After what was the most boring chapter so far, this latest entry has the audacity to open with the line:
“It’s been an interesting morning.”
Which tells me either that EL James is deliberately fucking with her readership, or else that her formative years were spent rapturously watching mold collect on soggy toast, because what follows is:
We left Boeing Field at 11:30 PST; Stephan is flying with his first officer, Jill Beighley, and we’re due to arrive in Georgia at 19:30 EST.
Congratulations — you’ve just described a normal flight. I was gripped from beginning to end: who’s the first officer? I gasped. When does it land? I pondered.
The only thing on this first page that could be described as remotely interesting is Christian suddenly pretending that he’s gone to Georgia to “work.” Which I now realize isn’t particularly interesting because pretending to work is the only form of work that Christian knows:
Bill has managed to arrange a meeting with the Savannah Brownfield Redevelopment Authority tomorrow, and I might be meeting them for a drink this evening.
Who the fuck is Bill.
So if Anastasia is otherwise occupied, or doesn’t want to see me, the journey won’t be a complete waste of time.
Yeah, yeah. Tell yourself that, Grey.
At least the text acknowledges the glaring hypocrisy of the earlier sentence, but still: what kind of 27-year-old wunderkind billionaire got rich scheduling business deals around his pastime of stalking and fucking young girls?
Also, remember that he’s meeting with the Savannah Blah Blah Whatever to build his Solar Powered Africa Tablet factory, which he doesn’t want to give to Detroit — even though he acknowledges that it would help their failing economy — because one time he ate moldy cheese there and it was sad. So instead he’ll give it to the place where he stalked his girlfriend for sex.
What a philanthropist.
Christian does more “business,” and then inexplicably flashes back to a time when Elena/Mrs. Robinson/Sharon Stone taught him how to BDSM back when he was underage — in case you forgot that detail because I know I’ve been super vague on that point.
The point being that his love of BDSM came from being raped by his mom’s friend.
This point having been developed by an author who accuses her critics of being “anti-sex” and not “understanding” BDSM.
I’m not going to type out a statutory rape scene, so the tl;dr version is: she had red fingernails (of course), touched him in all of his DARKNESS no-no zones (like his chest), told him that if he behaved real good he could come in her mouth (fun!), and then she whipped him. He remembers all of this with dreamy fondness.
Everyone feel nice and uncomfortable? Let’s move on.
I take a deep breath to bring my heart rate down, and Taylor passes me a glass of cold Evian.
How does he know the brand of water if it was handed to him in a glass?
I take a welcome sip, glad that it’s just Taylor on board.
Extreme nit-pick warning: Things like “a welcome sip” or “a heady combination” are just a couple of the recurring phrases from the original 50 Shades series that keep popping up in Grey. The trouble is that if you’re going to tell a story from a first-person perspective — as she’s done with both series — then it doesn’t make sense for her two characters to narrate their stories in almost exactly the same way.
Even if she throws in all of the “my cock” in the world to offset the “oh geez” of the original, because “a welcome sip” is not a common saying, it ultimately reminds us that these stories are not being told from the perspectives of either a 22-year-old American college grad or a 27-year-old American billionaire, but rather from the increasingly worrying perspective of a middle-aged Englishwoman.
At the end of the day, trying to criticize the individual writing choices in these books is pointless — the only thing that could’ve made these series perfect is if they hadn’t been written at all.
Out of the window the sky is blue, the sparse clouds pinking with the early-evening sun. The light up here is brilliant. Golden. Tranquil. The sinking sun reflecting off the cumulus clouds.
Somebody needs to paint over all of his windows because I’m sick of this guy describing the heavens like he’s Wordsworth high on mushrooms.
For a moment I wish I were in my sailplane. I bet the thermals are fantastic up here.
That’s what I should do: take Ana soaring. That would be more, wouldn’t it?
I love that Christian’s idea of wooing Ana always involves getting her to do stuff he likes. BDSM, sailplanes, increasingly confusing menu options... it’s all about him. It’s fine — and healthy! — to introduce a new partner to the things you enjoy, but it should be a two-way street. So either the issue is that Ana is so boring that she has no real hobbies or interests, or else that it’s never occurred to Christian that the best way to “woo” Ana might be to do something SHE wants to do occasionally.
Like... talking about books but never reading them.
You know what? I see his point — just take her up in the sailplane.
Oh, and for those of you who have been enjoying the book’s many forays into regional culinary delights, feast on this:
There’s a knock on the door—my luggage and room service have arrived simultaneously. The food smells delicious: fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits. Well, I’m in the South.
I’ve only ever been to Texas and Louisiana, so I made a point of crowdsourcing a reaction for this dish to avoid looking foolish just in case this is the one meal EL James didn’t get wrong. From what I can tell, opinions (from real-live Southeners — thank you!) varied anywhere from “Yeah, that’s normal,” to “Well, those are all things, but not necessarily things you would order together,” to “That sounds like the kind of thing someone who’d never been to the South would imagine that Southern people have for breakfast on the regular.”
