Just in case you’re not aware of this yet, Fifty Shades of Grey is porn. The Wikipedia summary currently describes it as “New York Times #1 bestselling erotic fiction” (providing a link to “erotic fiction”, in case you were confused about this), “notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of BDSM” (also linking to the Wiki article for “BDSM”, and I can’t decide if it’s more hilarious because it states BDSM is prevalent in 5-25% of the general population, or that this statistic has a “citation needed” attached to it).
So how does one begin a New York Times bestselling BDSM erotic novel? A first paragraph with a female main character obsessing over her physical appearance, which underwhelms her? A second paragraph where she complains about getting stuck interviewing “some mega-industrialist tycoon I’ve never heard of”? A third paragraph describing the titillating physical attributes of a roommate sick with the flu? Why, it is all of these things! Sexy!
Admittedly, I’ve not read much smut before (although I did do a live reading of one of Cosmo‘s Red Hot Reads for about forty people once; oh, college), but I can only assume this is all overwhelmingly clichéd. Under-confidant female narrator has a chance encounter with over-confidant mysterious male sex-bomb? Even the diction is unapologetically clichéd: Ana fills in for her sick journalist roommate on “today of all days” and has to interview someone whose “time is extraordinarily precious – much more precious than mine” and drives off to the interview with the “pedal to the metal”. I didn’t even have to go looking for those examples, everybody. I’m not even at the bottom of page two yet.
The narrative jumps right into the foreplay, as Ana nervously makes her way through Christian Grey’s absolute penis of an office building (“a colossal glass-and-stone edifice”), sees a total of one attractive and well-dressed person and freaks the fuck out.
She hands me a security pass that has “visitor” very firmly stamped on the front. I can’t help my smirk. Surely it’s obvious that I’m just visiting. I don’t fit in here at all. Nothing changes.
I have no idea what is going on here, but it is hilarious. I’m pretty sure this is supposed to be here to show Ana’s frustration about not feeling like she fits in with society and whatnot, but the delivery is so sudden and so botched that she just sounds like a crazy person. Ana sees four more attractive people before finally getting to her interview, and somehow doesn’t completely lose her mind before this point. Mostly.
I push open the door and stumble through, tripping over my own feet and falling headfirst into the office
You know, just in case we didn’t start out with enough clichés.
I am on my hands and knees in the doorway to Mr Grey’s office
You know, just in case you didn’t know this was erotica.
As our fingers touch, I feel an odd exhilarating shiver run through me … I blink rapidly, my eyelids matching my heart rate.
Amazingly enough, the acknowledged but unrecognized sexual tension doesn’t really set the tone for the interview so much as the hilariously bad interview does. Ana’s roommate, who is supposed to be a brilliant up-and-coming journalist, has a list of questions ranging from basic information that’s probably already on the guy’s Wikipedia page (“You invest in manufacturing. Why, specifically?”), hilariously juvenile (“what do you do to chill out?”), the more than a little inappropriate (“Are you gay?”), to straight up absurdism:
“Do you feel that you have immense power?”
“What other immense P-words do you feel you have?”
As hilariously bad as Ana’s questions are, Christian puts up a valiant struggle to out-stupid her:
“I make decisions based on logic and facts. I have a natural gut instinct that can spot and nurture a good solid idea and good people.”
Which is in no way a contradiction.
“And do you have any interests outside your work?”
“I have varied interests, Miss Steele.” A ghost of a smile touches his lips. “Very varied.”
And probably very sexy. Also, I’d like to point out that Christian Grey’s smile has been described, on multiple occasions, as “warm” and as “a ghost”. I think how this is possible is the real mystery to Christian Grey.
“I want to know about you. I think that’s only fair.” His eyes are alight with curiosity. Double crap.
I’d like to point out that this is the second time Ana has said “double crap” in response to something, but has yet to respond with “crap”. If she’s not enumerating unfortunate, crappy circumstances as they happen to her, then does this mean she has some sort of crap scale that we don’t know about? Have we not encountered Ana in any situations that only merit a single crap, but have somehow jumped straight into the level of double crap? If this merits a double crap, I can’t wait to see a triple crap scenario.
Anyway, Ana suddenly, inexplicably, piques Christian Grey’s interest and he cancels his next meeting. He subsequently talks to Ana for roughly another two minutes, which seems like a poor business strategy, but whatever, he gets to creepily (and vaguely) offer her an internship and then gets all chivalrous and walks her to the elevator, stunning his staff, who actually act so incredibly shocked that Christian is walking Ana to the door like it’s a double crap scenario or something.
When I turn to look at him, he’s gazing at me and leaning against the doorway beside the elevator with one hand on the wall. He really is very, very good-looking.
I wonder if that’s going to be important?