Fifty Shades of Say Wha?!

If you missed last night’s Say Wha?! show, you missed my reading of 50 Shades of Grey. There is just too much bad/goodness in this book and too much hype around it not to share it with you, my lovely blog readers. I did live-tweet my reading of the book and got some positive feedback, but I feel the need to provide you with a further explanation of the latest literary sensation. It will blow your mind.

50 Shades of Grey by EL James is the New York Times best seller in fiction right now (combined print and e-books). The Trilogy of the Grey Stories (this title along with Fifty Shades Darker – and Fifty Shades Freed are the top three sellers in e-book fiction.

Right now I am thanking goodness for e-books because my litearary/comedy show Say Wha?! Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing (where comics read from and comment about the worst books ever published) is about to reach further into the depths of cray-cray than I ever imagined. Granted, Fifty Shades is on par with Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover.

Written by EL James, a TV executive and mother of two, who developed the “Grey” books from fan fiction she wrote online in tribute to Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” novels. The book was published by an Australian publisher in early March of 2012 (that’s only three weeks ago!) and then was bought for six-figures by Vintage Books, a subdivision of Random House with a hardcover release date in April 2012 (so soon!).

Because of this crazy (not quite cray-cray, but still ridiculous) hype over the last few days, top executives from Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Fox, Universal and Paramount are trying to get the rights to all three books.

But what is this “mommy porn?” book about?

Plot Summary … ish by Sara Bynoe

SPOILER ALERT – This contains major plot points and highlights some awful writing, but it doesn’t get sexually graphic. I’ve saved that for you and your e-reader – go and enjoy it.

Anastasia Steele, a 21-year-old student, living in Vancouver, WA in the year 2011, who trips over her own feet, blushes a lot, rolls her eyes a lot, has never been drunk at the start of the story (but is almost a lush by the end), drives an old VW Bug, Majors in English Lit, is obsessed with ‘the classics’ – especially British/ UK writing, she has a killer body, but doesn’t care about/have clothes (although, apparently she wears the ‘bo-ho’ look well), may or may not be a poor (but her Mom has a pool), is just about to graduate University, and move to Seattle.

Our ‘heroine,’ is sent by her roomie/ best friend, Katherine Kavanagh, (sometimes Kate) to interview Christian Grey for the University paper because Kate (the valedictorian, of course) is deathly ill (not really) and cannot do it herself.

When Anastasia Steele arrives to his Seattle office she meets a handsome, grey-eyed, 27 year old billionaire of a … manufacturing company? farming? investing?- it’s not really clear what he does, but he’s rich and he has a thing about not wasting food.

Instantly Anastasia and Christian have a ‘charge’ between them. He is ‘beguiled’ by her in ways that are never adequately explained – just like Edward’s attraction to Bella in Twilight is just something you have to accept. Naturally, the hottest man on the planet likes the girl no one has ever noticed before; this is how you write romance, people!

Christian also talks in the most formal way I have ever heard anyone speak in the Pacific North West; which is known for: being the worst dressed place on the planet, Starbucks, rain and pot. Where he got his prim and proper formality we’ll never know. It’s all “Miss” this and “Mr.” that. It’s also pointed out early on that he is a “control freak.”

Cut to the meat of the story. Christian Grey wants to enter a Sub/Dom relationship with the girl that’s never had a boyfriend in her life (despite having two other decent men in the story madly in love with her). To heighten the stakes Mr. Grey has written up a contract that outlines all the rules of being a Dominant and a Subordinate (for anyone who’s entered the new millennium unaware of the S&M community). Important note about the contract: no fire play and no fecal matter will be involved. Phewf.

The virginal (of course) Anastasia is torn because this is a frightening situation, but he’s a billionaire, and “for the first time in 21 years I want to be kissed.” Really? Oh yeah, and she’s also never masturbated. Never in her life!

Christian then buys Anastasia a Mac Book Pro to research Sub/Dom relationships on the Internet, because she’s a university student whose never heard of this, who also doesn’t own a computer. WHAT?! She’s graduating University this week and she doesn’t own a computer? Are you freaking kidding me?! She goes for a run with an iPod prior to him buying her a Mac. Where does she upload the songs from?! Gah!!!!

She then mentions several times that she will only uses this top of the line Mac to search the Internet and to email him. GAHHHH! Is this supposed to make me hate her?! Because this was the point where I really wanted to slap Anastasia … and Christian.

He also buys her a Blackberry, so he can keep in contact with her at all times. Like I said, he’s a control freak. Or just your typical Dom.

While emailing Christian questions about the Sub/Dom relationship he shows up at her house twice, minutes after she emails him. Apparently Anastasia and Katherine don’t have a lock on their front door.

Shortly after a date with Christian where he sees that she drives a VW Bug, he decides her car isn’t safe so he buys her an Audi. At this point the book is like Pretty Woman (the movie) on speed, and crack, except that there’s no piano sex scene. Wait, that happens later.

