Quick reminder – this is your last chance to grab a free copy of Held before the offer ends tomorrow. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed so far – I’ve been genuinely touched by the Amazon and Goodreads reviews for this book. It’s like everyone gets what I was trying to do, which is one of the best feelings in the world for a writer. Thank you.
Anyway, onto less fun things. Ever been hit in the clit with a riding crop? No, me neither.
Chapter fourteen of Fifty Shades of Grey opens with Ana shackled naked to a four poster bed while Christian thwacks her clitoris with a riding crop. But don’t get excited, people. It’s just a dream. Typically, Ana is as surprised as anyone else to discover this book has finally taken a turn for the lewd.
I sit bolt upright, shocked…wow. It’s morning. I glance at my alarm clock – eight o’clock. I put my head in my hand. I didn’t know I could dream sex. Was it something I ate? Perhaps the oysters and my internet research manifesting itself in my first wet dream. It’s bewildering.
It is, Ana. It is. Almost as bewildering as the fact that the paragraph I just transcribed verbatim was apparently subjected to a professional line edit.
I had no idea I could orgasm in my sleep.
Figures. She had no idea what the internet was until about two chapters ago, despite owning an iPod and being born in about 1991.
Kate is in the kitchen and asks Ana how dinner was the night before, prompting Ana to sourly muse ‘So it begins’, like all civilised people do when their friends take an interest in them. She tells Kate that Ana ‘doesn’t approve of Wanda’, which is the car, in case you weren’t clear. Which you weren’t, because I don’t think Ana’s referred to her VW as Wanda until now.
“Who does [approve of your car], Ana? That’s old news. Why are you being so coy? Give it up, girlfriend.”
“Oh, Kate, we talked about lots things. You know – how fussy he is about food…”
If only the line editors had been fussier. You appear to be missing a preposition, girlfriend. Look, I get that even professionals miss things now and again, but considering the amount of money Random House made off this thing, they could have at least wiped its nose a bit more thoroughly before letting it back out in public.
Ana then toasts herself a bagel and thinks about Christian Grey – and no, that’s not a euphemism for masturbation. She compares her expectations of a romance to the hot mess delivered in triplicate by Christian Grey, finds them lacking and decides she’s probably going to sign up anyway – ‘because I don’t want to lose him’.
It’s Thursday, by the way. Why is this significant? Well, it’s because a week tomorrow will be the one week anniversary of that time he kidnapped her from the bar.
But I’m not sure I have the stomach to be his submissive – deep down, it’s the canes and whips that put me off. I’m a physical coward and I will go a long way to avoid pain.
Aw, don’t be like that Ana. Don’t sell yourself short. You’re not just a physical coward; you’re a huge emotional coward too. Seriously – you would rather let him walk all over you than endure the relatively small emotional boo-boo of breaking up with a man you’ve been fucking for less than a week?
Anyway, it’s time for a surprise section break and then it’s off to graduation. Remember graduation? Course you don’t.
Charlie Ray, Ana’s ‘uncomplicated’, sports-loving, emotionally and physically absent stepfather arrives to see Ana graduate and pretend she hasn’t been turned into a vampire after her honeymoon.
“You look good,” he says.
“This is Kate’s dress.” I glance down at the grey chiffon halter neck dress.
That sounds awful.
Ray pulls his car into the campus parking lot, and we follow the stream of humanity dotted with ubiquitous black and red gowns heading toward the sports auditorium.
Almost as awful as that sentence.
This is one of my biggest problems with Fifty Shades of Grey. I could almost buy that Ana doesn’t know how to masturbate or use a computer – after all, she’s one hell of a peculiar duck – but I’m supposed to believe an English Major produced this Palinesque word-salad? And not just an English Major – an actual, self-confessed bookworm. Come on.
“Good luck, Annie. You seem awfully nervous. Do you have to do anything?”
Holy crap…why has Ray picked today to be so observant?
