Thursday, May 31, 2012

50 shades of Grey, chapter 1

Okay, let's start. Hm, not a good sign that they say that a sequel is in the works before the start of the book. That's like saying “NO NO THIS IS SO AWESOME YOU'LL WANT TO KEEP READING NO WORRIES WE'RE ON IT!” or “THE AUTHOR IS SLOPPY SO THIS BOOK WON'T HAVE A PROPER ENDING” I am also being told that this is not a real story when it describes it's self as a supernatural romance with a twist, again, in just those first few junk pages. Not a good start.

...Dedicated “For Niall. The Master of my universe” I'm getting scared. Oh, this is her husband. ... I'm going to hold off on a snarky comment about feminism because if this is BDSM then this could be fair play, but I want you to know that I'm holding it in.

Okay. Opening up with a our unnamed narrator fighting with her hair and given an incredibly simple and generic description (light brown hair, too big blue eyes) and she's peeved that her room mate has fallen prey to the plague and now has to go drive to Seattle (yay! We're getting a setting!) to meet, and I quote the enigmatic CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc ” for an interview in her place ... Didn't you just say that you had never heard of this dude like, three lines ago narrator? I AM SUSPECT!

Okay, we meet the sickly room mate (and BFFF (they are so close they get an extra F.)) Kate. Kate is sickly and can hardly speak, and she explains to us why it is SO IMPORTANT that Ana (she has a name now! Yay!) does this interview for her. We're also told how super duper pretty and awesome and wonderful she is, and the writer does a decent job of setting up the that our narrator is a Nice Girl because even bitter about having to do this interview, she's still medicating and making soup for her sick BFFF (say it with me now, “Awwww”). Except, well, if this super duper wonderful BFFF Kate is the editor of the school paper, wouldn't she have OTHER reporters to call upon rather then her room mate? You know, people who actually KNOW how to do this? The narrator is telling us how wonderful and super awesome Kate is (she's even hot sick!) but, well, Kate is seeming a bit like a jerk to me here.

She's sick, and has her room mate fussing over her (making soup, fetching medication) and going to this ZOMG SUPER HUGE IMPORTANT interview for her. Why not get another one of her reporters to do it? Is she afraid they won't let her write the story and all the hard work to GET the interview will be for nothing? Why not do it over the phone? We're told her voice is raspy and awful, but you know what? When I was 12 I managed to do competitive public speaking in front of a crowd full of strangers with no voice*, I think she could manage a phone interview rather then throwing her BFFF under the bus even if she was rasping. She also says “And thanks Ana – as usual, you’re my lifesaver.” Which to me means that Kate is often throwing Ana into these obscene situations because she knows Ana will go along with it. So, narrator, I am not believing you when you say Kate is super duper awesome. She sounds like kind of a jerk to me so far. So I'm going to put my bets on Ana being in secret love with her, and Kate totally knows and uses it to manipulate her. Fingers crossed for a threesome later in the series!

Still, I'm being a picky jerk. This is all just to get Ana and the male lead (the “enigmatic CEO” obvs) introduced so that they can bone, right? Let's keep reading.

"It’s early, and I don’t have to be in Seattle until two this afternoon.” time for a nice and relaxed drive in Kate's borrowed sporty Mercedes! And by “relaxed” the Ana “puts the pedal to the medal” “It’s a quarter to two when I arrive, greatly relieved that I’m not late” WHAT? You were just talking about how the roads were empty, you were speeding, and talking like you had time to kill. CONTINUITY. THIS IS IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH GUYS!

You know, some libraries were saying they didn't want to carry Fifty Shades of Grey because of the level of writing in this book. I thought that was a bit strange. I mean, I've read “Dick and Jane”. There's nothing special about those pros, but, well, “She’s wearing the sharpest charcoal suit jacket and white shirt I have ever seen.” I've read this line about seven times. It took me about six times for that sentences to read right to me. It still leaves me with Questions about this receptionist that was just described. Is she naked from the waist down? Also, is her suit jacket made of razors and pointy things?

Moving on. ... We just got the narrator's full name. Anastasia Steele. Fuck.

