Monday, February 4, 2013

Everything That's Wrong With FSoG (Besides Everything)

I have come to the end of Fifty Shades of Grey, no pun intended. In fact, quite the opposite is true - the writing in FSoG was so droll and awkward that maintaining any feelings of arousal (should they even arise in the first place) is nearly impossible. One would need handfuls of viagra to get any kind of hot and bothered reading this book.

Not pictured: enough viagra

The final leg of the book is full of examples of why FSoG is completely unappealing, and I've divided them into a list of four things that represent everything that is wrong with Fifty Shades (besides everything).

1. Sudden mood and subject changes cause confusion and hilarity

If you want to know what is most jarring about Fifty Shades of Grey, read the following passage at the beginning of chapter twenty one: 

I lie back for a moment staring through the windows at the lofty vista of Seattle’s skyline.  Life in the clouds sure feels unreal.  A fantasy – a castle in the air, adrift from the ground, safe from the realities of life – far away from neglect, hunger, and crack-whore mothers.

I have no idea why E.L. James thinks "crack whore" has some kind of neutral tone to it, but it's the only term she uses to describe Christian's birth mother. She never says "crack addict" or "prostitute" or "Miami resident" even though they all mean the same thing. Her inability to consider the tone of how she phrases things ruins what little atmosphere she manages to instill.

Suddenly his hand is in my hair, tugging it so my head tips back, and his other hand travels down to the base of my spine.  He kisses me, long, hard, and passionately, his tongue in my mouth.  His breathing is mounting, his ardor… Holy cow – his erection… we’re in a field.

We were going pretty well there until "Holy cow - his erection." But before you can actually wrap your head around that, she decides to suddenly note that they're standing in a field for some reason. I suppose she means that she's self-conscious about having sex in a field, but E.L. James isn't able to segue into that idea with any sort of grace. If only she made these transitions as smoothly as she applies ether-soaked rags to strangers in parking lots. She could actually receive literary praise AND tortured screams from confused tourists!

I press send (on the email) and climb despondently back into bed, resolving to ask Christian about his relationship with that woman.  Part of me is desperate to know more, and another part wants to forget he ever told me.  And my period has started, so I must remember to take my pill in the morning.  

That's... good to know. Make sure you give me daily updates on your uterine wall, Ana.

Holy Moses… my dream.  I gape at him, thinking about his tongue on his palate.  Hmm, his expert tongue. 

Read that again in Homer's voice.

Supposing I’ve said I hate him, or worse still, that I love him, in my sleep.  Oh, I hope not.  I am not ready to tell him that, and I’m sure he’s not ready to hear it, if he ever wants to hear it.  I scowl at my computer and decide that whatever I cook, I will make bread.

If you do not understand why heartbreak equals bread, congratulations! You do not need anti-psychotic medication. However, E.L. James should visit or a psychologist... or a horse whisperer.

2. It is impossible to be aroused when you're horrified and/or choking back bile

Ana frequently informs the reader about her "insides" during what would otherwise be arousing scenes:

A slow, sexy smile spreads across his beautiful face, and I’m rendered speechless as my insides melt.

And he picks up the pace, thrusting faster… harder… and my whole body is moving to his rhythm, and I can feel my legs stiffening, and my insides quivering and quickening.

“I can think of a few things,” he grins, gray eyes bright. I gaze back impassively as my insides clench and melt under his knowing look.

When someone says "insides" I think "colon," not "vagina." It really ruins the moment when the image of clenching entrails is thrown into the mix.

“Are you sore?” he asks, leaning over me.
“A little,” I confess.
“I like you sore.”  His eyes smolder.  “Reminds you where I’ve been, and only me.”

I would say this was a red flag but you're waaaaay beyond that, Ana. Every moment you're around Christian and not decapitated is a moment you're beating the odds.

“When did you start your period, Anastasia?” he asks out of the blue, gazing down at me.
“Err... yesterday,” I mumble in my highly aroused state.
“Good.”  He releases me and turns me around.
“Hold on to the sink,” he orders and pulls my hips back again, like he did in the playroom, so I’m bending down.
He reaches between my legs and pulls on the blue string… what!  And… gently pulls my tampon out and tosses it into the nearby toilet.  Holy fuck.  Sweet mother of all… Jeez.

There's just something about tampons that fails to flame my passions. Maybe it's thinking of her internal organs shedding their linings or something. Is that weird? Maybe I should just get over my prudish hangup about bleeding genitals.

He’s standing there, naked, gloriously naked, with my blood on him… and we’re finally having this conversation.

I have no idea why she needs to mention that he still has menstrual blood on his dick. Maybe it's a metaphor? She "Christianed" him? Heh! No?

