And I’m back.
Which means I have to read more Fifty Shades…
Yes, I was gone a little longer than I originally intended. I’m not gonna lie – I savored every bit of my long weekend away from Fifty Shades of Grey, and upon my return from San Diego, I found it difficult to jump back in. It’s as if I had actually felt my lost brain-cells regrow when kept away from E.L. James – the thought of putting myself through all this again was not an appealing one (especially as excitement over Comic Con turned to excitement over The Dark Knight Rises – my nerd brain has been very busy lately).
But both Comic Con and The Dark Knight Rises are nothing if not celebrations of heroes…and heroes don’t leave a job unfinished. So, in the tradition of those great men that I have always looked up to, I have finally come back to finish what I started; to plunge back into the adventures of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey so that you don’t have to. Now, I’m not calling myself a hero, but…well, ever Superman himself would probably have a hard time getting through this thing. In fact, I know he would – he is a professional writer, after all.
Oh, before I go on, for those of you that were wondering, I did NOT meet E.L. James during her book signing at Comic Con. Though a part of me would certainly have loved to have told her about this blog, her scheduled appearance conflicted with another event that I was far more interested in, and so I was forced to sacrifice the opportunity. But don’t worry, it wasn’t a complete loss. I did score this sweet Fifty Shades button!
So, uh, yeah, I got that going for me. Now, let’s get back to the book, shall we?
It’s funny – sometimes your memories can betray you. You know how sometimes you remember really liking or hating a particular book, movie, food, whatever…only to later revisit it and realize it’s not at all how you remember it. You wonder if maybe you’ve just grown up, or perhaps you’re just a different person now than you were when you first experienced it. Well, even though I didn’t take too long of a break from the book, it was apparently long enough that – as I began reading Chapter Seventeen, I wondered if maybe my memories of James’ writing weren’t a little too harsh. After all, the first paragraph of this chapter certainly sounds like the work of a real author, writing a real book:
The candle flame is too hot. It flickers and dances in the over-warm breeze, a breeze that brings no respite from the heat. Soft gossamer wings flutter to and fro in the dark, sprinkling dusty scales in the circle of light. I’m struggling to resist, but I’m drawn. And then it’s so bright, and I am flying too to the sun, dazzled by the light, fried and melting from the heat, weary in my endeavors to stay airborne. I am so warm. The heat…it’s stifling, overpowering. It wakes me.
Alright, maybe a tad overblown and goofy, but still definitely more lyrical than anything else I remember from this book. Could it be I was wrong about James? Could it be there is more to offer here than just cheap, sexual thrills? Could it be that within James beats the heart of a true poet, that her prose might transcend genre and raise us, the readers, up to a new level of…
I open my eyes, and I’m draped in Christian Grey. He’s wrapped around me like a victory flag.
In case you couldn’t tell, the chapter opens with the two waking up in Ana’s bed, following Christian spending the night to comfort a distraught Ana. She’s in a much better mood in the morning, not only because she realizes this is the third time he has actually slept with her (despite his claims he never does so), but also because, as she puts it, “I become aware of his erection against my hip.” And no offense to her dream, but I’m pretty sure Ana will take an erection on her hip over “soft gossamer wings sprinkling dusty scales in the circle of light” any day.
But in an amazing show of self-control, at least for this book, Christian resists the demands of his morning wood, because he is late for a meeting (“I don’t do late. Another first, Miss Steele”). Christian has barely left the apartment, though, before Ana immediately sits down at her computer and writes him an e-mail discussing her behavior the night before. Seriously, he leaves at 7:30, and she writes the e-mail at 7:52. Call me crazy, but I think maybe Ana is getting a little attached to this guy.
Ana’s e-mail, by the way, is a stunning declaration of her feminist ideals, displaying her true strength as she informs Christian that she will not sacrifice her independence for his sexual thrills….haha, I’m just kidding. Actually, she writes:
You wanted to know why I felt confused after you – which euphemism should we apply – spanked, punished, beat, assaulted me. Well, during the whole alarming process I felt demeaned, debased and abused. And much to my mortification, you’re right, I was aroused, and that was unexpected. As you are well aware, all things sexual are new to me. I only wish I was more experienced and therefore more prepared. I was shocked to feel aroused. What really worried me was how I felt afterwards. And that’s more difficult to articulate. I was happy that you were happy. I felt relieved that it wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be. And when I was lying in your arms, I felt – sated.
Look, I’ve given Ana (and the book in general) a hard time about this – sometimes for comedic purposes and sometimes not. I’m well aware that in the real world there are individuals who participate in these sort of BDSM relationships of their own free will, and lead perfectly healthy and normal lives. And I’ll give Ana credit for at least wrestling with the emotions she’s feeling here – she’s not the first person to be turned on by a taboo, nor should she necessarily be looked down upon for it.
But it’s Christian who continues to be a problematic character for me, as his responses to this girl whenever she raises these sort of valid concerns always border on downright creepy:
“I am grateful for your inexperience. I value it, and I’m only beginning to understand what it means. Simply put…it means that you are mine in every way…
Don’t waste your energy on guilt, feelings of wrongdoing, etc. We are consenting adults and what we do behind closed doors is between ourselves. You need to free your mind and listen to your body.”
