Wednesday, April 24, 2019

El Misterino: Chapter 1

In which ELJ introduces us to an extremely unlikeable narrator who's basically Christian Grey's little brother. 

You know that thing where British actors play Americans in movies and they kinda overdo the accent and it sounds weird? Hugh Laurie does a perfect American accent; everyone else sounds bad. Yes that's right! I said "everyone." Sorry, Colin Farrell! That's the one cool thing about being American (other than you know that America won't bomb you with drones probably maybe) is that when you see Robert Downey Jr play Sherlock Holmes, you get to be like, yes this is great. This is an authentic Englishman. 

And the good thing about this book so far is that ELJ went ahead and just put it in England. She set the 50  books in Seattle, and I live there, and also I'm an American, so just absolutely every last detail about the way the characters lived felt completely wild. I have no way of knowing whether she's getting things right or wrong this time--I suspect wrong--but basically you could tell me almost anything about England and I'd be like, sure why not seems likely and I've even been there! (Once.)

But I am also a man, and just like actors tend to overcorrect when trying to use an accent other than their default, ELJ goes way overboard in terms of making the bro narrating this story just a total bro. Just the broiest bro who ever broed a bro.

Maxim only thinks about fucking, and about the fact that his brother has just died. And that's kind of how privilege works, I guess. The greater your privilege, the fewer things you ever have to think about. So in that sense, sure: great job, ELJ. You don't have to make this guy worry about anything at all because he enjoys literally every imaginable privilege and thus leads a life nearly free from conscious thought.

Isn't that an odd narrative choice, though? So there are different ways of plotting a story, of course. But a very simple, yet effective way is to give a character an external obstacle that can serve as a metaphor for an internal obstacle. Here's a bad example that comes to mind immediately: you remember how in Die Hard Carl from Family Matters is really nervous about shooting anybody because he accidentally shot a kid or something and then at the end of the movie he shoots a guy and everyone is like, "Oh great! Carl Winslow can shoot people again so all is right in the universe!"

Right so it's not just that Carl has to shoot some villain or whatever. He also has to overcome the "problem" where he thinks that shooting people is bad. [Editor's note: Alden is really upset that this is the example he chose but he's just going to stick with it.]

So what I'm saying is this: the whole thing about a plot, typically, is solving a problem. Things cannot stay the way they are--they can either get better, or worse. That's a plot!

But when you start your story with a rich white guy who is a literal English "Lord" whatever that means, you really back yourself into a corner! Because our dude has ZERO problems. It's sad that his brother died, yes, but that's really not a problem for him in any kind of meaningful way. And to the extent that it is a problem, it's a resolved problem, because the dude idn't coming back.

And yes, I get it. I have literally everything going for me in life. In a sort of global sense, I have all the advantages that Maxim Tarpaulin enjoys other than the fact that I'm not a literal English "Lord." And I know that I worry about everything literally all day long and most of the night. But you can't write a novel about me worrying about stuff because almost none of my worries make any sense.

So maybe Maxim Magazine here worries about stuff too! [Editor's note: not really. He mostly doesn't.] But the fact is that he has basically zero problems, and that's a pretty weird way to start a book!

But hey let's get into it. This intro is more than long enough!

Monday, April 22, 2019

El Misterino: Prologue

Do you think I should stick with this El Misterino bit? It's kind of hard to make up a joke about a title that is so bland to begin with! I can't imagine this title entering our lexicon the way Fifty Shades has. And that's nothing to do with the book--just the title.

I think when something like Fifty Shades catches fire, it's basically impossible for the author to reach that height again, regardless of the quality of her subsequent work. Fifty Shades has the privilege of coming first, and so I expect that The Mister is largely going to go unheralded. It'll be hugely successful compared to, like, books, but I doubt ELJ will stick around as a household name and keep inspiring think pieces and so on.

I also kind of expect this book to be better. Fifty Shades suffers firstly from being chained to the corpse of Twilight. "Will you become a vampire?" is an interesting question. ELJ's human version--"Will you sign this sex contract?"--is not interesting. Plus ELJ waited until quite late in the second book of her trilogy to introduce any stakes, and didn't do it well.

So I'm guessing that in the most basic sense of plotting, this book is going to be an improvement! Our author has done this before, and to my knowledge, isn't writing fanfic. I don't mean that specifically as a knock on fanfic--I just mean that ELJ wrote this new book without having to ask herself pesky questions like, "so what do I do about the werewolves?"

Plus, I feel like the little bit I know about this book suggests that ELJ basically wrote a gothic romance. Alessia is the virtuous woman with the mysterious past who's going to work in a castle. Guessing like we may see some beauty and the beast type stuff too, only our main dude probably looks super hot but maybe has some like, beastly attributes he needs to work on.

So what I'm saying, basically, is that I think ELJ has some pretty shopworn elements available to her, and while I doubt this book will be good, I do expect that on the most basic, technical level, we're going to get less shit that just makes no sense at all. Fingers crossed!

The prologue, however, does not inspire confidence!

Friday, April 19, 2019

El Misterino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing

Look, pals: I don't know what I'm doing either.

Everything about the world is a whole dumb nightmare. We've got ten years before everything melts and maybe twenty before we're full-on Mad Max and I will be squarely middle-aged at that point and that's just not a good moment to be learning how to do stunt driving and improvise weapons and everything. Even if I start now I won't be ready! So what I'm saying is, we were already at one of the most dire moments in human history, and then EL James had to go and write another book.

Years ago, when I was writing about those other EL James classics, a friend told me I should stop doing this because it seemed like it was making me miserable.

But that's my secret, Captain: I am always miserable.

Well not always. Or at least, not always-always. But I just want you to know this from the get-go: when it seems like this book is making me unhappy, please understand that it is not. The books is merely a vessel! A conduit! The means through which I reveal my true self. Those who do not move do not notice their chains. Those who do not look at my terrible blog don't have to hear me whine. The choice is entirely yours!

Hey so what've you been doing these past many years? I wish I had more to report on this end! Truly I do!

I play in this band. I take little credit, but I do take some credit! That video rules, right? Just agree with me. I really need this. Thank you in advance.

I had a podcast going for a while, and may again in the future. We'll see.

The podcast is called Beyond the Beaded Curtain and if you are interested, you can basically hear me doing exactly what I do hear, only you listen to it instead of reading it, and I have friends doing it too, and also we're talking about weird porn flicks rather than EL James. See??? I'm not exclusively about EL James. I sometimes branch out into other kinds of erotic fare. [Editor's note: change this part. It makes you look just bad and weird. You can keep the depression part, or the porn part, but you've got to cut one of them. The combination is really a bad look.]

I'm optimistic that there will be more episodes later, but the show is on hiatus and has been since like, Thanksgiving 2018 or so. 

Anyway! EL James wrote a new book.