This weekend my nephew asked me to total up how many words I’d written in the last year. It came to just over 350,000 words, which doesn’t seem a lot when you consider that it’s just over half the length of the entire Fifty Shades of Grey series. However, when you’re actually reading the Fifty Shades of Grey series time dilates to accommodate the extremes of boredom that come with watching Ana narrating her way around a hardware store, Christian Grey’s kitchen and the inside of her own weird little head.
I think the world’s finest physicists should take a look at this book. I honestly believe it may hold the key to time travel. And sooner rather than later, please. I could really do with an extra week between now and Christmas.
Anyway. Let’s crack on.
Having experienced a brief, explosive ‘outburst of passion’ in an elevator, our neurasthenic heroine and her unspeakable love interest head get into a black Audi SUV. This is the point in the book where bad things start happening to good music.
Yes, Christian Grey likes classical music. Presumably this is to demonstrate that he is ‘cultured’ in much the way that Ana is supposed to be bright and well-read. We dive straight in with Delibes’ famous Flower Duet from Lakme, because Ana is apparently the only person who hasn’t heard this tune, even though it’s been British Airways official advertising theme since she was an infant.
Is this the key to him? Music? I sit and listen to the angelic voices, teasing and seducing me.
The key. Because whoever heard of spending time with someone because you liked them? No, far better that he’s some kind of psychological Rubik’s Cube.
“You like classical music?” I ask, hoping for a rare insight into his personal preferences.
“My taste is eclectic, Anastasia, everything from Thomas Tallis to the Kings of Leon…”
Miss Piss wetly mutters that she doesn’t know who Thomas Tallis is and Shitlord promptly smacks her around the face with his superior knowledge.
“I’ll play it for you sometime. He’s a sixteenth century British composer. Tudor, church choral music.” Christian grins at me. “Sounds very esoteric, I know, but it’s also magical, Anastasia.”
Can I just take a moment to say I fucking hate people like Christian Grey? You know who you are – you assholes who are always fond of pointing out how obscure and unusual your interests are. This is why you should always Google things you don’t know, kids – so that you know all kinds of things and you can shut down smug, chippy little cockholes like Christian Grey.
A bunch of people start blowing up Christian’s phone and he’s…well…he’s just lovely.
He presses the button, then the call ceases and the music is back. No goodbye or thanks. I’m so glad that I never entertained the thought of working for him. I shudder at the very idea. He’s just too controlling and cold with his employees.
He’s an asshole to the staff, but hey he’s probably prime boyfriend material, right? Was it J.K. Rowling who said you can always get the measure of someone by the way they treat the people who work for them? I always liked that woman.
The phone rings again and this time it’s Emmett Elliot and we find out he’s spent the night with Kate. Ana asks Christian why he keeps calling her Anastasia when she prefers to be called Ana and in the next line he calls her Anastasia again. It’s always a good sign when your potential boyfriend ignores every single one of your personal preferences.
I belatedly realise he’s not asked me where I live – yet he knows. But then he sent the books; of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone tracking, helicopter-owning stalker wouldn’t.
Gosh, there’s just so much to love about Christian in this chapter already. He’s rude, he’s pretentious, he ignores every word she says to him and to cap it all he’s a card-carrying creeper with a penchant for stalking and kidnapping.
They go inside where Kate and Elliot are waiting. Kate eyes Christian suspiciously and is ‘hostile’. I like Kate. She knows what’s up.
When Elliot goes to leave he kisses Kate, and Ana immediately turns sour.
I narrow my eyes at [Christian]. Why can’t you kiss me like that? Elliot continues to kiss Kate, sweeping her off her feet and dipping her in a dramatic hold so that her hair touches the ground as he kisses her hard.
“Laters, baby,” he grins.
Christian observes this and mimics it, in much the way psychopaths will mimic behaviour in order to blend in and appear slightly less unsettling. Yep – you heard that right, people. The ‘laters, baby’ that launched a million tasteless mini-van decals? That’s not a catchphrase – that’s the mating cry of a sociopathic manchild trying (and failing) to emulate the behaviour of a couple who seem to be displaying actual mutual attraction.
Context – it’s a funny old thing, isn’t it?
“I’ll pick you up at eight.” He turns to leave, opening the front door and stepping out on to the porch. Elliot follows him to the car but turns and blows Kate another kiss, and I feel an unwelcome pang of jealousy.
You can tell this relationship is off to a great start, can’t you? He has absolutely no respect for her boundaries, autonomy or privacy and she – despite being dumber than a sack of backwards rocks – already knows that she’s being short-changed when it comes to affection and fun.
Kate asks Ana if she did the nasty with Christian last night and Ana snaps back ‘No’, because – in case we forgot the context here – she’s still somehow pissed that Christian didn’t rape her while she was unconscious. Ana feels sorry for herself that she’s not as pretty and ‘forward’ as Kate, which sounds to me like a backhanded compliment if ever there was one. Ana says Christian is taking her to Seattle tonight and that she hopes to seal the deal.
