Monday, April 30, 2012

Mailbag round up of pain and teeth falling out

Last night, I had my most improbable and often recurring stress dream. It is also my least favorite, and it goes something like this: Unbeknownst to me, I have been secretly married to Gerard Butler for some time. Then he dies. I have to go to the funeral and bring home his ashes (much of this dream is modeled on P.S. I Love You, as you can plainly see). Because I have no memory off our marriage or the courtship that preceded it, I know nothing about dead Gerard Butler and I have to play it off to his grieving family and friends like I totally knew him, while my teeth fall out for no explained reason. Not just one or two teeth, either. More teeth than a healthy human mouth is expected to hold. When I get home, my real husband is furious with me. Not because I had a secret double life, but because it is clear to him that I did not love Gerard Butler enough.

I hesitate to post about the GoodReads furor a second time, but overnight my email inbox exploded and there are some things I felt I should address before further speculation drags them out into further absurdity, or I have more stress dreams (which inevitably become recurring Bill Murry sex dreams that put me off Ghostbusters for months).
  1. I did not post reviews of 50 Shades to my GoodReads account. I posted a blog here, and it is somehow linked to my GoodReads author account. No one has attacked me for using GoodReads.com as a reviewing tool. If I could keep my blogs from posting there, I would, because GoodReads always fucks up Blogger's formatting. But I don't use GoodReads regularly enough to know how to work it. See also: my experience with Facebook.
  2. I did not post recaps of 50 Shades out of professional jealousy or to "destroy" E.L. James. This was a theme in several of the emails and messages I've received, sometimes with the admonition to worry about my own writing and not the writing of others, and then maybe I would be just as successful. This allegation confuses me on two levels. The first being, how on earth someone would get the impression that I don't know this business. My first book came out in 2006. I made my first sale in 2004. I started writing for publication almost ten years ago. I've worked (briefly) as an editor. I fancy myself somewhat knowledgeable about the writing "biz", so I don't understand how someone would get the impression that I'm dumb enough to think, "Muahahaha, I can reverse the popularity of a book millions of people are buying by bitching about it on my blog, which gets twenty hits on a good day! Muahahaha!" Think of all the really controversial blockbuster best sellers there have been this century so far. Millions of people bitched about James Frey, and he still sells like peanuts at an all-elephant pro-am soccer game. Millions of people have bitched about Twilight, but it's not going anywhere. So, why would I think that I could sabotage E.L. James using the same tactic? Why would I want to sabotage another author in the first place? Making someone else fail wouldn't make me succeed. I just find the book unintentionally hilarious and felt like that might connect with other people out there in Internetville. Clearly, I was right, or else we wouldn't be having this conversation.
    The second part of this allegation that confuses me is the idea that I don't need to be worrying about other people's writing, just my own. What a shitty piece of writing advice that is. Writers who don't read are bad writers, pure and simple. Not reading 50 Shades would have been professionally irresponsible of me. It's a book in a genre I write for, and it's garnered huge success and publicity. Why wouldn't I read it? Granted, reviewing it publicly is another faintly-peanut scented soccer ball altogether, but I'll cover that in the next point,
  3. I do not cease to be a reader because I am a writer. I don't really need to elaborate on this one, because the previous item just about covers it. History speaks for me, courtesy of GoodReads.com user Calisto: 50 best author vs. author put-downs of all time Please note that nothing I've said in any of my recaps comes close to expressing the desire to exhume the corpse of an author and abuse it. I have blogged about the similarities between Mark Twain and myself during a past "author feud" that was hardly a feud at all. If you care to read that post, it's right here. But what I fail to address in that post is the fact that I'm a woman, and I'm being held to a much different standard than a male author would be. No one would ever tell a male writer that he wasn't entitled to read and negatively review a book by a male counterpart, and yet here we are.
  4. I am not a "nobody" or "wannabe" trying to make a name for myself. I hate, with the passion of an elephant who really hates soccer, blowing my own horn, so to speak. I rarely mention my own books on my twitter or even on this blog. When I put my covers in the sidebars there? I felt cheap for days. But right now, I'm going to blow my own horn, just a little. I'm not a "nobody". I've been writing for years. I even made the USA Today Bestseller list once, which is going to look awesome in my obituary some day. I have readers that I love, because they all seem to be a little bit weird, like I am. I feel like I've made a name for myself, and even if that name is not on par with Nora Roberts or J.R. Ward, I feel like I'm entitled to say that I'm not a nobody. I'm just not a somebody.
  5. I did not "copy" my name from Jennifer L. Armentrout in a bid to steal her readers or mess with her career. This one has come up not only last night, but quite often in the past year or so, and I've never addressed it. It just didn't seem like it was worth my time, because both Jennifer L. Armentrout and myself knew the truth and that seemed like all that was important. But now I kind of have to address it, as it's picking up speed and was a theme in seven hateful emails I received overnight. No, I did not "pick" nor "steal" my name as part of a calculated decision to sabotage Jennifer L. Armentrout. My mother picked my name for me when she filed my birth certificate in July of 1980. I sold my first book with this name, and it came out in 2006. I have been Jennifer Lynne Armintrout since the day I was born, and I'll be Jennifer Lynne Armintrout until the day that I die, much to my husband's old-timey dismay. I endured the "Arm & Hammer" jokes all through elementary school, the classic, "Did your dad get his ARM stuck in a TROUT?" taunt (which I've never really understood... isn't it catfish that people catch that way?), and the well-meaning, but racially and culturally insensitive, "Is that a Native American name?" I'm sticking with it, but not out of spite or the desire to harm another writer. I don't know if Jennifer L. Armentrout is receiving these kinds of accusations, as well, but they are super unfair. Having similar names does not mean that one of us is gunning for the other, and as I have established above, I'm doing pretty okay on my own. I don't need to "steal" anyone's success or readers. Plus, if I were going to do something like that, I would have gone with "Dora Roberts"*. Go big or go home, I always say.
  6. I do not now, nor will I ever, delete comments in GoodReads.com discussions. I don't want to censor anybody. I am not an Etsy forum admin, I'm not going to "wrap this up" because it's not as nice as a vintage barn wood doorstop. If your comment disappeared, tell it to GoodReads.
This is pretty much all I have to say on the subject. Further hate mail should be directed to the comments section of this blog post, and I'll try to address your concerns in something of a timely manner, provided they don't cover exactly what I've already written here.

*Actually, I couldn't use "Dora Roberts". That's the name of a pretty famous elephant on the pro-am soccer circuit.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A break in 50 Shades recapping to clarify some points.

Thanks to the miracle of GoodReads.com, I realize I have to clarify that I have read the entire book. My recaps give the impression that I started out reading the book with the intent to criticize it, a chapter at a time. That makes me seem like a bullheaded weirdo who sets out to dislike something. When I started the recaps, of course I knew I had read the whole thing and was presenting it as a read-a-long for comedic effect, but I failed to realize that you didn't know that. So, yes, I have read the entire book. I found it a surprisingly fast and easy read, so it has that going for it.

Furthermore, another author, Jennifer L. Armentrout, is experiencing some backlash because people are confusing the two of us. So, people who are angry at me are, for some inexplicable reason, deleting her books from their GoodReads.com libraries. Don't do that. She's not me. She's not my pen name, as some have theorized. Come on, guys. If I was going to go deep stealth, do you think I would do it by changing one of the eighteen letters of my name and figure the other seventeen were good to go?

Also, what the hell. Don't use GoodReads.com as a weapon, especially if you don't know if you're directing it towards the right person.

I feel like at this point, I need to take a few days off from recapping. I don't want to destroy anyone's reputation (except for my own... I am the sole architect of my own destruction). And I need to think seriously about whether or not I should continue. If it were just a few people grumbling about me being mean and they're never going to read my books because I'm so mean, I would keep going just to spite them. Because fuck 'em, I'm not on this planet to make everyone like me, and I really resent the implication that I should need or want everyone to like me. But some nimrods are actively attacking a writer who isn't even me. It's not fair if she gets caught in the crossfire.

This puts me in a really weird place. If I stop, I'm rewarding the bad behavior of a few people and telling them that they are entitled to dictate author behavior with their system of star giving. That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm not considering giving up the recaps because I'm afraid of down votes or bad reviews or hate mail. I can handle all those things. What I'm saying is, I don't want to harm an innocent bystander with my actions. It also reinforces the notion that female writers are unwillingly drafted into the Sunshine Sisterhood of Always Being Nice, and if you speak up about someone's at least partially plagiarized book, you're not living up to reader expectations of said niceness. Never, in my entire career, have I ever been asked by a publisher to sign a niceness clause, so I really don't get where that expectation comes from. 

Now, I'm not a fan of "freedom of speech... without consequences." If you don't like what I have to say, by all means, let me know. Let everyone know. Don't buy my book. Actively discourage others from buying my books. That's your right to react to my opinion, and I would never dream of controlling your reaction to my opinion. But do it with honesty, and for fuck's sake, be sure you're saying it about the right author.

I'll be back Wednesday with a decision, either way. If I choose to continue the recaps, I'll continue the recaps. If I don't, I'll just post something else, probably as acidic and misanthropic as everything else that I post, but hopefully unlikely to fuck with the career of someone who just has a similar name as mine.

Which probably means I owe her an apology for all the times I've talked about weed on Twitter.

Friday, April 27, 2012

50 Shades of Grey chapter 8 recap, or, "This one time I fucked a girl so hard she turned into a pirate". NOW WITH DRUG FUELED LUNACY!

