Fifty Shades of Grey · Writing

Fifty Shades of Grey, Chapter 3

Kate is ecstatic, apparently.

Ana calls her right after Grey leaves (presumably), and they chat. Ana puts herself down again.

“You don’t think he was there to see you?” [Kate] speculates. My heart lurches at the prospect, but it’s a short-lived joy. The dull, disappointing reality is that he was here on business.

Come on. Visiting a farming division while also shopping for home improvement supplies three hours away from his house? Come on.

We’re told Christian has given money to the farming division of WSU – which we already knew – and that Kate, as a journalist, has “written a profile on the guy” and it’s her job to know, to which Ana replies, “Okay, Carla Bernstein, keep your hair on” (72). First off, Ana, she’s a journalist. Don’t mock her; you asked. Second, why didn’t you ask Kate before the interview, since clearly she knew something about the guy before she went in? I mean, it’s so passive aggressive. Irritatingly so.

This come up a lot, by the way, as her relationships with everyone else are revealed. Especially with Christian.

The conversation continues:

“So do you want these photos?”

“Of course I do. The question is, who’s going to do them and where.”

“We could ask him where. He says he’s staying in the area.”

“You can contact him?”

“I have his cell phone number.”

Kate gasps.

“The richest, most elusive, most enigmatic bachelor in Washington State, just gave you his cell phone number.”

“Er…. yes.”

“Ana! He likes you. No doubt about it.” Her tone is emphatic.

“Kate, he’s just trying to be nice.” But even as I say the words, I know they’re not true – Christian Grey doesn’t do nice. He does polite maybe. And a small quiet voice whispers, perhaps Kate is right. My scalp prickles at the idea that maybe, just maybe, he might like me. After all, he did say he was glad Kate didn’t do the interview. I hug myself with quiet glee, rocking from side to side, entertaining the possibility that he might like me for one brief moment. Kate brings me back to the now.

(73)

First off, how is it that Kate is the editor of the school newspaper, and doesn’t know a photographer? I mean, isn’t that standard for newspapers? I would like to reiterate my disappointment with this school newspaper. Second, um, Kate, you contacted him to get the interview. How did you manage that, exactly? I mean, yes, it is surprising that a billionaire would give out his cell number but she approached the question with confusion at Ana’s being able to contact him, which is silly. And then she gasps. No wonder Ana keeps her around; she’s super dramatic, too. Goodness knows how she didn’t swoon. Someone, fetch the smelling salts!

Third, Ana. Ana. Are we going to go over this again? Trying to be nice? And how do you know he doesn’t do nice? How do you know that’s not his work cell? He could have a half dozen of those bad boys floating around; he is a billionaire. We’re also seeing a slow introduction here of Ana’s subconscious and continence (?) (I can’t remember what the second one is supposed to be at the moment; it’ll come to me). I’m pretty sure this is Ana’s descent into madness.

No, seriously.

She didn’t have voices in her head when the book began but they slowly start to appear until all the voices in her head become people, she’s having conversations with herself, and those unconscious and subconscious or whatever they are start looking at her and dancing the cha cha and doing ballet in her head.

No. Seriously.

There’s also the whole rocking back and forth thing, which is a little… unstable.

I mean, I want say, unequivocally, that ELJ is a really shitty writer. But I also want to say that all the stuff she put in here, if only by accident, is really bloody brilliant.

Anyways.

So, turns out my giving the girl flack was pre-emptive; Kate’s regular photographer, Levi, is conveniently in Idaho Falls the last weekend before exams. Or perhaps the last weekend before everyone moves out.

Because that makes sense.

Also, either ELJ was watching Sue Thomas FBEye, or she was wearing a very particular pair of jeans when she wrote this sentence (Levi the dog? No? Just me then.). She tends to give names to random characters – recall, Olivia the secretary from Grey’s office who we’ll never see again.

I’m going to give you a few lines and you can tell me who’s talking, and who’s doing the sighing, etc.

“Hmm… what about José?” [says Ana]

“Great idea! You ask him – he’ll do anything for you. Then call Grey and find out where he wants us.” Kate is irritatingly cavalier about José.

“I think you should call him.”

“Who, José?”

“No, Grey.”

“Ana, you’re the one with the relationship.”

(74)

 So, keep in mind, this is not the latest release copy, so it may have been edited further. That said, first off, who’s saying what?

Based upon the line breaks, you’d expect the last line to be spoken by Ana, but obviously it’s not, unless Ana is speaking to herself. Also, way to be, Kate, taking advantage of José’s feelings. She’s also being pushy, but at least it’s in assertive journalist mode. However. Relationship? That’s what we’re calling this, Kate? You flirt a little bit, the guy stalks you, and then gives you his number, and then boom you’re in a relationship. It’s like high school. As well, apparently, Kate is super bitter about Ana getting to meet Grey:

“At least you’ve met him,” she says bitterly. “And it looks like he wants to know you better. Ana, just call him,” she snaps and hangs up. She is so bossy sometimes. I frown at my cell, sticking my tongue out at it.

Um. I get that this girl is in her early twenties, but sticking her tongue out at her phone? And Kate, dude, you asked her to go to the interview. You’re the one that blew it off. I get that Ana is acting like a whiney little princess and being all mean about doing the interview, but making it sound like you think if only you’d gone to the interview you’d be the one getting stalked by Mr Adonis then, well, you’re not nearly as feminist as you think you are. Or maybe, ELJ doesn’t realize as an author, or as a person, that two people are not interchangeable for each other. Personalities have to match, and it’s not like you can just throw two people in a situation and deus ex machine automatically makes it possible for them to be together despite their lack of chemistry and…

Oh. I see.

I get that Ana is supposed to be the stand-in for the person reading the book, but this just doesn’t make me tingly in the pants at all. It’s like when little kids mash two dolls together yelling, “You’re in love now kiss!” That’s not how people work. If there’s no chemistry, then where’s the relationship?

