Thursday, April 19, 2012

50 Shades of Grey, Chapter 2 recap, or: Shopping For A Serial Killer's Birthday

First of all, I want to thank everyone who has cheered me on in this endeavor. Please know that this is going to be like a marathon. No. It's going to be like an ultra-marathon, through a mine field covered in hardening hot glue. Your support is like unto Gatorade, replenishing my parched brain as I slog ever further.

Oh, shit. I'm only two chapters in.

Before I share the glorious recap, I have to give a shout-out to @Scarimonious, who I just started following on Twitter yesterday and who has already proven that I've made a really, really good choice in doing so. Remember my wish for a picture of the tie described in the first chapter?

Wish granted, bitches

You have @Scarimonious to thank for that. I don't know about you, but the above picture is exactly how I'm going to imagine Christian Grey for the rest of the book.

All right, onto the pain. We last left Ana in the elevator, leaving Christian's office. Chapter two begins with her heart pounding, the doors opening, and then there's some scrambling and stumbling that doesn't end with a classic Bella Swan Anastasia Steele pratfall. I don't know, Ana, maybe you wouldn't fall down so damn much if you had more speeds than a cheap lawn mower. Seriously, she's either walking like a normal human or bouncing around like a pinball with a very bad concept of gravity.

I race for the wide glass doors, and I'm free in the bracing, cleansing, damp air of Seattle.
I know that the first adjective that comes to mind when I think clean and bracing is "damp". And wait, wasn't she driving to Portland in the first chapter? Now she's in Seattle... oh, who the fuck cares, it's all one big, rainy, Forks to E.L. James, right?
No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why.
I can't, either, AnaBella. Just a minute ago in his office he was an arrogant prick that you seemed like you couldn't stand. Now, reader, let me assure you, I'm not misunderstanding the classic Sam-and-Diane rules of attraction and loathing. I get loving to hate someone, and hating that you love them. This came off more like a middle schooler with an embarrassing crush; I don't like you, but I like you, so I'm going to think a lot of mean things about you while doodling your name in my notebook.

Ana goes outside and leans against a (steel) pillar in the rain because she needs a moment to recover from the sheer sexual intimidation that is Christian Grey. If you don't understand by now that she is really, really affected by him, well, there's no hope for you, because she's beating you over the head with it. She even throws in a "holy crap" for good measure. You know Ana is serious when that kind of language starts.

She drives away from Seattle/Portland, still playing over this highly erotic experience of interviewing someone. Seriously, from the way she's going on, I'm thinking Barbra Walters must have to wear  waterproof undies to work, because interviews are that sexually exciting. Okay, not every interview. Just every interview with a man who wears ties that have shrewd gazes.
Okay, so he's very attractive, confident, commanding, at ease with himself - but on the flip side, he's arrogant, and for all his impeccable manners, he's autocratic and cold. Well, on the surface.
As everyone who watches Downton Abbey knows, impeccable manners usually go hand in hand with deep expressions of feeling to total strangers. This is the kind of thing that's going to kill me in this book. It doesn't follow that having impeccable manners would mean you're a warm person. In the next line, "An involuntary shiver" runs down Ana's spine. Who shivers on purpose? Seriously, who controls whether or not they shiver? Especially after standing in the rain, leaning on a steel pillar? This is exactly what is going to wear me down, all this little bullshit.

So, Ana is thinking about Christian has a right to be arrogant, then she says "He doesn't suffer fools gladly," and I spit out my gum. Bish, please. You just did a header into his office rug and couldn't work a recorder, then insulted him to his face and he still cancelled his next meeting to make sure you didn't secure yourself a handicapped parking spot leaving the building. On second thought, maybe that last part had to do with the insurance nightmare having someone like Ana on your property is going to inevitably lead to. But still. He suffered a fool today, and he was very polite about it. Because of his impeccable manners.

And Kate's questions - ugh! The adoption and asking him if he was gay! I shudder. I can't believe I said that. Ground, swallow me up now! Every time I think of that question in the future, I will cringe with embarrassment. Damn Katherine Kavanagh!

She's super embarrassed, not because she Bella Swan-dived into the office, not because she called him a control freak to his face and was openly hostile throughout the interview, not because she stood outside his building in the rain like she was auditioning for a Michael Bolton video in 1989, but because of Katherine. Katherine forced her to read those questions, which Ana apparently hadn't bothered to look at before showing up to the interview. She's mad that Kate didn't give her a biography before she went, but if she didn't bother to look at the questions, would she have bothered to read the bio?