You think I'm kidding, right? That's sweet, that you think I have to make shit like that up. No, I'm not going to even save it for a slow reveal. In this chapter, Christian Grey fucks Ana so hard she turns into a pirate. Not even a digital age pirate. Like, a straight out of Treasure Island pirate. Look, I even gave a nod to classical literature! This blog is just steps away from becoming a finalist in GoodReads.com's reader's choice awards romance category.*

In our last foray into Grey, Christian had just learned that Ana is a virgin, and he reacted with all the grace and sensitivity you would expect from a man who stalks women and forces them to sign legally binding contracts before having sex with him. That is to say, none at all. He's actually angry that Ana didn't tell him soon (because being a twenty-one year old virgin is something to brag about in this day and age, am I right?). Now, he's pacing around his home office, running both hands through his hair, like he's been playing the stock market in 1929 and just realized this is a bad move. He's mad because she knows about his sex dungeon, and she didn't tell him about her virginity, which appears to genuinely disgust him. Of course, he never filled out a non-disclosure agreement with Ana, so why should she have to share all her secrets? How is he mad that she knows something she's legally bound to never tell to another soul, but she hasn't bared herself to him in a similar manner without that legal protection? I bet when Christian was a kid, he said, "That's not fair!" in a really whiny voice a lot.
"And a nice young man hasn't swept you off your feet? I just don't understand. You're twenty-one, nearly twenty-two. You're beautiful." He runs his hand through his hair again. 
Beautiful. I flush with pleasure. Christian Grey thinks I'm beautiful. I knot my fingers together, staring at them hard, trying to conceal my goofy grin. Perhaps he's near-sighted, my subconscious has reared her somnambulant head. Where was she when I needed her?
Listen, Ana, I've told you this several times. That's not your subconscious. Your subconscious isn't in charge of putting fully formed thoughts into your head in an easy to read format. Your subconscious is, however, probably the reason that you can't say no to anyone, but you still think you're operating under your own willpower. As for Christian Grey and his "nice young man" comment, I really think this whole thing would be more believable if he'd been written as a guy in his late fifties. I mean, come on, "nice young man?" And I'm not believing for an instant a twenty-seven year old bachelor millionaire who doesn't have an Xbox. Never gonna happen.

Christian offers, very gallantly, to unburden her of her virginity.
"I thought you didn't make love. I thought you fucked hard." I swallow, my mouth suddenly dry.
He gives me a wicked grin, the effects of which travel all the way down
there.
"I can make an exception, or maybe combine the two, we'll see. I really want to make love to you. Please, come to bed with me. I want our arrangement to work, but you really need to have some idea what you're getting yourself into. We can start your training tonight - with the basics. This doesn't mean I've come over all hearts and flowers, it's a means to an end, but one that I want, and hopefully you do, too."

Oh, Christian, stop with your romantic talk, I'm falling in love with you already. There are so many times in this book that I've said, out loud, "Seriously?" This is one of those. A means to an end? How much paperwork is she going to have to fill out on this one? The romance in this scene is paralleled only by the unbridled eroticism, with Ana using such wicked terminology as "down there". Someone quick, turn up the AC! Ana points out that she hasn't said yes to any of the rules, and Christian decides he can make an exception to get some tail:
"Forget about the rules. Forget about all those details for tonight. I want you. I've wanted you since you fell into my office, and I know you want me. You wouldn't be sitting here calmly discussing punishment and hard limits if you didn't. Please, Ana, spend the night with me."
Okay, if you want her so much that you can forget all the other stuff, then why is it an issue if she doesn't want to play D/s with you? Since finding out about the sex dungeon, she's thought of him as a freak and a monster, and she's totally disappointed that he's into this stuff. He's even picked up on it. So, if you're so into her, why can't you enter into a relationship with her that doesn't include those elements? Or at least, introduce those elements gradually, to see if she likes them? No? It has to be exactly the way you want it to be, all the time, because that's your idea of what a "relationship" is? That's healthy.

So, they're going to have sex, just this one time, totally vanilla, to get rid of her pesky virginity. He says she's "One brave young woman," and that he's in "awe" of her. Why is she brave? Because she's having sex? Or because she's going to be having that sex with you? Someone is awfully full of himself if he thinks that he's so scary and intimidating.

Rather than have sex with her in the the room reserved specifically for that purpose, Chedward breaks his usual rigid self control and takes her to his bedroom.

The walls are white, and the furnishing are pale blue. The enormous bed is ultra modern, made of rough, grey wood, like driftwood, four posts, but no canopy. On the wall above it is a stunning portrait of the sea.
I don't mean to pick nits (yes you do, Jen), but how is driftwood "ultra modern"?
I am quaking like a leaf. This is it. Finally, after all this time, I'm going to do it, with none other than Christian Grey.
FYI, if there are any typos or missing words in this post, it's because I had to get an epic high on to get through this chapter. The moment I read "do it", I was like, "Oh no," and reached for the nearest available illegal substance. I am not kidding. I can't get through a sex chapter sober if it's going to be chock full of middle school euphemisms.

Of course, now I'm terrified that some angry 50 Shades fan is out there, scouring my books for middle school euphemisms, and wondering whether they're going to find them. Damn this drug-induced paranoia!

Christian says that he wants to bite her lip again. If I had known how repetitive people biting or wanting to bite Ana's lip was going to be, I would have added it to the drinking game. But I didn't, and you're still alive, so in a way, I saved your life. You're welcome. Ana watches as Christian does the most anal retentive strip tease ever. He takes off his watch. He takes off his jacket. He takes off his shoes and socks, and apparently this methodical undressing is doing something to Ana, because she finds even his toes tantalizing (alliteration high five!).

They have the requisite conversation about birth control that's factory stock in every romance, ever, these days. But props to my girl E.L., she switches it up quite a bit:
"I assume you're not on the pill."
What! Shit.
"I didn't think so." He opens the top drawer of the chest and removes a packet of condoms. 
If you're a reader of contemporary romances, you'll know how this scene usually goes. If the hero and heroine discuss birth control at all, they do so to show the reader why it's okay for them to bareback it. The hero will suggest a condom, and the heroine will say, "It's okay, I'm on the pill." I always kind of think to myself, "Is it a pill that will prevent Chlamydia?", but I can't really talk, because I write a lot of unsafe sex. That's because it's fantasy and condoms suck in real life (I think we can all agree on that point) and also my characters boinking it raw are usually vampires or other magical creatures that can't get STDs or worse, children. Here, E.L. James takes the common sense road by having her characters not argue their way into the Clap. Good job.

So, when Christian takes out the condoms, he says... hang on a second... I'm trying to get my serious face on, but it's not working.  He says, "Be prepared."

Why does everyone like this movie? It' s just Hamlet with animals.

Christian does this slow walk over to Ana, saying stock fantasy things like, "Do you have any idea what I'm going to do to you," and talking about how much he wants her. The best part of my morning was that, while writing that sentence, "Night Fever" by the Bee Gees started playing on Spotify. For the purposes of the rest of this blog entry (and to avoid the unintentional bestiality that would happen if we were still reminded of Scar), Christian Grey is Jon Travolta. Not this John Travolta:

Unf. I would bite that lip.

Nope, we're going to imagine middle-aged bear John:
In a swimming pool, the Daddy Bear's natural habitat.

Christian takes Ana's shirt off and compliments her on her beautiful, pale skin (I fucking told you, Ana), her brown hair. We get some pretty tame words in this part, like "behind", and "backside" and "erection". 
I can hardly contain the riotous feelings or is it hormones that rampage through my body.
What? What did any of that even just mean?
Seeing him on his knees in front of me, feeling his mouth on me, it's so unexpected,, and hot. My hands stay in his hair, pulling gently as I try to quiet my too-loud breathing.
Here's another place where the Random House version and the original version differ. They caught that once the sex starts, the punctuation falls a-fucking-part, and they fixed that. Also, it looks like we might have a problem here. She's into seeing him on his knees... uh oh! Maybe they're both Doms. Shit, that just would not work out, right?

He puts his nose in her vulva and tells her how good she smells, right before he takes off her shoes and her socks and then licks her foot and nibbles on it. I don't care who you are, I don't care if you are Angelina Jolie, when you take your foot out of sneakers and socks, they are moist with a build up of perspiration, they probably don't smell fresh, and they are going to be absolutely covered in sock lint. I cannot get that image out of my mind, a pale, sweaty foot with indentations from the shoe and sock lint all over it, and Chedward sucking on it. Hork. Seriously, hork. Then we reach the moment in the book that made my literally rant out loud for an hour about negative attitudes toward female sexuality in Western culture:
"Show me how you pleasure yourself."What? I frown."Don't be coy, Ana, show me," he whispers.I shake my head."I don't know what you mean." My voice is hoarse. I hardly recognize it, laced with desire."How do you make yourself come? I want to see."I shake my head."I don't," I mumble. He raises his eyebrows, astonished for a moment, and his eyes darken, and he shakes his head in disbelief.
 Okay. I get it. Ana is innocent. So innocent that at age twenty-one, she has never masturbated (except for that part in the fucking shower just a few fucking chapters ago, when she was rubbing Christian's body wash all up on her nooni). What is the appeal here? Why do romance readers like heroines who have never orgasmed? What is the draw, fantasy wise? I cannot fathom why is it is preferable for a romance heroine to be so totally ignorant about sex that she can't even engage in a frank dialogue with the hero about what it takes to get her off. Is ignorance really a quality we should value in our young women, on any subject? If life imitates art, are we training women to subconsciously believe that their past sexual experience sullies them in some way? What the hell. What. The. Hell.

I have completely forgotten what I was originally doing here, actually. That's how infuriating I find that trope.

Christian decides that he's going to try to make Ana come from playing with her nipples. I'm thinking if she's gone her entire adult life and her teenage years without having an orgasm, just turning a hairdryer on in the next room is going to make her come, but whatever, you're the Chedward. Of course, it works, and really quickly, and suddenly Ana understands what's so great about sex.


Then Chedward apparently puts a hole in her panties:
His hand moves down my waist, to my hips, and then cups me, intimately... Jeez. His finger slips through the fine lace and slowly circles around me - there.
Can you vague that up for me? There where? The lace? Did his finger rip through the panties? That's what it sounds like. Oh well, he's rich, he can buy more, right?  Finally, we get THE BIG REVEAL. And it really is big. So big that, like every romance heroine ever, Ana wonders how it will fit. And then. It happens.
"I'm going to fuck you now, Miss Steele," he murmurs as he positions the head of his erection at the entrance of my sex. "Hard," he whispers, and he slams into me.
"Argh!" I cry as I feel a weird pinching sensation deep inside me as he rips through my virginity.

There you have it. At age twenty-one and a lifetime of clumsiness, Ana is still, unbelievably, factory-sealed, and breaking the seal voids the warranty turns her into a pirate. Please note how the author keeps with romance novel tradition by having the hymen situated way up in there. That's a proud and noble tradition, steeped in total refusal of how the female body works.