This is also all taking place over the phone while Ana is at work.

I’d forgotten, but then:

I’m just leaving a message for José when Paul enters the stock room looking for sand-paper.

“We’re kind of busy out there, Ana,” he says without acrimony.

“Yeah, um, sorry,” I mutter, turning to leave.

“So, how come you know Christian Grey?” Paul’s voice is unconvincingly nonchalant.

“I had to interview him for our student newspaper. Kate wasn’t well.” I shrug, trying to sound casual and doing no better than him.

“Christian Grey in Clayton’s. Go figure,” Paul snorts, amazed. He shakes his head as if to clear it. “Anyway, want to grab a drink or something this evening?” Whenever he’s home he asks me on a date, and I always say no. It’s a ritual. I’ve never considered it a good idea to date the boss’s brother, and besides, Paul is cute in a whole-some all-American boy-next-door kind of way, but he’s no literary hero, not by any stretch of the imagination. Is Grey? My subconscious asks me, her eyebrow figuratively raised.

I slap her down.

“Don’t you have a family dinner or something for your brother?”

“That’s tomorrow.”

“Maybe some other time, Paul. I need to study tonight. I have my finals next week.”

“Ana, one of these days, you’ll say yes,” he smiles as I escape out to the store floor.

“But I do places, Ana, not people,” José groans.

“José, please? I beg. Clutching my cell, I place the living area of our apartment, staring out of the window at the fading evening light.

“Give me that phone.” Kate grabs the handset from me, tossing her silken red-blonde hair over her shoulder.

76

Honestly, I started typing and was only going to give you the scene with Paul but there is no page break anywhere.

Seriously.

I feel like I want to borrow the latest copy from the book from the library and see if this had a page break, because this makes no bloody sense.

We’ll see in the next books how absolutely horrendous a worker she is, but it underlines how seriously Ana takes work. That is, not hugely. I mean, she’s graduating in like two weeks, and she doesn’t know what she’s doing afterwards. She hasn’t applied to jobs. The only thing she knows is that she’s moving to Seattle with Kate (this is noted later on) thereby continuing to mooch off her rich friend. I get that entering the real world is bloody scary, but that’s taking it a little far.

Oh, man. I think I just found one of the reasons why this book is so popular.

As a new grad, life is bloody scary. Especially in this economy, the chances of you finding a job right out of university that will pay for not only your living expenses but also your student loans is hard. I’m job hunting right now. The best paid positions I can find are administrative assistant jobs, at 15$/hour. I have 30K in student loans, and it takes my husband and I a bare minimum of 1600$/month to live. I need to make $2000/month minimum to survive, and not get behind on loan payments. If I could have someone swoop in and give me unlimited money right now – or even just enough to pay of OSAP, live comfortably, and go to a movie without stressing about it! – I would swoon for sure. In these books, either we’re trapped by life while still financially struggling, or we’re trapped by our lover but we’re financially taken care of. It’s a lose-lose situation, so we may as well take the lesser of the two.

“Kate wasn’t well.” I think what you mean, Ana, is: “Kate was [sick/wasn’t feeling well/ill].” Methinks she’s a little hypocritical talking about people that don’t talk like a person of twenty-something.

Paul asks her out, informing us that he asks her every time, and she refuses. This is supposed to be a setup for Paul being pushy and not taking no for an answer, but look at how she rejects him, and how he responds. She says “maybe some other time” and he says “one day you’ll say yes”. We’re told that he smiles when he says it, telling me that he’s not pressuring her. He’s not ordering her, he’s not pushing her. He asks her once, and that’s it. Given her answer, as with every other answer to a date she gives outside of the firm no she gives Christian, she says “maybe next time”. I’m not even a little bit rape apologist, and I dislike when men are overly pushy, but I also hate when women are exceptionally wishy-washy. It is possible to be firm without being “a bitch”.  Yes, Paul should be picking up on the fact that four years running he’s struck out, but saying “some other time” invites later invitations.

This description confuses me: “Paul is cute in a whole-some all-American boy-next-door kind of way”.  What does this mean? I’m picturing simultaneously a cowboy and a prep and a fifteen year old football player. What I wouldn’t give for an actual description.

“[…]but he’s no literary hero, not by any stretch of the imagination. Is Grey? My subconscious asks me, her eyebrow figuratively raised.”

Figuratively raised? That’s what we’re going with? How does one figuratively raise an eyebrow? Also, this is the subconscious’ first foray into the world. Say hello, because she’ll be a regular member of Ana’s party. And is Grey a literary hero? No. Or, at least, not in the universe in which this is taking place. He’s a man, Ana. This is a big problem with this relationship; Ana puts Christian on a huge pedestal to the point where he is a fictional construct in her head. This works against her, especially later on when he’s abusing her and she doesn’t realize it’s abuse because she writes skews of excuses for him in her mind.

Where is the conversation with José taking place? Not on the store floor, and not in person if that’s what you were thinking. It’s taking place after work. In her living room. Over the phone. He also says, “I do places, not people,” which is really inconsistent, since guess what his entire art show that’s coming up is filled with?

ELJ is really bad with the whole character consistency thing. And, you know, story consistency thing.

Oh, yay! A description: ““Give me that phone.” Kate grabs the handset from me, tossing her silken red-blonde hair over her shoulder.” Silken. That sounds sexy. Often – though of course not always – “silken” is used as a description for hair when a character has thought about running their fingers through said hair. Also, “the handset” is not the term we use for phones anymore. The term? Phones. She grabs the phone from me. Or, more simply, she grabs it from me.

Anyways, Ana calls Christian and he answers, his voice clipped, calm and cold. You’d think if you’re waiting for your prospective fuck buddy to call, you’d screen your calls. It’s not as if he doesn’t have call display. I mean, this guy is a billionaire, and he uses tech that is technically illegal to the US Government to stalk his prey, and yet he won’t splurge on call display? Bullshit.

