivalent about me and that's fine. Who wouldn't wish that? A liar! That's who.

A liar like Ana because c'mon. "Wouldn't change a hair on his head." Oh maybe she's being very literal. "I wouldn't change his hair because I'm very proud of the haircut that I gave him yesterday and I think it's perfect. No comment on his many unrelated deficiencies." That makes more sense. Moving on.

And now we're back to this shit at the breakfast table:

“Eat,” he orders. “You didn’t eat yesterday.” 
Oh, bossy Fifty! 
“That’s because you were being an arse.” 
Mrs. Jones drops something that clatters into the sink, making me jump. Christian seems oblivious to the noise. Ignoring her, he stares at me impassively. 
“Arse or not—eat.” His tone is serious. No arguing with him.

Wow where to begin. Ok. Ana referring to CG as "Fifty" is absolutely unbearable and probably the single worst thing about this entire book. I just can't stand the way that EL coins her own little phrases and then characters use them as tho they make sense. Lots of us say things that don't really make sense because they've been removed from their original context and modified in a centuries-long game of telephone. Like saying, "The proof is in the pudding." Doesn't make sense! But we can learn its origin and kind of be like, "Oh, ok, I get it. That's derived from a thing that makes sense so I'll forgive it."

But none of EL's things make any sense at all. "I'm fifty shades of fucked up." What? Srsly what? What are you even saying? And then Ana seizes on this and just repeats it like it's a thing. It's not a thing! Stop trying to make it a thing!

This exchange is happening on the same page as "I wouldn't change a hair on his head." I sure hope she's regretting that thought. "Ooh I wanna take that back and make it so that my husband shuts the hell up about when I eat or don't." Because srsly ftb and fcg.

Oh and if you can find any American who says "arse" ever, they're probably the same kind of jagoff who not only writes "colour" and "favour" but probably says those words all weird so that you're like, "Oh I think this jagoff is trying to make it clear to me that although he is American, he thinks that using British spellings make him smarter, kind of like when people say 'comprise' because they think that it's the same word as 'compose' only for smart people."

Wait tho. This is another one of those moments where you're like, "Wait. Does Christian have a point?" And then you get so mad at the book for making you wonder if CG has a point, even if he's being a huge ass about it. Because like, if Ana went a whole day without eating? That would probably be a bad sign. I mean wouldn't it? I'm no expert here but in my experience, most people, particularly extremely wealthy people, tend to eat a couple or three times every day. Did Ana seriously go a day without eating any food? Is this correct? I mean we know when she sleeps but does she actually have an eating disorder?

This whole topic just makes me angry. I think it angers me because it indicates that EL just hasn't thought things through. I think that the way she sees this theme is just totally at odds with the way anybody else would.

My theory about EL's intent:

Ana's tendency to go days without eating is a metaphor for her delicate nature. She loses her appetite at the slightest sign of conflict. She is a shrinking violet. She gets the vapors.

And CG's tendency Ana into eating is evidence of the depths of his love. He's willing to be bossy when necessary. Willing, even, to make her upset at him for her own good. That's how much he cares!

But somehow, EL doesn't get how any of this looks. Because what it looks like is that Ana is maybe developing an eating disorder and that her husband is intent on controlling every aspect of her body down to the most basic, chemical level.

There's an extent to which a writer cannot control the reader, of course. But good writers are able to step back and approach their work with fresh eyes, and read their own work as though it is unfamiliar, and thus pick up on where they might not be making the point they want to make.

Oh and another thing a lot of good writers do is have a mutterflushing editor to edit their shit. That can help a lot too I hear. But of course, EL has made all the money in the world so editing her is basically the same as coaching Lebron James. Her editor pretends to make suggestions and EL pretends to listen to them but also she's stuffed her ears full of money and it's hard to hear. (Editor's note: why does she do this? No idea. Rich people are weird.)

What's that you say? I just called EL James the Lebron James of books? No, no I didn't. Please. That was a limited analogy! Work with me.

Anyway Ana eats some breakfast. So we got that little fight out of the way! Probably won't have to talk about this until like, next chapter or something. And that's pages away! Literally pages away! Also my version sees EL spelling yogurt "yoghurt" because that's another one of those British things. Here's how it works: the average American works something like nine hundred more ours a year than her British counterpart and so we just don't have time for that extra "h" ok, EL? U-S-A! U-S-A!