The rest of the sex is pretty standard. They finish, he asks if he hurt her, and this is how she describes sex in her inner monologue:
Two orgasms... coming apart at the seams, like the spin cycle on a washing machine, wow.
All over America, the frustrated housewives the Today Show claims are loving this book just nodded sagely and winked at their washing machines. Now that Ana has sailed the high seas of love, she's ready to go a-pirating again. This time they'll take off her bra and his shirt. Who fucks with their shirt on? That's weird enough that it must be for a reason, because he doesn't take it off. I'm betting the arm of his parasitic twin is under there. This time, he takes her from behind, and it's still a pretty tame scene, again, but not without the requisite creepy stalker talk that Christian has honed to a needle-sharp point:

"I want you sore, baby," he murmurs, and he continues his sweet, leisurely torment, backward, forward."Every time you move tomorrow, I want you to be reminded that I've been here. Only me. You are mine."
Even this isn't that unusual for a romance novel. It's usually the moment the Alpha hero becomes a creepy dickwad. Sometimes, authors make weird choices with their punctuation in sex scenes. I once read an erotica where the heroine... spoke... all... her... dialogue... with... ellipses... such... was... her... passion, and I thought she needed her inhaler. In this book, Christian has a habit of speaking with too many full stops, like a badly interpreted telegraph:
"You. Are. So. Sweet," he murmurs between each thrust. "I. Want. You. So. Much." I moan.
"You. Are. Mine. Come for me, baby," he growls.
It's like she's trying to hit every single cliche in every sex scene ever, and cram them into one scene. And of course, all it takes is that magic, "come for me" to make her sproing like an over-wound watch. The pleasure is all too much, and she passes out the second he's done. When she wakes up, it's dark and Christian is gone. She hears piano... oh, come the fuck on. Really? Do we have to do the Edward/Bella piano playing scene?

Ugh. Fine.

She hears "The lilting notes of the piano, a sad, sweet lament. Bach, I think, but I'm not sure," and goes to investigate.
Christian is at the piano, completely lost in the music he's playing. His expression is sad and forlorn, like the music. His playing is stunning. Leaning against the wall at the entrance, I listen enraptured. He's such an accomplished musician. He sits naked, his body bathed in the warm light cast by a solitary freestanding lamp beside the piano. With the rest of the large room in darkness, it's like he's in his own isolated little pool of light, untouchable... lonely, in a bubble.
 He's actually not naked, he's wearing PJ pants that hang from his hips IN THAT WAY, and he orders Ana to go back to bed, because she has a busy day of pirating in the morning. He's shirtless, and when Ana tries to touch him, he backs away and goes to immediately put on a t-shirt, so yeah, he's hiding a parasitic baby arm. At the close of the chapter, Ana realizes that Christian has a "sad side", which, you know, doesn't everybody?

I'm kind of disappointed. The sex was pretty standard. I'm hoping we get to the freaky stuff soon, because I don't know how much more of this non-freaky stuff I can take.

That's all from me for this week. See you back here on Monday, bright and early (and hopefully on time, not delayed by substance abuse or the fact that I dreamed I got up with the alarm clock but in reality only just turned the alarm off in my sleep). Oh, but one last thing. Remember that asterisk way up at the top? I wasn't joking about this book being a finalist in the romance category for the Good Reads people's choice award. It really, truly was. That happened.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

50 Shades of Grey chapter 7 recap, or, "I wish the whole book was a short as this chapter".

Did anyone watch last week's episode of Game of Thrones? Every time someone was ordering a whore to beat another whore to death, or forcing a live rat to burrow through a screaming man's heart, I thought of Ana and her obsession with the Spanish Inquisition. Also, thanks, Game of Thrones. I just got my notoriously squeamish husband to watch you, and you utterly disturbed him. Now I'm going to have to watch it alone, just like American Horror Story, and I'll have no one to talk to about it. Jeez!

Chapter seven opens with proof that Ana doesn't really have a concept of what the Spanish Inquisition was like. At the end of chapter six, she says the "playroom" is like stepping into the Spanish Inquisition, but at the top of chapter seven, she opens with this description:
The first thing I notice is the smell; leather, wood, polish with a faint citrus scent. It's very pleasant, and the lighting is soft, subtle. In fact, I can't see the source, but it's around the cornice in the room, emitting an ambient glow. The walls and ceiling are a deep, dark burgundy, giving a womb-like effect to the spacious room, and the floor is old, old varnished wood. There is a large wooden cross like an X fastened to the wall facing the door. It's made of high-polished mahogany, and there are restraining cuffs on each corner.
 I'm no medieval historian or anything, but I'm pretty sure nothing about the Inquisition was faintly citrus scented. Ana has stumbled into the executive class Inquisition, is what I'm thinking. The description goes on, detailing an iron grid on the ceiling, various lengths of rope and chain, paddles, whips, you know. Exactly the type of stuff you'd expect from a sadistic billionaire. There's also a red leather bed, made from the suits Eddie Murphy wore on tour in the 80's. Okay, obviously that part isn't in the book, but let me have this one. Ana feels the room is "romantic", or at least Christian's version of romantic, so she picks up a flogger and thinks a bit:
I think I'm in shock. My subconscious has been struck dumb or simply keeled over and expired. I am numb. I can observe and absorb but not articulate my feelings about all this, because I'm in shock. What is the appropriate response to finding out a potential lover is a complete freaky sadist or masochist? Fear... yes... that seems to be the over-riding feeling. I recognize it now. But weirdly not of him - I don't think he'd hurt me, well, not without my consent.
How is this a surprise? He came to your work and bought rope and cable ties. He took weird pleasure in strapping you into your helicopter seat. It's not like this guy hasn't been sending you clues this whole time, probably on purpose to feel you out. He's not subtle. Ana checks out the bed and admires the "craftsmanship". Ana asks if he's into being beaten or beating people himself:
"People?" He blinks a couple of times as he considers his answer. "I do this to women who want me to."I don't understand."If you have willing volunteers, why am I here?""Because I want to do this with you, very much.""Oh," I gasp. Why?
Is it that hard to figure out, Ana? I've been wanting to take a crack at you with any available implement since the middle of chapter one. Ana confuses dominance with sadism, but I really can't blame her. There's a little caning station set up, for heaven's sake. Caning ain't playing around. But Christian doesn't get off on the pain aspect, just the submission.
Please him! He wants me to please him! I think my mouth drops open. Please Christian Grey. And I realize, in that moment, that yes, that's exactly what I want to do. I want him to be damned delighted with me. It's a revelation.
Let me just clarify, before I go any further with my thoughts here, that I have nothing against BDSM. I think that between two or more consenting adults who want to get off and have a good time, safely, BDSM isn't any different than any other aspect of human sexuality. There's nothing inherently dangerous about it, it doesn't speak to some deep psychological wound in the people who get off on it, it's just a thing that turns cranks for people. However, I do think there is a different level of "consent" to anything involving the physical aspects of BDSM, and I don't think Ana can consent here. She's a miserable person, desperate to please the romantic hero of her dreams, and she's unable to say no to anyone. I think if Christian Grey asked her to rob a bank or kill a man just to watch him die, she would jump at the chance to please him. In fact, when Ana asks what she would get out of the arrangement, Christian's answer is, "me". I don't feel that's an entirely fair way for a dominant to answer that question.
Kate had said he was dangerous, she was so right. How did she know? He's dangerous to my health, because I know I'm going to say yes. And part of me doesn't want to.
See what I meant about consent?

Christian takes her to a different room, all in white (he has the same decorator as the Cullens do) and with an awesome view. This would be Ana's room, and she'd stay in it from Friday evening through Sunday, if she agrees during negotiations. He won't sleep with her, it's just not something he does. They go back downstairs for dinner, and Christian tells Ana that now that she's signed a non-disclosure, she can ask him anything. And thus follows the funniest typo ever:
"But we won't have any sort of relationship?" I ask. "No.""Why?""This is the only sort of relationship I'm interesting in."
I know it's a typo. I know this, because this is the pre-Random House version of the book. I've noticed a few people saying that Random House didn't edit the book upon acquisition, and just looking over both versions, it's clear they did line edits on it. So let's put that to rest, and discuss the fact that in the original version, the one that garnered world-wide success, Christian is only "interesting" in a BDSM relationship. I contend that no, he's just plain not interesting. He offers Ana food, and when she politely refuses on the basis of not being hungry, he commands that she eat. You know, after the last chapter, where he told her she wouldn't have to to do anything she didn't want to do. Sure, he sounds like a safe, trustworthy dom. Ana points out that since she hasn't signed anything, she doesn't have to eat if she doesn't want to, and at least he backs down. I would give her props for putting him in his place, but it's obvious that this is going to be like, the very last time, because she's going to sign his paperwork and let him do whatever he wants to her. I know this, because there are a lot more pages in this book.

Christian uses different variations of the word "punish" a lot. I think he's related to Penny Pingleton's mother.

Don't try any of your voodoo spells on me, you... native woman!

Before Christian can warn Ana about the dangers of "race music" or threaten to make her wear a P on her sweater because she's permanently punished, he figures he better show her the rules. Yes, all the rules are there, like we're reading the sheet of paper with Ana. To sum them up, Ana has to obey Christian in all things, get plenty of sleep, good nutrition (no snacking between meals... I would be so out), wear certain clothes while in Christian's presence, work out regularly with a personal trainer, get waxed and prettied up, not smoke, get drunk, or use drugs, have sex with anyone other than him, and generally not embarrass him, or she's gonna get Punished. There's a section on "hard limits", meaning what freaky sex stuff she's going to be down for. That's a whole separate batch of paperwork that I'm really looking foward to slogging through, let me tell you. She feels weird about accepting money for clothes, thinking it will make her a "ho". They argue and nitpick over pretty much everything on the list, then Christian introduces his "hard limits". They include nothing where people are getting set on fire, pissed or shat upon, cut up, pierced, no medical fetish shit, pedophilia (I wonder if he knows how childlike Ana finds sexuality?) or bestiality, no choking or anything like that. When Christian asks Ana what her "hard limits" are, she admits that she doesn't know... because she's never had sex before.
"You're a virgin?" he breathes. I nod, flushing again. He closes his eyes and looks to be counting to ten. When he opens them again, he's angry, glaring at me.
"Why the fuck didn't you tell me?" he growls.
Wow, the winner of Mr. Sensitive 2012 is...

This recap isn't longer because it's a short chapter, made shorter when you cut out the huge chunks of paperwork that I sure as hell was not retyping here. However, tomorrow... now brace yourself... I know you've been quivering in anticipation this whole time... tomorrow... Anastasia Rose Steele and Christian Grey are going... to do... IT.