So I’ll continue leaving y’all to discuss this, and instead focus on the line: “Well, I’m in the South.” Because it implies that when ordering room service, he just shouts “FOOD!” into the phone and then waits to see what turns up. Or that, at an upscale hotel, he’d be forced to order something regional and couldn’t possibly get a “normal” breakfast. I mean, this poor guy probably just wants to order some standard Pacific North West fare — like spotted dick or bangers and mash cor blimey guv top o’ the morning, etc.
Anyway, Christian eats his honkey-ass meal and thinks about Ana’s irrational (and likely jealousy-based) hate of his rapist that definitely has nothing to do with her being a rapist:
What the hell has she got against Elena? She knows nothing about our relationship. What we had happened a long time ago and now we’re just friends. What right does Ana have to be mad?
At least in these moments I have the security of knowing that EL James is deliberately fucking with me: Christian is clearly meant to seem obtuse. We — the audience — both know exactly why Ana dislikes her (Elena’s a fucking rapist), and at the same time we’re meant to react with incredulity that he feels Ana isn’t “allowed” to be mad at Elena, his former lover, but he can be pissy at Jose, a guy who kissed Ana once.
But it’s shit like this that gives me pause:
And if it wasn’t for Elena, God knows what would have happened to me.
I just don’t buy this idea that BDSM “healed” him — mostly because he’s an enormous mess of a human being — and because, as the series goes on, the healing power of rape-y BDSM seems to be explained more as the secret to his success, as opposed to the thing that helped him overcome his DEMONS (spoiler: only magical virgin vaginas can do the latter).
Either way, no, EL James — we’re not going to buy rape as healing magic, particularly if all the evidence suggests that this crackerjack therapy has made the victim/patient worse.
Changing gears, this next scene requires me to go on a bit of a pre-amble rant, so strap in: If you remember from the original book, Ana and her Mother go for drinks in a fancy hotel bar in Savannah. While Ana’s having a good time with her mom on vacation, Christian texts her and chastises her for drinking so much — which makes her realize that Christian has stalked her to Georgia and has been watching her while she was relaxing. The audience is also left to assume that Christian must have tracked her cell phone again, and sat watching her in the hotel bar for about an hour before “making his move.”
But in this book, the set-up is that Christian has gone to the bar of the hotel that he’s actually staying in — the hotel that he booked before he left Seattle. What a coinky-dink! And he’s just going for a quick drink, but then... what does he spy?
The rooftop bar is crowded, but I find a seat at the end of the counter and order a beer. It’s a hip, contemporary place, with moody lighting and a relaxed vibe.
So it’s a bar, then.
I scan the bar, avoiding eye contact with the two women sitting next to me...and a movement captures my attention: a frustrated flip of glossy mahogany hair that catches and refracts the light.
It’s Ana. Fuck.
Really, EL James? You’re still going to have your lead character admit to pulling a background check on a girl who came to interview him for a school paper, you’re still going to admit to him tracking her phone, and you’re still going to admit to him being wildly jealous of imaginary dicks that he believes she might come into contact with mere seconds after leaving his sight — but you’re really going to try to convince us that Christian was actually at the same bar as Ana and her Mother BY ACCIDENT?
Come ON. This is even lazier than Christian psychically knowing that the reason Ana kept yelling “No!” while he tied her up and tried to fuck her was because she was self-conscious about her smelly feet.
She’s facing away from me, seated opposite a woman who could only be her mother. The resemblance is striking.
What are the fucking odds?
In all the gin joints...Jesus.
The odds are zero. This is bullshit.
Christian then takes a minute to size up Ana’s mom with a confusing mix of vague ageism and classism, alongside a sensitive understanding of women’s clothing and personal style that I feel someone as supposedly obtuse as Christian wouldn’t have, but here we go anyway:
Her mother is stunning: like Ana, but older; she looks late thirties, with long, dark hair, and eyes that are Ana’s shade of blue.
Like the very azure of the heavens, by Jove?
She has a bohemian vibe about her...not someone I’d automatically associate with the golf club set. Perhaps she’s dressed that way because she’s out with her young, beautiful daughter.
This is the bit I’m having trouble understanding — is he saying that she’s dressed in a bohemian way, which strikes him as weird for a country club bar, but thinks that she’s dressing “young” to compete with her daughter? OR is he saying that she’s dressed up all golf-clubby to compete with her daughter, but he can tell that she’s more likely to dress “bohemian” when she’s not trying to impress people?
The text doesn’t help us out. Either way — misogyny.
This is priceless.
Seize the day, Grey.