Deciding that she's had enough of ruminating how impossibly hot Christian Grey is, she flouts his order to drive safely, because this is New Moon, and she's going to be damned if he'll run off to Italy to immolate himself and leave her behind! No, sorry. I keep getting confused, but can you really blame me? She turns on "thumping indie rock music" and tears down the highway. Ten to one, she's listening to Muse's "Black Holes and Revelations". Because, as you may not have picked up from the subtle hints I'm laying down, this is Twilight.

We get a description of Ana's living situation, in a small community of duplex apartments near the WSU campus. Apparently Kate's parents bought the place for her. The apartment? The whole duplex? The whole community? Who knows, because subject/verb agreement is for pussies, and E.L. James is no pussy. Ana realizes that Kate is going to want to know what happened at the interview. I'm guessing that Kate is going to listen to the disc, hear the way Ana was talking to the most important entrepreneur in Washington and/or Oregon and be absolutely thrilled. Ana, meanwhile, isn't thrilled. Her friend is wearing horrible pink bunny pjs that she wears only during moments of absolute weakness. Kate hugs Ana, expresses that she was worried because she expected her home earlier, and thanks her profusely before asking questions about the interview. How does Ana's internal narrative respond to this?
Oh no - here we go, the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.
Seriously, Ana? Seriously? You were expecting that she wasn't going to ask you about the interview that will make or break her as editor of the WSU school newspaper? When I was reading Twilight, I had this horrible feeling that if it were a memoir, and Bella's friends read what she had said about them, they would have Javelinaed her ass before she could say, "What's up with all the mud?" I'm beginning to feel a lot more sympathy toward the wretched Kate than toward Ana. Sure, Ana made her soup to make her feel better, but she probably bitched about it internally the entire time it was simmering on the stove.

"Don't you look so innocent. Why didn't you give me a biography? He made me feel like such an idiot for skimping on basic research." Kate clamps a hand to her mouth.

"Jeez, Ana, I'm sorry - I didn't think."

I huff.

"Mostly he was courteous, formal, slightly stuffy - like he's old before his time. He doesn't talk like a man of twenty-something. How old is he anyway?"

"Twenty-seven. Jeez, Ana, I'm sorry. I should have briefed you, but I was in such a panic.
Maybe he's a vampire. Maybe that's why he sounds like he's old before his time. And while we're flinging wild accusations around, Ana, maybe you're a vampire, too, since you talk all sorts of stuffy, yourself. "A man of twenty-something." Who talks like that? No one. Absolutely no one. This is why you should always read your dialogue aloud, kids. And the clean cussing is another thing. Crap? Jeez? Were "Oh brother" and "golly" too strong for print? I'm seriously expecting "Great Honk!" and "Jeepers" to pop up, and for the Mayor from The Music Man to start lecturing everyone about watching their phraseology. If we were to make a drinking game out of every time someone says an impossibly clean curse word, do you know what would happen?


This would happen.

But let's not gloss over something that is so incredibly irritating to me at this point in the chapter. Look at how much Kate is apologizing to Ana. And what is she apologizing for, really? What was stopping Ana from looking any of this information up on her phone while she waited outside Christian's office? Not a damn thing. Ana knew she was going to go interview the guy. It's not like Kate had commandos bust into Ana's room in the middle of night, hit her with the stun gun a few times, then bag her head and drop her off in Christian's office with a recorder and a list of questions. She could have prepared better for the experience, she didn't, but because this is Ana's story, we're supposed to be just as annoyed with Kate as Ana is? No, E.L. James. I am not buying what you are selling today.

Because Ana is nothing if not a martyr, she leaves immediately for her job at the hardware store. It's ironic, you see, that she works in a hardware store, because she's hopeless with anything DIY. She actually says she's "crap" at DIY, but I hesitated to type that at first because of the whole drinking game thing. I don't want to be responsible for your alcohol poisoning. Ana would rather curl up with a book than build anything with her hands, and that's probably stemming from a real solid sense of self preservation in the saws vs. fingers department, based on what we've seen of her coordination so far. But she knows a lot about hardware, and she's happy to go to work because it will take her mind of Christian Grey.

