Lesson Five – No, Seriously. Cut The Crap.
The second half of chapter two of Fifty Shades Of Stop My Brain Hurts should not exist.
There is no need for it to exist. It simply repeats what happens in chapter one – Christian makes fucky-eyes at Ana, Ana wonders why she is feeling funny in her tummy-wummy, Christian makes veiled references to kinky sex and Ana says ‘Oh my!’
The only difference is that it takes place in a hardware store instead of in Mr. Kinky’s cartoon-capitalist luxury office.
The only reason this scene might be useful is if you did something entirely sensible and fired the whole of chapter one into the fucking sun. In fact, this scene could function as chapter one. It contains identical information to chapter one and also has the benefit of not being chapter one.
Chapter one is awful. It’s the worst opening chapter in the history of fiction, eclipsing even The Lord of The Rings and The Da Vinci Code. I can barely articulate how much I hate the interview contrivance. It’s so lazy and unrealistic that ‘eleventy first’ birthdays and intestinal scavenger hunts look like masterstrokes in comparison.
Saturday at the store is a nightmare. We are besieged by do-it-yourselfers wanting to spruce up their homes.
How odd to find such people in a hardware store. Why is Ana not besieged by weekend fly-fishermen? Or surfers? Or dildo afficionados?
Mr. And Mrs. Clayton, John and Patrick – the two other part-timers – and I are all rushed off our feet.
I know. You said it was busy in the last sentence. Stop repeating yourself.
But there’s a lull around lunchtime, and Mrs. Clayton asks me to check on some orders while I’m sitting behind the counter at the till discreetly eating my bagel.
This reads like the author had a bet with herself as how much boring information she could cram into one ugly run-on sentence.
I’m engrossed in the task, checking catalogue numbers against the items we need and the items we’ve ordered, eyes flicking from the order book to the computer screen and back as I check the entries match.
You can tell this mess is Twilight fanfiction, can’t you? The same contorted sentences, the same pre-chewed prose. Nobody puts their laundry in the washing machine, not when they could walk to the laundry basket, sort the darks from the whites, take out a washing tab, open the washing machine door, put the laundry in and turn the dial to the 40C cycle. If there were any more meaningless detail you’d have the characters describing their own biological processes – like blinking or pushing shit through their arses.
I kind of want to skip ahead, but I have to give you this in full, so that if you haven’t read the book you can experience the full horror of this notorious passage. Read it aloud for best effect. It’s a stinker.
All punctuation is transcribed verbatim, by the way. And no, I don’t know either.
Then, for some reason, I glance up…and find myself locked in the bold, gray gaze of Christian Grey who’s standing at the counter, staring at me intently.
“Miss Steele. What a pleasant surprise.” His gaze is unwavering and intense.
Holy crap. What the hell is he doing here looking all tousled hair and outdoorsy in his cream chunky-knit sweater, jeans and walking boots? I think my mouth has popped open, and I can’t locate my brain or my voice.
“Mr. Grey,” I whisper, because that’s all I can manage. There’s a ghost of a smile on his lips and his eyes are alight with humor, as if he’s enjoying some private joke.
“I was in the area,” he says by way of explanation. “I needed to stock up on a few things. It’s a pleasure to see you again, Miss Steele.” His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel…or something.
So. There’s that.
I had to stop reading at that point. I’d gone numb down my whole left-hand side and could no longer understand maths.
I’ll try and summarise from here.
Christian is handsome – Adonis, Greek God, oh my God so hot etc etc. Ana bibbles, drools over her shoes and slimes herself to the knees but somehow still doesn’t understand that she’s sexually aroused. At this point I picture her tugging her collar and stuttering like Kenneth Williams besieged by Hattie Jacques at her frilly, sloe-eyed, Junoesque best. When you bear in mind all this is taking place in a hardware store and Christian is dropping meaningful italics every time he mentions cable ties and rope this scene becomes less Story of O and more the story of Oh What A Carry On.
They’re going to film this shit. That’s a thing that’s going to happen. Someone with amazing cheekbones is going to have to attempt to deliver lines like “Why does anyone like anything? Some people like cheese. Do you like cheese?” They’re going to have to try and say these terrible lines without sustaining brain damage. It’s going to be absofuckinglutely hilarious.
There’s going to be a soundtrack. Delibes, Pachelbel and even poor Britney (Who has surely suffered enough already.) are going to be subjected to this indignity. Exquisite 16th Century polychoral pieces are going to be rudely yanked from cosy, tweedy obscurity and forced to stand the scrutiny of hopelessly crass people who only rate art according to its effect on their genitals or the banal, borrowed emotions that it evokes.
