So with our first Grey post being Ariel’s (and also being totally batshit, because this is a real book that exists), I didn’t have a chance to go into some preliminary stuff about Grey that, oh my goodness gracious, we really need to talk about. [Ariel says: I’m so sorry I skipped all that, there was just SO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT. Fucking Grey!]
First, we have the copyright page. “Oh my God, Matthew’s really lost his touch,” you might be thinking. “The copyright page?” Oh, yes. I insist:
Portions of this book, including significant parts of the dialogue and e-mail exchanges, have previously appeared in the author’s prior works.
I love this, because E L James was legally required to indicate how little new content she actually wrote for this obvious cash-grab.
Then we have the dedication page, where E L James reminds us how many fucking people love her:
This book is dedicated to those readers who asked… and asked… and asked… and asked for this.
Then there’s the acknowledgments section – nope, we’re not getting to the chapter itself anytime soon – which has a few gems in it, either for being confoundingly weird:
Professor Chris Collins for an education in soil science.
Or for terrifying real-world implications:
Dr. Raina Sluder for her insights into behavioral health.
If this person is in any way, shape, or form a real doctor really involved in a real medical practice, they should really not have had their name mentioned in this book.
And finally that brings us to… the table of contents. Now, E L James attempted to at least sort of not publish the exact same book again, so we see that she tried to make it a little distinct by not going with numbered chapters, but dates:
This has the terrifying side effect of putting front and center how little time passes in this story. [Ariel says: Hey, I did cover this shit! I may not have mentioned how in her acknowledgements she thanks someone for helping her with American slang (even though she still manages to use phrases that are distinctly British. But damn it, I mentioned this.] No, the story isn’t the entire trilogy (just through the very beginning of the second original book), so at least there’s that, but that’s sort of like assuring someone that their house didn’t burn down, only the kitchen was on fire. I guess it’s realistic enough that two people could meet, strike up a relationship-like thing, and then break it off in a mere month. But if there are more books from Christian’s perspective to come, this is going to start looking freaky as hell once the exact same timeframe is used to take them from getting back together to getting married.
And last but not least, something that isn’t necessarily about Grey itself, but rather how writing Bad Books, Good Times has destroyed my Amazon recommendations.
And with that all out of the way, we go back into the story of Fifty Shades, as told by someone who has very little to add to the story as a whole. And today, we go to the hardware store.
Chapter 2: Saturday, May 14, 2011
You know the drill. It’s a scene from Fifty Shades you already know inside and out, but from Christian’s perspective, which means you still already know it inside and out, because this man has the emotional complexity of a packet of Splenda. This chapter covers the scene where Christian shows up at the hardware store Ana works at, barely rewritten. You could say the book is hardly trying.
The chapter kicks off (yes, finally, calm down) with Christian reviewing the background check he had performed on Anasatasia Steele, which is a real thing that really happened. Good times! To do this, E L James repeats her favorite trick of just putting down the document, which speaks for itself in a way James probably didn’t intend.
Social Security No:
Wells Fargo Bank, Vancouver, WA:
Acct. No.: 309361:
For a mad billionaire, you’d think Christian could hire somebody that could format a damn document. Why are there nine thousand colons in this thing?
Oh, yeah, also it’s terrifying that he just gets her social security number and bank account information, but, seriously, he could at least have some pride in how his stalkery information is presented.
Being an E L James novel, there are – of course – a lot of unintended gems. Like how Ana’s GPA is included for some reason.
And how Ana’s mother (whom you might remember is this book’s irrefutable best character) looks like a shitshow on paper:
Carla May Wilks Adams,
DOB: July 18, 1970
m. Frank Lambert March 1, 1989,
widowed Sept. 11, 1989
m. Raymond Steele June 6, 1990,
divorced July 12, 2006
m. Stephen M. Morton Aug. 16, 2006,
divorced Jan. 31, 2007
m. Bob Adams April 6, 2009
And the report ends with even more information that I don’t entirely believe would necessarily be on a background check. Especially with the level of research Christian’s crack team was able to get.
Political Affiliations: None Found
Religious Affiliations: None Found
Sexual Orientation: Not Known
So if there’s any actual new angle to glean from reading this from Christian’s perspective it’s that… it’s much sadder. I’m being 100% serious. Not sad as in tragic, but sad like what an overwhelmingly pathetic person he is, which paints a pretty grim portrait of masculinity.
I pore over the executive summary for the hundredth time since I received it two days ago, looking for some insight into the enigmatic Miss Anastasia Rose Steele.
This is a very weird way to do it. Like, even for a psychopath stalker. “I see you have a 4.0 GPA, a few hundred dollars in savings, and your political affiliations are unknown. SPEAK TO ME WOMAN. WHY ARE YOU HIDING FROM ME?” [Ariel says: Christian is really really confused by what it means to be an enigma. Let this book be a lesson to all of you, if you have no personality just use it to your advantage and make people think you’re enigmatic. It’ll land you a billionaire!]
I cannot get the damned woman out of my mind, and it’s seriously beginning to piss me off.
One cool thing about seeing the story from Christian’s point of view is that we only see him think about Ana using words of anger. That’s healthy!
Christian explains that he’s traveled all the way to the mom-and-pop hardware store Ana works at, freaks out a bit that “I’ve never pursued a woman before”, and then continues to be super insecure and detached from reality.