After absolutely nothing happens at her job, but we're forced to come along for a few paragraphs anyway, Ana comes home to find Kate working on the story. Once again, Ana reminds us of all the studying she couldn't do because she spent all day interviewing Christian Grey. Except, when Ana showed up for work, her boss said she didn't expect Ana that day. So, wait a second. Ana could have stayed home from work, gotten this impossibly huge amount of studying done, but she went in anyway and we all tagged along why? For further proof that she is bound and determined to be miserable and irritated at her roommate who, by all accounts, seems like a really nice person? I'm liking you more and more, AnaBella SteeleSwan.

Kate suggests that the reason Christian offered to show Ana around the office was because he was interested in spending more time with her. Ana mentally blows this off, thinking that he just wanted to show off how powerful he is. Because Ana is clearly someone a rich, handsome guy would need to impress. I don't understand how this character can be so incredibly full of herself, and yet so incredibly down on herself, at the same time.
"That's fine. I can still make a fine article with this. Shame we don't have some original stills. Good-looking son of a bitch, isn't he?" I flush.
Here is another problem I have with this book, since I'm so obviously short on things to critique.  See that line of dialogue? Looks like Ana is saying it, right? Nope. Those words are coming out of Kate's mouth, tagged with Ana's actions. And it happens all the time in this. It makes it difficult to read, because you're always trying to figure out who said what. I had the same issue, by the by, with The Time Traveler's Wife. And I'm sure there is a special place in hell just for me for comparing that book to this one.

Kate wants to talk some more about how good looking Christian Grey is, and Ana is just interested in complaining about the trial of a thousand cuts that was having to interview someone for a college newspaper.  I guess Ana is just as tired as I am of hearing about how good-looking, fascinating, commanding, arrogant, mysterious, etc. Christian is. Still, that night, Ana dreams about "dark places, bleak white cold floors, and gray eyes."

Now is the time on Sprockets where we get the rest of the week wrap up, and some suspiciously Twilight-ish exposition. Oh, but not before Ana gets another dig in about Kate and her pjs. We learn that Ana's mom lives in Georgia. I wonder if she ever drives across the state line to chat with Bella's mom in Florida, because they're both flaky and on new marriages, so they have a lot in common. Also, they're the same person. Also, just like Bella's mom, Ana's mom asks right off the bat about boys. There is one aspect that differs between the two of them. Bella's mom has a name. After calling her mom, Ana calls her stepdad, Ray. She considers Ray her father, despite the fact that he only communicates in grunts and she basically prefers him over her biological father because "he's still alive".

This brings us to Friday night, when Ana's friend Jose comes over. Jose is a completely new and original character, completely unlike any character in Twilight. He's got dark eyes, his dad and Ana's stepdad are BFFs, and although he really likes Ana and wishes she would date him, she's got him locked firmly in the friend zone. I challenge you, reader, to find any character in Twilight with any similarity at all to Jose. I mean, these allegations of plagiarism are totally preposterous. Jacob likes motorcycles. Jose likes photography. Absolutely nothing about the two of them are the same in any way.

I watch Jose open the bottle of champagne. He's tall, and in his jeans and t-shirt he's all shoulders and muscles, tanned skin, dark hair and burning dark eyes. Yes, Jose's pretty hot, but I think he's finally getting the message. We're just friends.
In the interest of transparency, it's not E.L. James's fault that there aren't accent marks on Jose's name. It's mine, I'm just way too drunk to do them after all those craps and jeezes.

Ana can't date anyone because no man in the history of ever has come close to ringing her bell the way the heroes of classic literature can. Well, you know, except Christian Grey, but she won't even let herself consider such a thing. It's days later, and she's still brutally mortified that she was forced at gun point by those commandos to ask him if he was gay. Yeah, she's been dreaming of him nonstop, but that's only because everything about him and the entire interview debacle were so unthinkably bad.

Saturday at the hardware store, Ana is doing something inventory-ish and who walks in and creepily stares at her until she looks up from what she's doing? Christian. Motherfucking. Grey. Looking all casual and fine (he left the anthropomorphic tie at home today), he tries to pull off this whole, "I was in the area," shtick. I guess when you're a millionaire, you have the luxury of driving from Seattle to Portland to go to a hardware store. But just a heads up, dude, that whole, "I was in the neighborhood" line seems sketch when you just drove three hours to creep on some chick who works at the hardware store. Then, we are treated to what is, without doubt, the finest metaphor ever crafted in the history of the written language:

His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel... or something.
See that? Remember that mean thing I said about the Pulitzer in my intro post? I take it back. The reason they did not award the Pulitzer for fiction this year is because none of the entrants lived up to that metaphor, but to give the Pulitzer to 50 Shades would be to insult the mastery of its prose. They were caught in an impossible situation.

