In the first two chapters of Fifty Shades of Grey, we met Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. It was not an auspicious meeting, seeing as she was a twitchy ball of self-loathing and he was a buzzword spouting cretin who may very well also be a serial killer.
Luckily (or not) for him, Ana thinks he’s just so literary and already wants to get into his Dolce e Gabbanas. Well – kind of. I don’t think she even knows why her underwear gets humid whenever he’s around and even when it does her imaginary friends pipe up and tell her that he could never, ever love her because she’s too mousy and unattractive. And she is, by the way. She’s so ugly that every male character who isn’t Christian Grey has so far pledged undying love to her.
I’m not holding out much hope of this book getting any better.
After Christian leaves the hardware store, Ana runs off to the stockroom to telephone Kate and once more wonder why Christian Grey drove to a different city in order to buy murder supplies and watch her hyperventilate.
“I don’t think that is one huge coincidence, Ana. 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.
Is it just me or is this girl exhausting? She’s like a human black hole of self-loathing and boredom. The only things she’s ever really expressed any interest in whatosever are My Little Murderer and his well-hung pants; even her references to her supposedly beloved books are complaints that nobody in reality lives up to her literary ideals.
Having arranged a photoshoot with Christian Grey (oh look – another plot contrivance that’s probably visible from space), Ana lets slip to Kate that she has Christian’s phone number and Kate once again states the obvious.
“Ana! He likes you. No doubt about it.” Her tone is emphatic.
“Kate, he’s just trying to be nice.”
Oh for fuck’s sake…
Anyway, they arrange a photoshoot, because the student magazine totally has that kind of budget and Christian Grey doesn’t have anything better to do, having apparently taken several weeks off from his busy schedule as a Randian shitlord to chase after a twitchy overcooked noodle of a girl with no conversation and no self-esteem.
Then Paul Clayton comes into the stockroom and it’s time for Ana to once again shit on him from a great height for not being ‘literary’ enough to butter her stale little muffin. He asks her out, she says no.
…besides, Paul is cute in a wholesome 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.
No. He has never mentioned a single book in your presence. Statistically that makes him even less literary than people who read only one book all their lives. You know the kind – whether it’s Lord of the Rings, Atlas Shrugged or the Bible, you couldn’t reasonably call these people literary. Annoying, probably, but definitely not literary.
Next scene, Kate bullies Jose into taking pictures of Christian Grey. Then she gets Ana to call Christian and Ana immediately spaffs her panties all over again.
I am all gushing and breathy – like a child, not a grown woman who can vote and legally drink in the State of Washington.
Fun fact – because I’ve read the ‘Shades of Christian’ excrescence in the back of Fifty Shades Freed, I can tell you that Christian ran a background check on Ana shortly after meeting her – a creeptastic document that covered her schooling, her mother’s many marriages, her bank details, her social security number and lots of other things that were none of his fucking business and many of which were illegal to obtain. However, on attempting to discover her political opinions or her religious affiliation, even Captain Creepo came up blank. Yes, that’s right. Ana has no political opinions and no religious opinions. Her sexual orientation remains ‘Unknown’.
It’s almost as if she has no personality.
I am restless that night, tossing and turning. Dreaming of smoky grey eyes, coveralls, long legs, long fingers, and dark, dark unexplored places.
Is she talking about her batcave or something? Ana’s dreams are like the confusing visual shorthands people used to use for off-screen sex in the days when the Hays Code forbade any actual on-screen hanky-panky. You know – trains going into tunnels, waves crashing on the shore etc.
The next day they go to the Heathman Hotel and dick about.
Kate has managed to acquire the use of a room at the Heathman free of charge for the morning in exchange for a credit in the article. When she explains at reception that we’re here to photograph Christian Grey CEO we are instantly upgraded to a suite.
Everyone loves Christian. I have no idea why. He’s a thundering bag of dicks and almost as boring as Ana.
The rooms are elegant, understated, and opulently furnished.
Opulent and understated mean opposite things, you tiresome cardboard nitwit. What the hell did you actually do for those four years when you claimed to be getting an English degree? Sit around and diddle yourself to the Cliff Notes to Tess of the fucking D’Urbervilles.
Half an hour later, Christian Grey walks into our suite.
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.
Ana, Ana, Ana – just admit you want to fuck the man because you find him attractive. We’d be much better friends if you did. You are allowed to find men attractive. You are allowed to want to fuck them; it’s not 1891 any more.
