Welcome back to my readalong of Fifty Shades of Grey, a book that may very well be the worst bestseller of all time. Yes, we all know Stieg Larson needed an editor and Dan Brown’s novels were pretty damn silly, but at least if this was a Dan Brown someone would be face down in the squid tank by now and someone else would have left a cryptic message using their own internal organs. (You’d think kidneys would make handy punctuation marks, wouldn’t you?)
Before we press on, I would just like to remind you that my new novel Held: A New Adult Romance is still available for only 0.99 in the Kindle Store. Sale ends soon, so don’t miss out. And in slightly more relevant news, you can now own a Kindle copy of Fifty Shades of Neigh for the same super low price – 0.99.
And now on with the recap. You might want a nice strong cup of tea and a blanket on standby for this one. Because oh boy – this guy’s a weirdo.
Chapter Five of Fifty Shades of Grey – the bestselling romantic novel of 2012 and all time – opens with our heroine waking in unfamiliar surroundings, namely Christian Grey’s suite at the Heathman.
Because she has been kidnapped.
No, really. She has.
The legal definition of kidnapping is physical transportation of a person without legal authority to transport that person and without that person’s consent. Considering that Ana was unconscious we can probably assume that she either didn’t give consent or her consent was dubious on the grounds that she was pass-out drunk.
Oh no. I cringe inwardly. I don’t remember coming here. I’m wearing my t-shirt, bra and panties. No socks. No jeans. Holy shit.
I glance at the bedside table. On it is a glass of orange juice and two tablets. Advil.
Women of the world – why do some of you find this sexy? Stop it at once. Stop finding this sexy. Just because he leaves her orange juice and Advil on the bedside table it doesn’t mean he hasn’t committed a Class A Felony in Washington State.
And you’d better be sure that’s Advil, because you know what happened last night after glugging Captain Roofie’s Magic Sleepy Water, don’t you? Oh wait – you don’t. And you don’t know where your pants are either. Why haven’t you started screaming yet? I have. I may never stop.
Anyway, Christian Grey walks in and it’s all hair, pants, hips blah blah blah.
“Good morning, Anastasia. How are you feeling?”
“Better than I deserve,” I mumble.
HELLO YOU HAVE BEEN KIDNAPPED IS ANY OF THIS GETTING THROUGH TO YOU?
“How did I get here?” My voice is small, contrite.
Yeah, he’s going to prison. Or should be, if this book was taking place in a world that bore even the slightest resemblance to reality.
“After you passed out, I didn’t want to risk the leather upholstery in my car taking you all the way to your apartment. So I brought you here,” he says phlegmatically.
No. Sorry. That’s still illegal. And phlegmatically? Really? There’s an adverb you rarely see in the wild anymore.
“Did you put me to bed?”
“Yes.” His face is impassive.
“Did I throw up again?” My voice is quieter.
“Did you undress me?” I whisper.
… “Are you an enormous creep?”
Instead of calling the police, Ana’s next question is to ask
if he fucked her. While she was out cold. He says he didn’t, because he’s not into necrophilia. She was actually just unconscious and not actually dead, so technically it wouldn’t be necrophilia. Although it would be rape.
Then Christian starts chastising her for getting drunk with her friends in a way that was totally none of his damned business, and says…
“…if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday. You didn’t eat, you didn’t drink, you put yourself at risk.” He closes his eyes, dread etched on his lovely face, and shudders slightly. When he opens his eyes he glares at me. “I hate to think what could have happened to you.”
Yeah. She might have been kidnapped by a creepy near-stranger who thinks women are property to be beaten and that it’s their own fault if they get rape…oh wait.
This book isn’t funny anymore.
If I was his…well, I’m not. Though maybe, part of me would like to be his…I flush at the waywardness of my subconscious – she’s doing her happy dance in a bright red hula skirt at the thought of being his.
He asks her if she’d like a shower and touches her face, prompting her to once again narrate her own brain functions. Whatsmore, she has something else on her odd little mind.
I have never felt this way about anyone. My hormones are racing. My skin tingles where his thumb traced over my face and lower lip. I feel like squirming with a needy, achy…discomfort. I don’t understand this reaction. Hmm..Desire. This is desire. This is what it feels like.
This is how sex works, by the way. You won’t feel so much as a tingle until you cop a load of the right pair of well-hung pants and then KABOOM. Did this girl even go through the same process of puberty as the rest of us?