He replies that it’s nice to hear from her, and he sounds surprised, “warm – seductive even.” “My breath hitches, and I flush. I’m suddenly conscious that Katherine Kavanagh is staring at me, her mouth open, and I dart into the kitchen to avoid her unwanted scrutiny.” She then goes on to say that she forgets to breathe while informing him they want to go forward with the photos. She hears his “sphinx-like smile through the phone” and she’s “all gushing and breathy –  like a child, not a grown woman who can vote and drink legally in the State of Washington.” What the hell is with the making her into a five year old when she’s feeling turned on? It grosses me out. Not even a teenager, a child. If she isn’t acting like a grown woman who can vote and drink, I’m not sure she’s mature enough to give consent. Seriously. I mean… ugh. She then goes on to ask, “how can he make seven little words hold so much tantalizing promise?” What promise, Ana? You’re clearly not old enough to not giggle at “gay”, and you can’t even use the word “vagina” later on. What sort of promise are you picturing here? I remember my sexual awakening. I questioned some stuff, but this girl is all over the place. These two sections are in the same conversation, by the way, so what I’m picturing is a six year old girl being excited about sex with an older man and it’s really fucking disturbing. I get wanting your protagonist to be sexually innocent, but there’s a difference between sexually innocent and a child.

Excuse me while I go throw up a little bit.

Right after this phone call goes down, she argues with Kate, and this happens:

“Oh Kate, you know how I blush all the time. It’s an occupational hazard with me. Don’t be so ridiculous,” I snap. She blinks at me with surprise – I very rarely throw my toys out of the pram – and I briefly relent. “I just find him… intimidating, that’s all.

Let me reiterate, she is talking about throwing toys out of a pram. This grown-ass woman is using an infant in a carriage as a metaphor for her defending herself. How am I supposed to take this woman serious as an object of sexual fantasy? Although I rag on her a lot, Ana is actually the heroine. Later on, Christian convinces her that she is smart and beautiful and all that stuff, but exhibited most especially before that, she constantly puts herself down. Her friends and family talk about her in positive ways, and, as Christian will later point out, every man Ana encounters falls in love with her/wants to sex her (see, already, Paul and José). She is actually desirable; we’re told what she looks like (if you recall, thin with big blue eyes and long brown hair), but she just doesn’t see it. It takes a man for her to see it, and not just any man, but the man she is meant to marry (spoiler: it’s Christian). This book is supposed to be about hot sex, but rather than seeing a grown woman who is ready to experience a sexual awakening, instead I’m thinking about Ana as a child small enough to be taken around in a pram being taken advantage of by a grown man. This is not sexy.

This is one of the parts of this book that I really, really don’t like. I have an issue with people that take advantage of vulnerable people, and here we see, again and again, that Ana is a vulnerable person. I will argue on one hand that Ana makes herself vulnerable, but that’s not an excuse. Ana is not a person. She is a character in a book written by a grown-ass woman who should know better than to make a heroine that women are encouraged to put themselves into the position of so pathetic, and talk about it as if it’s desirable.

For my next project, I’m thinking I’m going to read Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, a book written from the point of view of a child molester. Nabokov plays with characterization in such a way that you want to hate his protagonist because you know that that is the acceptable response, but you also start to almost like him; you see how he can be so alluring. Here, we’re getting the victim’s point of view, but it’s all mussed up by the fact that her abuser is clearly an asshole, and she’s clearly a child in a woman’s body, and it disturbs me that so many millions of women find this not only sexy, but something to which they compare their lives. Guys, do you really want your girlfriend to act like she’s a child? Not the “alluring” parts of childhood, like being cute and fun, but the actually childish parts of being dependent, naive, and weak?

Moving on.

Ana offers to make supper. Sort of.

“I’ll make supper. Then I need to study.” I cannot hide my irritation with her as I open one of cupboards to make supper.

No, that isn’t my typo, first off. Second, passive aggressive much? If I were Kate, I wouldn’t eat whatever Ana is making for fear she has poisoned it.

I am restless that night, tossing and turning. Dreaming of smoky gray eyes, coveralls, long legs, long fingers, and dark, dark unexplored places. I wake twice in the night, my heart pounding. Oh, I’m going to look just great tomorrow with so little sleep, I scold myself. I punch my pillow and try to settle.

The Heathman is nestled in the downtown heart of Portland […]

80

I’ll continue with the description in a moment, but that’s an interesting list of things to dream of. Also, dark, dark unexplored places, guys? Waking up in the night, heart pounding? Methinks our Ana has just had her first wet dream. She also scolds herself for waking up. Does that usually work? I’ll try it next time I wake up because I’m dreaming, because apparently it works for Ana, because we’re given that tiny paragraph and then we’re at the Heathman. No, seriously. It’s ridiculous. What’s the point of this paragraph? It shows her unrest, yes, but I mean, couldn’t she have just had a sentence about not sleeping well the night before? Why did I have to read about her scolding herself? I read about her scolding other people enough, and other people scolding her, during her waking hours.

So, we’re told that “Its impressive brown stone edifice was complete just in time for the crash of the late 1920s.” If that tells you what the building looks like, then you are much better at interpreting descriptions than I am, because as far as I can tell by that description, it’s a brown building from the 1920s. What is impressive about this building? I guess its size? And is the word edifice what we’re going with? Sometimes I come across words that make me think that ELJ did what my students do sometimes and used the synonym button without actually looking up what the word actually means.

