Readthroughs and Random Thoughts

Writing about what I'm reading…

50 Shades of Grey, E. L. James; Chapter Four

So, my mother knows that I’m now blogging about stuff that I’m reading.

Bear in mind, the woman’s known me for thirty-odd years, so she’s aware of the fact that I sometimes do some *quirky* things. I write epically long Russian novel length fanfiction about characters in video games. I go out in public dressed up as said characters on occasion. When I’m not reading or writing or earning my stripes as the neighbourhood’s resident Crazy Cat Lady, I’m getting excited about playing or training for a sport which has given me a couple of concussions, a fractured sacrum, bruises that have their own FaceBook gallery, and which makes me think nothing of wearing hotpants in public. I have done her the favour of introducing her to concepts which she previously had never heard about, like homoerotic fanfiction, and I have explained things to her such as what furries are, what yiffing is, and that yes, plushie can describe a person rather than a stuffed toy.

My Mum is used to me being a little bit… odd, and doing things that most would consider completely fucking insane.

But she did ask why I was reading 50 Shades if it was so terrible.

And… well, a few people have asked that one. To which my only responses have been something noble and “I’m taking one for the team and doing this so you don’t have to” or the more bewildered “Well, it appears that I have a masochistic side, and this is how it presents itself.”

I tried to explain the blogging thing, and found that explaining the other series, you know, the one which has readers empathising with an interrogator who gets described as a sociopath– was a lot easier and less weird than trying to explain the 50 Shades thing.

Chapter Four of Shades reads like a terrible, horrible teenage angstfest which only has the three worst ingredients you can add to an already embarrassing scenario: alcohol, a public place, and other people. Yes, folks, Ana (who has never been drunk before) completes her exams, and in celebration of her impending waltz to the end of the line at the unemployment office (NB: this isn’t me saying that having an English Lit major isn’t going to land you a job. But having an English lit major and very little between your ears and complete naivete about the world and other people as well as being so down on yourself that you make me look like Captain Confidence isn’t screaming “EMPLOYABLE!”) decides to drink. I think this is one of those “it didn’t happen in Twilight so let’s write fanfic about it happening in Twilight” carry-overs from when Shades was called Master of the Universe or My Immortal or whatever it was.
But before all that happens, we get closure on the “will they kiss?” cliffhanger Chapter Three ended on. Spoiler time: they don’t. Grey edges towards her like he’s going to. And then not only does he not kiss her, but he tells her he’s all wrong for her. I think this is meant to pass as headfucking. You know what? Toreth from that other series I’m reading could rock up and wipe the floor clean with both of them after seducing Grey and getting him to do a whole bunch of stuff his two-dimensional no-he’s-not-gay mind wouldn’t have even imagined doing, and chuckle about it with Sara afterwards and it would be a billion times more awesome than anything between the covers of this fucking mess. (It would just be a horrible insult to The Administration, though, come to think of it. [Why, yes, I did get distracted through the chapter and I read more Mind Fuck …and a couple of volumes of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster… while I was meant to be doing this].)

Anyway, there is The Warning which follows The Kiss That Does Not Happen, and then Ana has one of those mental breakdown moments where her internal monologue sounds like someone who has endured years of emotional and psychological abuse and who resorts to blaming herself for everyone else’s shit. Seriously, it’s actually so pathetic that it is uncomfortable and makes even me go, “You know what? This isn’t even that lulzy… it’s just really sad.’

Grey, of course, realises the effect he’s had on her and starts being a bit Munchausen Syndrome on her and deciding he’s going to fix the hurt he kind of caused by, I dunno, leading the girl on to begin with.

(By this point, by the way, I hate both of them. Ana is a snivelling, pathetic loser. Grey is a wanker who seems to enjoy taunting the emotionally vulnerable just so he can play the part of the powerful mysterious protector. The only reason I can see for him to tell Ana that she doesn’t want him is to make her want him: so in addition to being a douche, he’s also using probably the simplest form of trickery known to man: I think I was about seven when I became aware of what reverse psychology was. And let’s face it: you fuck around with people who you’re aware aren’t functioning on all cylinders just to feel like a big man? Did your mother abandon you or did you start hating women after your first girlfriend made some comment about your small penis or lack of bedroom skills?

Honestly, BOTH of these people are fucked in the head, they’re both unlikeable, and they both need some serious fucking therapy. But because neither of them seem to have any redeeming qualities or even the barest hint of intelligence, I don’t care.)

