Those of you who follow the little blurbs I write before the chapter summaries might have gathered that I moved recently. I love my new apartment, but I’ve built so much IKEA furniture and learned so much about dry wall in the past couple days that I’m going crazy. I live in a never-ending realm of empty boxes and unpacked boxes. Which are which? Maybe they have always been the same.
Grey: Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Those of you who follow the chapter headings, exactly two weeks and two days have passed since the beginning of the novel. Thanks for the horrifying sense of perspective as we go into yet another “why won’t you be my BDSM sex slave?” conversation, Grey!
This one is the dinner date, which is totally not a date – a theme which could be described as “fairly apparent” in Fifty Shades of Grey, and probably more like “the sky is blue” is Grey.
This feels like a first date, and in a way it is. I’ve never taken a prospect out to dinner before.
We also learn about Christian’s day at the office, because if there was anything the Fifty Shades fanbase was obviously clamoring for, it’s the vague minutiae of Christian Grey as a businessman.
I’ve sat through interminable meetings today, bought a business, and fired three people.
Before E L James manages to flesh out Christian Grey’s character too much – learning that his life as a businessman involves buying businesses and firing people is quite enough for one day! – Ana shows up, providing another opportunity to actually flesh out the ways in which Christian sees women as objects.
“A dress, Miss Steele. I approve.” Diamonds in her ears would complete the ensemble; I must buy her a pair.
And also that he hates women when they have any semblance of individuality.
“So, how are we going to do this? Run through my points one by one?” she asks.
“Impatient as ever, Miss Steele.”
“Well, I could ask you what you thought of the weather today,” she retorts.
Oh, that smart mouth.
Trying to set the mood for this delicate conversation about whether these two can work out a sex relationship that will work for both of them, E L James goes for metaphor, which already proves to be flying a little close to the sun for her writing abilities.
“Are you nervous?” I ask.
This is it, Grey.
Leaning forward, in a candid whisper, I tell her that I’m nervous, too. She looks at me as if I’ve grown three heads.
Seriously. Metaphor is really hard, you guys.
“Is there a store you go to? Submissives ’R’ Us?” She arches an eyebrow and I laugh out loud. And like a magician’s rabbit the tension in my body disappears.
Yes, the famous “I will put a rabbit into my hat” magic trick.
Another thing that happens all the damned time in this book is that Christian’s narration will break for a line in italics. Which is probably supposed to be him thinking on a deeper, more subconscious (a la E L James subconscious) level, but… look, can you tell how this is a distinct voice from the rest of Christian’s narration?
Yeah, I’m human, too, baby… just.
Can you also tell if Christian is not just the moodiest sophomore in the high school? I can’t tell any of these things.
Much like in Fifty Shades, it’s the exact same dialogue that’s already happened, but with interruptions so Christian can explain the not-exactly-erudite meaning to the reader. Which sometimes only makes his understanding of the world in which he lives even more confusing.
“You know this contract is legally unenforceable.”
“I am fully aware of that, Miss Steele.”
“Were you going to tell me that at any point?”
What? I didn’t think I’d have to… and you’ve worked it out for yourself.
This bullshit happens.
“Anastasia, it doesn’t matter if it’s legal or not. […] Even if it were legally binding, do you think I’d drag you through the courts if you did decide to run?”
What does she take me for?
Says the man who, in the last two weeks, had her cell phone tracked, abducted her from a bar, and stripped her clothing off of her while she was drunk.
One thing that’s kind of cool about parallel novels (real talk!) is getting to see things that the reader already knows are going to become recurring, bigger deals, but the characters don’t. Although it’s only cool if it’s an actual enjoyable trait of the book, as opposed to “ah, yes, Christian Grey does hate all men who look at Ana, does he not”.
As we leave the bar, I notice admiring glances from other guests, and in the case of one handsome, athletic guy, overt appreciation of my date. It’s not something I’ve dealt with before… and I don’t think I like it.