Also under the heading of “descriptions that tell me fuck all”, “The rooms are elegant, understated, and opulently furnished” (81). Pick one, ELJ. Are they understated, or opulent? Kate begins to order Ana, Travis, and José around, to which Ana thinks, “Yes, Mistress” and the reader giggles, already in the know. It is here partially to make Christian’s words later on, that Ana is meant to be a sub, make sense, but all I can think of is Ana in a ball gag and handcuffs and Kate standing over her in a tight leather catsuit and a strap-on. Recall how I noted that the Ana/Kate dynamic is very much a stand in for Ana’s relationship with Christian. Ana just replaces one caretaker for another.

Christian arrives, and Ana is so excited she swears.

Holy Crap! He’s wearing a white shirt, open at the collar, and grey flannel pants that hang from his hips. His unruly hair is still damp from a shower. My mouth goes dry looking at him… he’s so freaking hot. Grey is followed into the suite by a man in his mid-thirties, all buzz-cut and stubble in a sharp dark suit and tie who stands silently in the corner. His hazel eyes watch us impassively.

“Miss Steele, we meet again.” Grey extends his hand, and I shake it, blinking rapidly.

Oh my… he really is, quite… wow. [….] making me blush, and I’m sure my erratic breathing must be audible.

(82)

To those guys out there again, is it attractive when a woman has a panic attack whenever you meet? Because damn. If so, my husband is a freak of nature. He likes it more when I’m coherent. I’m pretty certain I’d be seriously confused if every time I interacted with a person they started breathing erratically and blinking rapidly. Also, is what Grey is wearing really that scandalous? It’s business casual. He’s not even wearing a jacket. Ana has a thing where if you’re not dressed to the nines, you’re naked, and she is very uncomfortable with that (see also: Kate’s pajamas). If a millionaire I was supposed to be taking photos of for a newspaper article showed up with damp hair, I would wonder if he’d slept in or forgotten about me, and I would wonder how seriously he was taking our meeting. Men like him have people whose job it is to make them look good for newspapers and the like. Grey never gives interviews, and yet the one that he gives, he takes little effort? Thanks, dude. I’m sure your publicist will be overjoyed with your complete and utter lack of care.

Kate, on the other hand, looks him “squarely in the eye” to which Christian “gives her a small smile, looking genuinely amused.” She shakes his hand firmly, “without batting an eyelid” and then Ana reminds us that, “Kate has been to the best private schools in Washington. Her family has money, and she’s grown up confident and sure of her place in the world. She doesn’t take any crap. I am in awe of her.” First off, fuck you, Christian, for being amused by a woman who is self-assured and professional. She’s doing her job. If she were a man, you’d expect this professionalism. She is not affected by Christian physically, either – or rather, not the way Ana is, making her less dangerous to the perfection that is Ana and Christian’s relationship. Finally, Ana is telling us that Kate is self assured because she’s “grown up confident and sure of her place in the world” because she had money. She doesn’t take crap because she has been to the best private schools. Um. What, exactly, does that say for the rest of us? Because I went to public school and grew up middle class, does that automatically make me unsure of my place in the world, and less confident? We’re getting another instance of that money thing that happens in these books, and it makes me wonder what sort of message this is sending to the readers, especially given the stuff that is going on in the US right now concerning the gap between the 1% and 99%.

Christian and José basically start comparing dick size, and Grey asks him where he is required, and “his tone sounds very threatening.” Um, Christian. You just met this guy and you’re giving him the death glare because Ana dared to smile at him, and he smiled back? Methinks the gentleman doth take what he hath not yet earned. That is, the right to be jealous. You’ve met Ana twice. Once was an interview, and the other was when buying kidnap tools. Calm yourself. Two meetings does not a relationship make.

They begin the photos, Grey, “patiently and naturally” posing. We are told Ana’s “wish has come true”, because she gets to admire Christian. Their eyes meet a few times, and she has to “tear [herself] away” from his cloudy gaze. They do twenty minutes of sitting and five minutes of standing, at which point Christian asks Ana if she’ll take a walk with him. She is “completely thrown” by his invitation: “Holy hell… what’s this about? What does he want?” (85). He wants to fuck you, Ana. “Crap have I done something wrong?” Even if you had, Ana, he’s a relative stranger. You should give zero fucks about what he thinks.

We then get a very telling line: “I’ll call you, Taylor,” [Christian] murmurs to Buzz-Cut.” Even though “Buzz-Cut” is clearly some sort of private security, Ana insists on calling him by his physical description. Ana throughout this novel, and indeed the series, shows she is very shallow. A man can be amazing, but she can’t bring herself to like him because he doesn’t look the part. Christian is an asshole, and yet swoon. She also believes that women are interchangeable – she gets jealous of his exes frequently, including but not limited to the woman who molested him, and the woman who attempts suicide in his apartment and attempts to kill Ana. Seriously, Ana. She puts so much stake in looks, she forgets that people are different not only in their looks, but in their personalities (shocking, I know).

Christian invites her for coffee, and this is her thought pattern:

My heart slams into my mouth. A date? Christian Grey is asking me on a date. He’s asking if you want a coffee. Maybe he thinks you haven’t woken up yet, my subconscious whines at me in a sneering mood again.

(86)

Is this girl able to not constantly put herself down? Because thus far, that’s all I’m seeing here. There’s poor self-esteem, and there’s Ana. Her subconscious hates her. She reminds me of someone I know who, no matter what you said to her, found a way to turn it around and make it into a negative. She’s trilingual and “oh, it’s not useful because I don’t speak Mandarin or Punjab.” Um, what?  No. Come on. It’s blatantly in front of her that Christian wants her, he’s sending her every possible signal outside of full-out pulling an Oryx-and-Crake moment and spinning his penis around in front of her, and yet she still puts herself down. He then thwarts every excuse she has for not going – she has to drive the rest of the crew home, etcetera – and yet she’s uncertain of herself and of his intentions.

Ana frustrates me.