“Miss Steele, we meet again.” Grey extends his hand, and I shake it, blinking rapidly. Oh my…he really is, quite…wow. As I touch his hand, I’m aware of that delicious current…
…NO. Bad. In answer to Gary Numan’s question, friends (and by extension boyfriends) are not electric. Now go and sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done.
Kate wanders up to Christian Grey and manages to make eye-contact with him without either falling over, blinking like someone just switched on all the lights or forgetting how to breathe. How is this miracle accomplished?
I remind myself 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.
Ah. That’ll be it then. Don’t you just love how Ana thinks you need an expensive education in order to assert yourself? I’m not saying it doesn’t help, but coming from a sad little farty like Ana it just feels like an excuse and yet another reason to feel sorry for herself.
They take some photographs, Edward Christian glares at Jacob José and it’s all very dull. Then Christian asks ‘Miss Steele’ to walk with him, like he was asking her to take a turn around the room, and prances out with an antique “Good day to you all.”
And nobody pees themselves laughing or points out that he talks like a pompous tool. Why does everyone in this book hate fun?
On being singled out by the object of her sudden and inexplicable lust, Ana’s reaction is…well…Ana.
Crap…have I done something wrong?
“I wondered if you would join me for coffee this morning.”
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.
You know you’ve got problems when even your imaginary friends hate you.
After that comes several pages of pointless kerfuffling about how, if Ana is no longer available to drive everyone home, who’s going to be the new designated driver. Tedium – it’s the new sexy.
On discovering that Ana is having coffee with Christian, Kate warns her that Christian seems ‘dangerous’. I can almost stand Kate, even if she is the world’s worst journalist. Ana, on the other hand, just flushes again and slopes off to drool over Christian some more.
I emerge from the suite to find Christian Grey waiting, leaning up against the wall, looking like a male model in a pose for some glossy high-end magazine.
“Okay, let’s do coffee,” I murmur, flushing a beet red.
Did you know Christian Grey was good looking? E.L. James seems to favour the Ayn Rand method of introducing a plot point – seize plot point, grasp plot point with both hands, bludgeon reader over the head with plot point. Repeat until reader is unconscious.
I make my way down the corridor, my knees shaky, my stomach full of butterflies, and my heart in my mouth thumping a dramatic uneven beat. I am going to have coffee with Christian Grey…and I hate coffee.
So? You hate everything. You’re not even that enthusiastic about the things you allegedly like.
What should I say to him? My mind is suddenly paralysed with apprehension. What are we going to talk about? What on Earth do I have in common with him?
That’s actually a good question. Presumably you plan to ignore the answer for the next…oh…three books.
They get to the elevators (this is riveting stuff, isn’t it?) and the doors slide open on a couple who appear to be getting freaky in there, judging by the way they giggle and jump apart. Christian takes Ana’s hand and mutters (because nobody ever ‘says’ anything in this book) “What is it about elevators?”
They’re solid metal boxes that are very difficult to escape from should they get trapped between floors? Or maybe he’s just an Aerosmith fan. As if I even care. This is just pages and pages of endless crap; we reach the elevator, we get in the elevator, we go down to the lobby, we cross the lobby, we walk out the door, we walk into the street. The delete key on E.L. James’ favourite keyboard must be as pristine as it was when she first bought the computer.
Finally they get to the coffee place and Ana divulges her shocking secret – she doesn’t like coffee and would prefer to have tea instead. How are people masturbating to this book?
In a surprise twist, it turns out Ana doesn’t particularly like tea either. She likes to get a Twinings English Breakfast bag, dip it twice in hot water and then drink the resulting horrible pale slop. It’s like some kind of metaphor for Ana’s ass-backwards, dead-from-the-neck-up existence – she selects one of Twinings’ strongest blends in order to drink weak tea, oblivious to the existence of Lady Grey or Darjeeling.
Why am I even thinking about this? What the fancy, lace-trimmed hell is this mess? This is supposed to be a dirty book. This is not the kind of teabagging I signed up for. GOD DAMN YOU, MS. JAMES – WHERE IS THE FUCKING PORNOGRAPHY?
He asks ‘Sugar?’ and she sits there like a stunned mullet thinking he was calling her sugar. (Remember, she’s supposed to be ‘bright’) He goes off to get her tea and she sits quietly, frothing at the gash over how tall and broad shouldered he is and ‘the way those pants hang from his hips’. When her thoughts turn towards how much she would like to run her fingers through his hair…
…my face flames. I bite my lip and stare down at my hands again, not liking where my wayward thoughts are headed.