At one point he takes her on a date to his apartment in Seattle by flying a helicopter from Portland himself, at night.

When he finds out she’s a virgin he’s super pissed off because he wouldn’t have asked her to be his Sub if he’d known this. Luckily he soon “rectifies that situation,” by having the first vanilla sex in his life. Why is that? Because he was seduced by his mother’s friend when he was 15 years old into a Sub/Dom relationship where he was the Sub. This went on for six years. Guess what her name is? Mrs. Robinson.

Oh yeah, and when Ana gets to Christian’s house she sees his sex dungeon. Or as he calls it the ‘Red Room of Pain.’

The first few times they have sex he leaves his shirt on. I don’t care how hot he is, this is never a good look on a man. Later when his shirt does come off, the author doesn’t even describe his chest at all. That’s terrible writing! Eventually there is mention of some spots (possibly cigarette burns) on his chest, but this never gets explained. I guess we’ll have to read further into the trilogy to find out more.

Thankfully, Mr. grey-eyed Grey wears a condom every time they have sex, which is a lot. But like any red-blooded American man he pays a doctor a lot of money to come to his house one Sunday to put Ana on the pill. He announces this by saying, “are you ready for some contraception?”

Christian takes a keen interest in her cycle, then after she’s taken two birth control pills it’s – ahem – open season. Because that’s how birth control works, right? Immediately? I thought so.

At graduation, Christian Grey hands out degrees, because he’s so important to the University, and then he meets Ana’s father (okay, not her real Dad but the one she grew up with). The two are starting to enter a ‘normal’ relationship and Christian is experiencing a lot of firsts. First time sleeping in the same bed as his lover, first time being photographed with a girl by his side, first time meeting a girl’s parents. This gives you an indication about his twisted sexual history. See, he’s just never known the love of a good girl before!

Anastasia moves to Seattle with Katherine, who by this time is dating Christian’s brother. Of course. They live in a modern loft by Pike Place Market that Katherine’s parents have bought for her. Naturally.

Throughout the book Ana hardly ever eats or has an appetite. This concerns Christian, and me; it’s a bad example for women to follow, then again, Anastasia Steele is hardly a role model. She’s incredibly naive and extremely jealous of every woman Christian has ever been with before.

On most of their dates they always eat first and then have sex. How many of you listen/ read Dan Savage, who coincidentally lives in Seattle? He always stresses fuck first, eat later. If Christian was in the Sub/Dom community of Seattle, don’t you think he’d be aware of Dan Savage’s advice? I rest my case. This book is terrible. But, wait, there’s more!

She meets his family: Mom, Dad, brother (whom she met earlier) and his sister that lives in Paris. She goes to his parent’s house and is the first girlfriend they have ever met. Another first! When she goes to Mr Grey’s parent’s house Ana doesn’t wear underwear underneath the halter-top dress borrowed from Kate; apparently Ana doesn’t own any clothing of her own. After dinner they have sex in the boathouse.

This is where the books really ventures into kink and they start to play with sex toys: floggers, those balls that you stick inside your vagina, and mild spanking.

Finally, Anastasia gets back to work and goes on two interviews with local publishing houses where she wears another one of Kate’s dresses, “a black pinafore over a white blouse,” like some sort of servant from the 1900s. At least it’s not a halter-top.

Then Anastasia goes to Georgia (the State, not a new character with a ridiculous name) for some time away from Christian, his contract and his Red Room of Pain, to visit her mother. Of course, Christian wants to fly her there in his private jet, but she refuses his charity. When she checks in at the Seattle airport she finds that she’s been upgraded to first class. Guess who did that? None other than the best boyfriend/Dom in the world! In the first class lounge Ana gets a manicure, massage and two glasses of Champagne. Really? The first class lounge Sea-Tac has all of that, and it’s on the house? I call bullshit. This is what I got when I Googled ‘First Class Lounge Sea-Tac.’

While in Sea-Tac’s amazing first class lounge this gets written: “I open up my MacBook, hoping to test the theory that it works anywhere on the planet.” Ugh. Anastasia clearly has no idea how computers, let alone travel, works.

The whole time Anastasia is away trying to clear her mind about this situation she’s constantly emailing and texting Christian. Her mother and her talk about a lot of things and Ana gets some motherly relationship advice. “She is on her fourth marriage. Maybe she does know something about men after all.” I don’t think this line was meant to be ironic.

Of course, Christian shows up in Georgia then meets and charms Ana’s mother. Ana and Christian also have sex in his incredible hotel room. Of course.

Blah Blah Blah. The story goes on, this time with more angst, and a little dark night of the soul.

The sex gets a little rougher and Ana still won’t sign the contract. She wants a normal relationship with this “fifty shades of fucked up” billionaire, but he won’t budge, despite experiencing so many ‘firsts’ with Ana already.