Anyways, so Ana asks Kate if they can swap vehicles, but Kate’s reaction isn’t all good. Kate is speechless for a moment (which Ana “savors”) and then she pulls Ana aside and tells her, “there’s something about him […] but I think he’s dangerous […] to an innocent like you” (88). She says this, irritated. Irritated. Why is she irritated? Because she’s jealous that Ana gets to go have kinky-hot sex? If I’m worried about a friend, I’m not irritated with them. Especially not for being inexperienced. Does Kate think Christian will pressure Ana into sex? He does, of course, but if Kate believes Christian is that kind of person, why would she be so candid about her fears? If anything, Ana’s innocence should make Kate more straightforward since Ana seems not to have ever learned about sexual consent, and what some people (not just men) will do to get it (including, but not limited to, mind games and alcohol consumption). Kate does tell Ana, though, “Don’t be long, or I’ll send out search and rescue” (89) which is great and all, but Kate is so unreliable on this front. She’s worried about her friend when she’s going for coffee with a stranger, but when her friend leaves a club with the same strange man when she is drunk to the point of blacking out, that’s perfectly ok. What the shit, Kate?

What is, Character Consistency for $1000, Alex?

I am going to have coffee with Christian Grey… and I hate coffee” (90). LOL – Ana does a lot of stuff with Christian that she doesn’t like, and much of it is way more intrusive than the choice of a hot beverage. At least this time he lets her have her tea the way she likes it.

They step into the elevator and they interrupt a tryst between a young couple who were in a “passionate clinch inside”. They all ride down in an “embarrassed silence”, Ana blushing like mad, and Grey smirking. Ana peeks up at Grey through her lashes, which I’m only 50% sure how to do, and she notes that there isn’t even any “trashy piped music” to distract them. Woah. What sort of elevators has Ana been riding, because I want to ride them. Trashy music in an elevator? Since when is smooth jazz trashy?

Outside, it’s a “mild May Sunday” (is weather determined by the day of the week in Portland?) and they stroll, hand in hand, to a coffee place. Ana tells us that no one has ever held her hand. Ever, Ana? Not even your mum when you were a little kid? I don’t believe you. She feels giddy, and tingles, and she is grinning like a woman on her wedding day. That description isn’t in the book, but that’s the impression I’m getting. I get new love is wonderful, but I remember my first date. I was nervous as shit.

Random nitpick: correct me if I’m wrong, but crosswalk figures in the USA are all made up of white lights, not green, but Ana thinks, “the green man appears, and we’re off again” (92). A simple Google shows me that. Know what else a simple google shows me? That the suite names at the Heathman are not simply “Presidential Suite” or whatever, they have actual names.  Anyways, I get that ELJ is British and she can’t get every little detail right, but if you’re going to go through the trouble of mentioning a crosswalk light colour, then look up the colour in the country you’re writing about. Libba Bray mentions on her blog that she once spent ages trying to figure out if a car in the 30’s would have windshield wipers or a radio, which is an equally minute detail, but it also creates a more realistic atmosphere. As a resident of North America, I know the stoplight lights are white, not green. Google is your friend, ELJ.

Though maybe ELJ has the familiarity Ana has with Google. That is, none.

Ana’s subconscious implores her to “try to be cool” which makes me giggle, because it makes it sound like she’s plotting to do something devious.

They arrive at the coffee shop and Christian is “polite as ever”. Now, she’s already informed us that Christian held the door open for her, which is polite. Why does she have to tell us that he’s polite after he asks what she would like as a drink? I mean, asking “what do you want to drink?” at a coffee shop isn’t polite, it’s… asking what you want. I don’t even know what else to say about that. It’s like a neutral.

He asks, “Sugar?” and her immediate mental response is: “For a moment, I’m stunned, thinking it’s an endearment, but fortunately my subconscious kicks in with pursed lips. No, stupid – do you take sugar?” Calm yourself, subconscious, jeez. The girl made a mistake, and she didn’t even say it out loud. You don’t have be to such a judgmental prick about it. She stares down at her “knotted fingers” which I feel means “intertwined” but I’m not sure, and she “surreptitiously” gazes at him. Synonym button! I’ve missed you! This is a smut novel. Listen. I love smut writers. I do. It takes a hell of a lot of skill to write about smut and make it sound not… smutty. And I get that including a more diverse vocabulary makes it not just smut, but literature, but this book is so poorly written that dropping in a few big words is unnecessary. You either write good smut with descriptions and good grammar and structure for people like me who love to read elegant smut, or you write a trash novel with shitty grammar and small words, but don’t mix the two like this. The people who care – or even understand – words like these are probably the same sort of people who will care if you have really shitty grammar the rest of the time.

I could watch him all day… he’s tall, broad-shouldered, and slim, and the way those pants hang from his hips… Oh my. Once or twice he runs his long, graceful fingers through his now dry but still disorderly hair. Hmm… I’d like to do that. The thought comes unbidden into my mind, and my face flames. I bite my lip and stare down at my hands again not liking where my wayward thoughts are headed.

First off, everyone’s pants hang from their hips, unless you’re one of those guys whose pants hang from their knees, so I want to know what exactly he’s doing with his pants that’s so special. Next, “his now dry but still disorderly hair”. What the hell kind of description is that? Do I care that it’s dry now? I mean, I would assume it is since it’s been like an hour and it hasn’t been described as ponytail length. And, thoughts usually come unbidden, Ana. Well done. She stares at her hands again because, what? She has a dirty thought? He isn’t even near her. And she doesn’t like where her “wayward thoughts are headed”. That is the one of the tamest wayward thoughts I’ve ever heard. If she wants wayward, she should be in my head when I think back on my honeymoon.

Christian sits down beside her and –

Wait.

Wait just a second.

ELJ. You give me a million different descriptions of innate actions that I give zero fucks about, but you don’t care to mention that she goes from standing in the doorway to sitting down? What gives? This is one of those things that this book does that is weirdly frustrating. She puts huge detail in things which make no difference to the story, or the movement of the characters, but she’ll miss something so completely obvious and necessary to the story that it’s just… it’d be laughable if it weren’t so irritating.