Ana then thinks about how she wishes she were ‘his’ and then thinks about how ‘confusing’ and ‘antagonising’ he is. She admits that he’s kind of a stalker but…
…for all that, I have spent the night in his hotel suite and I feel safe. Protected. He cares enough to come and rescue me from some mistakenly perceived danger…
No. No. It’s not that, Ana. Trust me. I’ve looked this up. It’s not so much a ‘rescue’ as it is a major felony.
He comes out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist, prompting more crotch-gooshing from Ana. She wanders off into the shower.
I want Christian Grey. I want him badly. Simple fact. For the first time in my life, I want to bed with a man.
Normally I’d applaud that you finally got there, but yeah – no. Stop wanting that. Please stop. You’re making us all look bad at this point.
Does he want me? He wouldn’t kiss me last week. Am I repellent to him? And yet, I’m here and he brought me here. I just don’t know what his game is. What’s he thinking? You’ve slept in his bed all night, and he’s not touched you, Ana. You do the math.
It’s not so much Mathematics as it is Law at this point. And did you seriously just mope because a man’s failure to rape your unconscious body means he doesn’t ‘like’ you? What the fuck am I reading here?
It gets worse. Christian’s bodyguard Taylor has been sent out to buy Ana some new clothes. He’s bought her designer lingerie – which fits. Do you know how hard it is to get a man to guess your bra size on sight? Every time I read this I’m reminded of that bit in Silence of the Lambs where Buffalo Bill knocks Catherine unconscious and then looks at the ticket in the back of her shirt.
Ana wanders into the suite where Christian is tucking his junk between his thighs and putting on his lipstick reading the newspaper and remembers she should call Kate. When she realises that Kate is probably shacked up with Christian’s brother she worries that they might break up and when they do Kate will wear a pair of hideous pink bunny pyjamas that offend Ana’s eyeballs or something. Because Ana is so fucked in the head that at this point it figures that Christian Grey was waiting in the wings to kidnap her. Let’s face it – he’d have no chance with a sane woman with normal self-esteem, would he?
Christian orders everything from the breakfast menu because he didn’t know what Ana liked. Heaven forbid he should actually ask her, but I’m guessing this is going to be a taste of their whole ridiculous relationship. Better to attempt to poke the entire room service menu down your queasy victim’s throat than simply ask her what she’d like for breakfast.
They eat and he ‘scolds her’ for having wet hair (she’s just had a shower, numbnuts) and she complains he shouldn’t have bought her clothes and the first edition of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. This is true – he’s just looking for a way for her to be indebted to him – but at this point way down the list of things he shouldn’t have done, on account of the KIDNAPPING.
He says he sent her the books because he was sorry he didn’t French her in the wake of the not-very-dramatic bicycle accident at the end of chapter three, and then he vomits out this pile of bullshit;
“Anastasia, I’m not a hearts and flowers kind of man, I don’t do romance. My tastes are very singular. You should steer clear of me.” He closes his eyes as if in defeat. “There’s something about you, though, and I’m finding it impossible to stay away. But I think you’ve figured that out already.”
Yes, the part where you KIDNAPPED her was kind of a tip-off. Sorry, I know I’m repeating myself, but what the actual fuck? You tracked her cellphone, turned up at the bar where she was having drinks with friends and bundled her unconscious into the back of your car, you goddamn maniac. That’s not having ‘singular tastes’ – that’s a major fucking felony. And I don’t care how well-hung your pants are.
Oh my God.
He asks her what her plans are for the week and she says she’s moving house, but she can’t remember where to, exactly. Your ‘bright’ heroine – a woman so dumb she can’t even remember her own address. He asks her if she has applied for a job at his company and she flushes and says no, prompting him to ask;
“And what’s wrong with my company?”
You’re rude, creepy and deeply boring. You treat women like objects for your amusement, you have so much money that you think you’re above the law, you’re probably ticking more than your fair share of boxes on the old Robert Hare checklist and you talk like a cunt. And that’s not forgetting the cardinal sin of having no noticeable sense of humour.
She foams at the crotch while he goes on and on about how his tastes are so strange and that he’s not going to touch her without written permission. She asks him what’s wrong with him and he says he’s not going to tell her now – he’s going to show her later. To me this amounts to written evidence that the author does know about the Show Don’t Tell Rule, but apparently wanted nothing to do with it.
Ana whines a bit, asking him why can’t he tell her now, now, now, and he once again says she’s not ready for that knowledge yet. Incidentally, this is one of the ways that cults work. You know it’s true love when he’s using the same methods of manipulation that led to the Jonestown Massacre. He says if she knew his darkity-dark dark secret she’d probably run screaming.
Holy shit. What does that mean? Does he white-slave small children to some God-forsaken part of the planet? Is he part of some underworld crime syndicate? It would explain why he’s so rich.