I'll get my rubber panties.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

50 Shades of Grey chapter 6 (not, as previously reported, 7) recap, or "Up, Up, and Away In My Beautiful, My Beautiful Helicopter And Sex Dungeon"

Remember yesterday, when I posted about the possibility of a 50 Shades of Grey movie? I'm not saying David Cronenberg has made it, but it does look like he's made the poster for it:


You are absolutely seeing what you are seeing. In the movie, RPattz plays a young billionaire just trying to get through Manhattan traffic to get a haircut. I already call bullshit on the premise, because if you're a billionaire, your barber comes to you. But what I find interesting about this is how the connection was made out there, somewhere, to more than one person: "RPattz would make a good brooding billionaire in a story."

Chapter Six of 50 Shades of Grey starts off with one of my absolute biggest pet peeves in all of fiction. The unrealistic car:
Christian opens the passenger door to the black Audi SUV, and I clamber in. It's a beast of a car.
First of all, Audi makes a few different SUV/crossover-type vehicles, so I'm going to assume that the "beast" Ana is referring to is the largest one Audi makes, the Q7:


That's a 2008, but this is Audi, so they don't change all that much year to year. Nothing about that vehicle screams "beast" to me. It's a classic private school mom's car. That's my first beef. My second beef is, you can get this car new off the line for around 40k. Isn't Christian Grey super rich? He has his own helicopter. So, why is he driving this and not some amazingly expensive sports car, or at the very least, a more expensive SUV (like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, which can run in the neighborhood of 100k)? I see this all the time in romance novels, and I'm not sure what's happening, but if your hero is an Italian tycoon, he's not going to drive a BMW. If he's a centuries old vampire with chests of gold doubloons just sitting around his house, he better not have just a Lincoln Navigator parked in the driveway. I guess you could make the argument that Christian Grey is frugal, but he just bought brand new shoes, jeans, and underthings for Ana to wear, rather than make her wait for hers to come out of the dryer, so I don't know from frugal.

Ana is still reeling from the elevator kiss, but Christian isn't mentioning it, so she figures she must have hallucinated it all. Because if Christian doesn't confirm her thoughts, I guess that makes them invalid somehow. Christian has "The Flower Duet" from Lakme queued up on the MP3. Just for your reference, here is that song, in a mock-up Audi commercial, because sometimes the universe falls into place like pieces in a divine jigsaw puzzle:



Ana thinks that this makes him seem "young, carefree, and heart-stoppingly beautiful". Nothing says "young and carefree" like "I'm a big opera fan." She questions him about his musical tastes, which run from "everything from Thomas Tallis to the Kings of Leon." He puts on Kings of Leon, "Sex on Fire," and Ana feels this is "appropriate". Why is it appropriate? Did he give her herpes? Christian gets a lot of phone calls in the car, including one from his brother, Elliot, who asks if he got laid. What kind of a weirdo is Elliot, if he sees his brother wrestling an unconscious woman out of a bar and then asks if he got laid? "Hey, bro, you rape that girl last night? High five!" Ana suggests that Christian refer to her as Ana, instead of Anastasia, because she prefers it, but as we all know, nothing in this story is about what Ana prefers and it's instead all about what Christian prefers for her, so he ignores her request and warns her that he won't be kissing her again, not unless it's "premeditated." He has an easy way with the murder terminology, doesn't he?
He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he's not asked me where I live - yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone-tracking, helicopter owning, stalker wouldn't.
Why won't he kiss me again? I pout at the the thought.
Ana, can you hear yourself when you think, or is it all just the whistle of a vacant, lonely desert wind in there? Christian opens Ana's car door for her (prompting the writing of that HuffPo article I mentioned the other day... if you'd like to gag on your own vomit, here's the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenny-isenman/i-cheated-on-my-husband-w_b_1433139.html) and she thinks about him kissing her and the fact that she really didn't get a chance to touch him or anything. They go into the duplex, where Kate and Elliot are sitting at the table:
She has the most un-Kate ridiculous grin on her face, and she looks mussed up in a sexy kind of way. Christian follows me into the living area, and in spite of her I've-been-having-a-good-time-all-night grin, Kate eyes him suspiciously.
"Hi Ana." She leaps up to hug me, then holds me at arm's length so she can examine me. She frowns and turns to Christian.
"Good morning, Christian," she says, and her tone is a little hostile.
I would be more concerned if she wasn't slightly suspicious. When Ana went home with Christian, she was unconscious. They just graduated college, they know what happens when unconscious women are left alone with young men. Elliot kisses Kate goodbye, prompting Ana to think, "Jeez... get a room." What kind of a room, Ana? Like, an elevator? A public place where anyone could walk right in? Hypocritical much?

Yes. Hypocritical very much:
Kate just melts. I've never seen her melt before - the words comely and compliant come to mind. Compliant Kate, boy, Elliot must be good.
Excuse me, ma'am, but your ass is showing. Didn't you, just last chapter, finish all the food on your plate, even though you weren't hungry, because Christian asked you to? Let's not be pointing fingers vis-a-vis compliancy, okay? Christian and Elliot leave together, and Ana is jealous because Elliot blows Kate a kiss and Christian doesn't blow her a kiss. Oh, and because Kate had sex:
"So, did you?" Kate asks as we watch them climb into the car and drive off, the burning curiosity evident in her voice.
"No," I snap irritably, hoping that will halt the questions. We head back into the apartment. "You obviously did, though." I can't contain my envy. Kate always manages to ensnare men. She is irresistible, beautiful, sexy, funny, forward... all the things that I'm not. 
Way to slut-shame, Ana. It's not like you weren't just rubbing your no-no with Christian Grey's body wash. Please note, that taking all the circumstances into account, Ana is envious that Kate had sex with Elliot and Christian didn't rape her while she was unconscious.
"And I'm seeing him again this evening." She claps her hands and jumps up and down like a small child. She cannot contain her excitement and happiness, and I can't help but feel happy for her. A happy Kate... this is going to be interesting.
Not as interesting as a happy Ana would be, but I'm sure the existence of such a creature is a statistical improbability. And what is it with references to small children? Especially in the context it keeps getting used in, over and over? Is it intentional, to diminish the characters as women? They're not having fully adult, grown woman feelings about sex, no, they're always suddenly somehow childish. That's really starting to get on my nerves, intentional or not.

Kate pretties Ana up (off screen, thank god, so we don't have to hear about how horrible the ordeal was), and Ana goes to work at Clayton's hardware. Where she thinks back on how Kate prettied her up and how horrible the ordeal was. Double crap. Ana is also not thrilled that she has to convince Kate that she wants to have sex with Christian Grey. Kate has got to be the most inconsistently written character ever committed in the written word. One minute, she's all, "OMIGAWDDOHIM!", then next she's (entirely justifiably), "He's a weirdo and I don't trust him." Ana's would-be rapist, Jose, keeps calling her, leaving three messages and seven missed calls on the cell, and harassing Kate at home. Doesn't he know that the most romantical of stalkers just trace cell phones? Jeez.

"Tonight is the night," but Ana still has her doubts:
After all this time, am I ready for this? My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently. She's been ready for this for years, and she's ready for anything with Christian Grey, but I still don't understand what he sees in me... mousey Ana Steele - it makes no sense.
The pairing of ellipses and em-dash doesn't make sense, either. Ana does not strike me as someone, inner goddess or no, who is ready for a sexual relationship with anyone. She's entirely intimidated by Christian Grey and unable to say no to him. She has no self-esteem and what appears to be a very negative view of sex altogether, considering her scathing attitude toward Kate's night with Elliot. She has all the maturity of a under-ripe banana. This is not a person who should be having sex at all, but she's pretty much counting on it the day after her very first real kiss. The fact that she doesn't find it weird that Christian has suggested paperwork will be involved in their sexual relationship is a big, red stop sign. But Christian is waiting for her- and opens her door- after her shift at the hardware store. They chitchat about their day, Ana's voice "husky, too low, and full of need," until they arrive at the heliport.
I wonder where the fabled helicopter might be. We're in a built-up area of the city and even I know helicopters need space to take off and land.
That's planes you're thinking of, Ana. Helicopters are perfect for exactly the situation you're describing, because they do not need a lot of space to take off and land. Come on, this is Helicopters 101 here. No. This is Helicopters 93: Intro To Helicopters. It's the shit you're supposed to know before you take Helicopters 101. They get into an elevator, and they share a little smile thinking about the fact that they made out in an elevator earlier that day. You crazy kids with your elevator BDSM. They're taking the company helicopter, and the guy at the helipad informs them that the checks are already done, so Christian just hops right in. So, we know he's a shitty pilot, then, because what kind of pilot doesn't do his own checks? Especially a pilot who runs a powerful company with tons of money, and people might profit somehow off his death? Then again, I'm not going to complain about not having to sit with Ana's internal monologue while Christian does twenty-minutes of flight safety stuff, because just getting her buckled into the seat is bad enough:
I sit down in my allotted seat, and he crouches beside me to strap me into the harness. It's a four-point harness with all the straps connecting to one central buckle. He tightens both of the upper straps, so I can hardly move.
He's so close and intent on what he's doing. If I could only lean forward, my nose would be in his hair. He smells, clean, fresh, heavenly, but I'm fastened securely into my seat and effectively immobile. He glances up and smiles, like he's enjoying his usual private joke, his gray eyes heated. He's so tantalizingly close. I hold my breath as he pulls at one of the upper straps.
"You're secure, no escaping," he whispers, his eyes are scorching.
It actually keeps going from there, and there's so much to enjoy. From Ana (who constantly refers to children or being childlike whenever the subject of sexuality comes up) being strapped into what is basically a giant car seat, to Christian not knowing what seat belts are actually for (pro tip: They're to keep you from flying out of the vehicle in the event of a crash, not to keep you from escaping), it's like a delicate ballet of unintentional metaphor making too fine a point and intentional metaphor falling as flat as a first time souffle. Lucky for us, the helicopter ride to Seattle takes an hour, so we have plenty of time for this type of thing:
His face is softly illuminated by the lights on the instrument panel. He's concentrating hard, and he's continually glancing at the various dials in front of him. I drink in his features from beneath my lashes. He has a beautiful profile. Straight nose, square jawed - I'd like to run my tongue along his jaw. He hasn't shaved, and his stubble makes the prospect doubly tempting. Hmm... I'd like to feel how rough it is beneath my tongue, my fingers, against my face.
I just want to pause a moment here and say that while I am deeply troubled by most of the rest of this book, I'd like to offer E.L. James a hearty congratulations for articulating exactly what goes through my mind every time I watch James May driving on Top Gear. Good job, E.L.

