Saturday, December 14, 2013

50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 6

In this chapter, Anastasia rides in a helicopter.

For pages.

That's honestly about 75% of this chapter. The helicopter ride.

It's, uh... it's actually as boring and dull as that sounds.

Look, I don't mean to be a dick here, but... when do they start fucking? I'm just going to come right out with it. I thought this book was supposed to be about fucking. Yet here we are, by the end of this chapter, 97 pages in, and there's still no fucking. There's a lot of talking around the idea of fucking, and there's a lot of gross bits where Ana's all tingly with desire she's never felt in her cloistered life, I guess, but no fucking. Not a single exciting or erotic thing has actually happened.

And I'm not being prurient here! I'm sure EL James writes about fucking with the same shrugging vagueness that she brings to writing about business or describing hotel rooms and office buildings. I'm sure it's not going to be good. I am a hundred percent certain that when they fuck, it's going to be completely ridiculous. I just want something to happen, already. James can't tease, she can't make things sexy, and she can't build anticipation. You know why? Because she's not a writer. Can we just agree on that? On the idea that just because you wrote something down it doesn't make you a writer? She has no authorial voice; this is someone blogging their bizarre Robert Pattinson fantasy.

So, if you can't make the build-up interesting at all, could you please, for crying out loud, in the name of all that was once good in this world and could be again, get to the god damn point?

Well, first there's a helicopter ride.

We start right where the last chapter ended, because these two self-absorbed fucks are so goddamn interesting that we need to follow their every single movement lest we lose track of whatever the hell the plot is supposed to be by this goddamn point. Ana can't get over that kiss; "As time ticks on, I assign it mythical, Arthurian legend, Lost City of Atlantis status." I really wish I was her English teacher so I could flunk her out of college. Jesus Christ, lady, it's been a couple of minutes, can you tone it down?

"The car interior is filled with the sweetest, most magical music of two women singing. Oh wow... all my sense are in disarray, so this is doubly affecting." Jeez, he just turned on the radio and she heard opera for apparently the first time. She is so fascinated with her own reactions to everything.

Oh, oh... wait. You know what needs to happen? Someone needs to do an audio version of this with June Diane Raphael as Anastasia and Jason Mantzoukas as Christian Grey. I need that to happen. That would be funny as hell. You wouldn't even have to change any dialogue, it was just be in the delivery and inflection of this utter shit. Read that last thing I quoted, but picture it in June Diane's voice but with an upspeak. (You know? Where every sentence goes up at the end? Like it's a question?) That might actually make this sound smarter.

Anyway, they have one of those annoying conversations about music that you always have with young white people, where Christian Grey says his taste in music is "eclectic." You know who says their music taste is eclectic? People whose music tastes are not eclectic. Exclusively. You ever have people tell you that? You know what my first three questions are when people tell me that? 1. Do you like rap? 2. Do you like country? 3. Do you like jazz? The answers to those questions are, without fail, "no." Every time. What they usually mean is they like what's new and popular and Classical Music's Greatest Hits and some musicals and the Beatles and then they have an old Pasty Cline compilation or something so they think that's "eclectic." They usually use that word. Or, "Oh, I like everything," which really means "Everything but rap, country, jazz, blues, hip-hop, R&B, and any classical music I didn't hear on Looney Tunes growing up." But, hey, Christian put on a Kings of Leon song while lecturing Ana about who Thomas Tallis is, so that's totally eclectic, right?

Yeah, I'm in the redline on annoyance with these two.

I want you to just stop for a moment, okay? Just for one second. And I need you to absorb the full force of what I'm going to say now, knowing who I am and that I devoted a whole series on this blog to dismantling the damn thing. But you need to know this:

Compared to this novel, Twilight is a lost Dickensian masterpiece.

Just... just let that sink in. I gave Stephenie Meyer a lot of shit back in 2009, but I miss her comparatively deft touch.

I'm losing my mind.

This is all happening while Christian is driving Ana back to her apartment. He keeps calling her by her full first name (Anastasia), and she asks "Why do you insist on calling me Anastasia?" "Because it's your name." "I prefer Ana." "Do you now?" I think that all sort of indicates a lack of personal respect. I actually wrote a column about this recently at Hobo Trashcan: that we all have the right to demand to be addressed by the name we've chosen to be addressed by. But he doesn't care; she's his slave and he gets to name her. She hears him on a vague business call and thinks he's too controlling with his employees; meanwhile, he's controlling her every second and she doesn't bat an eye.