No, Ana. He’s just a really tiresome sex-nerd.
I can see why kinksters hate this book so much. While BDSM doesn’t do anything for me personally but I have had friends whose love-lives are…shall we say…much more experimental than mine. And do you know how often they talked about that? Seldom. Almost never, in fact. Usually these things came out late at night when large amounts of alcohol were involved and there was a great deal of giggling going on.
These were not, by any stretch of the imagination, people who wandered into hardware stores and bellowed “HELLO BUXOM SHOPGIRL – I WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE A NUMBER OF YOUR FINEST CABLE TIES FOR MYSTERIOUS AND PERHAPS KINKY PURPOSES.” There were several reasons for this (one of them being that cable ties are unsuitable for the purposes of kink) but because they were not sex-nerds.
Sex-nerds come in a variety of flavours – relatively vanilla (swingers) to frankly bizarre (vore inflationist adult-baby furries), but they all have one thing in common: they never shut the fuck up about the thing that gets them off. Like other species of nerds, their entire life is constructed around one specific obsession. They have no other frames of social reference, and if they ever did these are being steadily eroded by the presence of online echo chambers where they can hang out with people of similar proclivities.
Christian Grey is the worst kind of sex-nerd. He’s constantly trying to steer the conversation around to his thing even when he’s pretending not to.
I’m going on a bit here, but I kind of wanted to illustrate the thought process that went into my turning Christian Grey into a Brony. I remember reading this book for the first time and thinking ‘God, this guy’s a fucking nerd – he goes on about kinky sex like some people bang on about World of Warcraft or My Little Pony.’
Anyway, where were we? Oh yes – Ana is wondering if Christian is a white-slaver or capo di tutti capi. Sadly he’s neither, because those things might take this book in interesting directions and as we all know after only four and a half chapters, Fifty Shades of Grey is probably the dullest book to ever be sold as pornography.
He raises an eyebrow. “Like Eve, you’re so quick to eat from the tree of knowledge,” he smirks.
“Are you smirking at me, Mr. Grey?” I ask sweetly. Pompous ass.
He narrows his eyes at me and picks up his BlackBerry. He presses one number.
“Taylor. I’m going to need Charlie Tango.”
Charlie Tango? Who’s he?
It’s what he calls his penis. Probably.
It’s not. There’s a page of Christian barking like a twat into his BlackBerry and Ana sitting around with her mouth open waiting for him to tell her that Charlie Tango is his helicopter.
“Yes. I have a helicopter.”
I gape at him. I have my second date with Christian oh-so-mysterious Grey. From coffee to helicopter rides. Wow.
“We’ll go by helicopter to Seattle?”
BECAUSE HE HAS A HELICOPTER. DID HE TELL YOU ABOUT HIS HELICOPTER? NO? WELL, LET HIM TELL YOU ABOUT HIS HELICOPTER.
So…yeah. Christian Grey has a helicopter. (I’ve typed the word helicopter so many times now that it’s gone all weird in my head.)
He tells her to eat her breakfast because he has ‘an issue’ with wasted food.
“Eat what’s on your plate. If you’d eaten properly yesterday, you wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be declaring my hand so soon.” His mouth sets in a grim line. He looks angry.
Right – just so we’re clear, he apparently kidnapped her because she didn’t eat enough to soak up the booze last night. He would never had been forced to do this if she had been sober. Well, that’s unsettling. It occurs to Ana to ask him where he slept last night if she was sleeping in his bed and he says;
“In my bed,” he says, simply, his gaze impassive again.
Aaaand boom goes the creepy dynamite.
Yes, because in case it wasn’t bad enough that he kidnapped her, partially undressed her while she was unconscious and put her in his bed, he was also in the bed with her. Remember how in Twilight Edward used to break into Bella’s bedroom and sit in a rocking chair and watch her sleep? Remember how you thought that was creepy? Yeah. It doesn’t seem quite so bad now, does it?
He says it was a ‘novelty’ to sleep in a bed with a woman and not have sex, which is nice for him, because I may never sleep again. Ana, on the other hand, is fine with this.
And it dawns on me that I have slept with Christian Grey, and I kick myself – what would I have given to be conscious to watch him sleep? See him vulnerable.
Small wonder really. She’s almost as creepy as he is. While we’re here, can I just say how weird I find this whole somnosexual obsession that’s sprung up out of the Twilight fandom? Maybe I’m too much of a realist, but there’s not much to find erotic when your turtledove is lying unconscious beside you, mouth open and nostril hair flapping in the breeze. And that’s even before you take into account things like wheezy noses and sleep-farts…
Yeah, I’ve said too much. Let’s just say I was never cut out to be a Twihard.