Yeah, why not take advantage of this crazy, wacky coincidence? What are the chances?!
I fish my phone out of my jeans pocket. It’s time to e-mail Ana. This should be interesting. I’ll test her mood...and I get to watch.
Is this meant to seem playful and cheeky, or is EL James fully aware that this makes him sound like a psycho stalker? How could anyone have written something like this thinking it could come off as cute?
Christian sends the following e-mail:
Yes, I had dinner with Mrs. Robinson. She is just an old friend, Anastasia.
Looking forward to seeing you again. I miss you.
So this is literally the e-mail he claimed he couldn’t write from Seattle because it needed to be said and discussed in-person. Except now he’s made it about a thousand times creepier because he’s actually staring at her as he types it.
Her mother looks earnest; maybe she’s concerned her for daughter, or maybe she’s trying to extract information from her.
Good luck, Mrs. Adams.
Or maybe her mother doesn’t think that a conversation with her daughter routinely involves trying to pump her for information like she’s a detective in a pulp novel. Or maybe it’s that she’s not trying to force her daughter into kink sex against her will.
I can’t see [Ana’s] face, which is frustrating, but I don’t think she’s impressed by what she’s just read.
A moment later she abandons the phone on the table in what appears to be disgust.
That’s not good.
Her mother returns and signals one of the waiters for another round of drinks. I wonder how many they’ve had.
Fuck you, that’s how many.
Ana — who frankly isn’t helping here in terms of her delivery — responds with the following:
She’s not just an old friend.
Has she found another adolescent boy to sink her teeth into?
Did you get too old for her?
Is that the reason your relationship finished?
I mean... points for calling her out, but I feel like if Ana is genuinely concerned about how vulnerable Christian was at the time, she wouldn’t be rubbing it into his face quite this harshly.
What the hell? My temper simmers as I read.
Isaac is in his late twenties.
Who the fuck is Isaac.
How dare she?
Is it the drink talking?
Oh fuck you.
Time to declare yourself Grey.
Then he drops the “how many Cosmopolitans are you going to drink?” e-mail bomb:
She studies her phone, sits up suddenly, and looks around the room.
I deposit ten bucks on the counter and saunter over to them.
Our eyes meet. She blanches—shocked, I think—and I don’t know how she’ll greet me, or how I’ll contain my temper if she says anything else about Elena.
Haha, I might have to smack her — but we’ll see. We’ll see.
He leans in to kiss her and observes:
She looks lovely; she’s caught some sun, and she’s not wearing a bra. Her breasts are straining against the silky material of her top but hidden by her long hair.
Does someone want to explain to me how he can tell that she’s not wearing a bra, that her tits are desperate to escape from her skin-tight shirt, but also that he can’t tell any of this because her hair is covering her chest?
For my eyes only, I hope.
Oh, okay. He has X-ray vision. Nevermind.
And even though she’s mad, I’m glad to see her. I’ve missed her.
Because everything is about you.
Ana then introduces her mother as “Carla,” and Christian responds by grasping her hand (like a suave gentleman) and calls her Mrs. Adams — because he’s done that background check and knows everything about her. Fun!
Her mom’s eyes are all over me.
Shit! She’s checking me out. Best ignore it, Grey.
After a long-than-necessary pause, she reaches out to shake my hand. “Christian.”
Only whores pause, Mrs. Adams!
Then Ana asks — like any normal person might — what he’s doing there, and he confirms that he came to see her, and that he’s staying in this very hotel! What a coincidence! Haha!
“You’re staying here?” she squeaks.
Yes. I can’t quite believe it, either.
Mm. I bet.
And, a little further on:
“So you just happen to be staying in the hotel where we’re drinking?” Ana’s tone is tense.
“Or you just happen to be drinking in the hotel where I’m staying. I just finished dinner, came in here, and saw you. I was distracted, thinking about your most recent e-mail”—I give her a pointed look—”and I glance up and there you are. Quite the coincidence, eh?”
I fucking see you, EL James.
He then claims that she wanted him here, so once again everything’s her fault anyway.
Slowly I caress her knuckles with my thumb, and her breathing alters.
Yes, Ana. Feel it.
Don’t be mad at me.
Her eyes meet mine, and I’m rewarded with her coy smile.
If you want to add another layer of “What the fuck?” to this scene, several people have pointed out that the knuckle-rubbing hypnosis was directly lifted from an old episode of The X-Files. So Christian isn’t just a Dick Wizard — he’s an Alien Dick Wizard. With X-ray boob vision. And possibly an Adamantium dick.
And — though I really didn’t want to have to keep spliting up chapters — we’ll have to end on this intergalactic bombshell. In the next post, you can look forward to THAT scene. You know the one.
So get yourself a Bloody Mary (but not too many, you slut!) and I’ll be back tomorrow.