Anyway, Mr. Munchasen offers his assistance to a panic-attacky, head-splodey Ana:

“Breathe, Anastasia, breathe. I’m going to stand you up and let you go,” he says quietly, and he gently pushes me away.

Ana doesn’t cope too well:

Adrenaline has spiked through my body, from the near miss with the cyclist of the heady proximity to Christian, leaving me tired and weak.

He does that to her? He drains her energy like that? Already? Maybe Kate is right and he really is dangerous. Energy vampire preying on young virginal women?

Ana’s doing a low blood pressure thing and this is apparently all from not being kissed. I’m serious. Here she is talking about Kate– and Grey– as though they have some serious entitlement issues, and she’s then acting like he somehow owed her kisses and it’s the end of the world because it didn’t happen?

Then again, Christian Grey then invites her back to his hotel room. He doesn’t say, “Hey, you look like you’re about to faint, how about you sit down for a moment and have something to eat?” he says, “Come back to my hotel.” Dude, she’s got shit to do, and she has to study for those final exams.

Ana doesn’t so much as study as angst about how Christian Grey doesn’t want her. There is a fair bit of, as she even describes it “self-pitying, wallowing crap” to read through, where she alternates from sounding heartbroken to some weird thing where she gets the guilts about not being nicer to guys she’s not attracted to (Personal Spaceless Paul and Jose the Photographer) whom she realises are clearly attracted to her. It is a first for her, apparently, because beyond being one of the last picked for school sports, Ana has never been on the receiving end of rejection. (And why this manuscript wasn’t is still beyond me.)

Once underneath the dark cold concrete of the garage with its bleak fluroscent light, I lean against the wall and put my head in my hands. What was I thinking? Unbidden and unwelcome tears pool in my eyes. Why am I crying? I sink to the ground, angry at myself for this senseless reaction. Drawing up my knees, I fold in on myself. I want to make myself as small as possible. Perhaps this nonsensical pain will be smaller the smaller I am. Placing my head on my knees, I let the irrational tears fall unrestrained.

Jesus fucking Christ. If he had given her some huge indication he really liked her, or he’d duped her and broken down her barriers and then been a particular brand of awful, maybe this reaction would be warranted. But, um, what? She sees him a couple of times, and he doesn’t want a relationship with her. Ana, you are being creepy and obsessive and entitled.

I am crying over the loss of something I never had. How ridiculous. Mourning something that never was– my dashed hopes, my dashed dreams, my soured expectations.

Sweetheart, you had rejection from a dude after you saw him, what, three times, NOT a miscarriage. Go back to the DIY shop, grab some materials, and build a fucking bridge, kiddo.

Nope, more whining.

I’m too pale, too skinny, too scruffy, uncoordinated, my long list of faults goes on.

“Pale, skinny and scruffy” makes me think of those catwalk models doing grungy stuff. And they get to fall over and no one gives a shit about their coordination as long as they’re sufficiently pale and skinny.

She goes home, and Kate deduces that something is amiss and asks what’s wrong.

Oh no… not the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition.

God forbid her best friend see that she’s obviously been crying and ask if she’s okay.

Gotta love defensive!girlfriend Kate, though:

“What did that bastard do to you?” she growls and her face– jeez, she’s scary.

Ana explains the whole thing away as her being freaked out by the cyclist nearly knocking her over, Kate does her “I ship you and Grey” thing, Ana does her follow-on explanation about how no, he doesn’t actually like her, I start getting distracted enough to wonder if I’ve got undiagnosed ADD.

Some more self-pitying from Ana later and some encouraging from Kate which sounds awfully subtextual (Kate calls her a babe, even) and then Ana “magic[s] a smile opn [her] face” and reads over the Christian Grey article Kate’s writing. Just what you want to do after you’re hung up on a guy, but whatever. Logic and continuity aren’t exactly this book’s strong points. Ana stares at the photos of Grey and has a revelation that he’s not the man for her, because he’s too good looking and wealthy and perfect, and she nearly accepts this. Then she goes off, to sleep though she lies awake mulling over everything that happened with him, wondering if he’s “saving himself” (obviously not for her) and dreams of

gray dark eyes and leafy patterns in milk and I’m running through dark places with eerie strip lighting and I don’t know if I’m running toward something or away from it… it’s just not clear.

Neither was the purpose of yet another dream sequence, but hey.

Exam time is when Ana glances across the hall at Kate and has the wonderfully clever idea of

I might even get drunk! I’ve never been drunk before.

Obviously this is foreshadowing for wow, this is going to end badly.