He lets go with a deep growl, and he buries his head in my neck as he buries himself inside me, groaning loudly and incoherently as he finds his release.

I feel as if I have been sexually assaulted reading that. All I can imagine there is some Rule 34 fan fiction starring Wolverine.

I can see his naked feet, and I want to kiss every inch of them… run my tongue over his instep, suck each of his toes.  Holy shit.

OK, Quentin Tarantino. Keep it to yourself.

3. It's filled with vapid, unnecessary details

One thing that makes FSoG such a chore to read is the volume of completely superfluous detail the reader is lavished with. James seems to think that we care about Ana's every little thought, but I decided that I didn't want to know anything about her somewhere between the words "Twilight" and "fan fiction."

I head into the kitchen which is still shrouded in darkness.  Where are the light switches?  I find them, flick them on, and pour water into the kettle.  My pill!  I rummage in my purse that I left on the breakfast bar and find them quickly.  One swallow, and I’m done.  By the time I finish, Christian is back, sitting on one of the bar stools, watching me intently.

The second book in this profane trilogy is called "Fifty Shades Darker," presumably because it contains even more harrowing accounts of Ana fumbling for light switches.

It is late afternoon, and I sit nervous and fidgeting in the lobby waiting for Mr. J. Hyde of Seattle Independent Publishing.  This is my second interview today, and the one I’m most anxious about.  My first interview went well, but it was for a larger conglomerate with offices based throughout the US, and I would be one of many editorial assistants there.  I can imagine being swallowed up and spat out pretty quickly in such a corporate machine. SIP is where I want to be.  It’s small and unconventional, championing local authors, and has an interesting and quirky roster of clients. 

Uh-huh. Mmm-hmm. One question, Ana. You realize this is a book about BDSM, right? If I fall asleep reading about you doing that, I sure as shit don't care about the podunk publishing firm you're applying to. Wait, is it a BDSM book publisher? No? OK then, not interested.

“Ana Steele?” A woman with long, black, pre-Raphaelite hair standing by the reception desk distracts me from my introspection.  She has the same bohemian, floaty look as the receptionist.  She could be in her late thirties, maybe in her forties.  It’s so difficult to tell with older women.

Will we ever find out which side of forty the publisher's assistant is on? You'll have to read Fifty Shades Darker to find out! That E.L. James sure knows how to make a cliffhanger.

“No.  I’m not tired.” I feel strangely energized.  It’s been so good to talk – I don’t want to stop.
“What do you want to do?” he asks.
He smiles. 
“About what?”
“What stuff?”
“What about me?”
“What’s your favorite film?”
He grins.


4. Most of it doesn't make any goddamn sense

Whether it's bad prose or bad characterization, a lot of this book is a riddle handcuffed to a mystery and gagged with an enigma.

He smells so good; clean and freshly laundered, so Christian.

He has a walk-in laundry machine? Rich bastard. 

His eyes widen and darken while his hands knead my naked backside.

They widen and darken? Also, I'm not sure how you see this if he's giving you a butt massage, unless yoga/dislocation is involved.

I roll my eyes at the memory of his overbearing bossiness, but I realize now that’s just the way he is.

Overbearing bossiness, huh? Not his aloof bossiness. "Get on your knees, now. Or not, whatever's cool."

I mention the two literary societies that I belonged to and conclude with working at Clayton’s and all the useless knowledge I now possess about hardware and DIY. 

I'm pretty sure DIY is the definition of useful knowledge. But when did definitions ever get in E.L. James' way?

He seemed fine when I went into his study.  We had sex… and then he wasn’t.  No, I don’t get it.  I look to my subconscious.  She’s whistling with her hands behind her back and looking anywhere but at me.  She hasn’t got a clue, and my inner goddess is still basking in a remnant of post-coital glow.  No – we’re all clueless.

The inner goddess and the subconscious recur constantly throughout the book, and yet E.L. James never clarifies just what the fuck she's talking about. She seems to think you can be conscious of your subconscious, which I'm pretty sure would make you Batman/Kurt Russell.

Not pictured: Batman, because you never see Batman and Kurt Russell in the same place at the same time.

As far as I can gather, her subconscious is the part of her psyche that is anxious about the dismembered limbs she left her in her altar room; her general nay saying is an attempt to avoid lethal injection. Her inner goddess is the part of her psyche that emerges during Ana's black outs and is the one that demanded a tribute of human flesh in the first place. Got it?
He half smiles his secret private joke smile.

If you think the above sentence is compelling, you need to re-evaluate how safe it is to trust yourself with utensils.

His private-joke smile etched on his beautiful face and his eyes a molten gray.

A... molten... Fuck it. Not touching that.

“I’ll see you later.”
“Try and stop me,” he whispers.