Why no boyfriend, Miss Steele? Sexual orientation unknown— perhaps she’s gay. I snort, thinking that unlikely. I recall the question she asked during the interview, her acute embarrassment, the way her skin flushed a pale rose… I’ve been suffering from these lascivious thoughts since I met her.
1) Maybe she was acting that way because of all the unwanted physical contact from a man in a professional setting, and 2) “lascivious” means “offensively sexual”, which seems a bit off the mark for blushing.
[Ariel says: Yes! Why is Christian so suspicious of the fact that she doesn’t have a boyfriend? He immediately jumps to ‘lesbian’ as though ‘girlfriend’ wouldn’t have been listed on this background check if they were digging into personal relationships…somehow.]
I haven’t mentioned her to Flynn, and I’m glad because I’m now behaving like a stalker.
Pretty sure that behaving like a stalker and stalking aren’t mutually exclusive things.
I mainly shop online for my needs, but while I’m here, maybe I’ll stock up on a few items: Velcro, split rings— Yeah. I’ll find the delectable Miss Steele and have some fun.
The phrase “the delectable Miss Steele” appears three times in this chapter, because E L James ran out of ideas fast.
Absentmindedly, she wipes a crumb from the corner of her lips and into her mouth and sucks on her finger. My cock twitches in response.
What am I, fourteen?
You said it, book.
Also, this brings us to a super important thing that you should probably start bracing yourself for now. You know how in Fifty Shades, Ana kept referring to “my subconscious” and “my inner goddess” when E L James was trying to delve into her psyche? Guess what Christian’s version of that is in Grey?
We move on from this incredibly nuanced take on the psyche of the decade’s most recognized romantic male icon (ie, it’s all about his dick), to see what’s going through his mind when he sets eyes upon Anastasia Steele again.
She’s dressed in a tight T-shirt and jeans, not the shapeless shit she was wearing earlier this week. She’s all long legs, narrow waist, and perfect tits.
Yep. It definitely required another 576-page novel to uncover the stunning revelation that when Christian gazes upon his beloved, his thoughts are “perfect tits”. [Ariel says: I was always unsure about the quality of Ana’s tits, but no longer do I have to live in the dark. I’m so glad I asked…and asked…and asked for this book!]
Ana begins taking Christian around the store as he gets some vaguely suggestive items, but only in a BDSM way, rather than in an actually suggestive way.
But that’s not the weird part – plus we already know this scene from Fifty Shades. No, the weird and unsettling part that Grey brings to the table is, well, Grey, who can’t stop thinking sentences like…
You’d be amazed what I can do with a few cable ties, baby.
However groan-worthy you’re imaging this “baby” routine is right now, I assure you it gets worse:
“What else would you recommend?” I want to see her reaction.
“For a do-it-yourselfer?” she asks, surprised.
I want to hoot with laughter. Oh, baby, DIY is not my thing.
Grey offers us some other insights into Christian Grey that we would totally never have figured out otherwise, like that he’s insecure enough to zero in on the most insignificant attention from a woman:
Her pupils dilate as I stare. Yes!
That he’s casually misognyistic:
Women rarely make me laugh.
And that he’s incredibly possessive, even over this girl he’s known for about fifteen minutes:
We both turn as a young man dressed in casual designer gear appears at the far end of the aisle. […] Who the hell is this prick? […] She walks toward him, and the asshole engulfs her in a gorilla-like hug. […] Get your fucking paws off her.
I’ll admit, though, there is a part where Christian asked Ana about her interests that struck me as genuinely funny.
“What kind of books?”
“Oh, you know. The usual. The classics. British literature, mainly.”
British literature? The Brontës and Austen, I bet. All those romantic hearts-and-flowers types.
That’s not good.
Not his ridiculous leap to conclusions or, worse, the hypersimplification of the canon (English major rage, y’all). But I did get a chuckle out of Christian reacting to what a challenge it would be to bring a Victorian-era romantic into his BDSM lifestyle. But this actual brings up a point about a really weird, but entirely predictable, shortcoming of Grey. E L James doesn’t even try to make this book accessible to newcomers. Up through this point in the book, we haven’t actually had an explicit explanation from Christian about his sexual quirks, yet you might have noticed that all the quotes go a bit beyond implications anyway. As in, he is using actual terminology, but never brought up the topic, like he’s asking you what your favorite Chinese food is without mentioning he’s ordering takeout. Except it’s BDSM. It’s in this weird nether-region between trying to keep the information hidden but also right in the open, which means that this is a book that’s dependent on familiarity with the other books in the series. Not that anyone reading this book wouldn’t have that, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t any less tonally weird.
Christian rings up his purchases, frantically thinking of how to move things along in the limited time he has left. Ana casually mentions that Kate could use an original photo for the article, and Christian offers to do a photo shoot. And then thinks about how he’ll just get a hotel in Portland and work from the hotel in order to accommodate this. Which can only be construed as romantic because he’s rich enough to do this.
Christian decides to be a little less subtle, which he helpfully explains, otherwise we might not know that he’s being a little less subtle.
“Good. Until tomorrow, perhaps.” I can’t just leave. I have to let her know I’m interested. “Oh— and Anastasia, I’m glad Miss Kavanagh couldn’t do the interview.” She looks surprised and flattered.
And to leave you with one last, “But wait! It gets dumber!” quote, we have Christian explaining the depth of the emotions at play here in the driest way possible.
I’m affecting her. Like she’s affecting me.
See you for more Grey next week, because even though we’ve basically read this same story a ton of times on this blog by now, we haven’t read the exact same story yet.