“No, Dad. It’s a big day.” And I’m going to see him.
Four years of education and a college degree = a day I get to see my boyfriend. There are women in the world who risk their lives by simply learning how to read, but it’s nice to see Ana has her feminist priorities in order.
There’s a bunch of stuff about people sitting down for the graduation ceremony and Ana wonders where Christian is.
The row of seats in front fills. On either side of me, I am joined by two girls whom I don’t know from a different faculty. They’re obviously close friends and talk across me excitedly.
Ana being Ana, she doesn’t offer to switch seats with one of them so they can sit together, thus cementing her place in those girls’ memories as ‘that raised-by-wolves dumbass who couldn’t take a hint’.
Some professors nod and wave, others look bored. Professor Collins, my tutor and my favourite teacher, looks like he’s just fallen out of bed, as usual.
Ah. Good old Professor Collins. That’s so like him, isn’t it? Dear old scruffy, irascible Professor Collins, who…um…wait…I’m sure Ana’s mentioned him before? Somewhere. Maybe.
Then Christian comes up on the stage and all of the women in the audience collectively lose their shit, because he’s just that gorgeous. Apparently. The girls beside Ana start speculating about who he is and whether he’s single, whereupon Ana takes the wind out of their sails by telling them that Christian is gay.
Ana is an idiot.
She catches Christian’s eye and at this point my notes say ‘glimpsy wimpsy squirming quirking smirking unbidden impassive ghosts of smiles’, which actually pretty much covers it. You’re not missing much, trust me.
The Chancellor drones on, and Christian still doesn’t look at me. He just stares fixedly ahead. Why won’t he look at me?
Well, I don’t know Ana. Maybe he’s pretending to listen to the Chancellor’s speech and it might look a little bit odd if he turns his head to lock eyeballs with the strange young woman in the audience who is currently staring like Hypnotoad. Good lord – what is wrong with her?
Kate jumps up to deliver her Valedictorian speech, which we discover is funny because Ana tells us so.
She’s so composed and funny, the girls beside me erupt on cue at her first joke. Oh, Katherine Kavanagh, you can deliver a good line.
We never find out what that line was, by the way. What? You were expecting a writer to write an actual joke here? Pfft. You poor, naive fools.
For about five minutes Ana thinks about someone other than Christian, but then thinking about Kate leads her to think about Christian, and that if Kate had gone to the interview then she might have been the one ‘that he was now making indecent proposals to. Beautiful Kate and beautiful Christian.’
Thanks for reminding us that you think you’re hideous, Ana. Haven’t enjoyed that sentiment in a while.
…the Chancellor rises and introduces Christian…holy shit, Christian’s going to give a speech.
Yes. Yes he is. Is it me or she even dimmer than normal in this chapter? It’s like it’s subtly underscoring just how pointless those four years of higher education really were.
The Chancellor touches briefly on Christian’s achievements: CEO of his own extraordinarily successful company, a real self-made man.
Quite. In the face of incredible wealth and privilege, he still managed to float to the top of the corporate septic tank.
Christian talks about the environmental science department at WSU and their aim ‘to develop viable and ecologically sustainable methods of farming for third world countries’, which somewhere along the line becomes ‘our’ aim.
“Over a billion people, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, live in abject poverty. Agricultural dysfunction is rife within these parts of the world and the result is ecological and social destruction. I have known what it’s like to be profoundly hungry. This is a very personal journey for me…”
My jaw falls to the floor. What? Christian was hungry once. Well, that explains a great deal.
It doesn’t. Nor does it explain how he plans to personally feed the world by throwing money at WSU whenever he feels like it. But good lord it makes Ana wetter than a sauna cabin in the central Amazon. It’s another thing about him she can try and figure out. Hurrah!
What kind of life did he have before the Greys got hold of him and rescued him?
Probably not one he can remember all that well, if he was adopted at the age of four.