Alright, so, I'm just going to throw this up here. She smiles kindly at me, amused no doubt, as I sign in. And why is our receptionist amused at Anastasia Steele? Is it because she has a ridiculous name? Because if I were named Anastasia Steele I would be self conscious about that. However, despite seeming super sensitive to what people are thinking about her, Ana doesn't seem to notice the name thing (maybe it will come up later?) but no, she thinks that the receptionist is amused at her despite a kindly smile because the receptionist is so pristine and Ana's hair is falling out of her pony tail and she's dressed not super office-y, but in a skirt, with boots and a sweater! I don't think Ana here and I are going to be friends :(

Ugh. Now she's self conscious because the security guards are better dressed then her in their suits. Okay, I get that we're supposed to get that Ana is a fish out of water here at this super fancy building, and that everyone and thing here is all the fancy all the time. I get that. And yet I still feel that now that you have a visitor badge with ANASATIA STEELE written on it, she should have bigger things to be hung up on.


...inwardly cursing Kate for not providing me with a brief biography. I know nothing about this man I’m about to interview. He could be ninety or he could be thirty.” Then how did you know he was enigmatic Ana? J'ACUSE! Seriously though, while Kate was convincing her and she said “But I don't know anything about him!” Kate didn't give her a quick and dirty break down? Another point in favor of my “Kate's a jerk” theory! Or at very least way less awesome and together as the text is trying to make her sound. Earlier they mention that she lends Ana her Mercedes. ... She's a college student what the living hell is she doing with a Mercedes?! Maybe Kate is the girlfriend of a mob boss?

Still, I bet I can guess what this guy looks like. I mean, he is a vampire right? I'm going to say he looks to be mid twenties have... Hmm, thick dark hair, with intense grey eyes (since she has the blue, and his name is Grey), a strong jaw, and a smirk. Oh, and tall and well toned. Let's not forget tall and well toned.

Ana has a guess, too! “Judging from the building, which is too clinical and modern, I guess Grey is in his forties: fit, tanned, and fair-haired to match the rest of the personnel.” I wanna add “pale as fuck” to my above list now. Also we have not heard a peep about facial hair thus far, so not sure how that is matching. If the blond receptionist had a beard, I don't think Ana would feel so self conscious about being Such! A! Slob! Also, can vampires grow facial hair?

Another elegant, flawlessly dressed blonde comes out of a large door to the right. What is it with all the immaculate blondes? It’s like Stepford here.” Because your author couldn't think of a better way to Other you. You couldn't have been anything other then pasty white (no, we haven't been told she is yet, but if she were not-white we'd have her feeling out of place for other reasons).

when the office door opens and a tall, elegantly dressed, attractive African-American man with short dreads exits. ” The male lead is a black dude with dreads?! AWESOME! ”He turns and says through the door. “Golf, this week, Grey.”" Tease.

"I push open the door and stumble through, tripping over my own feet, and falling head first into the office.
Double crap – me and my two left feet! I am on my hands and knees in the doorway to Mr. Grey’s office, and gentle hands are around me helping me to stand. I am so em­barrassed, damn my clumsiness. I have to steel myself to glance up. Holy cow – he’s so young.

Okay, so, a few things here. First, I actually like the phrase double crap. Second, are we not even trying to hide the fact that this is supposed to be Bella Swan from Twilight? OH NO I AM ACCIDENT PRONE *trips/faints/pratfalls into the arms of nearest attractive male who falls hopelessly in love with her* I want to see the heroin of one of these books who is both “common looking” AND has cat like grace.

Also, guys, are you as shocked as I am that Grey, the super important man with an army of Perfect Blonds is shockingly young? I mean, who else is going to have a blond only hiring policy?

So young – and attractive, very attractive. He’s tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie with unruly dark copper colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly. It takes a moment for me to find my voice.” CALLED IT! Well, no smirk. Yet. Also, get it, he wears grey and has grey eyes BECAUSE OF HIS NAME LOLOLOLOLOL pleasekillme.

If this guy is over thirty then I’m a monkey’s uncle." HAH HOPE YOU ENJOY BEING RELATED TO MONKEYS BECAUSE DUDE'S LIKE 100! You know, I want to see a vampire who has a very specific number for age. I want to meet one who's 147. And celebrates his birthday (or death day? Which would a vampire celebrate?). Also we are now told that Kate and Ana study English, and go to Washington state, if you were wondering.

I will give the author some points here. She has been giving us setting and little things about the characters in ways that aren't super intrusive. Yes, we got the I AM LOOKING IN A MIRROR for the opening to describe Ana, but, well, at least she didn't go on to say “I AM 21 AND STUDYING ENGLISH AND MY BFFF IS KATE WHO IS ALSO STUDYING ENGLISH AND WE LIVE TOGETHER AND SOMETIMES I SNEAK INTO HER ROOM AT NIGHT AND SMELL HER”.