When Ana responds “if I listened to my body, I’d be in Alaska by now,” Christian helpfully reminds her:
“Alaska is very cold and no place to run. I would find you. I can track your cell phone – remember?”
Yep, this sounds like a healthy relationship.
Anyway, the two wrap up their e-mail exchange, with Christian reminding Ana that she will be examined by his doctor when she comes to his place on Sunday for the official Submissive contract signing. Read that last sentence again, and remember that we’re talking about a love story here. Just thought I should remind you.
The bulk of the chapter is a rather uneventful slog. First, Ana drives her new Audi to her last day at Clayton’s Hardware. While there, a motorcycle courier delivers to her a brand new BlackBerry, so that Christian can contact her at all times. I don’t really get why Christian would send that to her while she’s at work, but at least it does somewhat address one of the odder things about their relationship up until this point – namely, why the hell are these two always e-mailing each other instead of texting? Just what year is this supposed to be taking place? Then again, Ana didn’t even have her own computer or understand how to use the Internet to look up information on bondage. So she’s clearly not “Miss Technology” or anything. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was rocking a Zack Morris phone before now.
Oh, Ana also says goodbye to the Clayton’s. “They have been kind and generous employers,” she says, “and I will miss them.” It’s all really moving..or at least it would be if they had been any sort of real characters up until this point, which they haven’t been, so whatever.
Next, Christian’s assistant Taylor comes to pick up Ana’s old Beetle, as agreed, so that he can sell it. Though clearly a man of few words, he informs Ana he has worked for Grey for four years, and says he’s a good man. “Can I believe him,” Ana wonders. Can she? The suspense is unbearable.
Let’s see, what else do we have in this poor excuse for a chapter. Oh, yeah, Ana and Kate finish packing for their move and celebrate by having José over for Chinese take-out. Don’t worry, though, it’s not at all awkward…
The atmosphere between José and I has returned to normal, the attempted kiss forgotten. Well, it’s been swept under the rug that my inner goddess is lying on, eating grapes and tapping her fingers, waiting not so patiently for Sunday.
When Ana and José say goodbye for the night, she even makes sure to clarify it as “a brief not-at-all-awkward-thank-goodness hug,” so I’m sure that’s all settled then. Yep, absolutely no reason to think the whole “José has thing for Ana” matter will ever come up again. Nope, no way.
Meanwhile, Elliot comes over for a bout of loud-sex with Kate, which Ana tries to ignore by again e-mailing and eventually calling Christian. Lovey-dovey Christian has gone on holiday, though, replaced once again by mopey, hard-to-get-a-good-take-on Christian.
He sounds so sad and resigned. My heart clenches. I picture him all those nights ago sat at the piano in his huge living room and the unbearable bittersweet melancholy of the music he was playing.
We then get another whopper of a sentence. I mean, I mocked the “wrapped around me like a victory flag” line before, but I guess James was just getting warmed up. When Ana tells Christian she wishes he was there with her, he asks “do you?”
Holy mackerel. This doesn’t sound like him, and my scalp prickles with dawning apprehension.
I sense a potential Fifty Shades advertising tie-in!
And as if someone has dared the book to get even more annoying, this particular phone call actually ends with the two reverting to the mentality of middle-school sweethearts.
“You hang up,” I whisper. Finally, I sense his smile.
“No, you hang up.” And I know he’s grinning.
“I don’t want to.”
“Neither do I.”
Next up, Ana and Kate finally move into their new apartment in the heart of Seattle. Whereas Elliot helps with the move by, you know, actually moving stuff, Christian contributes in his own special way – sending the girls a bottle of champagne with a helicopter-shaped balloon attached. Well, to each his own.
Finally, the day of days arrives. Ana excitedly discovers she can drive her new Audi in high heels (phew, I was really worried for a second there) as she rushes over to Christian’s place, adorned in Kate’s plum dress (the same one Christian saw her in – and wanted to get her out of – before) and the sexy underwear that Christian had Taylor buy her (not weird at all).
Go girl! My inner goddess has her pompoms in hand – she’s in cheerleading mode.
Christian, looking hot as ever in his “loose white linen shirt and jeans, no shoes or socks,” and “tousled and unkempt” hair, seems happy enough to see her, smirking as he shows her a picture of the two of them together at her graduation that has ended up in the Seattle Times (the caption refers to her simply as his “friend”). He then informs her that his mother would like her to join the two of them, along with Kate and Elliot, for dinner tonight. Ana barely has time to think about that, though, before she is informed that Dr. Greene – the best Ob/Gyn in Seattle – is waiting for her in her new room.
“Ready for some contraception?” he asks as he stands and holds out his hand to me.
Now THAT is a romantic gesture if I ever heard one.
And so as Christian leads Ana to her new room – where a doctor he has personally hired is going to examine her naughty bits and then give her birth control so that she won’t get pregnant during the numerous times he is sure to demand sex from her – he whispers sweet nothings into her ear. “I’m so glad you’re here,” he says. “I can’t wait to get you naked.”
Christian Grey – prince among men.
* * * * *
Only one “oh my” this chapter, unfortunately. But then, what else should you expect from one of those boring chapters that is mostly e-mail exchanging and packing boxes? Hopefully James will pick it up in the next chapter.