So, I’m still staggering through line edits for Fifty Shades Later and my recaps of Fifty Shades Freed and once again wondering how these terrible books ever managed to get so long.
It turns out that the Fifty Shades Trilogy is actually longer than Lord of the Rings. Strange, but true.
For reference, and sans appendices:
The Fellowship of The Ring weighs in at a chunky 188,000 words, rounded to the nearest thousand. That’s pretty heavy even for a fantasy novel. The Two Towers comes in a little lighter at 156,ooo words, and The Return of the King is the svelte sibling of the three at a relatively slim (for Tolkien) 137,000 words.
Now, that adds up to 481,000 words. That’s a lot of words, but quite a few things happen in the space of those 481,000 words. Compare and contrast the Fifty Shades Trilogy, which barely have enough plot to fill a small trade paperback and yet still flop onto the scales at an astounding 621,000 words.
That’s 140,000 words longer than all three Lord Of The Rings novels put together. If you added the wordcount of The Silmarillion to Lord Of The Rings you would still come up 10,000 words short of the total wordcount of the Fifty Shades novels.
If I’m flagging on these recaps, then that’s why. These books may be the longest and dullest things committed to print since Atlas Shrugged. I mean, nobody’s made a seventy page speech about the magical unicorn powers of the free market yet, but I’m still up to my tits in e-mail filler.
Chapter seventeen starts with yet another stupid dream, this time about moths and flames. You know you’re painful to be around when you even dream in clichés.
Ana wakes up to find Christian Grey draped around her ‘like a victory flag’, although it’s kind of a cold and broken hallelujah since he is, after all, still Christian Grey. And with that I apologise to Leonard Cohen for dragging him into this mess.
They indulge in a few meaningless pages of telling each other how hot they are and then he buggers off to work. Which he apparently does. Sometimes. When he’s not beating and emotionally manipulating vulnerable women.
Ana doesn’t even think about the fact that he hit her last night, because in true Ana fashion, she’s concentrating on dumb minutiae in order to ignore the big picture. The big, ugly, violent, fucked-up picture. If a picture paints a thousand words, this relationship would be Guernica.
Oh my, Christian Grey spent the night with me, and I feel rested. And there was no sex, only cuddling. He told me he never slept with anyone – but he’s slept three times with me. I grin and slowly climb out of my bed. I feel more optimistic than I have for the last day or so.
Why? He spent chapter fifteen emotionally abusing you and chapter sixteen physically abusing you. Unless you’re feeling optimistic because you’re about to file a restraining order and call the police, in which case, carry on.
She heads straight to her computer and writes him a long e-mail titled “Assault and Battery: The after-effects”, which I suppose answers my question; she’s not in denial about what happened, although she’s still confused as to what the real-world consequences ought to be.
You wanted to know why I felt confused after you – which euphemism should we apply – spanked, punished, beat, assaulted me. Well, during the whole alarming process I felt demeaned, debased and abused. And much to my mortification, you’re right. I was aroused, and that was unexpected. As you are well aware, all things sexual are new to me…
Which goes to the crux of why this relationship is so incredibly sick. How is it that she can write these words and completely ignore their meaning? She’s supposed to be an English Major and she can’t grasp that words mean things.
He replies with an e-mail titled ‘Free Your Mind’, which is just another form of minimising – don’t be such a prude, etc, and then we get this…
Interesting…if slightly overstated title heading, Miss Steele.
Legally and morally I think she’s bang on the money, actually.
I’ll go with spanking – as that’s what it was.
It wasn’t, but carry on.
So you felt demeaned, debased, abused & assaulted – how very Tess Durbeyfield of you.
You mean she felt like a rape victim? Way to damn yourself out of your own ignorant mouth there, fuckface.
I believe it was you who decided on the debasement, if I remember correctly. Do you really feel like this or do you think you ought to feel like this? Two very different things. If that is how you feel, do you think you could just try and embrace these feelings, deal with them, for me? That’s what a submissive would do.
No they wouldn’t. And a submissive would have recourse to a safeword. You made no attempt to remind her of that fact, and also – knowing full well that she wants to please you – actively discouraged her from using safewords by saying ‘I hope you’ll never use them.’ Right now any sensible submissive would be hitting up every BDSM website and community covering the Seattle area and warning people about Christian Grey. That is if they haven’t already called the police.
I am grateful for your inexperience. I value it, and I’m only beginning to understand what it means. Simply put…it means that you are mine in every way.
Well, somebody flunked English Lit and American History, didn’t they? Not to mention Not Being A Collosal Piece Of Shit 101. I don’t think he even showed up for class.