What a wonderful formative moment to revisit. Now we’ll understand that when Christian gets jealous of other men for so much as having the same letters in their name that Ana does, it can all be traced back to this moment when… Christian was jealous. Deep.
But I digress. For the most part, this is a scene we’ve already read before (like this whole book – no, stop, Matthew! YOU’RE DIGRESSING.), so it’s not like learning that Christian is disappointed that Ana is still reluctant to dive into a sex slave partnership is a huge revelation during this scene where Ana is still reluctant to dive into a sex slave partnership. So for everyone’s sake, let’s just dart through the highlights.
Like when E L James still thinks that teeth+penises are an arousing combination, as opposed to a severely painful one:
“So, I don’t chew [an oyster]?”
“No, Anastasia, you don’t.” And I try not to think about her teeth toying with my favorite part of my anatomy.
Like how the only thing E L James can do to add depth to these scenes is to have Christian explaining his role in the story and/or just the damn story we are currently reading to himself:
- Behave, Grey. Get this negotiation back on track.
- “Obey me in all things. Yes, I want you to do that.” This is important to me. I need to know she’s safe and will do anything for me. “I need you to do that.”
Like how you could actually make a drinking game out of how many times Christian thinks to himself that Ana hasn’t said “no” yet (save for that one time, but it’s okay – he sexed her until she changed her mind about not liking him! Problem totally solved!):
- “I could try,” she says, her voice low.
It’s my turn to exhale. I’m still in the game. “Good.”
- “We’ll see. Maybe,” she says.
That’s not a “no.”
lol but actually
Even though he clearly doesn’t give a fuck about what she actually wants or expresses that she wants.
- I have to make this work.
“I could make you stay,” I tell her, knowing that I could seduce her right now, in this room.
- “And please, let’s try it for three months. If it’s not for you, then you can walk away anytime.”
“Three months,” she says. Is she agreeing? I’ll take it as a “yes.”
Actually, though, let’s consider how even in Fifty Shades, Ana was an underdeveloped blank slate of a character and Christian had the be the story’s overwhelming cornerstone of personality. So what’s interesting about Grey is that when this story is told from Christian’s perspective, Ana as a person manages to disappear almost entirely as Christian’s presence overwhelms hers. And there are brief moments of fantastic accidental self-awareness:
“You’re very quiet,” I whisper. She’s barely said a word.
“You’re very verbose,” she shoots straight back at me.
In case you forgot from the original, Christian has some success talking Ana into giving it a try.
“Do you trust me, Ana?”
“Yes, I do,” she says immediately. Her response knocks me sideways: it’s completely unexpected.
“Unexpected” is a strong word, since Ana has never responded negatively every previous time Christian has asked her if she trusts him.
Ana negotiates some of the details of the contract with Christian, like having to eat three meals a day, but meets with no success when she asks why she can’t touch him, to which Christian simply says, “Because you can’t”, which is at least par for the course with E L James’s usual level of insight into her characters’ motivations.
“Christian. You use sex as a weapon. It really isn’t fair.” […]
“Doesn’t change how much I want you. Here. Now.”
Does… does that really not matter?
Long-time readers of the blog might recall we were particularly befuddled by a Fifty Shades scene where – and if this is your first time reading about this, I shit you not – Ana sexily eats asparagus. Grey just as strangely finds Christian finding the sight the hottest thing he’s ever scene, although it does kick off with something that seems, however short-lived, considerably more on the mark:
she picks up an asparagus spear and deliberately bites her lip.
What is she doing?
Ana’s graduation is tomorrow, so she calls it a night so she can be ready for that and think things over, despite Christian’s pleas that she spend the night with him (and despite his narration pointing out “this woman needs looking after” – how can she say no to such a dreamboat???). He also
criticizes expresses concern over the quality of her car (and she won’t jump into his pants?????), to which Ana immediately puts her foot down.
“You are not buying me a car,” she says emphatically.
The chapter ends with Christian buying Ana a car.