Ana wanders into the bathroom and spots Christian’s toothbrush. Oh yes – I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard about this, haven’t you? You know two things about Fifty Shades of Grey, despite having never read it. You’ve heard that there is a depraved encounter with a toothbrush and another one with a tampon. Well, brace yourself – here comes the hardcore filth you were promised.
I eye Christian’s toothbrush. It would be like having him in my mouth. Hmm…Glancing guiltily over my shoulder at the door, I feel the bristles on the toothbrush. They are damp. He must have used it already. Grabbing it quickly, I squirt toothpaste on it and brush my teeth in double-quick time. I feel so naughty. It’s such a thrill.
Well. The rumours were true – that is disgusting.
Then she goes back to other room to find Christian doing a thing that he does quite a lot. No, not masturbating. He’s doing ‘work’.
He’s on his BlackBerry talking to someone. “They want two?…How much will that cost?…Okay, and what safety measures do they have in place?…And then they’ll go via Suez?…How safe is Ben Sudan?…And when do they arrive in Darfur?…Okay, let’s do it. Keep me abreast of progress.” He hangs up.
Did you enjoy that? Well, you should. Because Christian Grey is a busy workaholic and this is how he does his work – shouting ellipses down a telephone when he has a moment spare from chasing after half-bright college seniors. I don’t actually know what his company does. Telecommunications? Or something to do with his love of ships. Oh, who fucking cares anyway – what matters is that he is really, really rich. And hot. Did we mention he was hot?
I pause, fractionally too long, drinking in the sight of him. And to think I slept with him last night and after all the tequila and the throwing up he’s still here. What’s more, he wants to take me to Seattle. Why me? I don’t understand it.
I do. He’d have no chance with a mentally healthy woman or anyone with an IQ over 90. When she faceplanted into his office he realised all his fucking Christmases had come at once. It’s a love story – you can tell.
Because nothing can happen in these books without endless narration, they go down the hall to the elevator. Then they get in the elevator.
We’re alone. Suddenly, for some inexplicable reason, possibly our proximity in such an enclosed space, the atmosphere between us changes, charged with an electric, exhilarating anticipation.
Oh dear. If something in fiction happens for ‘some inexplicable reason’, the odds are you’re about to be subjected to some pretty awful writing. It’s kind of like the literary version of those little things that warn you that the conversation you’re having is about to turn unpleasant quite fast – like when someone prefaces a statement with “I’m not racist, but…”
“Oh, fuck the paperwork,” he growls. He lunges at me, pushing me against the wall of the elevator. Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in one of his in a vice-like grip behind my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his hips.
I’m not actually seeing much difference between what José did and what’s going on here, to be honest. Except for five margaritas and several billion dollars. Maybe that makes all the difference.
I have never been kissed like this. My tongue tentatively strokes his and joins his in a slow erotic dance that’s all about touch and sensation, all bump and grind.
Yeah, okay. I’m out. Sorry. I heard there was bad sex writing but this? We’re going straight to the old Dancing With Tongues line? Really? This was probably a cliché back when cuneiform was invented. No wonder they wouldn’t let this book compete in the annual literary Bad Sex Awards – they’d be picking it apart until the sun exhausted its fuel supply. Stick a fucking fork in me – I am done.
Only joking. It’s good for morale. And God only knows we’ll need to keep smiling if it goes on like this.
Thankfully the elevator stops before they can give way to some kind of horrible, uncontrolled rutting right there in a small metal box that probably smells of farts.
“You’ve brushed your teeth,” he says, staring at me.
“I used your toothbrush,” I breathe.
His lips quirk up in a half smile. “Oh Anastasia Steele, what am I going to do with you?”
I think you should buy her a toothbrush.
“What is it about elevators?” he mutters, more to himself than me…
…they usually smell of farts? Everyone needs to fart when they get into an elevator. It’s like a law of nature or something. The moment you step into that enclosed metal box you consciously think ‘It would be awful if I farted in here’ and then your brain is like ‘Yes, it would’ and starts sending all kinds of unconscious signals to your colon, just to fuck with you.
I struggle to keep pace with him because my wits have been thoroughly, royally, scattered all over the floor and walls of elevator three in the Heathman Hotel.
I hope there isn’t actually an elevator three in the real Heathman, because it probably now smells of farts and crotch, as thousands of ill-read women drag their husbands through its doors in the hope of having their scant wits ‘royally scattered’ all over the walls of the magic vertical fuck-box.
And with that horrid thought, the chapter finally ends.