Friday, April 22, 2016

50 Shad3s: Chapter 14

I'm a little bit like a shark with this, I think. Got to keep moving. If I don't, I'll probably stop again, and if I stop again, who knows how long it will take me to start again? Or if I'd even be able to start again?

Basically all of my regular readers noticed my last post, even without me telling anyone to, and I am pleased. Just goes to show that my numbers are great in the venn-diagram overlap between "my friends" and "people who use RSS readers." In hollywood, they talk about "quadrants" of popularity. Pretty much just different kinds of white guys. "This blockbuster is huge with all four quadrants! Young white guys, middle-aged white guys, old white guys, and 'other'!" I think that's how they do it anyway. Friends with RSS readers is not a quadrant. Something much smaller than a quadrant. That's ok.

So yeah Chapter 14!

So 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.
  9. Ana discovers that Christian keeps an unlicensed gun in his office. While Christian is away on business, Ana has a few drinks with Kate. When Ana returns home, Jack Hyde has been apprehended during an apparent home invasion. 
  10. Christian spends a whole chapter pouting because Ana went out with Kate without telling him. 
  11. Christian pouts some more and reveals that he and Jack Hyde both used to live in Detroit. 
  12. I don't remember. So probably nothing I guess.
  13. Oh I guess in twelve everyone left for Aspen. And then in thirteen, Elliot asks Kate to marry him. 

This is totes fanfic w/in fanfic. This is some real Inception shit here. Like if you incept in too deep, you might get stuck there and never escape and maybe this book is just set in Aspen now on this alternate-universe tangent. Dunno.

But this chapter is totally fanfic. Fanfic is basically where you use existing characters like Legos. You know when you get Legos and they have like weird, other pictures on the back of the box? "You can also make this other thing!" You can only change a given set so much. No matter how you rearrange those same pieces, if you got one of those sweet pirate sets? Anything else you turn it into is going to be pretty piratey. That's what EL is doing to her own book in this chapter. She's writing fanfic about the first book, where Ana gets drunk and CG saves her from José and also Kate and Elliot are there. Just taking those exact same elements, giving them a little bit of a shake, and moving the whole show from Portland to Aspen. And that's it. Just a little bit of a remix of stuff that we've all read already.

Is that the appeal? The closest to fanfic that I ever read [Editor's note: other than this, obvs.] was more or less pre-internet, when, as a kid, I read a non-trivial number of Star Trek novels. I feel like this sort of thing--novels featuring characters from scifi tv shows or movies--used to be a fairly dominant chunk of the scifi section of bookstores. Maybe fanfic has kinda rendered them obsolete? Dunno. Maybe. But anyway--it's the same kind of deal. If you're writing one of these books, you can't mess up the set too much. You might be able to bring in some extra pieces, but they have to fit with the pieces you started out with, and at the end, you've got to be able to reset everything the way it was before, because they're not your characters.

But these are EL's characters. [Editor's note: sorta.] Yet she treats them like they're that same Lego set and she can only move them around so much. Can only take them so far because she only has so many pieces. So what I'm saying is: this chapter is a real snooze

EL stretches out the "will they or won't they" like three whole paragraphs before Kate says the thing that we knew she was going to say: yes. Yes she will go ahead and become Mrs. Grey, too, so that we can have some cute scene at some point with Ana and Kate calling each other Mrs. Grey and it'll be so cute that we'll all just have ourselves a good puke over it.

Oh and the whole entire restaurant is paying careful attention obvs and they're all instantly very invested in this. I wonder how many ladies get roped into shitty marriages because they're like, "Ugh don't wanna make a scene right now. I'll just say yes, now, and try to walk this back later," but then somehow they're stuck. Traditions are fun! At least Elliot doesn't do a whole party like CG did in the previous book. Rather understated by this book's standards, so I'm happy about that. Well. Not "happy" exactly. You get me.

Spontaneous applause, cheering, catcalls, whooping, and suddenly I have tears rolling down my face, smudging my Barbie- meets-Joan-Jett makeup. 
Smudging your what now? Let's all quietly try to imagine what that might look like and see if we can come up with anything.



No me neither. Ok! Moving on.

Aw so now everything is all resolved! Quoth Ana: “See? He was just worried about his proposal.” Do you think there was even a single, solitary reader who got to this part of the chapter and was like, "OH RIGHT! That tidies things up so nicely from the previous chapter! Wonderful! You really put the perfect little bow on that one, EL!" Because srsly. I did not need that pointed out to me. 

Lotsa congrats and whatever all happening. Cryptic one from CG to Kate: "I hope you are as happy in your marriage as I am in mine." Possible translation: "I hope you are constantly overwhelmed by petty jealousies and angst you should've gotten over years ago." That could totally be a curse! 