Look – I was promised unrelenting, eyewatering filth. Unless it materialises in the next couple of chapters I’m going to be severely pissed off and of a mind to call Trading Standards. I know this thing used to be a Twilight fanfic but if I wanted to read about people who fall in love from the nose up and then sit around for several hundred pages trying to gaze into one another’s souls, I’d be reading fucking Twilight, wouldn’t I?
He comes back with a tray of tea and coffee and a blueberry muffin. Ana wonders how they make leaf patterns in the cappuccino foam. And in case you were interested, they’re sitting at a ‘small, round, birch-veneer table’. He asks her what she’s thinking, in case we weren’t bored enough already.
“This is my favourite tea.” My voice is quiet, breathy. I simply can’t believe I’m sitting opposite Christian Grey in a coffee shop in Portland.
I simply can’t believe people can read this thing without losing the will to live. We’re even treated to a blow-by-blow account of Ana dipping the teabag in hot water. I thought we’d hit rock boredom bottom in the previous chapter when she tried (and failed) to narrate her own neurological functions, but obviously not.
As I place the used teagbag back on the side plate, he cocks his head gazing quizzically at me.
“I like my tea black and weak,” I mutter as an explanation.
“I see. Is he your boyfriend?”
This is an excellent example of why when people (and indeed the copyright lawyers at Random House) insist that Fifty Shades of Grey was ‘based’ on a Twilight fanfic, I call great, steaming piles of bullshit. The only way this is ‘based’ on a fanfic is if ‘based’ now means ‘find/replaced’. I presume that the ‘black and weak’ reference used to be a pun on Jacob Black’s name, but as his name is now José Rodriguez we’re left with what now looks like a racist insult.
Just in case Christian Grey wasn’t delightful enough already. Don’t you just love a man in a pointy white hood?
Ana explains that José is not her boyfriend; he’s just another one of the men who follow her around and ask her out all the time because she’s so awkward and unattractive. She then confesses to being spellbound and watches Christian peel the paper from his blueberry muffin, which again is so not the kind of muffins I should be reading about in chapter three of a book allegedly so dirty that it would cause the Marquis de Sade to reach for the smelling salts.
He says she seems nervous around men and then tells her that she should find him intimidating – because he’s a total shitlord. Then he says she’s ‘mysterious’…
“I think you’re very self-contained,” he murmurs.
Am I? Wow…how am I managing that?
Maybe something to do with the way you seem to have been raised in a Skinner Box? And the imaginary friends probably don’t help either.
He does a whole lot more ‘You should stay away from me, Anastasia’ nonsense, because he used to be a crap vampire. Then they talk about parents and siblings a bit, which is very dull, and he steers the conversation back around to the time she asked him if he was gay, prompting Ana to once again blush and holy crap all over herself.
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.
Ana, that’s not the reason you need intensive therapy. Trust me on this.
Anyway, more blether about their families, who won’t really be appearing in this book but fuck it, let’s throw it all out there in a last, desperate attempt to try and make these characters look like they have actual personalities that aren’t cardboard, deeply unpleasant or both.
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?
Drove him to be what? A corny book-blurb description from a gender-switched Barbara Taylor-Bradford novel?
They talk about travel, but don’t worry – you’re not missing anything interesting here. He asks her if she’d like to go to Paris.
“To Paris?” I squeak. This has thrown me – who wouldn’t want to go to Paris? “Of course,” I concede. “But it’s England that I’d really like to visit.”
He asks her why.
“It’s the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy. I’d like to see the places that inspired those people to write such wonderful books.”
Fun fact – in the final book in this series, Ana actually goes to England. Do you know what she does on this literary pilgrimage? She sits around in a hotel room, gets bored, and experiments with shaving off her minge hair. It’s not like there’s anything better for a Shakespeare fan to do in London or anything.
All this talk of literary greats reminds me that I should be studying.
I’m not editing anything out here, by the way. This is the very next line. ‘All this talk of literary greats’ is seriously that one line of namedropping.
They wander back to the hotel and he asks her if she always wears jeans, which Ana thinks is an odd question. Which it is. Then she asks him if he has a girlfriend, which is not an odd question at all, especially in the wake of ‘Do you always wear jeans?’ Is this why this book became so popular? Because it’s the literary equivalent of The Room or something? I mean, I loved The Room – I thought it was hilarious – but it was never meant to set the new gold standard for cinema, was it?
And then a bicycle comes flying out of nowhere and knocks Ana into Christian’s arms, where she lolls around gazing into his eyes and hoping he’ll take the hint and kiss her. At which point the chapter ends.
For more teabagging and other sexual disappointments, why not grab a copy of Fifty Shades of Neigh?