Fifty Shades of Grey – Book Review

What can I possibly say about E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey that hasn’t already been said in the news, on TV, or in the 11,000+ reviews that have already been posted on Amazon?  Rather than summarizing the plot, I’ll give my thoughts on why this book is a bestseller and also why it shouldn’t be. First, why it shouldn’t be:

If you know the book’s story, then you know it was originally written as fan fiction for the Twilight series. Fan fiction is where readers borrow an author’s characters and write their own story lines about them. While the majority of fan fiction is also written poorly, it has a strong following.People just don’t want to say good-bye to their favorite vampire or heroine after the original author has closed the book.

That poor quality shines through in the writing of Fifty Shades. It suffers from the overuse of a middle grade thesaurus. For example, every time Ana is around Mr. Grey she either blushes or loses her breath: Her breath hitches, she thaws, she blushes, her heart stops, she turns beet red, she blanches, she glows…you get the idea. The overuse of descriptions to say the same thing over and over is a sure sign of amateur writing or at least of an editor that should quit his day job.

Next, the two lead characters are clichés of nothing more than a Harlequin romance, and badly clichéd at that.  Ana is presented as a stupid innocent blond, at times defiant, but also lazy and winy, a sex object in need of  a strong male character to show her the way and care for her. At first, Mr. Grey is painted as a dashing rich and handsome hero who turns all the ladies heads, but later becomes an effeminate puppet with emotional issues who enjoys dominating women.  He basically becomes the “gay” best friend that many chicks fell in love with back in high school or college who would never reciprocate that feeling.  I’d almost bet money he represents a gay friend who E.L. James herself had feelings for.

Put bad writing and bad characters together and there really is no hope.  So why are people reading it and making James and her publisher rich?

The book was first self-published, an industry with its own reputation for poorly executed books being churned out by the thousands every year, most who won’t see sales past their author’s own bookshelf. But remember, James already had a strong following from her fan fiction. And let’s face it, sex sells. Once you get beyond the bad writing, you really have nothing outside of the Playboy Confessions pieces some of us actually read after we were done with the pretty pictures. In steps Random Houses who took notice of James’ self-pub success and wanting a piece of the action.  The book soon got global distribution, professional reviews, and got people to talking. Next thing you know, “mommy porn” is on the NYT bestseller list and Hollywood came calling. Those are the things that authors’ dreams are made of – those who can write and those who cannot.

As society dictates, we all want to do what our friends are doing.  So, if your best friend is reading Fifty Shades, then you want to read it too. And so on and so on.  That’s exactly how I picked it up.  Being a strong fan of the written word, I love the effects a simple book can have on our culture.  How does a book like this get people reading, who probably haven’t read a book since Dick and Jane back in grade school?  I wanted to find out for myself, and the results were quite humorous. No, it’s not the next great American novel or some classic literature piece Oprah is “blushing” over. Instead, it’s badly written sex scenes laced together with a bad storyline. What does that say about our society?  I’ve read Facebook posts from drunken friends that held more merit.

But still, any book (good or bad) that puts a dollar in a bookstore’s cash register these days is a book worth some kind of merit, no matter how bad its written. I respect the book and E.L. James for that. As for those of us who enjoy a book that doesn’t lower our IQ, I suggest you turn fifty shades in the other direction.

Fifty Shades of Grey – Chapter 26

THE FINAL CHAPTER (Spoilers)

Ana wakes to Mr. Grey playing sad songs on the piano in his pajama bottoms.

They talk about the contract, which she still hasn’t signed.  He goes and gets a revised copy for her to look over. By the way, the only section completely crossed through is the section on FOOD!

He wants to spank her. She says he’ll have to catch her first. He reminds her that he wants to hurt her, but no more than what she can take because “I need it.”  (I’d like to slap the bitch around myself a bit at this point.)

She wants him to show her how bad it can hurt. So he makes her count licks while he uses a belt on her.

Then she calls him a fucked-up son of a bitch and tells him he needs to sort his shit out.  Really, Ana?  After the flogger and angelic music last night, the neck tie, the cable ties, the riding crop, the restraints, it’s the belt that helps you decide this man is fucked up?

She confesses she loves him. Then she decides she’s going to leave. She gives him all his stuff back – the Mac, the blackberry, and the car key – and wants the money he got for selling her ole clunker car. He asks if she’ll take a check.  “Yes. I think you’re good for it,” she says.

They say good-bye.

Taylor takes her home. She cries and the book ends with, “…the physical pain from the bite of the belt is nothing, noting compared to this devastation. I curl up, desperately clutching the flat foil balloon and Taylor’s handkerchief, and surrender myself to the grief.”