Exams completed, freedom from the bondage of study attained, Kate and Ana go home, and there is a package for Ana.

There’s no return address on the package, leading Ana to wonder if it’s from her mother or stepfather, (though if that were the case, surely she’d be able to recognise their handwriting?) and Kate annoys her to open it.

Spoiler time: Remember how Twilight was full of Wuthering Heights comparisons? We get the first, presumably of many, quotes from Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Why didn’t you tell me there was danger? Why didn’t you warn me? Ladies know what to guard against, because they read novels that tell them of these tricks…

Which leads me to think this is a complete divide by zero moment, since Ana is allegedly an English Lit major who is completely unware of Grey’s pedestrian attempts at engaging in mind games with her.

Oh, and they’re first editions of Tess, too. Two guesses as to who’s sent them, and the second one doesn’t count.

Ana says she’s going to send them back (where? There’s no return address, remember?) with an equally baffling quote, and Kate suggests

“The bit where Angel Clare says to fuck off?” Kate asks with a completely straight face.

“Yes, that bit.” I giggle. I love Kate; she’s loyal and supportive.

I’ll remind you of that, Ana, next time you mention inquisitions.

Anyway, they hit the bar. Jose is there and they get into the margaritas, Ana drinks five of them.

Five.

Now, um, what do we know about Ana? She’s skinny. She has never been drunk before. She hasn’t mentioned eating anything. She’s been drinking celebratory champagne with Kate prior. Five margaritas and she’s not going to be thinking, “This is not a good idea especially after that champagne,” she’s going to be thinking, “Where’s the nearest thing I can puke into and why is the room spinning?”

This is yet another one of those pissy, irritating little WTF moments which irk me irrationally because all it takes is a little research or a nudge from the editor to suggest that maybe a correction or some logic is in order for it to not be sucky. I mean, hey, we get education on standard drinks and the way the body processes alcohol. Furthermore. if the writer really is that clueless, what’s to stop her from trying a little alcoholic experimentation? And if E. L. James doesn’t drink, it’s not hard to ask around: being drunk isn’t exactly one of those weird things that hardly happens to anyone and that no one wants to talk about happening to them.

For the non-drinkers playing along, okay, an idea. I’m five-foot-two. I’m a seasoned drinker. I’m not skinny, but I seem to process alcohol quite efficiently, and since doing derby, have noticed I can drink a lot more than I could in my pre-skating days. Five margaritas, on an empty stomach, after champagne, in the space of a couple of hours would be pushing me to incoherency. Ana shouldn’t be faring that well.

Anyway, Ana’s able to hold a conversation after five margaritas and all that champagne, (something I will overlook for the moment) because Jose asks what’s going on. Ana plans to move to Seattle with Kate. Again, my ship is sailing strongly. They can move away from all this crap and all these stupid men and live happily ever after.

Jose starts getting creepy though, and when Ana says she’ll go to his photo exhibition, he gets touchy-feely and starts trying to get more alcohol into her.

So we now have another character who is completely unlikeable. Sorry, but friends don’t start trying to touch their friends and hit on them after they’re noticably drunk. They don’t continue to offer them booze. Jose has turned from Helpful Friend With a Crush into a demonstration of “Creepy consent issues alert” in the space of about three paragraphs. Yeech.

Ana decides to go to the loo and while she’s waiting, engages in some drunken dialling. Of course she dials Grey. Of course he answers.

“Anastasia?” He’s surprised to hear from me. Well frankly, I’m surprised to be calling him. Then my befuddled brain registers… how does he know it’s me?

So much of this made my poor little brain want to flee, screaming.

First off: he might not have been expecting a call outside business hours.

Secondly: why’s she surprised to be calling him? The, um, first editions of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, remember?

Thirdly: perhaps his phone displays her number when she rings, and since she’s been doing a lot of that lately, he’s recognised a familiar number (or one that isn’t on his list and he’s deduced is hers.)

“Anastasia, have you been drinking?”

“What’s it to you?”

“I’m …curious. Where are you?”

“In a bar.”

“Which bar?” He sounds exasperated.

“A bar in Portland.”

“How are you getting home?”

“I’ll find a way.” This conversation is not going how I expected.

Expected? Or hoped? Sheesh.

Some talk about the books. Yet again– and why do I feel like I’ll be saying this a lot?— this section could have benefited from a good editor.

“Anastasia, where are you? Tell me now.” His tone is so… so dictatorial, his usual control freak.

Wait, what?