There is a lot of chatter over the radio about airspace and clearances and such that we don't necessarily need to read. Not because it's not interesting, but because I'm almost 100% certain it's entirely made up and serves no purpose other than to fill the pages and make the helicopter ride seem like it has been an hour long. Then, they're flying into Seattle:
It looks otherworldly - unreal - and I feel like I'm on a giant film set, Jose's favorite film maybe, 'Bladerunner.' The memory of Jose's attempted kiss haunts me. I'm beginning to feel a bit cruel not calling him back. He can wait until tomorrow... surely.
Or, you know, never. If some guy is acting all crazy, putting his hands on you when you're clearly saying "no", you don't have any obligation to speak to him, ever again. Maybe that isn't "polite" of me to say, but with a guy who won't take "no" for an answer, polite is a one way ticket to Rapesville, population YOU. As they're about to land, Ana feels faint, knowing that she's going to let Christian down somehow.
He'll find me lacking in some way. I wish I'd listened to Kate and borrowed one of her dresses, but I like my black jeans, and I'm wearing a soft mint green shirt and Kate's black jacket. I look smart enough.
They still make black jeans? I mean, I was apparently off the mark in my assessment of whether or not people wear jeans with heels (although I stand by my conviction when I say that is totally gross), but seriously? I haven't seen black jeans in a while. Okay, whatever floats your boat. You could have borrowed Kate's dress, instead you're dressed like Marie Osmond trying to sell her dolls on QVC. Go for it.

"Hi, I'm Ana Steele. Buy this hideous fucking doll."

They land, and Ana is still super nervous. Her breathing is "erratic," but at least she's breathing this time, right?
His look is so intense, half in shadow and half in the bright white light from the landing lights. Dark knight and white knight, it's a fitting metaphor for Christian.
I thought "Hillside Strangler" was a more fitting metaphor for Christian, but by all means, stick with Dark knight. Because every time I see it, I'm going to get to use this:

Yes!

Christian tells her that she doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to do, to which Ana responds, "I'd never do anything I didn't want to do, Christian."

List of things Ana has done so far in this book that she didn't want to do:
  • Interview Christian Grey
  • Call Christian Grey
  • Talk about Christian Grey to her roommate
  • Keep the books Christian Grey gave her
  • Be rescued from a bar by Christian Grey
  • Finish her breakfast
  • Get prettied up for Christian Grey
I think we're well past the point in our acquaintance with Ana where we can possibly believe her when she says, "I'd never do anything I didn't want to do." In fact, this entire story stems directly from an incident where she did something despite not wanting to do it.

Christian opens the helicopter door for her (why doesn't my husband open the helicopter door for me? Waaaaah!)  and they get into another elevator, one that's mirrored so she she can see that Christian is "holding me to infinity too". Christian lives in a super modern, super white apartment with a possibly platinum fireplace and a giant sofa. Ana gives us a brief tour of the place, including how many guests the furniture can seat (I shit you not), from kitchen to piano. Of course he plays the piano, silly goose, he's Edward Cullen! He wrote Bella a lullaby! He'll probably write Ana a lullaby, before this book is over. Even after viewing her spectacular throw up the night before, he offers her a glass of wine, and, even though she does not want it, she accepts it. She'd never do something she didn't want to do, remember.

The dialogue in this section is exceptional. Here's an example:
"It's a very big place you have here."
"Big?"
"Big."
"It's big," he agrees, and his eyes glow with amusement. I take another sip of wine.
"Do you play?" I point my chin at the piano.
"Yes."
"Well?"
"Yes."
"Of course you do. Is there anything you can't do well?"
"Not stalk people." That's just, off the top of my head, that's something Christian Grey can't do well. They sit on the couch and Ana makes a reference to Tess of The D'Urbervilles, because if she made a reference to Wuthering Heights we'd have plagiarism on our hands. Ana asks him why he gave her those books, specifically, and then says she'd like him to completely debase her the way Alec does Tess. Christian argues that she couldn't possibly know what she's talking about, while simultaneously telling her that the way she bites her lip is distracting.



When he gets the jist, that Ana is down to get down, he runs and fetches a non-disclosure agreement for her to sign. She can't tell anything about them, to anyone. The non-disclosure agreement seems to be a lot like the end-user license agreement when you buy a video game. See, Christian has this dark secret he thinks is going to scare Ana away. But before she knows what it is, she has to sign this paper. Just like, once you bought the game, you can't return if it you open it, but you can't read the user agreement unless you open the game, but you can't use the game until you agree with the agreement. Oy. She doesn't read it, even though Christian warns her to never sign anything she hasn't read, but she argues with him and signs it anyway, then asks, "Does this mean you're going to make love to me tonight, Christian?" His response:
"No, Anastasia, it doesn't. Firstly, I don't make love. I fuck... hard. Secondly, there's a lot more paperwork to do, and thirdly, you don't yet know what you're in for. You could still run for the hills.[...]"
I've bought cars where I've filled out less paperwork than it takes to fuck Christian Grey. He offers to show Ana his playroom, and she interprets this as wanting to play Xbox. Before he opens the door to the "playroom", he reminds her that they can leave at absolutely any time, he's totally cool with it if she's not down with what's behind door #1. Ana insists he open the door.
And it feels like I've time-traveled back to the sixteenth century and the Spanish Inquisition.
Are you sure it's the Spanish Inquisition? Not the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition or the Christian Grey Inquisition? Ana sure thinks about the Inquisition a lot. I'm adding that to the drinking game.

That's all for chapter six, I'm afraid. I very much appreciate the chatter this recap is drumming up. If you want to talk about 50 Shades or Twilight or helicopters or Top Gear or what I had for breakfast, hit me up on my twitter, @JArmintrout. I'm the friendliest misanthrope you'll ever meet. Until tomorrow, good night and good luck.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

50 Shades of Grey chapter 5 recap or: "IAN SOMERHALDER, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"

Yesterday, after I posted my ode to all that is wonderful in chapter four of 50 Shades of Grey, news broke that Ian Somerhalder, aka Damon on The Vampire Diaries, would be interested in playing Christian Grey on the big screen. Yeah, that's a great idea, Ian. Go from a fucking terrible show about vampires to a fucking terrible movie ripped-off from fucking terrible books about vampires. That's a great lateral move. At least The Vampire Diaries had awesome source material (even if the screen writers ignore it). You and your rescue cats will be in kitty kibble and toy mice for ages, but how will your soul feel, Ian? Cheap. Used. Poorly written. That's how it will feel.

For more on the 50 Shades movie (and just typing that sentence made me want to stick my head in the oven), you can bop on over to this insipid column at E!'s website: More stupid bullshit about making this book into a movie because that is how low American culture has sunk.

What seems really bizarre to me is how people are like, "How are they going to make this into a movie? It would have to be rated NC-17." Well, certainly not for the language, but seriously? Is there any sex in this thing? Everyone keeps telling me there's all this hot sex that's going to save my marriage, whether it needs saving or not (and likely I'll realize how much saving it needed when I read this book that shines holy sexual light from its pages, and then I'll take back every bad thing I ever said about it in between giving blow jobs so enthusiastic I'll have a neck like a fucking line backer), but I have yet to see anything sexy happen. I mean, Ana seems to think there's a lot of sex going on, but I'm just not seeing it.

So, with that I bring you chapter five of 50 Shades of Grey, also known as The Search For The Sex That Never Was.

Ana wakes up in Christian Grey's bed at the hotel. Holy crap. She remembers drinking, drunk dialing him, nearly getting date raped, and vomiting. She doesn't remember how she got to his room. Now she's in his bed with no pants or socks on. This ups the ante from "holy crap" to "holy shit". Christian has left orange juice and two pills, Advil, beside the bed. You better be damn sure that's Advil, because this guy is weird.

I'm not saying this will happen. I'm just saying it could happen.

Ana drinks the orange juice:
It's thirst quenching and refreshing. Nothing beats freshly squeezed orange juice for reviving an arid mouth.
This message brought to you by the California Citrus Grower's Association.
There's a knock on the door. My heart leaps into my mouth, and I can't seem to find my voice. He opens the door anyway and strolls in.
Since it is customary to mark the first appearance of a character in a scene by referring to them by name, and since E.L. James has chosen not to do so here, I must assume that we are now referring to Christian Grey as capital H "He", as is befitting of God Himself.
 Holy hell, he's been working out. He's in gray sweat pants that hang, in that way, off his hips and  gray singlet, which is dark with sweat, like his hair. Christian Grey's sweat, the notion does odd things to me. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I feel like a two-year-old, if I close my eyes then I'm not really here.
His pants are hanging off his hips in that way. You know, in that way. Which way? Because every person wearing a pair of pants right now are wearing them hanging from their hips. Unless they are very old men who don't like to wear their pants below their bellies, so they jack them up over their moobs. And two-year-old? Again with the proximity of children to sexuality. Oy.

Christian explains ("Phlegmatically", which can either mean "having to do with phlegm" or "calm and unemotional", but I'm going to go with "having to do with phlegm") that since he didn't want her puking in his car the night before, he brought her to the hotel rather than driving her home. She asks if he undressed her, which leads to the requisite blushing and questioning whether or not they had sex.
"Anastasia, you were comatose. Necrophilia is not my thing. I like my women sentient and receptive," he says dryly.
"I like my women like I like my coffee... bound with cable ties and screaming in the trunk of my car."  So, Christian actually did the decent thing (after not doing the decent thing at all by tracking her phone and coming to pick her up when she didn't want him to) for her after the puke-a-thon in the parking lot, but the moment he tries to lightly tease her about the events of the evening, she complains internally about being "made to feel like the villain of the piece." When he defends himself, she teases him, and of course, his icy demeanor is melted again. Because if there is one rule that does not apply to Ana, ever, it is "treat others the way you would like to be treated". It's okay for her to tease him, but not for him to tease her.

In one of my very favorite twists of awesome fate ever, Ana says Christian talks "like a courtly knight." And Christian responds with, "Dark knight, maybe." Which means I get to use this picture again:

Worth it.

It's also kind of funny that he calls himself a "Dark knight" and he just tracked her location via cell phone. Remember when Batman did that? Morgan Freeman was pissed, yo.