Blink. Blink. (cricket chirp, cricket chirp…)  That’s it?  She’s feeling grief over leaving him??  Grief?

Well, obviously we know they have to get back together. There’s two more books in this damn series, and while I’m sure they are filled with lustrous breath hitching, spanking, blushing, flogging, thawing, maybe a bit of eating, some DIY, a butt plug, gay flight attendants, 400 pages of emails, and a partridge in a pear tree, I WILL NOT BE READING THEM!

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Tomorrow….my final thoughts on Fifty Shades….

Fifty Shades of Grey – Chapter 25

Well, we finally get a break from all the email exchanges in this chapter.  Only 3 pages of emails as Ana says good-bye to Georgia and tells Mr. Grey she can’t wait to see him. He feels the same.  She’s worried that he’s been stand offish for some reason.  He’s worried about her emailing while the plane is taking off.

It’s so angelic!

Taylor picks her up at the airport.  That’s Mr. Grey’s assistant, bodyguard, male dominant lover. I don’t know what he is.

Mr. Grey is so happy to see her and wants her to take a shower with him.  This guy really likes to bathe!  Oh, and he likes her skirt.

She blushes. She flushes. They have sex. They go to bed. Yawn!

They have breakfast and then go over the safe words – Yellow and Red.  How boring!  I’d half expect him to choose chartreuse and mahogany, but that’s just me.

He restrains her and blindfolds her and gives her music to listen to. And then he leaves the room to go have sex with Taylor.  Just kidding!  That’s what I would have done.

He teases her with a flogger and some type of furry glove while forcing her to listen to, and I quote from Ana, “holy cow, a celestial choir – singing a capella in my head, an ancient, ancient hymnal.”  Who listens to holy cows these days?  Moooo-la-lulah?

Apparently the music was something called Spem in Alium, (Spam and Alien?) a forty-part motet by Thomas Tallis that Mr. Grey has always wanted to have as a soundtrack to sex. You can listen to it here if you wish and decide for yourself how gay this man is.  Straight men have sex to songs like Hotel California or Free Bird, not this!

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Check back tomorrow for my commentary on Chapter 26 – the FINAL chapter in this saga of Mr. Gay…I mean Grey.

 

Fifty Shades of Grey – Chapter 24

Ana is dreaming about sex with Mr. Grey. They wake up and he turns her down.  He’s got other plans.

He takes her out flying on a glider.

And then they go to IHOP.  (Yep, my thoughts exactly.)  But Ana offers to pay at least.

Guess what happens next? Go on…guess.

THREE PAGES of emails!

Ana: Sometimes, you really know how to show a girl a good time. Thank you.

Yeah, cause a rich handsome guy taking you to IHOP is definitely a good time.

Ana and her mom cook dinner, to which Christian is invited. “My mom has decided on gazpacho soup and a barbecue with steaks marinated in olive oil, garlic, and lemon. Christian likes meat, and it’s simple to do.”  Yeah, I bet he likes meat alright!

But Mr. Grey cancels and has to go back to Seattle – I’m sure the meat he likes can’t be found at a barbecue in Georgia at least!

Ana obsesses over why he left.

Five more pages of emails.

Ana goes to bed saying, “Like the fool I am, I cannot resist the lure of Christian Grey’s words.”   Umm…I’ve read drunken Facebook posts that had more allure than this Email B.S. that goes on between these two.

One more email from Mr. Grey letting her know he’s got plans for her this Friday!  Ana worries.  Oh No!  What has she done?!?!  I’ll tell you what you’ve done. E.L. James has written another boring chapter, that’s what she’s done!

Fifty Shades of Grey – Chapter 23

Remember that 19930 movie Sliver?  This chapter is a lot like that.

I want to sliver inside you! Hey, is that Vidal? Your hair smells so good. I love his new tea tree line. Have you tried it? Makes my scalp tingle. Where were we? Oh yeah…

Sure enough, creepy Grey shows up at the hotel and has a drink with Ana and her Mom. Grey took her email literally and came to see her since she wished he was there. STALKER!  So he had to be sending half those emails from the last chapter via plane.  Shame the plane didn’t go down because his laptop was interfering with the cockpit operations. I bet Mr. Grey likes the work “cockpit.” I wonder if some very gay man gave him a massage?

Mom excuses herself. Grey and Ana talk about Mrs. Robinson. Grey leaves. Ana confesses to Mom she thinks she’s in love with Grey (SHOCKER!).  Ana goes up to Grey’s room.

And what does Grey ask her?

“Are you bleeding?  Do you have cramps? Did you take your pill?”