Try and stop you from... being seen? This is a huge recurring problem with the book. I have no idea how this passed any kind of editorial process. You can't just smear excrement on the page and call it a story! You have to actually write words with the feces, and the words must be logically coherent. Only then will we let you into the minimum security wing, Mrs. James.

“Eat,” he says, his tongue caressing the front of his palate as he enunciates the ‘t’.

Ea-th. Ea... ch. Eaaa-thra. Ea-thuh. Sorry, I have no idea what you're talking about. When I try to pronounce that I sound like I'm speaking Elvish or Anne Heche or something.

My mother has relaxed to the point where she is literally horizontal now that Mr. Megabucks is not coming to dinner.

Literally horizontal. I actually have no idea what she's trying to convey here, which is the problem with people way overusing the word "literally."

“I have a situation which I have to deal with.  I’ll see you Friday..."
Oh no.  The last ‘situation’ he had was my virginity.  Jeez, I hope it’s nothing like that. 

Oh my God, Ana! Your virginity CAME BACK.

I put my head down and proceed to the gate, keeping my eyes on the shiny, white floor, blurred through my watery tears.

Watery tears as opposed to some other kind of tears. Do I have to elaborate on why this is wrong? Do I have to go into how this is completely unappealing because it cheapens and undermines the elegance of written language through superfluous words that add nothing to the ideas being expressed? Oh, I just did.

“Hi, My name’s Leandra, What can I get for you… er… folks… er… today, this mornin… ?” Her voice trails off, stumbling over her words as she gets an eye full of Mr. Beautiful opposite me. 

E.L. James is totally off base here. Women never react this way to handsome men in real life. I'll have you know that I am a really, ridiculously, unbelievably studly and handsome man, but women are always incredibly composed around me. In fact, most don't even seem to notice me. If this waitress saw me with my gladiator-like physique, I can assure you that she would barely even talk to me. Happens every time.

Why do I want to spend every single minute with this controlling sex god?  Oh yes, I’ve fallen in love with him, and he can fly.

If you have to ask why you're drawn to a sexy person of the opposite sex, then you need to stop spending so much time in church.

Unconditional love – what every child deserves from its parents. 

E.L. James' neighbor: Excuse me, do you mind watching my baby for an hour?

Wow… to be this wanted by this Greek god.

I wouldn't be so excited about that. I mean, the Greek gods killed their dad and screwed their siblings and raped mortals and ... Oh God, are you actually getting turned on by that, Ana? Wait, I don't want to know. 

Leaning down, he nuzzles my neck.  Tracing his teeth and tongue from the base of my ear to my shoulder.  He hums softly as he does, and the sound resonates through me. Right down... right down there, inside me.

We already heard you describe Christian pulling your tampon out so you can fuck, but now you sound like someone Joseph Smith would tell to get the stick out of her ass. 

His touch elicits a delicious, tickly shiver.

You have no idea how often she uses the word "delicious" to describe things that are not food. Let me tell you now that if I had a nickel for every passage like the one above, I would have enough money to buy a book other than Fifty Shades of Grey.

He’s kissing and sucking and nibbling… moving south… and then his tongue is there.  At, a the junction of my thighs. I throw my head back and cry out as I almost detonate into orgasm…

This is the result of someone finally finding her vagina after 22 years

Outside, in the relative cool of the half-light of pre-dawn, the valet hands Christian a set of keys to a flash sports car with a soft top.  I raise an eyebrow at Christian, who smirks back at me.
“You know, sometimes it’s great being me,” he says with a conspiratorial but smug grin that I simply can’t help emulating. 

You say that smug shit with the valet standing right there, Christian? Are you trying to get urine in your wiper fluid? 

Closing my eyes, I try to calm myself down, to connect with my inner sub.

How many people do you have inside you, Ana?! Don't answer that.

... And that's that. I'm sure you're wondering how the book ends, right?

I'm sorry to say that it's not in a coital nuclear explosion that claims both their lives

Ana wants to see how far Christian goes with his punishment fetish, so she bends over and tells him to take it up to eleven. Then she cries from how much it hurts and realizes that he's really, really fucked up and dumps his ass. Seriously, Ana? You couldn't have done that three hundred pages ago?

However, there are two more books, so I'm sure we have lots more to read about these two. Or rather I do, you lucky pricks.


  1. Well Chris, now i have to thank you for sacrificing for us. I find it brave that you've read this juvenile piece of shit to its back cover. I find it intriguing that you're still alive.

    Thank you. Please let us know if there's anything I can do to support you in overcoming the traumatic experience.

  2. This must have been incredibly tedious, but you managed to turn your obvious disgust for this book into an entertaining and funny piece for us to read. Way to go! Thank you!

    1. It was by far the least entertaining book I've read for SV.

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