He hands her a little teapot with “a side plate bearing a lone teabag labeled ‘Twinings English Breakfast’ – my favourite” (94). Well, thank the barista, Ana, because Christian sure as hell didn’t say, “run over to the grocers, would you, and grab Twinings?” And this is exactly what I mean, by the way. Why do I care that the teabag is labeled Twinings English Breakfast if I wasn’t told that Ana found a table?

Ana also mentions that Christian has gotten himself a coffee “which bears a wonderful leaf-pattern imprinted in the milk. How do they do that? I wonder idly.” We’re told quite a few times that Ana wonders how something is done, but she never asks. She never improves herself. And it’s never important to the plot ever again. Also, given that the only subject of this sentence if Christian, the “they” – I get that it means the people who make it, but it irritates me. We’re getting a whole stream of consciousness thing in this storytelling that is tedious and unnecessary to the story. Let me remind you this is supposedly the sexiest novel of all time. I should not have to remind you this is the sexiest novel of all time if it is. Just sayin’.

“He looks so comfortable, so at ease with his body, I envy him. Here’s me, all gawky and uncoordinated, barely able to get from A to B without falling flat on my face.” We have had exactly one instance of Ana falling, and one more of her tripping. This is another instance of telling, not showing, and it’s annoying. As someone who regularly trips up stairs, and who drops things, and who has horrendous aim, Ana is not clumsy, nor is she accident prone. If she were, we would have heard about her tripping more. This is another one of those places where we get a million instances of pointless information, but we never get anything important like, oh, I dunno, characterisation?

Pet Peeve time: I know that it’s totally not my business how anyone else drinks their tea, but Ana pops the teabag into the teapot, and “almost immediately” fishes it out again, commenting that she places the “used” teabag back on the side plate. She likes her tea, “black and weak”, she tells us, “as an explanation”.  While black is indeed used to describe tea or coffee that has not been altered with sugar or milk, that teabag wasn’t in there long enough to make it black. Hell, it wasn’t in there long enough to make it tea. Also, why does she feel she needs to constantly explain herself to Christian? It’s as if she wants to make herself into the person he wants her to be, not be with him just as she is, and…

Right.

Anyways, so after her explanation, Christian says, “I see. Is he your boyfriend?”

To which Ana’s immediate thought response is, “Woah… what?” and we see one of the few places where Ana and I agree. Listen, douche canoe, if he were her boyfriend, would she be out there with you? It’s not as if a woman will just go out with whoever asks her just because he asks her; women have free will and minds of their own and.. and… oh.

Christian does this thing later on in their relationship (even now, really) where he assumes that if Ana is faced with the choice to go fuck someone else, she will. Not because she wants to, necessarily, but because that’s how women work. Women are weak. They cannot say no when faced with something they don’t want to do. With Christian’s logic, even though I’m a married woman, if a man who is not my husband invited me to have sex, I would, because that’s what women do. This is wrong, of course, but that’s how Christian functions, and it’s a perfect match for Ana’s assumption that people are nothing more than the sum of their looks; a thing to admire and to possess. Compatibility isn’t important; only aesthetic.

It’s all starting to come together, really.

Ana asks why Christian thinks she and José are dating and he replies, “The way you smiled at him, and he at you” (95). This is fair, but also, again, you asked her out on a date and held her hand and you thought she was in a relationship? Way to break the bro code, dude. Also, just because you smile at someone with affection doesn’t automatically mean you’re dating them. This is one place that exhibits Christian’s inability to realize that relationships between people exist. He’s shocked later on that his mother is upset that her friend molested him; he’s confused as to why his family is worried when his plane crashes; he is confounded again and again when Ana asks to see her friends. He is of the belief that, firstly, people do not require friends or attachments, only a significant other, and therefore, secondly, his significant other should care about him and only him, and anything else is a betrayal.  Recall above when I discussed Ana’s belief in people as a possession rather than as autonomous beings with thoughts and feelings and problems of their own. Christian himself is like a toddler that doesn’t understand that people are real; he only sees them as actors in the play that is his life. He is so self-centred that he doesn’t recognize that people other than him have needs. This becomes a bigger problem as their relationship progresses.

She whispers – whispers – that José is “more like family”, and Christian is “satisfied” with this response.  So, good job Ana, I guess. She watches, “fascinated” as his long fingers “deftly peel back the paper” on his muffin, and after he offers her some, she looks down at her hands again. What’s with that? It’s not even meeting eye contact at this point, it’s like she’s trying to avoid him completely. We’re also rarely told of when she looks up at him, only back down.

Christian asks another irritating question: “And the boy I met yesterday, at the store. He’s not your boyfriend?” The boy? The boy? We were told that Christian is 27 to Ana’s 21. Paul, if you’ve forgotten, is the brother of the person that owns the hardware store in Vancouver. Even if we assume he’s Ana’s age, what does that make Ana? He speaks about him as if he’s a child. And, again, if you thought she had a boyfriend what the shit are you doing asking her on a date!? This guy, I swear. He gives me the creeps. And it gives me even more creeps knowing that there are guys in the world that read this book to see what women want.

Aside on that, by the way: this is exactly why these books bother me. They’re not just books; they’re advertising to men and women what a relationship should be. Men read it to see what women want; women read it being told it’s what they want. What this makes for is a whole generation of women who are raised to believe they want an abusive asshole who not only do they need to change, but they need to change for. If I love him enough, I can fix him, and if I’m not fixing him, it’s my own fault because I’m not loving him enough. This is seriously dangerous thinking, you guys, and it disgusts me that this is what is being perpetrated as an ideal relationship.