Really, Mr. Grey.  A hot woman comes up to your hotel room and you’re worried about her menstrual cycle???  That’s sexy.

And then he wants to go take a bubble bath. (Mr. Gay!)

They do it.  This man loves to fuck with Mr. Bubbles.

Ana asks him about his chicken pox scars. He says that’s not what they are.  They turn out to be cigarette stub burns.  Hmmm…kinky!

More talk about Mrs. Robinson and whether or not they loved each other. Uncomfortable!

And then Mr. Grey tells Ana she’s not a good submissive!  She strikes back with “Maybe I don’t have a good teacher.”

She asks him what his favorite movie is and he says today it’s The Piano. Gag!  I half expected him to say Priscilla Queen of the Desert, but that’s just me.

Then she asks the number of women he’s had sex with. She’s pleased to learn she’s his one and only “vanilla conquest.”  This man really is fucked up. Just saying.

He tells her about a place you can go and practice being a submissive for a small fee, and admits he’s paid for it.

She says she’ll be willing to go to the Red Room of Pain again.  (Maybe he should charge admission?) They go to sleep.

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Up to this point, E.L. James has sadly attempted to get us to believe Ana is falling in love with him. Easily done since he’s just so hot and so handsome and makes us all swoon and blush and hitch and thaw and get all hot and bothered. This is really the first chapter where she attempts to paint Grey a sensitive side. However, it is more of a joke  because he’s still presented as being so damn feminine. He asks her about her period. He wants to take a bubble bath. His favorite movie is The Piano.  While a female reader will certainly go “Awwwe!” every time Grey opens his mouth, for the rest of us with a lick of sense he’s a clown and nothing more than a bad cliché.

Fifty Shades of Grey – Chapter 22

Cosmo and a back rub, sweetie?

Ana is loving first class.

We start with three pages of emails and Ana tells Mr. Grey a very pleasant young man massaged her back.  Of course, he flips out. Two more pages of email, and now he’s concerned that she’s emailing on the plane which is against airline rules, ya know? Her blackberry could be messing with flight navigation and all.

She quickly informs him that the man who gave her the massage was “very gay.”

Mr. Grey says she’s being naughty and next time will have to ride in the cargo space in a crate.  She takes him seriously and writes him an email essay (yes, it’s two pages long), freaking out about how he scares her and she thinks he’s being serious.

Ana lands in Georgia and cries at the sight of Mom, and then hits the beach to forget all about Mr. Grey, only to return to Mom’s house eager to turn on the Macbook and check her email again, where she finds an email essay from Mr. Grey  (3 pages long).

This is followed by 6 pages of emails between the two of them.  Didn’t she go to Georgia to get away from him??  The emails go something like this.

Mr. Grey: Can I zip up your dress?

Ana: I would rather you unzipped it.

Mr. Grey: SO WOULD I.

Ana: Slowly…

Mr. Grey: Wish I were there.

Ana: SO DO I.

Seriously, folks?  This is worse than texting.

Oh but wait!  Three more pages of email to follow after dinner in which Mr. Grey says, “I thought I had a more concupiscent effect on you. That has been my experience, and most pleasurable it has been, too.”

Ana accuses him of playing with a thesaurus.  (I think E. L. James just ratted herself out!)  Yes, Ana, sticks and stones can break your bones but softbound reference books excite me!

So Mr. Grey ends up going to dinner with his dominant Mrs. Robinson and the chapter ends with YES!  More Emails! Ana has gone out for drinks with her mother. Ana is jealous and thinks the worst, and Mr. Grey refuses to discuss it via email.  Why not, Mr. Grey?  Can’t find the right  gray words in that thesaurus of yours?

The chapter ends with him asking how many Cosmos she’s going to drink!

Holy fuck, he’s here.

Fifty Shades of Grey – Chapter 21

Is that a pencil in your mouth or an odd shaped DIY butt plug?

Ana wakes up and goes looking for Mr. Grey and finds the maid who offers her some breakfast.

Mr. Grey is in his office. He fucks Ana on the desk and informs her, “You completely beguile me, Ana. You weave some powerful magic.” Uhhh…I’m sorry.  Straight men don’t say that after they’ve fucked a bitch on their desk after breakfast.

The maid offers Ana some tea.  Mr. Grey orders an omelet and some fruit.

Ana leaves to go to one of her job interviews.

The interviewer asks her about extracurricular activities she indulged in while in college. (Let’s see….getting drunk, getting fucked, getting spanked, getting tied up, you know…nothing special)

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

So, she lied because remember – she knows crap about DIY – in the hardware store and in the bedroom department!

Tell us Ana, where do you see yourself in five years?