Christian and Ana have some back and forth over whether or not she's eaten, and she accuses him of scolding her, and then this happens:
"Well, if you were mine, you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday. You didn't eat, you got drunk, you put yourself at risk." He closes his eyes, dread etched on his lovely face, and he shudders slightly. When he opens his eyes, he glares at me. "I hate to think what could have happened to you." I scowl back at him. What is his problem? What's it to him? If I was his... well I'm not. Though maybe, part of me would like to be. The thought pierces through the irritation I feel at his high-handed words. I flush at the waywardness of my subconscious - she's doing her happy dance in a bright red hula skirt at the thought of being his.
So, in other words, the hero of this story is saying he would beat the heroine if she had the audacity to go out with her friends to celebrate graduating from college. He's also subtly blaming her for nearly getting raped. Let me reiterate for you, gentle reader, this is the man women of America are falling in love with. There was a particularly gross article on The Huffington Post the other day where a woman lamented the fact that her husband isn't more like Christian Grey. No, there isn't a slow gas leak in your house, this is happening. Women across the country are feeling somehow cheated by life because their husbands won't beat them if they want to exercise their right as a human being to go out and get drunk with their friends. Because their husbands won't blame them if they get raped. Seriously, if any one of my friends dares to complain like that in front of me, I will drown her for the good of the female species. This I vow.

 Christian goes to take a shower, so of course, Ana sits there on the bed in a puddle of girl goo because he's so sexy. Victim blaming gets her so wet, you have no idea.
One minute he rebuffs me, the next he sends me fourteen-thousand-dollar books, then he tracks me like a stalker.
And for all that, I have spent the night in his hotel suite, and I feel safe. Protected. He cares enough to come and rescue me from some mistakenly perceived danger. He's not  dark knight at all, but a white knight in shining, dazzling armor - a classic romantic hero - Sir Gawain or Lancelot.
They should print this out and just stick it in the pamphlets for women's crisis centers hidden in the bathroom at the gynecologist's office. "Is this how you feel about your partner? Call this confidential help line." There's nothing romantic or noble about "rescuing" a woman from her friends. Okay, yes, she was being assaulted when he showed up at the bar, but (and this is an important 'but') she wasn't being assaulted when she called him. He had no reason to believe she was in any danger, and every reason to believe she was just out having a good time. This isn't romance. This is an abusive relationship in the making.

Christian comes out of the shower in just a towel, and she's there in just her t-shirt, and the sexual tension is palpable:
"If you're looking for your jeans, I've sent them to the laundry." His gaze is a dark obsidian. "They were spattered with your vomit."
Swoon. Then, Ana flushes scarlet. I'm wondering what other colors she thinks people flush. I don't think I've ever seen someone flush azure. The good news is, Christian's bodyguard has bought Ana some new pants. She goes to take a shower and while she's in there, she realizes that for the first time in her life, she's sexually attracted to someone. But he hasn't made a pass at her, like Paul and Jose have. I like how this book not only tries to justify Christian's abusive behavior as romantic, but seems to also caution against normal human interaction as some kind of future warning. Jose asked her out like normal guys do, but then he kisses her without her consent. Paul asks her out, but then turns into a jerk when she says no. See, ladies? You don't want a guy to just ask you out. He needs to stalk you and buy scary items at your work.

In the shower, the smell of Christian's body wash get Ana all hot and horny, and she's pretty invested in a solo heavy petting session when he knocks on the door to tell her breakfast is ready. Ana gets out of the shower and finds that along with jeans and new shoes, Christian's bodyguard has also picked up matching, lacy blue bra and panties for her.  Ana flushes when she thinks of the bodyguard buying them for her, but I like to think that he considers shopping for ladies underwear is a perk of his job, and maybe he picked up something frilly for himself, too.  Everything fits perfectly, because this is a fantasy, and everyone knows that women ultimately fantasize about clothes that fit perfectly, so good on you for this one, E.L. James. Ana also  struggles with her just plain awful hair, but not for as long as the opening scene in the book, thank God. She takes a deep breath and goes out to the bedroom, but Christian is gone, so she takes another deep breath. This is a throwback to her time on the space station and her fear that the room beyond the next airlock would have been compromised and without oxygen.
Taking another deep breath, I enter the living area of the suite. It's huge. There's an opulent, plush seating area, all overstuffed couches and soft cushions, an elaborate coffee table with a stack of large glossy books, a study area with a top-of-the-range Mac, an enormous plasma screen TV on the wall, and Christian is sitting at a dining table on the other side of the room reading a newspaper. It's the size of a tennis court or something, not that I play tennis, though I have watched Kate a few times.
That's a big newspaper. Thinking of Kate's privileged life reminds Ana that her friend exists. Crap! Christian explains that Kate knows where she is, because he texted his brother.
Oh no. I remember her fervent dancing of the night before. All her patented moves used with maximum effort to seduce Christian's brother no less! What's she going to think about me being here? I've never stayed out before. She's still with Elliot. She's only done this twice before, and both times I've had to endure the hideous pink PJs for a week from the fallout. She's going to think I've had a one-night stand too.
I've been having a hell of a time imagining these seductive, yet fervent, dance moves since they were mentioned in the last chapter. The way they're described in the prose gives the impression that these are some fast, sweaty dance moves, but they're somehow seductive. Is Kate a cabaret belly dancer? I like how Ana automatically assumes that Elliot is just using Kate for sex (like Ana is using her for cheap rent), and that her concern isn't necessarily for her friend's emotional well-being, but that she might have to see the bunny pajamas again for as long as a week. I hate when the rich friends I live with for practically no rent have the gall to wear pajamas I don't like. Ana's most immediate concern after that is, naturally, also a selfish one. Kate is going to think Ana has slept with Christian Grey, and as every adult woman knows, sleeping with a man is the worst thing you can do.

Christian doesn't know what Ana likes for breakfast, so he's ordered a little of everything on the menu. It's a scene that steals from Pretty Woman more than from Twilight, and it's a nice change. You'd think that after a wicked black-out drunk, pancakes and eggs would be welcomed, but as we have already learned, Ana is horrible and she likes absolutely nothing in life:
"I didn't know what you liked, so I ordered a selection from the breakfast menu." He gives me a crooked, apologetic smile.
"That's very profligate of you," I murmur, bewildered by the choice, though I am hungry.
Profligate? I would have called it "considerate", but by all means, criticize the guy who was trying to give you a nice breakfast. But also, maybe be aware of the consequences of eating that breakfast. It could be drugged.
 Although this would improve the book, drastically.

Christian remembers how she likes her tea ("Jeez!") and "scolds" her for having damp hair. After a shower. What does this guy do, just glare and act churlish toward his hair until it dries perfectly, just moments after a wash? Ana thanks him for the clothes and offers to pay for them, and he's offended at her offer, saying that he bought the clothes and the extremely expensive first edition books for her "because I can," which is basically open intimidation. He's rich, he's going to do what he wants. And what he wants right now is to be Edward Cullen:
"Well, when you were nearly run over by the cyclist - and I was holding you and you were looking up at me - all kiss me, kiss me, Christian," he pauses and shrugs slightly, "I felt I owed you an apology and a warning." He runs his hand through his hair. "Anastasia, I'm not a hearts and flowers kind of man, I don't do romance. My tastes are very singular. You should steer clear from me." He closes his eyes as if in defeat. "There's something about you, though, and I'm finding it impossible to stay away. But I think you've figured that out already."
Christian, please to elaborate on the "something" about Ana that you can't stay away from. Is it the way she loathes her friends and mentally belittles them at every opportunity? What about the way she has barely mastered the fine art of walking? All we've really seen by way of interaction between the two of them is Ana insulting him half the time and mumbling the other half. Where is the connection? It makes no sense for a rich, powerful man to want to put up with Ana's teenage angst bullshit. But since this fanfic would be sunk if Edward and Bella didn't get together, I as the reader must bend over and accept that this romantic connection exists. I'll get the lube.

Anabella suggests that if Chedward can't stay away from her, maybe he shouldn't. Then she asks him if he's celibate. He's not, and he wants to know what she's doing for the next few days. Chedward is direct. She's working, and packing, since she's going to be moving to Seattle next week. He asks her a few questions about this upcoming move, and you know how Ana likes being asked questions born of genuine interest:
The Christian Grey Inquisition is almost as irritating as the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.
Here are Jennifer Armintrout's helpful tips on how to be a good friend to Anastasia Rose Steele:

  • Never make fun of her name.
  • Give her things of monetary value. Jeans, Converse sneakers, or something intangible, like low rent.
  • Don't ask her questions.
  • Don't wear pajamas she doesn't like.
  • Put her at the center of the universe when she wants you to, fade into the background the rest of the time
There isn't a lot of pay off to this plan, because she's horrible, but it will be so worth it, because she's the heroine of the book and therefore you have to like knowing her. Christian again offers Ana a job, which she doesn't want, because being a college graduate with a paying job is so 1996.
"I'd like to bite that lip," he whispers darkly.
Oh my. I am completely unaware that I am chewing my bottom lip. My mouth pops open as I gasp and swallow at the same time. That has to be the sexiest thing anybody has ever said to me.
And gasping and swallowing at the same time has to be the sexiest noise anybody has ever made. Rather than assuming Ana is choking and immediately leaping up to give her the Heimlich Maneuver (please note that I spelled "Heimlich" correct on the first try, but it took three times to get "Maneuver" right), Christian explains that he's not going to touch Ana without written consent. And, I would assume, some sort of extra hazard insurance.  He wants to explain everything to her over dinner in Seattle, and he's pretty sure she's not going to want to see him again once he does explain it all.
Holy shit. What does that mean? Does he white-slave small children to some God-forsaken part of the planet? Is he part of some underworld crime syndicate? It would explain why he's so rich. Is he deeply religious? Is he impotent? Surely not, he could prove that to me right now. Oh my. I flush scarlet thinking about the possibilities.
So, she thinks he would whip out his cock and beat it to tumescence right at the breakfast table to prove he's not impotent? Okay, we'll go with that. Christian arranges a helicopter ride from Portland to Seattle for after Ana's shift. I don't get why she doesn't just call in. She's not going to keep working in Portland when she's living in Seattle, right? And she has these expensive books she doesn't want to keep, she could live off the money from those for a while. (This is why I have been unable to keep any job that wasn't writing, by the way. This line of reasoning right here). Christian commands, literally commands Ana to eat, because he has an issue with wasted food. He wants her to clean her plate, and he really does expect her to listen to him. When she'd done, he rewards her with a "Good girl" and sends her to dry her hair because he doesn't want her to get sick, going outside with wet hair. There is absolutely nothing sexier than a guy who gives the same advice as my grandma, let me tell you. Christian also reveals that he's never slept with someone and not had sex, which means he's either never been to scout camp, or he has some really bad memories from scout camp.
What in heaven's name does that mean? He's never slept with anyone? He's a virgin? Somehow I doubt that. I stand staring at him in disbelief. He is the most mystifying person I've ever met. And it dawns on me that I have slept with Christian Grey, and I kick myself - what would I have given to be conscious to watch him sleep. See him vulnerable.
Okay, 1) you know he's not a virgin, he said he wasn't celibate. Words mean things. Didn't you just graduate with a degree in English? 2) You're missing a question mark. 3) That's creepy, and you're doing this all wrong. Bella sleeps, Edward watches. Get your shit together.