I imagine his as an old-time movie director wearing jodhpurs, holding an old-fashioned megaphone and a riding crop. The image makes me laugh out loud.

“You’re so domineering,” I giggle.

Oh dear.

Slightly tipsy-drunk, Ana then hangs up on him and reels about ringing Grey. Oh, and then he rings her back

“I’m coming to get you,” he says, and hangs up. Only Christian Grey could sound so calm and so threatening at the same time.

There’s more fiddling around which reminds me too much of the duller moments of my clubbing days (although there was some, you know, atmosphere in the places I used to hang out; this place could be an abandoned warehouse with someone playing chiptunes on their mobile phone for all the description we get of it), Ana gets another beer (this, kids, is why there should be education about responsible drinking– so far Ana’s committed umpteen no-nos in relation to alcohol consumption… and they seem to be committed out of complete naivete), Kate asks her about where she was, Ana decides to go outside for some fresh air.

Jose follows her. More creepiness, predictably, ensues. Going to put this out there: TRIGGER WARNING for a serious “Who gives a fuck about the drunk girl’s consent?” and “Creepy friend” issues. No, seriously, this is kind of alarming. (But I’m sure there’ll be more consent issues and alarming stuff later down the track.)

There is so much creepy in here that I really don’t know where to start. First off, we have Jose playing the concerned friend.

“Ana.” Jose has joined me. “You okay?”

“I think I’ve had a bit too much to drink.” I smile weakly at him.

“Me too,” he murmurs, and his dark eyes are regarding me intently. “Do you need a hand?” he asks and steps closer, putting his arm around me.

“Jose, I’m okay. I’ve got this.” I try to push him away rather feebly.

From sympathetic, nice-guy friend, we move to

“Ana, please,” he whispers, and now he’s holding me in his arms, pulling me close.

“Jose, what are you doing?”

“You know I like you Ana, please.”

No. No. Fucking no no no no: this is not what you do when you like someone. If you like someone: if you’re their friend, you care about something called consent. If you’re adult enough to drink, you’re adult enough to fucking well understand adult concepts like autonomy and human beings having it and the world not revolving around you and what you want.

He has one hand at the small of my back holding me against him, the other at my chin tipping back my head. Holy fuck …he’s going to kiss me.

This is where I was really wanting all that booze to spurt forth and Ana to puke on the motherfucker.

“No, Jose, stop– no.” I push him, but he’s a wall of hard muscle, and I cannot shift him. His hand has slipped into my hair, and he’s holding my head in place.

“Please, Ana, carino,” he whispers against my lips. His breath is soft and smells too sweet– or margarita and beer, He gently trails kisses along my jaw and up the side of my mouth. I feel panicky, drunk and out of control. The feeling is suffocating.

“Jose, no,” I plead. I don’t want this. You are my friend and I think I’m going to throw up.

No, sweetheart, he’s not your friend. Friends understand the word no.

Also, question: am I the only one feeling more than slightly uncomfortable about the fact that he starts speaking in Spanish when he becomes the bad guy? The rest of the cast are the WASPiest people ever, and the one who *isn’t* turns out to be the one the writer wants us all to hate because he’s outwardly depicted as a creeper. (Let’s face it, with the exception of Ray and Levi who’s been mentioned twice, ALL of the guys in this book are creepers.)

“I think the lady said no,” a voice in the dark says quietly. Holy shit! Christian Grey, he’s here. How? Jose releases me.

Ana pukes. Jose is furious and grossed out. Grey then tells Ana that if she’s going to puke again, he’ll hold her.

We get Ana waxing lyrical about the vomit. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting there, a bit shell-shocked about the whole Jose incident. Grey produces a momogrammed hankie for Ana. Ana is too busy being embarrassed (and, you know, not freaked out that a guy she thought was her friend just tried to kiss her and held her down despite her insistence of “no”) because she’s drunk and pukey and Grey’s seen this. Ana is worried about telling Jose what she thinks of him in front of Grey because that wouldn’t be– and I quote– ladylike.

Dude, the guy sexually assaulted you. You’re worried about being ladylike in response to that. I realise you’re drunk, but: um.

Jose slinks back in awkwardly.

Ana starts apologising to Grey.

Because, yep, his choice to come and collect her and then the fact that her ‘friend’ chose to assault her– totes her fault, right?

Grey then talks down to her and asks her to explain what she’s sorry for. While she’s intoxicated, probably smelling of vomit, and reeling from the new-found knowledge that her “friend” is a creep who plies women with booze and then holds them down so he can kiss them.