I’m seized by a sense of raw outrage. Poor, fucked-up, kinky philanthropic Christian – though I’m sure he wouldn’t see himself this way and would repel any thoughts of sympathy or pity.
Oh, I’m sure you won’t let that stop you.
He’s doing all of these good works, running a huge company, and chasing me at the same time. It’s overwhelming.
It is. One might say ‘unrealistic’. And I do love that Christian Grey is being framed as this great philanthropist because he comes over all Kipling whenever someone mentions Africa. You know what would make him look like a good person? If he woke up one day and realised that good men do not hit women.
Christian hands out the degrees, because the plot demands it.
As I stand and wait for our row to disperse, Kate calls to me. She’s heading my way from behind the stage.
“Christian wants to talk to you,” she shouts. The two girls who are now standing beside me turn and gape at me.
I think that line was just in case we weren’t clear that a woman’s entire existence should be defined by her ability to snag the most desirable man and how much she is envied by other women for doing so. I don’t know where this leaves lesbians, by the way. I’m afraid you’re all doomed to fail by Ana’s standards. You’ll probably have to go off and get lives or something.
Back in the land of bliss, Christian leads Ana into a locker room and locks the door.
“Why haven’t you e-mailed me? Or texted me back?” He glares. I’m nonplussed.
“I haven’t looked at my computer today, or my phone.”
And there was the small matter of graduating college. I know most days she doesn’t have much on besides staring at her fingers and pretending to read Tess of the D’Urbervilles, but this is one day where even Ana could legitimately be described as busy.
He closes his eyes, looking pained. “I’ve been worried about you.”
“Because you went home in that deathtrap you call a car.”
Oh for God’s sake. You know where this is going, don’t you? He’s determined to buy her a car and he’s going to be a big, dramatic baby about it every time she drives anywhere at all. You notice he wasn’t worried if she was sober enough to drive, even though the average restaurant wineglass these days usually packs in about two to three units of alcohol, more than enough to put a tiny little 90lb girl over the legal limit.
Ana foolishly tells him that Jose regularly services her car, which means it’s doubly-damned now.
“I’ve been driving it for over three years. I’m sorry you were worried. Why didn’t you call?” Jeez, he’s completely overreacting.
He takes a deep breath.
“Anastasia, I need an answer from you. This waiting around is driving me crazy.”
YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING OVERNIGHT. DEAL WITH IT.
He pressures her into giving an answer by tomorrow and she says she will. Then he pressures her into introducing him to Ray/Charlie/Rarlie.
Ray hands me a glass of champagne or cheap fizzy wine, I suspect. It’s not chilled and it tastes sweet. My thoughts turn to Christian…he won’t like this.
Then Prince Fuckpants will have to go without, won’t he?
Kate’s brother Jasper Cullen Ethan appears and is treated to an ‘arctic glare’ for the cardinal sin of being male and touching Ana. Then Kate, who hasn’t had a dramatic personality change for several chapters, makes up for it by introducing Christian to Rarlie as ‘Ana’s boyfriend’.
They shake hands. Christian holds his hand out to me.
“Ana, baby,” he murmurs, and I nearly expire at the endearment.
Does it really count as an endearment if he’s basically just marking his territory in front of a rival male? Why doesn’t he just cut to the chase and pee on her?
…I soon feel surplus to requirements. [Christian’s] charming the pants off my dad…like he did you, my subconscious snaps at me. His power knows no bounds.
Well, that’s psychopaths for you. Glib and superficial charm. (You know it’s a timeless romance novel when it’s left you able to recite the Hare Checklist from memory.)
Ana goes off to ask Kate about her recent personality change. Kate, by the way, swings wildly between ‘eeeeee you’ve got a boyfriend’ and ‘he’s creepy, I hate him’ whenever it comes to Christian Grey.
When asked why she dropped everyone in it by introducing Christian as Ana’s boyfriend, Kate responds;
“Because I knew you never would, and I want to help with Christian’s commitment issues.”
