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June 20, 2012

The ESC Reads 50 Shades of Grey: Chapter 3

WARNING: This blog post contains spoilers. But, of course, that's kind of the point.

We decided to tackle the Fifty Shades of Grey series one book at a time and give everyone chapter-by-chapter summaries and critique. We're going to read Fifty Shades of Grey... so you don't have to.

Chapter 3

Summary: Kate and Ana schedule a photo shoot with Christian Grey at his hotel, enlisting Jose to be the photographer. After the photos are taken, Christian invites Ana to have coffee with him. We learn that Ana prefers tea, which she likes really weak. E L James might as well have just had her say "I like my tea submissive". He asks her a bunch of personal questions about her life and her family, including "Do you always wear jeans?" He walks her to the parking lot and she asks if he has a girlfriend and he says he doesn't do "the girlfriend thing". Then she clumsily falls into the street and he saves her from being hit by a guy on a bike. She wants him to kiss her, but he doesn't.

Sexiness factor (scale of 1-10): 1.5

Anastasia gets to stare at Christian for a whole 20 minutes during the photo shoot, but then they have the most boring, inane conversation over coffee. Least sexy date ever. The only remotely "sexy" part is when she almost gets hit by someone on a bike and he holds her close to him. Apparently the smell of his "fresh laundered linen" and "expensive body wash" intoxicated her and for the first time in twenty-one years, she wants to be kissed. Yikes. Ana's life is so sad.

Number of times Anastasia thinks about how hot Christian is: 13

Number of times Anastasia thinks "Oh my" about how hot Christian is: 5
"Oh my… he really is, quite… wow."

"Grey smiles a dazzling, unguarded, natural, all-teeth-showing, glorious smile. Oh my…"

"I could watch him all day… he’s tall, broad-shouldered, and slim, and the way those pants hang from his hips… Oh my."

"He cocks his head to one side, running his index finger across his lower lip… oh my."

"I hold his anxious, burning gaze for a moment or maybe it’s forever… but eventually, my attention is drawn to his beautiful mouth. Oh my."

Number of times Anastasia blushes: 6
“Oh Kate, you know I blush all the time. It’s an occupational hazard with me. Don’t be so ridiculous,” I snap.

Okay, let’s do coffee,” I murmur, flushing a beet red.

I am struggling to maintain a straight face, so I gaze down at the floor, feeling my cheeks turning pink.

Number of times someone points out Anastasia's blushing: 3
“Except when you blush, of course, which is often. I just wish I knew what you were blushing about.”
Trust us, Christian, you really don't want to know.

Number of times Ana's "subconscious" communicates with her: 5

Maybe he thinks you haven’t woken up yet, my subconscious whines at me in a sneering mood again.

Try to be cool, Ana, my subconscious implores me.

“Okay, bag out tea. Sugar?” For a moment, I’m stunned, thinking it’s an endearment, but fortunately my subconscious kicks in with pursed lips. No, stupid – do you take sugar?
Ana's subconscious is kind of a bitch.

Plot Holes, Fact Checking Fails, and Other Observations:

Continuity issue again! Kate is now back to being the editor of the school "newspaper". So that's Chapter 1, newspaper. Chapter 2, magazine. Chapter 3, newspaper. Make up your mind! They're not the same thing!

Ana reveals that not only does Jose like her, but so does Paul from the hardware store. Again, why did she go on and on in the first chapter about how awkward and insecure she is. Nice, good looking guys are literally throwing themselves at her... but they're "no literary heroes", so she'd rather fawn over the controlling asshole Christian Grey.