CG says he has to go to New York. Says Ana should come with him. Ana says she wants to stay and their conversation is exactly like a child arguing with a parent that, no, she doesn't need a babysitter. Ana's tactic is to mention all the security goons who'll be staying in Seattle. "They can babysit me!" is not what she says but it's basically what she says.

Then we get a whole reminder about how CG's helicopter sploded in that other book, in case we'd forgotten. CG says that he's going to take the company jet to NYC because he hates the planet. C'mon bro. Still cheaper to buy a first-class ticket to NYC on short notice than it is to fly your whole jet there, and it's just as fast. Plus you can probably buy like, a few extra seats to make sure you sit alone, like that time you bought all the tickets next to Ana so that she didn't accidentally meet a dude on the airplane and end up sexing with him in the economy class lav.

All I'm saying is this, CG: you're now way back in 2011 or something but in 2015 Seattle is going to be crazy hot and if you live to see the end of this trilogy (Editor's note: hope he doesn't!) you'll feel it being all hot and you'll be deeply ashamed of your carbon footprint.

Anyway, Ana is all, remember a couple weeks ago when you almost died in a helicopter splosion? And CG is all, yeah of course duh and Ana is all, I figured you remembered I was just saying that for the audience not for you. And CG says he fired five people because of that and I'm like, hey how many people do you have just working on your helicopter? Could it have been more than five? Whatever.

Then the conversation takes this fun turn:

“That reminds me. There’s a gun in your desk.” 
He frowns at my non sequitur and probably at my accusatory tone, though I don’t mean it that way. “It’s Leila’s,” he says finally. 
“It’s fully loaded.” 
“How do you know?” His frown deepens. 
“I checked it yesterday.” 
He scowls at me. “I don’t want you messing with guns. I hope you put the safety back on.” 
I blink at him, momentarily stupefied. “Christian, there’s no safety on that revolver. Don’t you know anything about guns?” 
His eyes widen. “Um . . . no.”

Ha! Ok. This is a rare curveball from EL. I presumed that CG would be a total gun expert because he knows everything about everything. But instead, guns are the one thing that Ana knows about in pretty much the entire world. Sure whatever.

But wait. CG has Leila's gun? Ok so that gun was like, used in a home invasion in the previous book. So like, CG just swiped it from the crime scene? And nobody like, police or whoever, took any issue with that? Wondered where the gun might have ended up? No?

CG essentially runs away from the conversation. It's the first time he's ever had Ana prove that her knowledge exceeded his in some area, and he basically seems terrified, like the possibility never occurred to him. He hides his embarrassment by trying to assert his anti-gun credentials, which is pretty silly, really. Just admit that you're a dummy, CG! No big deal! Some people, like you, happen to be dummies! It's ok!

“Anastasia, I despise guns. My mom has patched up too many victims of gun crime, and my dad is vehemently antigun. I grew up with their ethos. I support at least two gun control initiatives here in Washington.” 
I don't remember what kinda doctor CG's mom is supposed to be but it seems like not the kind patching up gunshots? Whatever. What I really want explained is the last sentence. At least two initiatives, you say? Very weird thing to say. And "here in Washington" is another for-the-reader line. I received my ballot in the mail today for the election here in Seattle. I can say that to you, gentle reader, because you might not be in Seattle with me. If I were talking to a fellow Seattleite, like CG is, I wouldn't say "here in Seattle" because that would be a silly waste of both our time.

Anyway CG is anti-gun, and Ana, it turns out! is a regular Charlton Heston. Well. Maybe not. But it's fun to say, and she does want CG to learn how to shoot guns. So the scene devolves into a lazy debate on gun laws, which completely ignores the most cromulent point: why the hell does CG have this gun, and why does it not seem weird to Ana? Ana is concerned for CG's safety, but never questions the core ridiculousness of him having, in his possession, property from a crime scene.

Oh and of course he knows everything that Leila is up to because his therapist is her therapist, and her therapist is just thrilled to share confidential information with whomever.

Well. I didn't make it all the way to the end of the chapter. But I ought to publish something, right? Really didn't get very far but that's ok. The journey of a billion-page trilogy starts with just a single page. Or something. Anyway, later on some different stuff happens and maybe we'll talk about that later. 

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