Ana asks why he’s asking about these men in her life, and he says because she seems nervous about men. Um, Grey, you bought murder supplies from the girl. I’d be nervous, too. She thinks to herself, upon hearing this, “Holy crap that’s personal.” No, Ana. Asking you your bra size would be personal. This is just a general observation. She tells him she finds him intimidating, and mentally pats herself on the back for her “candor”. Word a day calendar, again?

In this section we see how very Edward/Bella these two are: She hears “his sharp intake of breath” and he tells her, “you should find me intimidating” (97). And then,

“Please don’t look down. I like to see your face. […] It gives me some sort of clue what you might be thinking,” he breathes. “You’re a mystery, Miss Steele.”

Edward thinks Bella is a mystery because she’s the only person whose mind he can’t read. Ana is an open book, even if Christian says that she’s “very self-contained”, especially because she replies, “This is bewildering. Me, self-contained? No way.” Which is funny, because then he says, “Except when you blush, of course, which is often. I just wish I knew what you were blushing about.” She blushes all the time. So, basically, he is saying, “you’re very self-contained except all the time.” The only true part of that statement is that he doesn’t know what she’s thinking, but that’s a constant state for, you know, people. You’ll never know exactly what every person is thinking. Ever (unless you’re reading FSoG and you’re in Ana’s head). You can get close to being able to read someone’s mind with people you’re close with, but unless you’re, you know, a sparkly psychic vampire, it shouldn’t be so weird to not know what another person is thinking at all times. My ex did that a lot; he would insist that I tell him every thought that went through my mind every day to ensure I wasn’t hiding anything from him. If I couldn’t remember, he would get upset with me for hiding things from him.

“He pops a small piece of muffin into his mouth and starts to chew it slowly, not taking his eyes off me. And as if on cue, I blush. Crap!” Why, exactly, is she blushing about him chewing a muffin slowly? Oh, right; she’s actually blushing about the sentence that came before (the line about blushing) but the cue that comes before the blushing is the muffin thing. Sigh.

She then calls him “high-handed” which is funny because, you know, he spanks her later, and “he flushes slightly too” (98). Oh man, guys, they’re so alike! They flush! True love, right there.

She asks him why he hasn’t asked her to call him by his first name; I honestly don’t remember if she asked him to call her Anastasia at any point. Either way, he replies, “The only people who use my given name are my family and a few close friends. That’s the way I like it.” Oh, look; Victorian moralities in modern time. So then why is he calling her Anastasia/Ana? That’s horribly disrespectful. This also exhibits a power imbalance between the two of them. Ana calls him Mr Grey, as one would call an elder or a professor, etcetera, and he calls her Ana. This sets up the BDSM thing, but not very well. BDSM requires mutual respect, and what he’s saying here is that he not only doesn’t respect her, but that his wants are more important than hers.

Ana thinks, “This isn’t going the way I thought it was going to go. I can’t believe I’m feeling so antagonistic towards him. It’s like he’s trying to warn me off.” The first half tells me that despite the fact that she finds him hot, she doesn’t actually like him. The second half makes me point to the place above when I had my little rant about relationships. She doesn’t like him, but instead of thinking “I don’t like this guy”, she thinks, “he’s warning me away, so it’s up to me to ignore that and be a strong woman for him”. This is… problematic. Why? Because we shouldn’t be telling women that they should be in relationships with men they don’t like, especially men that play crazy mind games with them. People can change, but it’s not your job to change your partner.

Oh look, another instance of Ana thinking two people are interchangeable:

“He is a control freak, there’s no other explanation, and part of me is thinking maybe it would have been better if Kate had interviewed him. Two control freaks together. Plus of course she’s almost blonde – well strawberry blonde – like all the women in his office. And she’s beautiful, my subconscious reminds me. I don’t like the idea of Christian and Kate. I take a sip of my tea, and Grey eats another small piece of his muffin.

“Are you an only child?” he asks.

Whoa… he keeps changing direction.

No, Ana, there was probably an awkward silence while you were sipping your tea and putting yourself down; he’s just trying to keep the conversation going. Also, as I mentioned, two control freaks together? No. That would work out horribly. Also, “and she’s beautiful, my subconscious reminds me”? That tricksky subconscious again, putting Ana down. Ana assumes that Christian would have asked out any woman that walked into his office to do the interview, but that she just happened to be there. This thinking is a little desperate and puts the idea of relationships into more of a, “if it’s convenient I’ll go with this person” thing rather than, “we get along very well, therefore we will build a relationship together” thing.

“Tell me about your parents” he says (not asks) and she thinks, “Why does he want to know all this? It’s so dull” (100). I get that Ana’s never been on a date, but… how does she make friends? I get that the author is trying to show Ana’s humility in not wanting to talk about herself, but it really doesn’t come off that way. It comes off as self-deprecating. Because it is.

He questions her about her parents a bit, he comments that she isn’t giving much away, and he replies, “You’ve interviewed me once already, and I can recollect some quite probing questions then.” Note he says, “questions”. Also, Christian – it was an interview. That’s the point of an interview. To interview a person.

She then thinks, in response to this: “Holy shit. He’s remembering the ‘gay’ question. Once again, I’m mortified. In years to come, I know, I’ll need intensive therapy to not feel this embarrassed every time I recall the moment. I start babbling about my mother – anything to block that memory.” Seriously Ana? He said, “questions”, first off; you asked about his adoption, too. And intensive therapy?! Christian is in intensive therapy because he saw his mother die and lived with her body for like a week. Ana is going to need intensive therapy because she asked a man she didn’t know if he was gay? You’ve got to be kidding me.

“My mom is wonderful. She’s an incurable romantic. She’s currently on her fourth husband.” You keep using that phrase, Ana, and I don’t think it means what you think it means. She then mentions, “She has Bob now” at which I laugh, because BOB* means something very different to me. She hopes that Bob can “keep an eye on her and pick up the pieces when her harebrained schemes don’t go as planned” and she smiles fondly. I think we’re seeing where the putting one’s self down has come from. She’s saying when her schemes don’t go as planned. That’s showing faith in your mother, eh?