I won’t spoil the ending too much for you, except to say it involves a spanking and Ana leaving him. Oh yeah, and she got a job at a publishing house.

What Really Bothered Me About The Book aka What Made It So Good For My Say Wha?! Show

There are a lot of sex scenes – so many I stopped counting. In each of them there’s about four pages of build up (taking off clothes, showers etc) and then about 200 words of sex. Always Christian is ready for round two INSTANTLY, like in the next paragraph. This book is not just fiction, it’s fantasy.

This book was clearly written by a Brit who didn’t do her research, then published by Australians who didn’t know what they were talking about. I hope the Vintage editors can comb through this atrocity.

British Examples

* “I’m not keen on coffee.” She prefers tea, English Breakfast.
* She’d rather go to England than Paris.
* She once refers to pants as “trousers.”
* She says she’ll go “fetch” things.
* On the plane she takes a “carry on rucksack.”
* She refers to flying from Seattle to Georgia as ‘crossing the continent.’ I’m sorry but 70% of Americans aren’t even aware that they are part of a continent.
* She says, “it’s nice to feel mollycoddled sometimes.”

Things They Think Are Sexy That Are Not

* “Holy Crap, he’s wearing a white shirt, open at the collar and grey flannel pants that hang from his hips.” (FLANNEL? Really? Well, it is set in Seattle. But in not 1993!)
* Converse shoes are mentioned frequently. I think these shoes have a cool brand feeling but are NOT sexy.
* Halter tops. Anastasia Steele wears at least three halter dresses and a halter-neck tankini (Hello 1993).
* Pig tails. In 2011 did you ever see a girl the age of 21 in pig tails? No, it’s not in the context of a Catholic school girl fantasy.
* 27 year old Christian Grey (born in 1984) likes Bruce Springstein. “Gotta love Bruce.” I don’t buy it. There is no irony in this book.

Repetition

Thanks to the search function on my Kindle I know that Anastasia Steele talks about her ‘inner goddess’ at least 60 times.

Here are my favorite examples:

“My subconscious screams at me. My inner goddess is doing back flips in a routine worthy of a Russian Olympic gymnast.”
“My inner goddess is doing the meringue with some salsa moves.” (Why not just the meringue?)
“I examine the list (referring to the Sub/Dom contract’s acceptable bondage positions), and my inner goddess bounces up and down like a small child waiting for ice cream.”
“My inner goddess looks like someone snatched her ice cream.”
“My inner goddess sits in the lotus position looking serene except for the sly, self-congratulatory smile on her face.”
“My inner goddess is doing the dance of the seven veils.”
“My subconscious has passed out, and my inner goddess is endeavoring to look brave.”
“My inner goddess has a ‘do not disturb sign’ on the outside of her room.

This book was tremendous fodder for my comedy show and I’m so thankful for it.

Even the Character Anastasia Steele Has a Say Wha?! Moment

“He reaches between my legs and pulls on the blue string – what? – he gently pulls my tampon out and tosses it into the nearby toilet.” (Note: this is not a good for your plumbing. Christian Grey should know better.)

But all of this pales in comparison to my biggest issue with this book:

Anastasia Steele, who lives in 2011, wants to get a job in publishing, and just graduated University without owning a computer or having email. WTF?!!! How is that possible? She owns an iPod!

Now, to its credit, there are moments when the book is kind of hot. It’s pretty hard to read a book with so much sex and not get turned on. I lost count but I think there’s at least 15 sex scenes, compared to 3 in other romance novels I’ve read. The downside is that it’s so completely unbelievable you’re thrown right out of the story. How they hope to make a movie out of this, I don’t know. Then again, people liked Twilight.

I will leave you with this brilliant line:

“I could gaze at him all day, but I have needs – bathroom needs.”

8 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Say Wha?!

  • Then again, if this was all intentional, this might become my new favorite book. God bless Say Wha?! for giving me an excuse to read things like this.

  • I read the paperback edition, so I missed out on the Kindle search function. Any idea how many times she says Holy Crap/ Holy F*ck/ Holy God etc. I wanted to pull out my hair.

  • Hahahaha, this is a brilliant/super funny review; really, these books are awful, horrible writing, is ridicuous how fantastic (and not in a good way) the story is, paparazzis… in Seattle? There hasn’t been a paparazzi in Seattle since Kurt Cobain died. An industrial mogul at 27?! A virgin at 21?!!! No, no, no, no, no… yet I couldn’t stop reading… it’s shameful!

  • I’d like to see a version where the word “beautiful” (in terms of CG’s looks) is replaced with “average-looking”. And CG’s name to be something regular like “Ben” or “Larry”. I wonder if
    They should make some copies of this version and sell them just for fun. Maybe then there will be some eyes opened to the truth of the storyline and the bad, bad, bad writing! 😀

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