More failures at dialect:
"I very rarely throw my toys out of the pram"
The pram? Again, the author uses British slang even though no one in the book is British. She could have easily set her story in the UK, but she didn't. She set it in Washington/Oregon, so she should've done a little research into US colloquiums to make it even remotely authentic-sounding.
“Okay, we’ll see you there.” I am all gushing and breathy – like a child, not a grown woman who can vote and drink legally in the State of Washington.
At least Ana is aware of how much like a child she is. Yes, she's a grown woman - but you wouldn't know it by reading this crap.
I make my way down the corridor, my knees shaky, my stomach full of butterflies, and my heart in my mouth thumping a dramatic uneven beat.
Congrats, Ana! Throw in a sleepless night or two and this is exactly how you've always dreamed of feeling. Christian Grey must be a literary hero.
He’s still holding my hand. I’m in the street, and Christian Grey is holding my hand. No one has ever held my hand. I feel giddy, and I tingle all over.
No one has ever held her hand? In 21 years? Really? At this point we're starting to hope that E L James is just a front for the 14 year old girl who really wrote this book.
Holy shit. He’s remembering the ‘gay’ question. Once again, I’m mortified. In years to come, I know, I’ll need intensive therapy to not feel this embarrassed every time I recall the moment. I start babbling about my mother – anything to block that memory.
We agree that Ana could probably use some therapy, but not for this reason.
“But it’s England that I’d really like to visit.” He cocks his head to one side, running his index finger across his lower lip… oh my. “Because?” I blink rapidly. Concentrate, Steele. “It’s the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy. I’d like to see the places that inspired those people to write such wonderful books.”
More references to wonderful books that make us stop and wonder why we're reading this crap, and that we'll have to marathon read to jump start our brains again after we're done with it. Yes, some of the greatest literary geniuses came from England: Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontës... and... E L James. So maybe James should've been going to these inspiring places instead of reading Twilight?

Some of the worst writing in the chapter:
Paul is cute in a wholesome all-American boy-next-door kind of way, but he’s no literary hero, not by any stretch of the imagination. Is Grey? My subconscious asks me, her eyebrow figuratively raised. I slap her down.
He's no literary hero. Really? Spoiler alert, Ana - no man is. Plus now Ana's "subconscious"is not only communicating with her directly via facial expressions but now Ana can physically slap her in response.
“Travis, clear the chairs. Ana, could you ask housekeeping to bring up some refreshments? And let Grey know where we are.”

Yes, Mistress. She is so domineering. I roll my eyes, but do as I’m told.
Yeah, don't you just hate it when someone is domineering? Unless, it's like, the super hot and rich businessman who you have a crush on.
He has a coffee which bears a wonderful leaf-pattern imprinted in the milk. How do they do that? I wonder idly.
She's been going to school in the Seattle area for four years and she's acting like she's never seen a cup of coffee before.
His gray gaze holds mine. He’s so unnerving. I want to look away but I’m caught – spellbound.
Christian Grey has gray eyes, in case we missed it the first ten thousand times she told us. And apparently they're just as magical as his sexy fingers.
Grey nods slightly, seemingly satisfied with my response, and glances down at his blueberry muffin. His long fingers deftly peel back the paper, and I watch, fascinated.
She's fascinated by the sight of him unwrapping a muffin? Sorry, but nobody's fingers are that sexy.
“My dad’s a lawyer, my mom is a pediatrician. They live in Seattle.” Oh… he’s had an affluent upbringing. And I wonder about a successful couple who adopts three kids, and one of them turns into a beautiful man who takes on the business world and conquers it single-handed.
This just doesn't read right coming from Christian Grey. Everything he says is so formal, so exact, like an old fashioned 100 year old vampire man. And then sudden he says "dad" and "mom"? No, I just don't buy it. He would say "my father and mother". This is what we call an inconsistent voice. And as usual we have no idea what Ana is going on about. Christian's parents adopted three kids and one of them became a successful businessman, so she's wondering...what, exactly? It's almost like she's shocked that he became successful because he's adopted. We're going to send an email to her subconscious to get clarification.


