With only six chapters left, we are in the home stretch of Fifty Shades of Grey. I can only assume that it is here we will finally see E.L. James’ master-plan come to fruition, as the various story threads and characters she has introduced come together in a complex, emotional and stunning climax.
But that will have to wait, I guess. Cause in this chapter, Ana and Christian just fuck and e-mail each other. Again.
Indeed, even though last chapter had two sex-scenes and you’d think by now E.L. James might be as bored of writing about these two screwing as we are reading it, Chapter Twenty-One really doesn’t waste much time jumping right into another scene of horizontal mamboing. I mean, I understand that’s sort of the point with this book, and James clearly knows where her bread is buttered, but still…the repetitive monotony is getting to be re-goddamn-diculous.
Especially since the chapter’s opening words – “There is light everywhere. Bright, warm, piercing light…” – gave me temporary hope that perhaps Ana had died (death by multiple orgasm, I assumed), and the story was over. But, nope, she’s simply waking up in Christian’s fantastic Seattle penthouse, and is soaking in this “castle in the air, adrift from the ground, safe from the realities of life – far away from the neglect, hunger, and crack-whore mothers.”
Oh, that’s right…I almost forgot about Christian’s confession at the end of last chapter, in which he revealed the shocking truth about his birth mother when pressed for more detail on why he doesn’t like to be touched. Of course, just saying “My mom was a crack whore” doesn’t really answer that question – a fact Ana finally picks up on in this chapter – but you gotta hand it to Christian, it’s a pretty good answer if you’re simply looking to deflect and bring a quick stop to any conversation.
“You forgot to get eggs again? Why the hell can’t you remember something so simple whenever you go shopping?”
“I don’t know…maybe because the woman who birthed me was a crack whore?!”
“…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean anything…here, let me blow you and make it all better.”
Anyway, Ana stumbles out of Christian’s bedroom and goes looking for him, first bumping into Mrs. Jones, Christian’s “elegant, middle-aged” housekeeper. You can probably already surmise whether or not I believe Mrs. Jones will ever even come close to being a necessary or even interesting addition to the story. My guess is she’s just another red herring – another potential player for a Ana-Christian-Mystery Partner three-way that will probably never materialize because it might just shake up the string of similar and now tediously boring sex scenes.
Speaking of which, Ana soon finds Christian in his study, where’s he’s on his phone spouting just enough lame business clichés to try to fool you into thinking maybe James gets this stuff…
“Unless that company’s P&L improves, I’m not interested, Ross. We’re not carrying dead weight… I don’t need any more lame excuses… Have Marco call me, it’s shit or bust time… Yes, tell Barney that the prototype looks good, though I’m not sure about the interface…”
Yada, yada, yada. Doesn’t matter. What matters is, as already mentioned, the two have barely said anything to each other before “Mr. Boy Scout” has pulled another condom out of his pants, has swept all the papers off his desk, and has mounted Ana on said desk.
This is not making love, this is fucking – and I love it. I groan. It’s so raw, so carnal, making me so wanton. I revel in his possession, his lust slaking mine…
I close my eyes, feeling the build up – that delicious, slow, step-climbing build. Pushing me higher, higher to the castle in the air…
I cry out a wordless, passionate plea as I touch the sun and burn, falling around him, falling down, back to a breathless, bright summit on Earth. He slams into me and stops abruptly as he reaches his climax, pulling at my wrists and sinking gracefully and wordlessly onto me.
Let’s ignore the forced nature of expressions like “castle in the air” and “a breathless, bright summit on Earth” in the above excerpts, and instead focus on the larger problem the scene represents. And that is, for all the attempts at clever phrases or explanations of pure, animal lust, it’s still – at the end of day – just two people fucking. And missionary, at that.
Look, it’s not that I’m saying the book shouldn’t have these two fucking – of course it’s the main attraction, and I get that. But, like I said, these scenes are simply too constant and repetitive to remain effective. It’s bad enough that they are so frequent that it renders everything else that happens in-between them seemingly pointless (you never can invest in any non-sex-scene, since it’s obvious James is only concerned with racing toward the next fuck-fest), but there’s really not enough variety in the sex scenes to make them feel all that worthwhile, either. Yeah, we’ve had a couple slight steps in the right direction with things like light spankings and last chapter’s introduction of Ben Wa Balls*, but then you come back to a scene like this and it’s just like almost every other sex scene that has come before it.
C’mon, James, if you insist on neglecting actual story and interesting dialogue for nothing but shameless sex scenes, you need to pick it up and start delivering some crazy shit. I mean, it’s almost not fair to even label this as “mommy porn.” Can you imagine if you were watching an actual porn movie and it was just the same two performers having sex throughout the entire movie, and more or less just screwing the same way every time? Go ahead, admit it – you expect more from a porn. You expect escalation. I’m not saying James needs to throw in water-sports or scat action or anything, but variety is the spice of life, and quite frankly we’re way too far along in this book – and have sat through way too many similar sex scenes – for a simple scene of these two fucking on a desk to have any real sort of erotic impact. It’s diminishing returns, is all I’m saying.