“We’ve all been here, perhaps not quite as dramatically as you,” he says dryly. “It’s about knowing your limits, Anastasia. I mean, I’m all for pushing limits, but really this is beyond the pale. Do you make a habit of this kind of behaviour?”

While I’m going “WTF?” might I add that the dialogue there reads like something really awkwardly translated. I’d be kinder if this book had been written in another language. As far as I know, this wasn’t. Unless it was written in 733t speak.

Ana tells him she’s never been drunk and never plans on doing it again (once again, I ask “How old is this girl?!”) and Grey decides he’ll take her home. While Ana panics about finding Kate to tell her they’re off, Grey confesses that he found her by tracking her cell phone.

This is the guy that talks about knowing limits. Um… tracking a near-stranger’s cell phone? Has gone over a number of reasonable ones.

He then gets miffed about Ana wanting to tell her friend where she is and that she’s heading off. Again, creepy.

There’s some more predictable clubby drama where Kate is dancing and the boy who likes her is miffed because Grey’s in the house, and Ana has feelings and huge bodily reactions, Jose is mysteriously absent, and Ana is all embarrassed about the night’s events again, Grey forcefully gets her to drink some water, and in amongst all of this she describes Grey’s outfit in stark clarity and then they dance. And Grey can totally dance.

Oh, and Elliot, Grey’s brother who I knew was totally going to resurface, rocks up and Kate starts making the moves on him and my Kate/Ana shipper goes, “Yeah, well the girl got jealous, right?” and once again, their story is totally more interesting than the thing I’m meant to be shipping.

Anyway, all that puking and dancing and apologising is draining, and she passes out in Grey’s arms and he swears.

How fucking romantic, right?

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8 thoughts on “50 Shades of Grey, E. L. James; Chapter Four

  1. mannafrancis on said:

    Trufax: ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ was the first book I ever didn’t finish. Until then, no matter how bad a book, I always dragged myself through to the end. But I’d just read another couple of Hardy books, and then I started ‘Tess’. About 50 pages in, I said to myself, Self, I am are not having any fun at all, here, and it’s a pretty good bet that I’m not going to have any more fun by the end of the book. You know what I could do? I could stop. And I did.

    I’m not saying that’s a sign from above, or anything. Just mentioning it. 🙂

  2. I never started it; it’s been on my “to read” list for ages. Though that… is suggestive enough for me. 😀 I usually try to finish what I start with books, too.

    • mannafrancis on said:

      Really, I should be grateful to Thomas Hardy for writing such a dismally depressing book that it saved me from having to finish other terrible books in the future.

  3. I gotta say I love both this readthrough (for the lols and for not having to read the book myself) and The Administration one 😀 I feel like reading about Warrick and Toreth all over again :’D. But with Shades, I have massive laughing here at the office

  4. I certainly appreciate you taking one for the team!

    I’m also following Ana Mardoll’s readthrough of Twilight ( http://www.anamardoll.com ), and although neither is a book I’d willingly read, if I were forced to, I think I’d have to choose Twilight.

    Just from the quotes you’ve provided, 50 Shades plumbs the depths of vapidity. And the scene with Jose is butt-clenchingly hard to read. WTF with the Spanish? What’s the implication, here–that he reverts to some “hot-blooded primitive” when he succumbs to his lust? Please God, where was the editor? Even a good beta reader would have caught that.

    Now Mind Fuck–ah! That has been one of my favorites ever since I discovered it. I have fantasies now of Toreth wiping the floor with Grey. Thanks for planting those in my head! 🙂

    • I read the first two Twilight books. (By the end of the second, I was over it, and a couple of chapters into the third… I just couldn’t get further than that.) And I saw the first movie. I actually didn’t mind the first Twilight: yes, it was all the things the critics say it is, but if I wanted some cheesy, fluffy, angsty teenagey romance, then fine. The writing was far better than 50 Shades, and I believe the book had at least seen an editor that wasn’t spellcheck.

      The Jose scene had my mouth hanging open. In Twilight, I found the whole situation with Jacob and his implied Native American-ness really uncomfortable and with problematic elements, and I was only kind of joking when I thought there was going to be racism with Jose. But yeah: the “reverting to Spanish” thing made me feel ill.

      And YAYYY! More people need to know about The Administration. And more people need to be reading them rather than crap like 50 Shades if they want their kinky sex fix. 🙂

      And: YES. Toreth would pull Grey to pieces. It would be fucking AWESOME.

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