We then get a very confusing thing: Christian asks, “do you get along with your stepfather?” whom I, as someone who has just read a sentence about Bob, assume is Bob, her mother’s current husband. That’s generally what stepfather means. She replies, though, “Of course. I grew up with him. He’s the only father I know. […] He’s… taciturn” (102). Ana is speaking not about her mother’s current husband, but about Husband Number Two. ELJ goes through the trouble of writing the entire, tedious conversation, yet doesn’t bother to note when they change the subject of conversation? I don’t understand.

They hint at Ana’s mother’s “Husband Number Three” (again with the descriptions) who was abusive, but thankfully Ana was under the protection of her mother’s second husband, because that’s how custody works, apparently. She asks about his parents and we’re told,

“My dad’s a lawyer, my mom is a pediatrician. They live in Seattle.” Oh… he’s had an affluent upbringing. And I wonder about a successful couple who adopts three kids, and one of them turns into a beautiful man who takes on the business world and conquers it single-handed. What drove him to be that way? His folks must be proud.

(103)

  So, remember, these are his adoptive parents. He conquers it single-handed? Um, he’s had an affluent upbringing; do you think, Ana, that his folks never helped him during this time? Or the fact that he was rich helped him get loans and what have you? Or that maybe he went to good schools – like Kate did? Or that maybe he had coworkers? That the luck he had to be adopted into such a glorious family inspired him? Maybe? No? Yeah, you’re right. It’s a giant mystery.

We’re told a million times that Ana is smart, and it’s moments like these that I question that.

His eyes “cloud with irritation” when Ana asks him questions about his family, and I go hypocrite.  He’s giving her the third degree, but when she asks simple questions, it’s irritating?

After mentioning his sister is studying in Paris, he changes the subject to where she’d like to travel – “It’s England I’d really like to visit [… because] it’s the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy” and she’d like to “see the places that inspired those people to write such wonderful books.” That’s all well and good, but good lord is that narrow minded for an English major. As an English major, I take offence to Ana’s narrow-mindedness, and her assumption that Paris, one of the most romantic, poetic cities in the world where much of the American Literary Renaissance took place, is not particularly interesting to a lit student in the United States than England. Come on, Ana. What exactly does ELJ think English Majors study? Our favourite type of literature? We study all types of literature, especially in undergrad, because you’re supposed to be learning about things. It’s all well and good to have a favourite, that’s fine, but she makes it sound like those are the only quality writers, and everyone else before and after were hacks. I wonder what Ana would say about Chaucer, or Oscar Wilde. British authors both of them, but they don’t write about her precious “romantic” heroes. I’m also amused thinking about my own study of Shakespeare, and how many dirty jokes and naughty scenes probably went over Ana’s head.

There’s some tedious small talk, and he smiles “his odd I’ve got a whopping big secret smile” whatever that means, she calls him Mr Grey, he calls her Anastasia, and they hold hands as they walk back to the hotel. He asks her randomly if she always wear jeans – she describes it as out of the blue, and again, I would agree – and her “mind is reeling”. “I’m aware that our time together is limited. This is it. This was it, and I’ve completely blown it, I know. Perhaps he has someone” (106). Ana, all our times are limited; we’re mortal. We die. Also, drama queen, much? Honestly, it’s not like he’s going to turn into a pumpkin when you get to the car. And how the heck does she think she’s “blown it”. What does that even – she’s getting to know someone. How do you blow that? She asks him if he has a girlfriend and then thinks, “Holy crap – I just said that out loud?”  He asked her increasingly personal questions, and asking the guy who asked you on a date if he has a girlfriend is worthy of a holy crap? Also, also, Ana, do you really think he would have asked you on a date if he had a girlfriend? And if he did, is he really the type of man you should be swooning over?

I don’t even, guys.

He tells her that he doesn’t “do the girlfriend thing”, and she thinks, “Oh…what does that mean? He’s not gay? Oh maybe he is – crap! He must have lied to me in his interview.”

What. I don’t even.

She then thinks to herself, “I have to get away from him”, and trips onto the road and is almost run over by a cyclist, but Christian saves her by pulling her back into his chest. Sound familiar to a certain vampire saving a certain Bella Swan from a truck that a student has lost control of? She finds his scent “intoxicating”. He holds her while his free hand, “softly trace[s her] face, gently probing, examining [her].” Is he poking her eye out? Turning her head sideways? I don’t understand. They’re gazing into each other’s eyes for a while, and “for the first time in twenty one years, I want to be kissed. I want to feel his mouth on me.”

This moment is kinda sexy, minus the probing, which just makes me think of aliens.

I’m going to mention this, though, in the interest of continuity: Ana mentions in the next book (or the book after that?) that she has actually kissed someone before. A guy, apparently, has kissed her, but never held her hand, and she has never wanted to be kissed before. I’m assuming that means that the guy forced himself upon her? It’s interesting to note that, given the lack of continuity in this book, this huge character point – that Ana’s never been kissed – is shown to be wrong. It will change their relationship, and the reader’s perspective on her. If you’re going to tell me the character has never wanted to be kissed, and lead me to believe that she’s never been kissed, then bloody well stick to it. Don’t just throw it in there and then when it’s convenient say, “oh actually, no, she has been kissed” and hope that I forgot.

Come on, ELJ.

Oh the upside, “feel his mouth on me” is actually a very sexual phrase, since “on me” is not usually referring to lips. Or, at least, not the lips on one’s face. If you know what I mean.

This summary came in at almost 10K. Look forward to next week, when Christian becomes even more of a creepy stalker, and Ana is emotionally manipulated! Woo.

*Battery Operated Boyfriend.

 

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