So following this boring sex scene (after which the always romantic Christian tells her “I like you sore. Reminds you where I’ve been, and only me”), Christian gets mad when Ana turns down a breakfast offered by Mrs. Jones (oh, good, this delightful routine again), and once again avoids the question when Ana reminds him that he still hasn’t told her why he doesn’t like to be touched. Hey, Ana…maybe it’s time to get over it. Seriously, Ana has already spent nearly every non-desk-fucking moment of this chapter mentally questioning whether this relationship is a good idea, and Christian continues to make it clear that he is primarily only interested in rough sex and is quite content to remain emotionally closed off. Even though he says he will “try” to offer more, I’ve gotta think any sensible woman would be looking to move on by now. But the, sensible woman might not have nymphomaniac “inner goddesses” telling them to sign a Submissive contract with a potential sociopath. And, of course, if Ana was smart enough to get the hell out of there, we wouldn’t get two more books out of the whole thing. We wouldn’t want that, would we??
Next up, we are treated to Ana going to one of her job interviews, at Seattle Independent Publishing. Ana’s hippie leanings are exposed when she reveals that she would much rather get a job here than the first place she interviewed, “a larger conglomerate with offices based throughout the US.” Yeah, down with corporations! Viva la revolución! Oh, wait, I guess she’s just concerned she would get lost in the shuffle there. Well, never mind, then.
Anyway, Ana meets Elizabeth Morgan, head of Human Resources at SIP, and Jack Hyde, the commissioning editor. The interview goes well enough, I guess (not surprisingly, we get Ana’s summary of what was discussed more than we see the actual exchange), but until these characters or this job come back and prove they’re actually important to the story – and not just another meaningless distraction in the narrative – I’m not gonna waste too much time talking about them.
Afterwards, Ana returns home and tells Kate about her interviews, and how things are going with Christian. This scene is really only notable for a ridiculous moment when Kate cocks her head to one side like Christian has done before, and Ana actually thinks to herself, “Gah! Why is everyone reminding me of my favorite Fifty Shades?” Ugh. The book was already on thin ice with me, but ever since Ana actually adopted the title as a pet-name for Christian, it’s really pushing my buttons. Anyway, besides this moment, the rest of the conversation is just more of Kate telling Ana to be careful, and that maybe she’s better off without Christian…once again making Kate about 100% more likable and intelligent of a character than Ana. It’s kinda like when you’re watching Twilight and you can’t help but wonder why these guys are fighting over a sullen, morose Kristen Stewart when the bright, energetic and radiant Anna Kendrick is standing right next to her. Man, I guess James is doing a good job paying tribute to Stephenie Meyers’ work. Yay?
Now it’s time for another thrilling e-mail exchange between Ana and Christian. I can’t wait to see how the Fifty Shades movie handles these bits, which seem to account for about 30-40% of the book’s content. Will we get voice-overs? Cool onscreen graphics? Only time will tell. For now, we just read as Ana and Christian debate each other’s grammar and Christian assures Ana that Mrs. Jones is NOT one of his former submissives. Well, that’s a load off my mind, because if she had been, it might have led to some actual tension and potentially engaging storytelling next time Ana was at the apartment, and we can’t have that now, can we?
Finally, the chapter ends with Ana arriving to the airport to leave for her trip to Georgia. After turning down Christian’s offer to use his private jet for the trip earlier in the chapter, Ana is pissed to find out that he has gone ahead and upgraded her ticket to first class without telling her.
Ugh. I narrow my eyes. He hands me my boarding pass , and I head towards the first class lounge muttering under my breath. Damn Christian Grey, interfering control freak – he just can’t leave well enough alone.
Oh, I know, right?? I hate it when I’m with someone, and all we do is have sex, and the whole time I’m asking them to try and open up and start acting like a real couple, and they say they’ll try but they can’t promise anything, but then they go and do something super nice like upgrade me to first class so that my trip is a hell of a lot more pleasant. God, it’s the worst!!
*Before anyone says anything, I am aware that last chapter, I erroneously referred to the Ben Wa Balls that Christian used on Ana as “anal beads,” a completely different sex toy altogether. Thankfully, the sex toy shopping guide in the brand new Fifty Shades magazine (no, really) helped me realize my error. On one hand, I’m embarrassed by this rookie mistake, but at the same time I guess I’m a little glad that I didn’t know, you know what I mean? And besides, I certainly don’t regret including that awesome picture of Michael Rooker with anal beads, which makes the whole mistake worth it.
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The Official George Takei “Oh My” Counter® = 50!