They drink Cristal. Ana thinks back on the first time she had Cristal and it was a lot of work for me to remember that, at one point, CG had taken her to some "club" that he belongs to like from old-timey times. So interesting! Can't even remember which book that was or why they went there. Doesn't matter. 

Mia asks Elliot about the date of the wedding, which is probably the dumbest thing that happens in the chapter, and maybe the entire book. Elliot and Kate have been engaged for thirty seconds or whatever. Maybe haven't worked out all the details quite yet maybe. Maybe Mia thinks that Elliot will have just chosen a date for the wedding already and isn't even letting Kate have an opinion on anything. Greys rule the world, after all!

Mia is kind of useless in general, right? 

“After the champagne, can we please go clubbing?” Mia turns and gives Christian her biggest, brown-eyed look.

Let's all think about the phrase "brown-eyed look" and see if we can make much logical sense of it. No? Ok cool. Just thought I'd try!

Next, they go to a nightclub called, of all things, "Zax."

So they go to Zax, where of course they know CG. Maybe he owns the place because why not? CG's portfolio is diverse to the point of absolute stupidity. He owns all these tiny, unrelated business all over the place. Got to be way more trouble than it's worth. Whatever. There's a fun moment where there's a lady who works there and she's all hot for CG but then there's a dude who works there and he's all hot for Ana and our heroes have a little laugh about it because it's like, "Oh hey we're surrounded by weird lechers with no impulse control and isn't that v v interesting?!"

Soon they're ordering drinks, in the standard way: the server comes to your table, and then defers to the alpha male, who collects all the drink orders and then offers the server an executive summary of their needs. Typically the other members of the pack will just use generic terms like "beer" and then the alpha will make the final selection. What, this isn't how you order drinks? No? You're doing it all wrong then obvs.

“Bottle of Cristal, three Peronis, and a bottle of iced mineral water, six glasses,” he says in his usual authoritative, no-nonsense manner. 
It’s kinda hot. 

So hot! I love that he is making everyone drink Peroni. You know, that famous beer from that most famous of all beer nations, Italy? It's because they're in Colorado, a part of the US where absolutely no beer is produced at all. I don't know why I insist on making fun of this kind of stuff so much. Perhaps because I just can't get a handle on CG's tastes. They seem so arbitrary. Plus I just don't believe that Zax would even have Peroni. They prolly have to send a barback out to find some late-night beer emporium so they can buy a sixer because you can't buy Peroni anywhere except for Italian restaurants that are like, "Hey, sure we have beer! But if you are that desperate for a beer, you're gonna have to have a Peroni!" Peroni is just Italian Heineken tho right? It's probably fine. Sorry for making fun of you Peroni. You're prolly fine.

I think the thing that gets me about things like this--CG ordering Peroni--is the way that EL chooses details that seem tailored to stand in as code for "fancy" but tend to reveal that she really doesn't know what she's talking about. Because c'mon. If you want me to think CG is being fancy, at least have him order something Belgian! God or I don't know--something not from the Mediterranean. Or just let people order their own beer. OR wait I know! Skip to the part where the drinks are delivered because who cares what anyone is drinking? Ugh I guess I care. I just proved it. You win, EL.

CG bullies Ana into drinking water. So that's pretty standard. He's a bully. The whole point of this terrible chapter is to repeat the "rescue" story of the first book, only for Ana to have "grown" so this time she's not going to be quite as helpless and also is going to avoid puking at the end of the night. Yay! If there's one really good way to show character development, it's prolly to show that a character's liver has become more adept at processing alcohol. Really good way to prove personal growth, imho.

Hey so I can't remember if I ever liked Mia? But I think I hate Mia. She dances with Ethan for a minute and then this is a thing she says when she returns to the table:

Come on, girls. Let’s hit the floor. Strike a pose, throw some shapes, work off the calories from the chocolate mousse.
Ugh. Love the mix of slang that was most likely never cool and just a dash of food-shaming at the end. It's nice of this book to mix it up and to remind ladies that you ought not eat too much, nor too little. Only the exact right amount. Got it? Good. Anyway, the ladies go dance because that's girl stuff and the boys sit around and I guess drink Peronis, which you can tell is a manly drink because the word "penis" is hiding right there, in plain sight! Azaming, right?

One funny thing about the dance sequence is the way EL uses the word "move." My regular readers will know that EL uses the word "move" as a stand-in for the word "fuck" so it's hard to read about Ana's dancing without accidentally using the mental substitution that EL demands of us elsewhere. "I begin to move a little more . . . bravely." Or, "It's Christian. He has given me this confidence in my body and how I can move it." I guess the second one is more of a stretch.