“Wow. Ana Steele, finally falling for a man, and it’s Christian Grey – hot, sexy billionaire.”
“Oh yeah – it’s all about the money,” I smirk, and we both fall into a fit of giggles.
It’s not about the money. Oh no. Uh uh. Clearly it’s because he’s ‘literary’, even though he’s mentioned the same number of books as Paul Clayton and José (none) and is actually less educated than either of them. (He’s a college dropout)
Kate then leaps in with the offer of a makeover, because it’s that kind of book, and Ana sourly complains about her ‘intrusive instruction’, which presumably extends to Ana’s bikini line. I don’t even know any more.
For some strange reason [Kate] doesn’t trust [Christian], maybe because he’s so stiff and formal. She says she can’t put her finger on it…
I can. I put my finger on so many things that are wrong with Christian Grey that if he carries on being this delightful I’m going to have to take my socks off.
José, meanwhile, is leaving Ana constant messages but Ana decides not to answer because she’s still too angry. This is, of course, her prerogative. You know you’re reading a timeless romance when you actually feel slightly bad for the guy who forced himself on the heroine in chapter four, because at least he’s not the hero, who not only forced himself on the heroine in chapter five but spent chapters four and five kidnapping her and removing items of her clothing while she was out cold.
Tonight’s the night! After all this time, am I ready for this? My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently. She’s been ready for this for years, and she’s ready for anything with Christian Grey, but I still don’t understand what he sees in me…mousey Ana Steele – it makes no sense.
Actually, Ana, it makes perfect sense. You’re malleable, unassertive and quite bewilderingly stupid. You have no idea of how a normal relationship works and no idea of when to call the police.
In other words – RUN.
Of course, she does nothing of the sort and at the chime of eight, Prince Charm-Bypass rolls by to pick her up.
He asks her how work was and she says it was a long day. He says he had a long day too because…
“…I went hiking with Elliot.”
Totally hiking, by the way. Not killing people up in the woods or anything. Nope.
(And what happened to his work? I thought he was a workaholic. He spent most of the morning standing over Ana in case she didn’t eat all her breakfast and then spent the rest of the day hiking? Wow – I can certainly see how this man is so successful.)
They drive to the heliport.
I wonder where the fabled helicopter might be. We’re in a built-up area of the city and I even I know helicopters need space to take off and land.
Oh for God’s sake. Nobody is this stupid. I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. How is she even alive? I would have thought the basic effort of blinking, breathing and pushing shit through her bowels would be too much for her stupid tiny lizard brain.
…we head into the building, straight to a set of elevators. Elevator!
Yes, Ana. That’s an elevator. Oh dear.
I suppose at least she didn’t call it a Go-Up Box.
I try to keep my face impassive as we enter the elevator. The doors close, and it’s there, the weird electrical attraction crackling between us, enslaving me.
If you never had any strong feelings about the word ‘impassive’, this book will change that. I have grown to loathe it with a hot, sweet, fierce hatred almost as strong as the one that overtakes me when a lazy fucking scrub of a not-quite writer uses static shock as a shorthand for sexual tension.
Anyway – they get into the helicopter. He straps her into a harness all sexy and says he likes it, because this is Christian Grey, kink-bore extraordinaire. Ana hyperventilates once more, even though she still has no idea what she’s actually hyperventilating about.
The helicopter flight in question goes on forever, presumably so that the fans can masturbate frantically to the sight of Edward Cullen Christian Grey flying a helicopter. Unfortunately for me and everyone else who thinks he’s a prick at best and a dead-behind-the-eyes psycho at worst, this is incredibly boring.
Since it is so very, very tedious it’s as good a time as any for me to point out that this is one of those scenes where this ‘book’ betrays its fanfic ‘origins’ – and bear with me, because the quote marks are not because I’m trying to be facetious. While it’s fairly widely known that Fifty Shades of Grey was ‘based’ on a Twilight fanfiction called Master of the Universe, it’s maybe less widely known that Fifty Shades of Grey is a Twilight ‘alternate universe’ fanfiction called Master of the Universe. While I joke often enough about find/replacing the characters beyond the grasp of copyright law, it’s funny because it’s true; the two texts are something like eighty-five per cent identical.
Fanfiction doesn’t always need to follow the hard-learned rules of original fiction, such as creating characters from the ground up and making readers care about them. Fanfiction is for fans – for people who are already (sometimes feverishly) emotionally invested in the characters. For those of us who don’t have that prefabricated emotional connection, it’s not so much fun. It’s just page after page of shit that should have been cut.
This is not a shot at fanfiction, by the way. I’m not saying that Fifty Shades being fanfic is the sole reason it’s bad. It’s bad for a lot of other reasons we’re going to keep falling over again and again, the biggest one being that E.L. James couldn’t write her way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.