I think I see the ghost of a smile in his expression, but I’m not sure.” Can I count that as a smirk?

Okay, and everything in the building as been steel and sandstone and glass so far. Grey's office, however, is “In front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, there’s a huge modern dark-wood desk that six people could comfortably eat around. It matches the coffee table by the couch. Everything else is white – ceiling, floors, and walls except, on the wall by the door, where a mosaic of small paintings hang, thirty-six of them arranged in a square. They are exquisite – a series of mundane, forgotten objects painted in such precise detail they look like photographs. Displayed together, they are breathtaking.” All. White. Sterile, surgical. Has anyone ever spent any large amount of time in an all white room? I feel like it would drive you insane. Like looking at a Great Old One. Also, holy crap, how fast do you COUNT Ana? Thirty-six. Just that quickly. They're not just a series arranged, there are thirty-six arranged.

"Next, I set up the mini-disc recorder and am all fingers and thumbs, dropping it twice on the coffee table in front of me. Mr. Grey says nothing, waiting patiently – I hope – as I become increasingly embarrassed and flustered." That is a task that sounds like it NEEDS mostly fingers and thumbs, Ana. Also, I want to point this out. Before, with all the blonds, she was being giggled and laughed at in her mind, now that it's the “Adonis” Mr. Christian Grey he's, by her perception, being patient. If I turn this into a drinking game, I'm going to add “every time Ana assumes what people are thinking about her and is likely wrong” to the list. Yup, a little further down, he's suppressing a smile OR SMIRKING?! No? Not yet. I'll get that last point, God Damn it!

Ana fumbles around with the tape recorder some more, and then once it's all set up asks Grey if he minds her recording it, he snarks her with “After you’ve taken so much trouble to set up the recorder – you ask me now?” and I admit, I kind of like this exchange. I was sad when after she freezes and panics because OMG PRETTY BOY I AM SO FLUSTERED AND CUTE! Seriously, she's a university senior about to graduate, even though she's not supposed to be feminine, it strikes me as strange that she'd still get THIS flustered just because he's pretty. Oh, God, they're setting her up to be a virgin for him to deflower, aren't we? Ugh.

Okay, some more actually kind of fun banter (from him, that is) and we find out he's giving out the degrees at the graduation ceremony she's about to attend. ... Wait, isn't that usually just faculty? Or is this just an American thing? She then starts reading Kate's questions. "His smile is rueful, but he looks vaguely disappointed." BECAUSE HE EXPECTED A MORE INTERESTING QUESTION OUT OF YOU ANA! DUH! HE ONLY CARES WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY! SCRAP KATE'S QUESTIONS QUICK! OTHERWISE HE WON'T LIKE YOU! Ahem. Sorry about that.

Be pauses and fixes me with his gray stare. “My belief is to achieve success in any scheme one has to make oneself master of that scheme, know it inside and out, know every detail." LIKE HE WILL IN MAKING YOU HIS LOVE SLAVE. 
Maybe you’re just lucky.” This isn’t on Kate’s list – but he’s so arrogant. His eyes flare momentarily in surprise" OH SNAP. We then get this “You sound like a control freak.” The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them. ... So seconds ago she was all ZOMG PRETTY BOY I AM FLUSHED AND AWKWARD and before that she was freaking out because all she knew was he was this big shot CEO guy. Everything we have seen of Ana so far as been trying to paint her as a Nice Timid Shy Girl. Now she's calling him a control freak (he doesn't deny this, and then distracts her with some hawt lower lip stroking action). She has totally abandoned the questions Kate gave her/wanted for her article, by the way, and we barely made it one in. Or at least, I think she has? The narration is unclear here.

"“Besides, immense power is acquired by assuring yourself in your secret reveries that you were born to control things,” he continues, his voice soft." What the double-crap does this even mean? This strikes me as creepy. I know it's supposed to be setting us up for “HE'S INTO BDSM” but, well, this just strikes me as the type of logic that people used for keeping slaves. It's just drenched in entitlement. Also, I dislike the stereotype that BDSM** relationships have total control in them like this. There's still a level of respect in the relationship it's self, even if the sex is all about control, and in the end, the Sub has the safe word to bring everything to a screeching halt, and if they don't, I can't imagine that they'd stick around. Just sayin'.