We are consenting adults and what we do behind closed doors is between ourselves. You need to free your mind and listen to your body.
She e-mails back with the subject line ‘Consenting adults!’ and says ‘if I listened to my body, I’d be in Alaska by now’.
Like most of the e-mails, I think we’re supposed to find this witty and oh-so-charming, but this one bears reproducing because it is straight up disturbing. His next subject line is ‘You Didn’t Call The Cops’.
Yeah. Just swill that one around a while. It’s quite special, isn’t it? I was kind of joking in the last chapter, but here it is – textual proof that her calling the cops was very much on Christian Grey’s mind last night.
Isn’t he just dreamy?
He reminds her that she didn’t use a safeword, which is astonishing because I didn’t think I could hate this character any more than I did in the previous chapter. And yet again he proves me wrong.
Then there’s a funny little back and forth about her asking him if he’s sought help for his stalker tendencies and he says yes, he has a therapist and she says his therapist is probably an expensive charlatan and it’s all very amusing. Except they’re still talking about why he hit her last night. Hilarious, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Ana finally stops e-mailing and goes to work, only to think about e-mailing on her way there. I’m so sick of e-mail – you have no idea. Why the hell can’t they text or something?
The problem is, I just want Christian, not all his…baggage.
That’s the first time I’ve heard straight up psychopathy referred to as ‘baggage’. Ana, have you ever considered having a loving, consensual e-mail relationship with a death-row inmate? You could even get married, and your cosy, serial killer marriage would actually be safer than the relationship you’re currently contemplating now.
She gets to work and there is a package for her, from Christian. And this time it’s a BlackBerry. Because there wasn’t enough e-mail in this book already.
I put the thing in my back pocket, hating it already. E-mailing Christian is addictive, but I am supposed to be working. It buzzes once against my behind…how apt, I think ironically, but summoning all my willpower, I ignore it.
It’s almost like he doesn’t want you to have a life outside of him and the hellacious mess that passes for your relationship, isn’t it?
Ana finishes her job at Clayton’s, goes home, backs some more stuff up and exchanges a few words with Kate. Then she reads an e-mail that Christian sent, informing her that his private gynecologist, Dr. Rusty Coathanger, will be at Escala on Sunday to service her vagina. She doesn’t reply and then Taylor comes over to pick up her old car. Remember, it’s currently Friday – she first had sex with Christian on Saturday night. Less than a week and he’s already set about consuming her entire life.
She exchanges a few words with Taylor, in which ex-military Taylor says that Christian Grey is a ‘good man’. Lots of people have commented that Taylor is by far the most interesting character in this book, and it’s things like this that lead me to agree. In order to for Taylor to consider Christian Grey in any way ‘good’, Taylor is either a) every inch as much a rip-roaring psycho as his boss or b) being blackmailed because of some Black Ops trip that went horribly wrong in an unstable central African republican, possibly involving the tragedy of coked-out child soldiers and Christian Grey’s secret arms dealing connections. Which one is it? Please submit your answers in the form of an airport thriller.
José comes round in the evening and then Elliot comes round and Ana is annoyed, because Kate and Elliot get all functional and normal and into-each-other in her presence, but she’s still determined to keep hammering the square peg of her expectations into the round hole that is Christian Grey. Time for Ana to appreciate how ‘uncomplicated’ José is and muse how she’ll ‘miss him and his boyish charm’.
Then there’s an e-mail from Christian and he’s flipping his wig because she hasn’t e-mailed him all afternoon and all evening. Reminder – this guy is supposed to be a workaholic.
Oh, and he’s left her a message on her phone as well. I’ll quote it in full so you can appreciate the full, vagina-shrivelling effect.
I think you need to learn to manage my expectations. I am not a patient man. If you say you are going to contact me when you finish work, then you should have the decency to do so. Otherwise, I worry, and it’s not an emotion I’m familiar with, and I don’t tolerate it very well. Call me.
So not only does she have to manage his expectations, but she also has to be responsible for his every emotion. He must be a hell of a boss, mustn’t he? I wonder how many people he fires in a day just because they bought him a soy latte when he was expecting a low fat one, thus forcing him to confront an emotion he doesn’t tolerate well.
Ana calls Captain Tantrum back.
My heart is in my mouth as I wait for him to answer. He’d probably like to beat seven shades of shit out of me. The thought is depressing.
But you’ll go back to him because he’s pretty and he smells good and you’ve been with him for almost a week now.