And I’m not saying that I don’t think it’s possible to take fanfiction as a jumping off point for original fiction, but I do think it’s a shabby trick to simply find/exchange a fanfiction and make money when people could read the exact same thing online for free.
Anyway – let’s get back in the helicopter.
“Do you always impress women this way? ‘Come and fly in my helicopter?’” I ask, genuinely interested.
“I’ve never brought a girl up here, Anastasia. It’s another first for me.” His voice is quiet, serious.
Oh, that was an unexpected answer. Another first? Oh the sleeping thing, perhaps.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say the ‘kidnapping thing’ was probably not a first for him.
They arrive at his building and Ana is – as usual – a twitchy mess of nerves and insecurities. Which is just how he likes ‘em.
“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You know that, don’t you?” His tone is so nervous, desperate even, his grey eyes impassioned…
… “I’d never do anything I didn’t want to do, Christian.” And as I say the words I don’t quite feel their conviction because at this moment in time I’d probably do anything for this man seated beside me.
Yeah. Given that this whole book is based around the fact that Ana went to interview him – something she didn’t want to do – I’m going to guess that Captain Shitlord is going to be well-placed to manipulate her into doing lots and lots of things she doesn’t want to do at all.
They go into his penthouse apartment, so that Ana can describe it, right down to the number of people who could fit on the sofa. There’s a piano, because he’s Edward Cullen. In time you will grow to hate this piano – trust me.
He offers her a drink, like she wasn’t in full margarita frenzy last night. Keep an eye on this – it’s interesting the way he constantly plys her with alcohol every time she’s nervous or uncertain. And by interesting I mean AAAAAAAAAAAH RUN AWAY.
It’s worth noting he doesn’t offer her anything to eat before pouring wine down her throat, so that she’s drinking on an empty stomach – the very thing he was yelling about her doing just this morning.
“Do you play?” I point my chin at the piano.
“Of course you do. Is there anything you can’t do well?”
Relate to human beings. Say please and thank you. Not stalk people. Love. And this is just off the top of my head – I’m sure there are more.
…he takes my hand and leads me to the large off-white couch. As I sit I’m struck by the fact that I feel like Tess Durbeyfield looking at the new house that belongs to the notorious Alec D’Urberville. The thought makes me smile.
It shouldn’t. Alec raped Tess.
“Why did you give me Tess of the D’Urbervilles specifically?” I ask.
Maybe he was hoping you’d finally fucking read it.
“It seemed appropriate. I could hold you to some impossibly high ideal like Angel Clare or debase you completely like Alec D’Urberville,” he murmurs, and his grey eyes flash dark and dangerous.
Oh. He hasn’t read it either.
“If there are only two choice, I’ll take the debasement.” I whisper, gazing at him. My subconscious is staring at me in awe. He gasps.
You know you’ve got problems when even your imaginary friends are awed by the sheer depth of your stupidity. On the plus side, at least he’s never going to abandon her on their wedding night when he finds out she’s no longer a virgin.
In case this scene wasn’t stupid enough, Christian wanders out and comes back with a nondisclosure agreement, which his lawyer apparently insists on. It seems that once you reach a certain wealth threshold everyone becomes very interested in your sex life. Or something. I don’t know.
Christian says that if there’s going to be any kind of debasement then she has to sign on the dotted line.
“It means you cannot disclose anything about us. Anything, to anyone.”
I stare at him in disbelief. Holy shit. It’s bad, really bad, and now I’m very curious to know.
“Okay. I’ll sign.”
He hands me a pen.
“Aren’t you even going to read it?”
See what I mean about the stupid thing? Nobody is this dumb. Surely an English major would know that Dr. Faustus should have read the fine print? Then again I’m expecting an English major to know the plot of Tess of the D’Urbervilles – a book she has allegedly read. I’m clearly asking too much.
She signs it anyway. It’s a good job it’s not even remotely legally binding, because otherwise she’d be in deep doo-doo at this point.
“Does this mean you’re going to make love to me tonight, Christian?” Holy shit. Did I just say that? His mouth drops open slightly, but he recovers quickly.
“No, Anastasia it doesn’t. Firstly, I don’t make love. I fuck…hard. Secondly there’s a lot more paperwork to do, and thirdly you don’t yet know what you’re in for. You could still run for the hills. Come, I want to show you my playroom.”
The only way I could be more stoked for the movie of this book is if John Waters was directing and Danny de Vito was playing Christian Grey. Jamie Dornan is going to have to say these lines. Without laughing. No wonder Charlie Hunnam ran a mile.
My mouth drops open. Fuck hard! Holy shit, that sounds so…hot. But why are we looking at a playroom? I am mystified.
“You want to play on your Xbox?” I ask.
Is it just me or she actually even dumber than she was at the start of the chapter?
He opens the door and stands back to let me in. I gaze at him once more. I so want to know what’s in here. Taking a deep breath I walk in.
And it feels like I’ve time-travelled back to the sixteenth century and the Spanish Inquisition.
Well. Wasn’t expecting that.