The interview continues, and Grey is being a rich, spoiled, and entitled, and Ana flips between ZOMG PRETTY and “You are an arrogant douche”. We're also getting hints of sexy tiemz to come dropped in with “wicked thoughts” in his eyes. He keeps making Ana uncomfortable with his intense gazes. I feel this is important for another reason. She isn't “I am uncomfortable because my raging boner is making it hard to sit” he is making her authentically uncomfortable with his pointed, intense stares. She goes back to Kate's questions at this point.

"“Possibly. Though there are people who’d say I don’t have a heart.”
“Why would they say that?”
“Because they know me well.” His lip curls in a wry smile."

Fuck you. Sorry, had to get that out there.

"“Would your friends say you’re easy to get to know?” And I regret the question as soon as I say it. It’s not on Kate’s list." Really? How many questions have you asked that aren't by now Ana? Of the seven questions you've asked, five have been your own, haven't they? No, really, I'm not sure, the narration is unclear about this.

"his penetrating gaze" See? He's just sitting there eye chaining her up and busting out the whips!

"“Are you gay, Mr. Grey?”
He inhales sharply, and I cringe, mortified. Crap. Why didn’t I employ some kind of filter before I read this straight out? How can I tell him I’m just reading the questions?" I would imagine because he can see the questions in your lap and that you are reading them since he's already eye spanking you? Although seriously Kate, your questions are awful. They've been getting more and more personal, and Grey's been getting more and more terse. Ana is apparently unable to read them in her mind really quickly while Grey answers, and is just reading them blindly. I dunno about you, but with a question as short as “are you gay?” I think I may have absorbed what I was about to say before actually uttering the phrase. Maybe that's just me though. Either way, this whole interview is just a pile of awkward and eye bondage. Either way, Ana stammers out a “sorry I didn't write these” which leads to her being outed as not being on the paper at all, but being drafted, against her will, by Kate who is sick. Then Blond Number Two (as the text has called her) gives Grey a “next meeting two minutes” and he tells her to trash it, he's not done with this fresh piece of ass.

Alright, the tables are turned, and Ana drops another double-crap as he declares that since she's gotten to ask him things he now gets to ask her things, it is “only fair”. ... What? You're cancelling some big important business meeting to poke and prod some girl? If I were Ana, I would have stood up, said “Thank you for your time, but I've actually gotten all I need, and I would just feel terrible if you cancelled your meeting because of me!” and then ran. Very fast. Then again, I'd make a terrible harlequin lead.

So, he grills her on her plans and such a little and mentions the internship program there (so he's offering a job to the chick he OBVIOUSLY wants to bang. Classy. Sorry, I'm sure he just finds her “interesting”) and then they wrap up and she peaces out. In what MUST be less then two minutes. Which means he really didn't need to cancel his meeting. Unless he REALLY needs to wank after this meeting? We also get that she has a long drive home in the rain, so, I imagine that Ana is about to total Kate's car or something.

Alright, so he sees her OUT of the office, puts her coat on her, and presses the elevator button for her and waits with her (NOT LIKE DREADLOCK DUDE!) because she is Special and the author needs us to know that. Sigh. She, meanwhile, is anxious to get far, far away from him, and totally forgets that he's handing out her diploma and is all YAY NEVER HAVE TO SEE HIM AGAIN but you WILL and he will be INSIDE you Ana. It's best if you just come to terms with this now.

And that's chapter one! I deem it an awkward start, and we have friction between the two leads, which is good, but I wish the author had tried to be a little more subtle (or diverse) about what a boner magnet Grey is. Also, I find Grey kinda creepy so far. So far I hate the whole cast though, so that's a good sign. Hope you kids enjoyed reading this, and if you have any thoughts/suggestions/comments, I'd love to read them!

* And I still placed! Had I been able to actually talk, I would have OWNED that thing!
** I admit to not being incredibly knowledgeable on the topic of BDSM and the relationships dynamics that go with it, so if anyone has a resource or wants to give me a crash course on it so I can go into this better informed, that would be lovely.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Announcing a Bad Idea!

Alright, imaginary people reading this! I have a confession to make. I am deeply, totally hopelessly in love with Ana Mardoll and her blog (that link over there <- click it. Do it now.). She's smart, funny, and mind blowingly insightful. She runs a series of deconstructions, which are thought provoking and interesting and really, just go read the whole thing now. I'll wait.