It’s a shame, because they’ve missed a trick. There is only one piece of music that accurately describes the Fifty Shades of Grey experience.
I’ve read several cash-in parodies of this book and they are all about as funny as finding blood on your toilet paper. None of them even come close to being as funny as the original. Fifty Shades has transcended parody. It is a parody. It’s a joke. It has to be. It must be. That’s what I’m going to believe – it might not be true, but it’s the only thing keeping me sane right now. This is the My Immortal of erotic fiction. I’m going to crank up the Benny Hill theme and read on, laughing like a fucking maniac.
“Anything else?” My voice is husky and breathy. His eyes widen slightly.
“Some rope, I think.” His voice mirrors mine, husky.
“This way.” I duck my head down to hide my recurring blush and head for the aisle. “What sort were you after? We have synthetic and natural filament rope…twine…cable cord…” I halt at his expression, his eyes darkening. Holy cow.
You know how I said if the prose got any more processed you’d have characters describing their basic physical functions? Well, that turned out to be prophetic. Ana has taken up neurology, apparently.
And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain – probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata where the subconscious dwells – comes the thought: He’s here to see you.
In case it wasn’t already obvious, a quick Google search for the function of the medulla oblongata reveals that Ana is definitely no brain surgeon. Oh, and get used to Ana’s subconscious. You will come to know it well and hate it with a white hot passion you can only begin to dream of right now. Trust me on this.
Christian, claiming to be a DIY enthusiast (*cough*FREDWEST*cough*) buys a serial killerish assortment of items and is really, really creepy. Just in case he’s not creepy enough, Ana sells him a set of coveralls in a fetching shade of Lecter Blue.
And then he kills her.
No. He doesn’t, but you could save the book right here – Christian murders Ana in a lovely Hitchcock plot swerve and then the narrative moves to the detective trying to bring Christian to justice.
Christian agrees to do a photoshoot for the student magazine and then turns into Patrick fucking Bateman when Ana’s friend Paul starts talking to her.
When I glance up at Christian Grey, he’s watching us like a hawk, his gray eyes hooded and speculative, his mouth a hard impassive line. He’s changed from the weirdly attentive customer to someone else – someone cold and distant.
Yeah – big old red flag there.
“Cool,” Paul responds. “Catch you later, Ana.”
“Sure, Paul.” I watch him disappear toward the stock room. “Anything else, Mr. Grey?”
“Just these items.” His tone is clipped and cool. Damn…have I offended him? Taking a deep breath, I turn and head for the till. What is his problem?
He’s a total fucking psycho. Run, you stupid girl.
Unfortunately, as we all know, the ropey foreshadowing is nothing to do with Christian being a serial killer and everything to do with him being a crap BSDM version of Stephenie Meyer’s original uptight creep, Edward Cullen.
I ring up the rope, coveralls, masking tape, and cable ties at the till.
“That will be forty-three dollars, please.” I glance up at Grey and wish I hadn’t. He’s watching me closely, his gray eyes intense and smoky. It’s unnerving.
You have to admit, this is fucking riveting stuff. I wonder what could make it more exciting?
“Would you like a bag?” I ask as I take his credit card.
“Please, Anastasia.” His tongue caresses my name, and my heart once again is frantic. I can hardly breathe. Hurriedly, I place his purchases in a plastic carrier.
Oh, fuck yeah. There it is. Nothing gets me hotter and wetter than stultifying everyday chit chat over the supermarket till. I’m banned from the Co-Op. I just can’t control myself when they ask me if I have a points card. Unf.
No, seriously. How does anyone masturbate to this? No wonder they’re in a DIY store – these characters are so fucking dull they probably try out the paint sample pots and wank very very slowly while the paint dries.
Finally – finally – after a whole half chapter of this mind numbing minuet, Bateman and the Brain Surgeon lurch with zombie-like grace towards the point of the scene.
He turns to leave, then pauses. “Oh – and Anastasia, I’m glad Miss Kavanagh couldn’t do the interview.” He smiles, then strides with renewed purpose out of the store, slinging the plastic bag over his shoulder, leaving me a quivering mass of female hormones. I spend several minutes staring at the closed door through which he’s just left before I return to planet Earth.
Okay – I like him. There, I’ve admitted it to myself.
Cue the motherfucking hallelujah chorus. At last.
Well, that was excruciating. Next time, we’re onto chapter three and chapter three attempts to be even more banal and repetitive than chapter two. I think they have coffee or something – I don’t know. It’s bound to be fucking dull anyway. I know it’s Fifty Shades of Grey and not Fifty Shades of Neon Pink, Chartreuse and Motherfucking Heliotrope, but does it really have to be this…grey?