So he drops her back home, notices how satisfied and wanton Kate is (gross), Kate's hostile to Christian (as if it matters in the narrative at all), Christian tucks back a stray strand of Ana's hair (because god forbid he's not constantly shaping/training/grooming her), blah blah blah, Kate and Ana talk, blabby blabby bloobity bloo, Ana goes to work adding nothing at all to the plot, not even a little bit, nanny nanny neener neener, Ana hates having to be all feminine, wah wah wah waddy-diddy-doo-wah, then Christian picks her up at work and they talk about nothing that actually matters in any way to anyone or anything in the history of ever, and they're being driven to the helicopter, and she still can only think of the kiss, and bop a lop a shama lama ding dong diddily dang dong crap, she's all hot for hurr durr hurr huh murr and then there's a helicopter ride.

Aside: Ana on Kate: "For some strange reason, she doesn't trust [Christian], maybe because he's so stiff and formal." Or maybe it's because he's a sexual predator and he's not even bothering to hide it.

So, now there's this fucking helicopter and they ride in it for a fucking year.

Well, it feels like a year. It's actually only 5 pages, but consider that everything I've described up to this point--all of which adds nothing to the proceedings--has been going on for 8. 8 pages of this nonsense. Then 5 pages of helicopter riding. What's weird about the helicopter ride is that there are a lot of oddly specific details. It's a real shock, because up until now, EL James doesn't seem to know anything about anything. She doesn't know anything about college students, about how college newspapers work, about the world of business, about clubs, about what it's like to get drunk, about hotel suites, about offices, about how people interact, about anything, but suddenly now she's full of details about helicopters and riding in them and flight communications and what the harnesses are like? Wait, did she actually research something? Or is she actually--and this would be weird, considering what the general half-assed tone has been so far--draw from life experience?

It makes all of Ana's clenching and squirming and "erotic reverie" such as "I'd like to run my tongue along his jaw"--this from a girl who has to pause, take a deep breath and blush when she says the word "sex"--a little less disgusting, just because, for a few pages, it actually takes place in the real world. A few very long pages, but still.

Christian is piloting, because of course he is. He also says "I've never brought a girl up here." She's the first, because she's just so goddamn fucking special. She's impressed by him: "You're just so... competent."

The worst part, though, is he says he loves flying helicopters because "it requires control and concentration." Alright, we get it, he's got a control thing. You've been hitting us over the head with it since I first started reading this book what feels like 40 years ago. He also says--because remember, he's weirdly not human somehow--that his favorite is soaring: "Gliding to the layperson." Thanks for the side order of smug condescension, you prick.

I wish I could make this book manifest itself in human form so I could punch it right in its smarmy face.

This ride is turning her on so much she's going to faint. That's what she says. I did not make that up.

Then they get to Christian's apartment, another in a long line of vaguely described nice places, with typical features like floor and fireplace and door and kitchen area and wood and glass and stainless steel and a piano, which he says he can play very well. "Is there anything you can't do well?" she asks. WE FUCKING GET IT ALREADY FOR THE SAKE OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JEEBUS Q. KAZOO HE'S A FUCKING DEMIGOD AMONG THE VAST SWATHS OF LESSER MEN NOW WILL YOU PLEASE TELL ME WHY IN THE WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS I'M SUPPOSED TO GIVE ONE SCINTILLA OF FECAL MATTER ABOUT THIS DICKSPLASH?

She asks him about the books, he flirts with a literary reference. "I could hold you to some impossibly high ideal like Angel Clare or debase you completely like Alec d'Urberville."

"If those are the only two choices, I'll take the debasement." And he gasps, which, again, I just always take literally as this cartoonish, sputtering intake.

"Anastasia, stop biting your lip, please. It's very distracting."