Again, it’s still Thursday. Commitment issues – over the man she started fucking on Saturday night. I don’t know if this is supposed to make it look like true love because it feels so right and all that bullshit, but when combined with Ana’s frequent spasming about how gorgeous he is, it just leaves them looking shallow and kind of insane. Which they are.
Anyway, Christian finds Ana again in the crowd and turns the Creepometer up to eleven as only he can.
“You look lovely, Anastasia. This halter-neck dress suits you, and I get to touch your back, feel your beautiful skin.”
It puts the lotion in the basket or else it gets the hose again. (Admit it, you were thinking it.)
Suddenly it’s like we’re on our own in the room. Just the two of us. My whole body has come alive, every nerve ending singing softly, that electricity pulling me to him, charging between us.
“You know it’s going to be good, don’t you, baby?” he whispers. I close my eyes as my insides uncoil and melt.
What’s going to be good? The huge, satisfying dump she’s going to take when her bowels are done melting or uncoiling or whatever they’re up to at this present moment? Honestly, all this vague muttering about ‘insides’ and ‘muscles deep inside me’ must have led a fair few people to Fifty Shades of Fart Jokes. And you just know James Joyce would have been all over that.
She says she wants more and he says he doesn’t know how to do ‘hearts and flowers’, then he asks her to try it his way, prompting a quick return to Twilight imagery, in case we were thought we were reading an original piece of fiction here.
“Try it,” he whispers. A challenge, daring me, and he cocks his head to one side and smiles his crooked, dazzling smile.
I gasp, and I’m Eve in the Garden of Eden, and he’s the serpent, and I cannot resist.
“Okay,” I whisper.
Yep. She just did that. Despite her endless misgivings, her disappointment that this doesn’t chime with what she wanted out of her first romance, her fear that he will hurt her and her desire for independence, she says yes to his proposal.
The bestselling romance novel of all time, ladies and gentlemen. Fifty Shades of Grey – the story of a woman who agreed to settle for less.
What have you done? My subconscious screams at me. My inner goddess is doing back flips in a routine worthy of a Russian Olympic gymnast.
I dare your inner goddess to go up to a Russian Olympic gymnastic coach and say that to their face. With any luck the flippy little bitch will meet the same fate as Rasputin.
Ana goes home for the evening and immediately sits down to e-mail Christian, because she has no life. He’s left her an e-mail complaining about her car, again, then they moo back and forth about how hot they find one another and how they miss one another, then he says he’s coming over.
She gets the Thomas Hardy books he bought her, with every intention of returning them, and ‘I scrawl on the wrapping a direct quote from Tess from the book:’
“I agree to to the conditions, Angel; because you know best what my punishment ought to be; only – only – don’t make it more than I can bear!”
The quote comes from one of the part of the book called ‘The Woman Pays’, in which Tess marries Angel Clare then on her wedding night confesses that she was raped and made pregnant by Alec D’Urberville. Angel is appalled at the ‘grotesque prestigidation’ that led him to believe he was marrying an untouched virgin and cruelly casts her aside. There follows a three or four day estrangement between the newlyweds, including a sickening scene where Angel walks in his sleep and talks about Tess as if he were mourning her, making it clear he’d rather she were dead than not a virgin.
The lines quoted are Tess’s parting words to him when he says he’s going to go away and try to come to terms with her situation, or so he says, which is cold comfort to her as an abandoned wife. This passage is like the distilled essence of what Thomas Hardy was trying to say in Tess of the D’Urbervilles – that women always suffer most when it comes to the double standards that govern sexual behaviour, even when they’re rape victims like Tess.
But it has the word ‘punishment’ in it, so we’ll just grab it and apply it to this stupid situation. And Ana’s going to be okay with that, because she’s an English Major but apparently understands neither context, theme nor authorial intent.
I hate this book.