This book is incredibly boring so far. It's not even "so-bad-it's-good" bad. It's just bad-bad. Their conversation over coffee is quite possibly the most boring and awkward conversation on earth. Christian basically interviews her, only she has nothing interesting to say. She tells him about her family, yet he tenses up when she asks about his. He's a serious dick in our opinion and there's no amount of money or sexiness that could make us go for a guy like that. (Plus the scene where Christian saves Ana from almost getting hit by a bike is a direct rip-off of Edward saving Bella from getting hit by a car in Twilight. Just sayin'.) We're also a little creeped out by how far E L James is going to make Ana seem innocent - if she's a virgin that's fine, whatever, but to establish that she's never even held hands with a guy and never ever wanted someone to kiss her before seems like a bit much.



Anonymous said...

I'm 24. I've never met anybody I wanted to kiss me, and I've never held hands with anyone outside my family. I don't think I'm asexual, stuff just ... hasn't happened yet. Yeah, it's sad, but it's not homg unreal pathetic, and I'd appreciate it if you could chill with the Ana's a complete loser/James is 14 stuff over that aspect of the writing. It's kind of hurtful.

Anonymous for Obvious Reasons


Anon - Our intention wasn't to make fun of real people who've never been kissed, never held hands, etc., and we're sorry if we made you feel that way. 'Stuff happened' for the ESC members at various different ages, and we know how it feels.

The '14 year old' joke was about E L James's 'OMG I'm like totally holding CHRISTIAN GREY's hand in the street!!!!!!' writing style, not about the actual fact that Ana was holding hands with someone. (But reading it over we see that we could have been clearer about that.) Some of this just reads so much like someone's awful first try at fan fiction that they never show anybody. Although in fairness to 14 year old girls everywhere, we imagine that many of them could probably write better fic than this.

And as we said in the conclusion, we're also a little concerned at this point that James is going so far to establish Ana's "innocence". (Her word, not ours.) Not only is she a virgin but she's never held hands, possibly never been kissed, etc., and we don't think James is doing a great job of explaining Ana's point of view about WHY that is beyond 'the nice attractive guys that I know who are interested in me aren't literary heroes'. It's not that Ana being "innocent" is inherently bad or pathetic, but we're apprehensive about the way that James seems to be trying to make the power dynamic between Ana and Christian as unbalanced as she possibly can, and we're not sure we trust James to pull off a story like this without sending some problematic messages.

Elodie said...

I'm a sub. I think about what would have happened if my first sexual relationship had been with someone like Christian Grey, and it's terrifying. We all want to please our sexual partners (well, everyone decent does), but submissives have a need to please that can be abused so very easily.

It's terrifying to think of anyone being with Christian Grey at all, but someone with some experience has a better chance of seeing the warning signs before it's too late. Ana's complete inexperience leaves her more open to being a victim than others might be, and that's important to point out.

It's one thing to have a fantasy of a sexual relationship between a submissive, inexperienced woman and a dominant, experienced man -- it's another when that man misuses the woman's inexperience and naiveté to do whatever he pleases to her. I don't think 50 Shades recognizes and deals with the massive difference between those two things.

The Mad Dame said...

Though I never thought I would try to "defend" any part of this book: Its been established that Ana is not only an English major, but she has a particular affinity for British literature. It wouldn't be that odd for her to use British slang, though she isn't from England.

Anecdotal, but I have been known for picking up dialect/slang from books/cultures that I obsessed on. I would take her talking like a Brit over saying "Oh my" fifty billion times. I wanted to bunch babies because of that.

Magnificently Bruised said...

Is it bad or awesome that when I kept reading "oh my" in the post,my internal voice was that of George Takei... oh myyyyy....

Stephanie Stewart said...

I read the "Oh my" section through twice, once I nearly stabbed my eyes out and the second time I read the entire thing in George Takei's voice. Makes it much more amusing, and less "please kill me now"

I'm loving your blog! Granted I have only read the Twilight... oops I mean Fifty Shades of Grey review, but so far so good! As I read along and have issues with this child's attempt at writing, when I come to your comments about it, you usually are just as confused, frustrated or shocked as I am and comment on it all!

I have to stop at chapter 3 for now though because as funny as you are, reading what is actually in the book is really making my brain hate me!