Copyediting, perhaps?  I’m not sure. I am open to opportunities.

She’s open all right.  (Copyediting in five years???  Seriously???)

Kate and Ana have a tiff over Christian and the chapter ends with 5 pages of emails.

How was your day?

Are you sore?

How were the interviews?

Was your maid one of your submissives?  (Yes, Ana really asks him this.)

Ana’s off to Georgia to see Mom.  She gets on the plane and Mr. Grey has upgraded her to first class. Control freak!

 

Fifty Shades of Grey – Chapter 20

Let’s play ball! They even come in Mr. Grey’s signature color! Call now and we’ll send two sets and throw in a blond chick who doesn’t like to eat. Act now! Pay only $19.95 and shipping and handling.

So we’re in a boathouse, right?  And like we’re gonna have sex on a boat, right?

Nope!  We’re gonna do it on a couch in the attic and Mr. Grey is gonna give it to her quick and it’s all for him, not for her.  I love how he tells her it’s gonna be quick – he’s a man. Isn’t the quick part a given?

In walks Mia and she’s either stupid or being kind because there’s no mention of them being caught in the act. Mr. Grey says he was just showing Ana his old rowing trophies. Well, we do know he’s talented with a paddle.  Mia tells them to come back to the house because Elliott and Kate are leaving – yeah, they are gonna probably go do it in the tree house.

Everyone goes back in the house and says good-bye. Ana and Mr. Grey chat.  She says “You are quite funny.”  He says, “Funny peculiar or funny ha-ha?”  See…he doesn’t even know he’s gay!

They go back to his place. She’s tired. She says she wants more.  He tells her one day he’s going to fuck her in the elevator. Stay classy, Mr. Grey!

They go to bed and Mr. Grey whips out a pair of shiny silver balls linked together by a thread.

He puts them in. He spanks her. He yanks the balls out. He fucks her. They come.

And then Mr. Grey reveals his real mother was a  “crack whore,” but she’s dead now.

“Good-night, Ana!”

Fifty Shades of Grey – Chapter 19

They wake up. They listen to some Frank Sinatra. They dance. Ana learns Mr. Grey’s previous dominant (his mother’s friend) taught him to dance. Yeah, that’s not all she taught him.

Wee Wee!

And speaking of, then they go to dinner at Mom’s house where Ana get’s to meet Mia, Mr. Grey’s little sister who is home from Paris. Mia admits, “He’s never brought a girl home before!”  Mmm Hmm….

Kate and Elliot are there too. Kate and Mia hit it off talking about Paris.  There’s a bit of cattiness between Mia and Ana though which is strange.  Eww..Maybe Mia and her brother slept together and now she’s jealous?  Wouldn’t surprise me at this point!

So then the subject of vacations comes up and Ana mentions she’s been thinking about going home to Georgia to see her peach of a Mama.  Oooh…this is the first time Mr. Grey has heard about this and he ain’t happy.

They talk about Paris.  They talk about London.  Blah…blah…blah….then they go out and play croquet in their sweater vests while holding toy poodles – just kidding!  But you know how rich people can be!

BUT…Mr. Grey does decide to show Ana the butthouse…I mean the boathouse, the boathouse! where Mr. Grey is going to “spank and then fuck her.”

Ana, just so you know, anchors don’t make good butt plugs.  Don’t look at me!  I wouldn’t really know.  I read it in an article once…in Hustler magazine…yeah, an article….in a magazine…that’s the ticket!

Climb aboard, Ana!  RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Fifty Shades of Grey – Chapter 18

Is that a pimple on your chest or is your chest hair just happy to see me?

Ana finds Mr. Grey’s doctor waiting for her.  Yep, she’s about to get fitted for birth control pills.

Mr. Grey takes her to the Red Room of Pain.  Woah! Daddy!

And then what does he do?  He braids her hair!  Why not pick out some fancy nail polish for her toes and then let her wax your arm pits while you both talk about boys!  Tee hee!

A few pages of directions and commands follow…put your hands here, remember this, do this, don’t do this, yes sir, hold still, yes sir, no sir, sir, sir….

But that riding crop she dreamed about shows up!  (Ebay, Mr. Grey?)  And it brought a few friends…black leather cuffs, a grid and shackles.  He trusses her up and the fun begins!

Out of all the whimpering, sirs, moaning, whipping, breath hitching, and inner goddess talking, Ana somehow makes notes that he has small chicken pox-like scars on his chest. Way to ruin the moment, Ana!

Just when she thinks they are done, he wants more.  Remember the cable ties he bought at the hardware store?  Bet Ana wishes she had never restocked them that morning!