Right, so, why am I gushing about Ana in a post called "announcing a bad idea!"? Well, I've decided to run my own series of deconstructions. However, I expect mine to run more among the lines of Mark reads Twilight then Ana reading Twilight. Still, consider this the announcement of Erika Reads Fifty Shades of Grey!

Yes, I'm picking up a Twilight inspired erotica to pick apart/weep at. Or get awkward boners from. We'll see. I'll make one post per chapter per week (I will tentatively slot this for Thursday) and I pinky swear to not read ahead.

So, why Fifty Shades of Grey? I wanted to pick something that was popular, and being made a huge deal out of at the moment, and that I hadn't seen getting the deconstruction treatment in the blogs I frequent. There is a fair bit of "controversy" about this book and it's BDSM tones. Because of the sexual nature of the book, some libraries are refusing to carry it (or trying not to). There is enough attention being given to this book that I'm sure there are people out there who want to know what's going on with it without actually having to read the thing themselves! So, stay tuned and come back next Thursday for the first chapter!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fattism from the point of view of a Skinny Bitch

So, I will put a disclaimer in here: I fit into what society deems conventionally "attractive" for women. I've got big breasts, big butt, a small waist, and long hair. This fact has left me feeling really awkward about the issue of fattisim. Or rather, my right to speak about it. I haven't had to work for my figure, and have never BEEN fat, so it's, well, harder for me to relate. So, I guess I'll start with the obvious. 

Yes, fattism is a thing. I won't try to get into the thick of the issue it's self when it has already been done, and much better, elsewhere, but I will try to sum it up. North America is a very... Visual, society, that tends to make all sorts of fun judgements based on looks. It used to be race, but now that's Not Okay, so people have moved onto weight, I guess? I know people who have actually uttered the phrase "I hate fat people. They're disgusting" I'm disappointed in myself for just staring in shock, or laughing nervously rather then flipping the table and screaming at them "ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME?!" and I imagine most of you are on board with me for that one. It's easy to crap your pants over someone being that overtly awful, but there is a much more innocuous line that people use to spread their hate. One that I am guilty of uttering myself.

"But what about the health risks?" I mean, EVERYONE knows that fat people are unhealthy and going to get diabetes, have high blood pressure, and smell bad! They should just loose the weight! It's not hard! Just some self control and exercise, right? Actually, no. Loosing weight, or maintaining a "healthy" weight (I won't even GET into the BS that BMI is) isn't as easy as skinny people who have fast metabolisms seem to think it is. There is also the assumption that being fat means you have no self control, and are unhealthy. Or if you're fat and unhealthy, that you're unhealthy BECAUSE you're fat, and on THAT, I would like to call bull shit.

Now, imaginary reader, you're may be thinking "But there IS a weight issue!" and that all that icky fat is going to HURT OUR HEALTH SYSTEM. Now, I'm Canadian, and well aware of how strained our health system already is, and would like to see it NOT be strained further, but telling people that they're gross, that their an epidemic, and treating them as less then human isn't going to help anything. It only hurts and shames people, and nothing productive ever got done from shaming.

So, what should we do? Is it okay to start saying it's OK to be fat? "WHAT IF MORE PEOPLE START GETTING FAT BECAUSE OF IT!??!?!" And to that person I say "It's okay to be what ever the fuck you are" but there is the ugly little issue that increased weight causes increased health issues (which people who are heavier are well aware of and don't need you telling them), and it is THAT we should work on, not by going around shaming people for not fitting into an impossible ideal that movies and tv and magazines push. So, how do we work on health rather then body image? Isn't working on body image going to encourage them to GET healthy? No, it really isn't. Make it easier to be healthy. That will get people to be healthy. We need a food and fitness revolution, and badly. We need there to be easy, healthy, cheap food readily available. We need clear food labeling, less artificial ingredients, and we need fitness to leave the gyms and become something that is social and fun.

We also need to widen our definition of "healthy". What good is being skinny and fitting into what society deems "attractive" when you've been conditioned to hate your body no matter what you look like? There's more to health then weight, and when people scream "FAT IS UGLY AND YOU ARE UNHEALTHY" they forget that so is depression. So is bulimia, and anorexia, and the self loathing that can come from body issues that are fueled by things like people telling you you're fat, and the obscene portrayals of the human body in media. Obesity isn't the epidemic, it's narrow minded thinking that treats whole sects of the population like they're not people that is.