He doesn’t actually scream at her over the phone and she counts that as a victory. Which is also depressing. He said he had to go to a fundraising dinner which was ‘deathly dull’, prompting Ana to think about what a hard life he must have, being forced to attend all those champagne receptions. Then they do the whole stupid ‘you hang up first’ thing and we break for a section in which Ana moves house. Let’s just hope she can remember the address.
Next section Elliott is helping Kate and Ana fix up their plasma screen in the new apartment and says he has to leave because his sister is coming back from Paris and it’s a big family dinner tonight.
“Can you come by after?” Kate asks tentatively, all soft and un-Katelike.
I stand and make my way over to the kitchen area on the pretence of unpacking one of the crates. They are going to get icky.
Icky. Clearly the words of a grown woman who is sufficiently assured in her own sexual identity to make informed choices about what she wants and doesn’t want.
Elliot is adorable and so different from Christian. He’s warm, open, physical, very physical, too physical with Kate. They can barely keep their hands off each other – to be honest it’s embarrassing – and I am pea-green with envy.
So you’re basically just settling for Christian, Ana? It’s okay – you can say it. Admitting it is the first step in recognising that you have a problem.
The apartment is not large, but it’s big enough, three bedrooms and a large living space that looks out onto the Pike Place Market itself.
Just a reminder that Ana is living here rent free. But she’s agreed to settle for a three bedroom free apartment, even if it isn’t that large.
There’s a delivery for Ana and Kate – a bottle of champagne from Christian, which would be a nice housewarming gesture if it didn’t come with a balloon shaped like a helicopter. Kate is amazed to discover he has a helicopter, which was probably the point of the exercise, knowing Christian ‘Did You Know I Have A Helicopter’ Grey, then it’s time for bed and another section break.
Then Ana wakes up and it’s Sunday morning and ‘today’s the day’, apparently. The day she gets her twat examined by a backstreet gynecologist who offers house-calls and low rates to all pimps in the Pike Place Market area? Who knows.
My inner goddess is beside herself, hopping from foot to foot. Anticipation hangs heavy and portentous over my head like a dark tropical storm cloud. Butterflies flood my belly…
Ana, we’ve been through this – butterflies cannot ‘flood’. They are not a liquid. Not unless you take an awful lot of LSD.
Naturally you know what this means, don’t you?
He e-mails her to give her the access code for the garage and the elevator. I’m so excited I could just shit.
She e-mails back to say ‘thank you for the champagne and the blow-up Charlie Tango, which is now tied to my bed’ and for a fraction of a second and if you squint hard enough at that line, it’s like peering through some kind of portal into a parallel dimension. Only in this parallel dimension Fifty Shades of Grey is actually an interesting book full of lots of weird, fun, sexy stuff.
Then Ana drives her car, which I’m sure you were thrilled to hear.
Go girl! My inner goddess has her pompoms in hand – she’s in cheerleading mode.
This moment of random yah-yah sisterhood was bought to you by the knowledge that Ana is not only driving in heels, but that the new car her boyfriend bought her has a make-up mirror so that she can check her mascara. Don’t think too much about the feminist implications of that, not unless you want to look back at how far we’ve come and then feel like going off and having a bit of a cry. I know I did.
She finds Christian ‘reading the Sunday papers’ in print form, which I didn’t think anyone under forty did any more. Obviously he’s doing this while being incredibly handsome, in case you missed that part. Just like the bit where he had a helicopter.
For once he asks her a reasonable question and asks why she’s come back after what he did to her last time, then he asks her a stupid question and asks her if she’s hungry.
“Not for food,” I whisper, and his nostrils flare slightly in reaction.
I’m not surprised. That ‘joke’ was dead the first time you used it and must now be stinking up the place like a whale carcass in high summer.
Lest we forget this is an empowering and liberating book that makes some women tickly in the knicker area and is therefore an important work of feminist literature, I’m just dropping a friendly reminder that Ana is here to see a gynecologist. For birth control. Because he can’t be bothered to wear a condom. Our Bodies, Our Selves, Our Sole Responsibility, apparently.
Then he asks her to come to dinner to meet the Cullens his family, saying it will be ‘odd’ for him and Ana responds in typical Ana fashion, thinking he’s been pressured into doing it because Elliot has asked Kate along.
“Are you ashamed of me?” I can’t keep the wounded hurt out of my voice.
Wounded hurt, mind. Not just hurt. Wounded hurt.
“Of course not.” He rolls his eyes at me.
“Why is it odd?”
“Because I’ve never done it before.”
And also you’ve been seeing each other for a week. Really. Today is your eight days anniversary. Hope you’ve got her something special, Christian.
“Ready for some contraception?” he asks as he stands and holds his hand to me.
Oh, he has. What a lovely surprise.