Ana goes back to the bathroom to dry her hair, and while she's in there she encounters the most erotic, the most thrilling, the most positively tantalizing of all temptations:
I want to clean my teeth. I eye Christian's toothbrush. It would be like having him in my mouth.
[Note: the following section should be read in the voice of Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption.] I wish I could tell you that Ana did not use Chedward's toothbrush. I wish I could tell you that she respects personal boundaries and would never do something so incredibly gross as put another person's toothbrush in her mouth.
Hmm... Glancing guiltily over my shoulder at the door, I feel the bristles on the toothbrush. They are damp. He must have used it already. Grabbing it quickly, I squirt toothpaste on it and brush my teeth in double quick time. I feel so naughty. It's such a thrill.
 This is a real book, is all I'm saying.

Back in the living area, Christian is on the phone. You can tell it's something important about business, because he's name dropping far-off locations like he's trying to prove that the Earth is his BFF and he's been on its yacht. Suez, Ben Sudan, Darfur, he's an important guy and he spends Earth day in the VIP room, with the cake and bottles of Grey Goose. Then they leave, while Ana thinks how weird it is that even after she was a drunken mess the night before, he's still there. Well, it is his hotel room. They get on the elevator, which apparently emits super horny rays, because the second the doors close, Christian Grey is all over her.
"Oh, fuck the paperwork," he growls. He lunges at me, pushing me against the wall of the elevator. Before I know it, he's got both of my hands in one of his in a vice-like grip above my head, and he's pinning me to the wall using his hips. Holy shit. His other hand grabs my ponytail and yanks down, bringing my face up, and his lips are on mine. It's only just not painful. I moan into his mouth, giving his tongue an opening. He takes full advantage, his tongue expertly exploring my mouth. I have never been kissed like this.
I'm going to assume Ana has never been kissed, ever, at all, since until the morning she went for coffee with Grey, she hadn't even held hands with anyone. She goes from first kiss to wanting to have public sex in one paragraph. And then, we have the first appearance (and I have been assured there will be many) of Ana's "inner goddess." Christian notices that she's brushed her teeth (so... he was going to kiss her with all of this morning's breakfast and last night's vomit still clinging in a film to her teeth? Hot.), and she fesses up to using his toothbrush. Instead of recoiling in horror and asking her what the fuck she thought she was doing, he's amused, and they leave the hotel together.

And that's it for chapter five. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go brush my teeth. With my own toothbrush, thank you very much.


Monday, April 23, 2012

50 Shades of Grey chapter four recap, or: "Everybody wants Ana even though she's terrible."

The response to this ongoing recap has been overwhelming. You know what else is overwhelming? Reading the damned book. This weekend, author DJ DeSmyter sat next to me at an event for the Kent District Public Library. Either he or I brought up 50 Shades (probably me, because my every waking moment is consumed in it) and it was like opening up an abscessed wound. All my anger poured out like so much pus. I'm sure he regretted being seated next to me. Sorry, DJ, and I hope someone clicks that link and buys your book to make up for it.

The event went pretty well, but a few of the authors there brought up a terrifying truth: it is now easier than ever to be a published author. Does that mean we'll end up with more fanfic-with-the-names-changed plagiarism? Will someone put a stop to it? Will it end fanfic forever? I sure as hell hope not. At least, not before the Les Miserables movie comes out in December and I get to indulge in a fresh wave of Valjean/Javert slash.

With that ethical quandary firmly in mind, let's continue our journey through 50 Shades of Grey.

When we left off, Miss Steele (not Ms. Steele, Miss Steele), was nearly run down by a bicycle. Christian Grey, who has better peripheral vision (and who wasn't busy flushing and looking up from beneath his lashes), saw the calamity about to happen, and rescued her from peril by pulling her against his gorgeous, gorgeous body. It was in that moment that Miss Steele decided that she has a sex drive, after all, and she wants to be kissed. So badly, in fact, that she uses some uncharacteristically strong cursing:

Kiss me damn it! I implore him, but I can't move. I'm paralyzed with a strange, unfamiliar need, completely captivated by him. I'm staring at Christian Grey's exquisitely sculptured mouth, mesmerized, and he's looking down at me, his gaze hooded, his eyes darkening.
He's breathing harder than usual, and I've stopped breathing altogether. I'm in your arms.
Can we all hear the soundtrack of swelling orchestration? She's in his arms. Both of them. His arms. I love that he's "breathing harder than usual". She's so keyed into him that she knows what his usual resting respiration is? I've been with my husband for ten years, and the only way I notice his breathing is if he's snoring or having an asthma attack. I guess we're just not that into each other.

 Because he's a telepath or something, Christian shakes his head in denial of her silent pleas, and closes his eyes. Because he's Edward Cullen, he immediately crushes the moment between them by insisting that Ana should stay away from him, he's bad for her.

What? Where is this coming from?
It's coming from Twilight, Ana. Try to keep up. Ana has apparently been holding her breath so long that Christian has to remind her to breathe before setting her on her feet. Ana is devastated at the loss of contact,   and keyed up from having touched him in the first place. She feels she's made it "pretty damn obvious" that she wants to be kissed. So, did she step off the curb into the path of the cyclist on purpose? Because she's done nothing that seems like a come on. She gets almost hit by a bike, causing her to fall, he catches her, and she apparently dies from asphyxiation. If those are romantic signals, then I'm even more glad than ever that I am not a dude. Of course, she blames herself for his rejection. After all, it's not like he's some manipulative control freak who could be using her low self-esteem as a weapon against her, right?

She thanks him, in a whisper, for "saving" her. Look, I'm not going to downplay the dangers of pedestrian/cyclist accidents. Your shit can get seriously fucked up if you get hit by a cyclist. But he didn't slay a dragon. He didn't even keep you from being hit by a bus. Why are you dramatically whispering about it? The entire book so far, Ana has been trying to make mountains out of the smallest possible mole hills. Christian Grey is handsome, oh my god, it's the end of the world. I embarrassed myself in front of a stranger I will probably never see again, I better be surly about it forever. It's like she's deliberately trying to make the bike near-miss as dramatic and important to him as it is to her. So, basically, these crazy kids have the communications skills to make a relationship last a lifetime.

"Anastasia... I..." He stops, and the anguish in his voice demands my attention, so I peer unwillingly up at him.

Anguish? Is that the word choice we're going with here? I thought anguish was like, when your child died, or you find out your spouse is cheating on you. Anguish is for when you've been rejected, not when you've rejected somebody. But okay, whatever. Let's just get through this. Ana acts like brat because Christian didn't propose to her or something, and when they say goodbye at the hotel, she literally falls on the ground, balls up and cries in the parking garage. Let's look over the deep emotional connection they've made so far that would cause her to feel this "anguish":
  • She went to his office to interview him, fell down, talked about art, and insulted him to his face.
  • He came to her work and bought some stuff.
  • She watched him get his picture taken.
  • They went out for coffee/tea.
Is Ana like, Glen Close in Fatal Attraction? Or Laura Flynn-Boyle in Wayne's World? There is no reason at all for her to be so emotionally destroyed by a casual acquaintance not wanting to kiss her. She acknowledges that it's "nonsensical pain" and "ridiculous", so of course she gets up off the parking garage concrete and deals with it like a big girl. Nope, she doesn't. She sits there, in a vertical fetal position, and mourns her "dashed hopes, dashed dreams, and my soured expectations."
I'm too pale, too skinny, too scruffy, uncoordinated, my long list of faults goes on. So I have always been the one to rebuff any would be admirers. There was that guy in my chemistry class who liked me, but no one has ever sparked my interest - no one except Christian damn Grey. Maybe I should be kinder to the likes of Paul Clayton and Jose Rodriguez, though I'm sure neither of them have been found sobbing alone in dark places.
This paragraph sums up all that is wrong and infuriating about Ana. She thinks, "Maybe I should be nicer to all the guys I'm rejecting left and right," and then in the next moment goes, "Nah, because their pain isn't possibly as beautiful and tragic as mine is." Real talk time. I once knew a woman who operated under this exact set of principles. She could not feel empathy, because she was certain no one felt as keenly as she did. Do you know what happened to her? I don't, because when she finally dropped out of my life, I was super happy to see her go. She was an exhausting psychopath. She once demanded to be driven to the house of a guy who didn't offer to have sex with her after know her for one day, so she could scream at him for rejecting her. Everyone who came in contact with this person ended up hating her. And yet, women of America are desperate to be that kind of person, because they want to be Ana Steele, she of the short-circuited empathy switch.
Stop! Stop Now! - My subconscious is metaphorically screaming at me, arms folded, leaning on one leg and tapping her foot in frustration.
Ana's subconscious and I have a lot in common. We both can't stand Ana. Vowing to never think of Christian Grey, ever again, even though it is too much to hope for at this point, Ana goes home. Kate, you may remember, was worried about Ana going out with Grey in the first place. I felt you needed this reminder, because you might have forgotten about the moment Kate's enthusiasm for the apparently budding romance made a one-eighty.
Kate is sitting at the dining table at her laptop when I arrive. Her welcoming smile fades when she sees me.
"Ana what's wrong?"
Oh no... no the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition. I shake my head at her in a
back-off now Kavanagh way - but I might as well be dealing with a blind deaf mute.
I'm pretty sure Ana has Asperger's or some other spectrum disorder. She walks into a room after crying her eyes out on the ground in a parking garage, and someone rightly is concerned for her. When they express that concern, it's an annoyance to her. Did anyone see Community last week? That's a stupid question, of course no one did, it's the least watched show on television. Anyway, last week, Annie and Abed were in the Dreamatorium (a sort of low-tech Holodeck), and Annie forced Abed to feel empathy. When she did this, it caused Abed to have a mental breakdown. The only difference between Ana and Abed? I actually like Abed and wouldn't want to see him fall into a thresher.