Anyway, I have mixed feelings about what happens next. So here are the crimes of an anonymous dancer:

Suddenly, there are two hands on my hips. I grin. Christian has joined me. I wiggle, and his hands move to my behind and squeeze, then back to my hips. 
But, you see, it's not Christian; someone else has touched Ana's "behind." I really hate this kind of shit. Once again, EL is trying to distract us from what a mutterflushing misogynist CG is by inventing some rando to touch Ana's butt for half a second. Right? Because the real and only problem ladies face is randos touching their butts. EL is basically creating a misogyny strawman to distract from how deplorable CG is. "Sure, CG may run Ana's life with an iron fist, treat her like a child, and remove all meaningful choice from her life. But hey! CG learned Ana's name before he touched her butt the first time so he is basically the world's top feminist.

Anyway, Ana slaps the dude and that is a real slap in the face of the patriarchy! Jk. I legit kinda feel sorry for this guy. He seems less than swift. Plus, CG shows up and punches him, which feels like overkill.

This is supposed to illustrate to us that Ana can now take care of herself. She no longer needs CG to save her from José.  She can slap the Josés of the world herself, thank you very much. But then CG will come and punch them after, just for good measure. He is the alpha male, and must participate. He must order the drinks. He must be the final word in anything related to violence. And because he is a true feminist, perhaps the truest feminist of all, he reacts very angrily to Ana having her butt touched. Oh and also they're married so he owns her and she's a property-object or whatever.

“Keep your fucking hands off my wife,” he says. He’s not shouting, but somehow he can be heard over the music. 
Holy shit! 
“She can take care of herself,” Blond Giant shouts. His hand moves from his cheek where I’ve slapped him, and Christian hits him. It’s like I’m watching it in slow motion. A perfectly timed punch to the chin that moves at such speed, but with so little wasted energy, Blond Giant doesn’t see it coming. He crumples to the floor like the scumbag he is. 
I'll answer your first question first: I imagine that the reason CG can be heard over the music without shouting, while everyone else needs to shout to be heard, is that CG is using a good deal of compression on his vocals. It's an important tool for live sound at a venue like this. You want to get the vocals nice and loud, but if you push on them too far, you can risk feedback. So, if you're able, a good idea is to put some compression on the vocals. Even out the peaks and valleys in volume, and that will really help CG cut through the mix. So I assume that that is what Ana is talking about.

I wonder about how Ana can be so aware of the speed and efficiency of CG's punch and also feel as though she's watching everything happen in slow motion. Interesting!

But the real reason I pasted this in here, is of course, the ending. The "scumbag" part. Because that's pretty gross, right? Remember in the first book when CG was always pulling off scumbags and leaving them crumpled on the floor? Pretty gross!

Anyway, they're all hot for each other once they've chased off that guy with more violence than was necessary. Yay! They dance. "Oh . . . Christian can move, really move." This is funny to me because of what we already talked about earlier. "Really move," in this book, tends to mean, "Ok so before we were just getting warmed up but we are just legit going at it like farmyard animules now."

Here's a whole paragraph about how great CG is and how Ana would be nothing without him blah blah blah and damn she's got some self-esteem issues. No wonder she's stuck with this terrible, terrible man. 

Here's a sentence that I'm going to make you read just because I hate it so much: "I am breathless when the song morphs to another." To be fair, part of this is a peeve of mine that predates this book. I despise the use of "morph" as a verb. I guess that somebody took the cromulent word "metamorphosis" and decided not to figure out how its constituent parts worked. Whatever. But I also hate this particular application of "morph" because it somehow implies something so much more complicated than a song ending and another song starting. The emergence of the butterfly is the end of the caterpillar. Switching between songs at the club is not quite the same. 

They sit down. And here's a sentence that I love: "As I sit, it’s as if the incident on the dance floor never happened." Wonderful! It's like a note from the author: don't worry. That shit with the slap and the punch is of absolutely no consequence. Might as well put it out of your mind forever and ever!

“I have expensive lawyers,” he says coolly, all at once arrogance personified. 
I frown at him. “But you’re not above the law, Christian. I did have the situation under control.” 
His eyes frost. “No one touches what’s mine,” he says with chilling finality, as if I’m missing the obvious. 
OMG you are missing the obvious! The obvious thing is that your husband thinks of you as a piece of meat! Gross gross gross gross gross.

I'm going to fast-forward thru the last of this shit chapter because the end is all totally pointless. There's no reason we need all the details about Ana going home and going to bed. EL pends several pages letting us know that Ana doesn't puke this time even tho she's pretty drunk. Oh and we get one step closer to the inevitable: still pretty sure that Ana is going to pee on Christian at some point:

“Good. Do you need a private moment?” he asks sardonically. 
I snort. “So coy, Mr. Grey. Yes, I need to pee.” 
He laughs. “You expect me to leave?” 
I giggle. “You want to stay?” 
He cocks his head to one side, his expression amused.
“You are one kinky son of a bitch. Out. I don’t want you to watch me pee. That’s a step too far.” I stand and wave him out of the bathroom. 
I don't see any other way of interpreting this. Do you?

That's enough for Chapter 14, I think.

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