Ana does a lot of weak-kneed, heart-poundy, blushy-flushy escorting of Christian around the hardware store. He's looking for some pretty specific stuff. Cable ties, for example, that he selects so erotically that Ana has to look away while he does it. Masking tape. Rope. They chat about her interests, while the store owner calls the cops because this dude is obviously stocking up for a kidnapping. Just kidding! But to make his receipt look even more incriminating, Ana suggests he buys coveralls. In my mind, Christian Grey has gone from RPattz to Dexter in 3.2 seconds.

The dialogue between the two characters is so absurdly childish, I can't even fathom why this is considered erotic:

"You wouldn't want to ruin your clothing," I gesture vaguely in the direction of his jeans.
"I could always take them off." He smirks.
"Um." I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be the color of the communist manifesto.
Stop talking. Stop talking NOW.
"I'll take some coveralls. Heaven forbid I should ruin any clothing," he says dryly.
OMG LOL, do you get it? I so get it. If he takes off his clothes (omg) he will be NAKED. Swoon. Sploosh. Scene.

Ana asks Christian if he's willing to have some pictures taken to accompany the article Kate is writing, and he's totally down for that. He gives Ana his cell number, which is apparently a contract, because when an old friend of Ana's shows up and acts "over-familiar", he glares at them and starts acting all strange.

"Just these items." His tone is clipped and cool. Damn... have I offended him? Taking a deep breath, I turn and head for the till. What is his problem?
I ring up the rope, coveralls, masking tape, and cable ties at the till.

His problem is that the guy in the trunk of his car isn't going to stay alive long enough to torture to death if you don't ring up those supplies, sweet cheeks.

One of the challenges of writing erotica is injecting sensuality into mundane situations. This ramps up the tension between the characters who will later do it (that's a technical term). For example:

"Would you like a bag?" I ask as I take his credit card.
"Please, Anastasia." His tongue caresses my name, and my heart once again is frantic. 
Okay, that's not the best example.

Finally, after their hyper-sexy murder kit shopping spree, she admits she might, maybe, a little bit, be attracted to Christian:

Okay - I like him. There, I've admitted it to myself. I cannot hide from my feelings anymore. I've never felt like this before. I find him attractive, very attractive. But it's a lost cause, I know, and I sigh with bittersweet regret. It was just a coincidence, his coming here. But still, I can admire him from afar, surely? No harm can come of that. And if I find a photographer, I can do some serious admiring tomorrow.
Yeah, he's probably not interested in you. He only drove three hours out of the way on a flimsy excuse (visiting the university) and showed up to buy incriminating supplies at the hardware store you work at. Ana would be so easy to kidnap  and cut up, for real. "I was just in the neighborhood, and I decided to drop buy to buy zip ties and rope and glare jealously at you when you talk to another man." And what do you want to bet the hapless schmuck who has to photograph Dexter Rpattz Grey, esq. is going to be Jose, the guy who's been permanently friend zoned by Miss "Only Mr. Darcy can give me a tickle in my pants" Steele?

The sick thing is, I can barely wait to read more. I'm starting to understand why this became a huge hit. Sadly, I'm also starting to think that the plot of Idiocracy is actually a dire prophecy, and this book might be the keystone in the foundation of the downfall of the human race.

9 comments:

  1. OK--referencing the documentary idiocracy? I heart you.

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  2. http://stuffpoint.com/dogs/image/168427-dogs-cute-dog.jpg

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  3. I laughed the entire time I read your review! AMAZING!

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  4. This is hilarious! Very good review.

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  5. "Apparently Kate's parents bought the place for her. The apartment? The whole duplex? The whole community? Who knows, because subject/verb agreement is for pussies, and E.L. James is no pussy."

    I'm still laughing hard at that comment. Brilliant!

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  6. Awesome review :D also, not sure if it's the same in South America, but in Spanish/Spain Jose doesn't have an accent

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    1. Actually it does have an accent in all Spanish speaking countries since the orthographic rules are the same for all countries. You might have encountered the use of the name in an informal way, as a nickname, with the stress on the "o" instead of the "e," in which case you would write it with no accent, but the original name is really José.

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  7. I have no idea why it struck me as so funny but Ana auditioning for an 80's Michael Bolton video had me in stitches :D

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