On a very serious note: If you are a writer... hell, no, wait, if you're a person who isn't Ana and has feelings and empathy for others, do not describe the non-speaking Deaf as "deaf mute". A lot of people are going to get pissed off/hurt feelings if you do. I don't know how the deaf-blind community feels about the term, but seriously. No "deaf mute", unless it's being used in dialogue in your historical set in the 1800's.

Abed doesn't like it. And Abed is Batman now.

Ana is, of course, surly about the fact that someone is trying to care about her. Kate even goes so far as to get up and hug Ana, because it's obvious that she's been crying. That bitch. Ana explains that she was almost hit by a cyclist, and tells Kate that Christian Grey isn't interested in her, at all, because there's nothing worth being interested in. St. Katherine of Kavanagh tries to bolster her confidence, telling her that she's "a total babe," you know, the kind of thing you say to your miserable friend when you know they're miserable and lonely, but you also know that it's not physical deformity, but a deeply flawed psyche, that's making people hold them at arm's length. And how does Ana respond to her friend trying to comfort her with compliments?
Oh no. She's off on this tirade again.
Never, in the history of ever, have I wanted to reach into a book and smack the shit out of a character with the passion and vigor that I want to smack the shit out of Ana. Kate asks if Ana wants to see the article that she's just finished. Looking at the pictures Jacob Jose took, Ana realizes why Christian Grey isn't the man for her. He's too good looking.

He's too gloriously good-looking. We are poles apart and from two very different worlds. I have a vision of myself as Icarus flying too close to the sun and crashing and burning as a result.
With respect to Icarus, Ana, if you had been Icarus, you wouldn't have made it to the sun. You would have tripped over your own feet leaving your house. I know Icarus, and you, Sir, are no Icarus. (This is a lie. I only know Icarus from that album cover). So, she has this sudden realization that he's too beautiful and she's not beautiful. I don't know how this counts as sudden, since this is a thought that she's had literally every time she's been near him. She goes to study (after not reading the article her friend has been slaving over... no, instead of reading it, she just stares at the picture and says, "Very good," to Kate). She has dreams with imagery relating to the last chapter, because her subconscious is super subtle like that. Then, without any kind of transition from her dream, she's suddenly finished her exam. As thrown as I am by a paragraph on her dream being followed immediately by "I put my pen down," I'm very, very glad we didn't have to sit through the entire exam with her. I imagine it would have gone something like: "Where x is -9, find the value of... Oh... -9 is the exact number of times Christian kissed me when I wanted him to. Woe is me. My skin is so pale! And I'm so damnably thin! No one will ever love me. Verily, crap and jeez!"

With her exam finished, Ana is thinking about going out and getting drunk. She's never been drunk before (quelle suprise!), but she wants to do something to celebrate the fact that she's never going to be in college ever again. In case you were wondering, Ana finished her exam before Kate did. She made sure to note that for the reader. When they get home they find a package waiting at the door. When Ana opens it, she finds three volumes of Tess of The d'Urbervilles waiting for her. There's a card, too, that reads "Why didn't you tell me there was danger? Why didn't you warn me? Ladies know what to guard against, because they read novels that tell them of these tricks..." The books are all priceless first editions, so she knows immediately who sent them.

So, let's just examine that quote again. If you've read Tess of The d'Urbervilles, and I have not, but if you've read the SparkNotes for Tess of The d'Urbervilles, you might recall that the quotation on the card comes after Tess's child, born out of wedlock, has died, and she has to make a choice to either marry the father (whom she does not love), or linger in disgrace. This is not the most romantic quotation to be putting on a card. It becomes even less so when we remember that Christian Grey has already acted like a psychopath to her. He stalked her at her job. He bought kidnapping supplies. He took her out for coffee, and then immediately turned cold to her. He views using his first name as a privilege to bestow upon others. This guy is a weirdo, and he's just spent a fortune on a present for Ana, so that he could include a quotation about men being dangerous in the present.

So, of course Ana calls the police immediately. Of course she doesn't! Instead, she plans to send the books back, with "an equally baffling quote from some obscure part of the book." That shouldn't be difficult, actually. It's Thomas Hardy, it's all baffling and obscure.

"The bit where Angel Clare says fuck off?" Kate asks with a completely straight face.
"Yes, that bit." I giggle. I love Kate, she's so loyal and supportive.
What, pray tell, in the actual fuck, are you talking about? Whenever Kate has shown any kind of concern for Ana or sympathy thus far, Ana has rejected it as an annoyance and a sign that Kate is overbearing. Oh, but now that Kate is in step with her opinion on Christian Grey, she's loyal and supportive?

Let me just leave this link right here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_personality_disorder

Kate and Ana toast to their new lives in Seattle, where they're moving now that they're college graduates. They go out to the bar with Jose, who is not graduating and whose name I still can't figure out how to put an accent over in blogger. Mea culpa. Jose buys a pitcher of margaritas, and Ana, the non-drinker who has never been drunk before, has five. That's right. She drinks champagne, then goes to the bar and has five margaritas. Now, maybe Ana has an iron liver to go with her two left feet. But I'm thinking that a non-drinker would have been on the floor after a bottle of champagne. Let's say they didn't finish the bottle, they just had a glass. Five margaritas and still vertical pushes my suspension of disbelief a little bit too far.
Some people say that Jose is to blame... but I know it's Ana's own damn fault.

The bar is packed, so they have to shout to Jose about how they're moving to Seattle to live in the awesome condo Kate's parents bought her. I wonder if the books didn't come from Kate's moneybag parents. Like, maybe Kate was talking to them and she was all, "Hey, I think that Christian Grey guy is into Ana," and they were like, "Christian Grey? Wasn't he a suspect in that string of coed murders a few years ago?" and then they sent the books thinking Ana would totally get the message. Well, she didn't, because Jose starts to get handsy and keeps plying her with drink. She decides it's safer to move onto beer, because there's no alcohol in that, right? First, though, she has to comment on how hot Kate is compared to her:
She's all tiny camisole, tight jeans, and high heels, hair piled high with tendrils hanging down softly around her face, her usual stunning self. Me, I'm more of a Converse and t-shirt kind of girl, but I'm wearing my most flattering jeans.
I can tell right here that this was written by a non-American author who probably doesn't go out much in America. College girls do not dress the way Kate is dressed, even when going out. The key to college girl hotness is looking like you're not trying. Oh, they might wear a tank-top and jeans, but they're not going to wear heels with it. No one in the United States has worn heels with jeans since 1994, and if they have, they shouldn't have been doing that, because it's ridiculous. In any case, Ana is so super drunk, she drunk dials Grey while she's waiting in line for the bathroom. He can tell right away she's drunk, and demands to know exactly where she is, probably so he can swing by and murder her. She won't tell him, and ends up hanging up on him. He calls her back to say he's coming to get her. Just like that. "I'm coming to get you." That's just about as creepy as, "The call is coming from inside the house."

Well, Christian, what if she doesn't want to go with you? She's a grown ass woman. She went out with her friends and got drunk. Big deal. You do not need to come storming in like John Goodman in Coyote Ugly, fucking up your daughter's good time. Ladies of America, this behavior is not chivalrous. It's creepy and domineering. It's stalker behavior. It's gross. STOP WANTING CHRISTIAN GREY RIGHT NOW YOU ARE EMBARRASSING THE REST OF US!

Ana realizes how drunk she is and staggers outside, where Jose comes to check up on her. Or feel up on her, which is what he ends up doing, and aggressively so. Ana is struggling with him when Christian Grey walks up, and Ana tosses her cookies all over the ground. This causes Jose to say "Dios mio" for the second time in the chapter. This causes me to now and forever imagine that Jose is really The Jesus:

"Dios mio, man."

Grey holds her hair back while she horks up all those margaritas in a flower bed in the parking lot. Then, she dry heaves. Finally, some romance! When she's done being a one woman water feature, Christian lends her his monogrammed hanky to daintily wipe the vomit from her lips. She's embarrassed. She wants to bitch out Jose (rightly so, since apparently the only thing stopping him from sexually assaulting her was an aversion to partially digested margarita mix). She drops the big double c-word: "Double crap," when she realizes that she doesn't know how to navigate this situation. This comes as no surprise to the reader, because so far, Ana has been unable to navigate totally normal social situations, ones that don't involve vomit. I'm kind of hoping for a patented Bella Swan face plant right into her own vomit, but alas, it's time for her to apologize to Christian for being sick in front of him. For a self-centered prick, he's actually cool about it, throwing out the usual, "Hey, we've all been there, am I right"-type comments. He offers to take Ana home, and when she suggests telling her friends where she's gone, he says that his brother can explain it all to Kate, since he's talking to her. At some point, unspecified to the reader because, as you may have noticed, any character who is not Ana or Christian are unimportant nuisances that should stand off stage and wait to be called, Christian's brother Elliot has come with him to the bar to retrieve Ana, and now that same brother is talking to Kate inside the bar. How Christian can see into the crowded, loud bar to discern this information, I have no clue. But there is still that little detail of how he knew where to find Ana.
"I tracked your cell phone Anastasia."
Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal? Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that's still floating in my brain, but somehow, because it's him, I don't mind.
And thus began every abusive relationship ever. "I don't mind if he's acting creepy, because it's him." They go inside and Ana has to put her mouth very close to his ear to tell him something. When she does this, she realizes how good he smells, and "deep, deep down my muscles clench deliciously". Okay, Ana, but on the flip side of all that sexiness, you just sent a warm, puke-scented cascade of your own breath right over his face, so don't get your hopes up, is all I'm saying here. He forces her to drink ice water, then takes her onto the dance floor. See, he doesn't know her as well as we do. We know that, when Ana Steele is involved, "He moves us through the crowded throng of dancers to the other side of the dance floor," will be followed immediately by, "and there were no survivors." But somehow, they manage to make it to Kate and Elliot, who are, by all accounts, getting it on vertically out there. Luckily, before anyone can be hurt by what will undoubtedly be the worst dance disaster of all time, and before we can be forced to read about said disaster, Ana passes out, thus ending the chapter.