Look, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but if you're really as socially awkward and unattractive and unappealing as you say you are, the only reason Christian has such a hard on for you is that he's found someone pliant that he knows he can train, turn into his toy, use until he tires of her, and then cast aside. That's the only reason. I know EL James is trying to frame it like Ana's amazingly special and the perfect partner for him and oh-so-unique, and he just can't help himself around her, but it doesn't come across that way, because he's so inhumanly remote and she's so tiresome and dull. All we heard about her for entire chapters was that she was undesirable and awkward and ugly, and now we're supposed to believe there's something so singularly amazing about her that this cock stain can hardly keep from wetting his pants just to be near her, but I have absolutely no idea what that could be. Ana is at once flush with desire and blase. Like it's no big deal, but also a really huge deal, you guys. All we get to see is how horny she is and how down on herself she is, so I have no idea--literally none--what Christian could see in her other than someone it's been really easy to manipulate and that he's finally maneuvered into his home and hopefully onto his dick.

That's it.

That's all.

It's not a romance.

It's not erotic.

It's barely even a story.

He makes her sign a nondisclosure agreement, which she signs without even reading, because "I wouldn't talk about us to anyone anyway." I'm sure inside he's just exploding with glee over how easy this is turning out to be.

Then she asks, breathlessly, "Does this mean you're going to make love to me tonight, Christian?" and they're both actually shocked that she says it out loud, and that just cuts right to the heart of why I find this whole thing incredibly asinine: EL James can't ever figure out if her heroine is sophisticated or not. Really, not just Anastasia, but the entire book is like that. James wants to write a sophisticated, adult novel about eroticism, but also can't get over this weirdly parochial timidity, where writing about bondage is naughty, adult fun, but actually saying words like "make love" and "sex" is shocking. This is teenager stuff masquerading as eroticism for people too inexperienced to know better.

His answer is the stuff of stupidity: "No, Anastasia, it doesn't. First, I don't make love. I fuck... hard. Second, there's a lot more paperwork to do. And third, you don't know what you're in for."

And all she can think is "Holy shit, that sounds so... hot."

Which I guess it might if you had only just admitted to yourself that morning that you felt sexual desire for the first time in your life.

I feel gross now. Just, so totally gross, reading about these slimy imbeciles and their ridiculous attempts at sex. More paperwork? What the fuck? If he really needs all of this just to get close to another human being, he has problems that just aren't going to be fixed by being the lead character in an erotic novel that's roughly as sexy as a local carpet commercial.

So then he tells her "You can leave anytime" (even though he's whisked her away in a helicopter and done his best to make her feel totally isolated from the rest of the world) and takes her to what he calls, awfully, "the playroom."

"And it feels like I've time-traveled back to the sixteenth century and the Spanish Inquisition. Holy fuck."

And the chapter ends there.

Join us next time, when I'm sure EL James will still be unable to let herself just get to the fucking already.


Autumn said...

I almost feel bad for you having to read through this whole shitslog of a book. I read it quickly and you are pacing yourself, and dissecting it so you have to really pay attention. My version went something like "Ana talking about herself (ugly awkward), talking about herself (so so unique), putting down all of her "friends", hot for stupid guy, talking about herself (clumsy, ugly, can't do own hair), hot for guy again, putting down "friends" again, talking about self (clumsy, so unique), hot for guy! Wait...seriously? This is it?"

SamuraiFrog said...

Oh, man, that synopsis does not give me hope.

Autumn said...

Sorry I didn't mean to squash your hopes, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you'll love it! You'll probably love it, it's so good. Yes, I bet.


Carl said...

I asked Kate to read this to my while I cleaned up after dinner. I could barely understand her for the laughter--both at your jokes and the horrendous concepts behind this "novel."

Roger Owen Green said...

This is what they mean by "taking one for the team."

Kelly Sedinger said...

I'm reminded of an episode of Barney Miller where Harris is charged (for some reason I can't remember) with making a porn movie for the department (maybe for a sting of some kind). He screens it for the squad, and it goes on and on and on because he's made a pretentious art film instead. Capt. Miller starts asking, "Harris, where's the sex?"

PJ said...

Talk about suffering for your art, I feel like sending you a literary antidote to counteract this diabolical 'novel'. Like Autumn I read the book very quickly, so I was able to gloss over some of the inanity at times. I'm ashamed to say that I read the entire trilogy and it gets worse and worse. Can't wait til you hit the first sex scene...

Kelly Sedinger said...

PJ: I already sent him an antidote! Holy Hell, poor guy's brain is gonna be bleeding by the end.