GJ Reads Grey, Chapter 1

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, there’s a new Fifty Shades book. Because E.L. James totally needs more money, right?

It’s called Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian. And as much as I hate E.L. James’ writing, as much as I loathe the campaign of kink miseducation she’s inadvertently created with her shoddily-researched “literary” empire, I just couldn’t stay away. I was too curious. I had to get my hands on this goddamn book.

I mean, it’s not like this is a surprise. I have seen the Fifty Shades movie FOUR TIMES, after all (most notably, at Drunk Feminist Films and while eating pizza and riding a Sybian). I endured these viewings and half of the first book despite pretty much hating every second of both, because, I guess, I’m even more of a masochist than Anastasia Steele.

(Is Ana even a masochist, though? Emotionally, maybe… but sexually, I don’t get the impression that she’s as into pain as Christian wants her to be. Anyway, that’s a can of worms for a whole ‘nother day…)

So without further ado, I’m gonna start a series of blog posts wherein I review and pick apart Grey, chapter by chapter. I can’t guarantee I will get through all the chapters; it’s an absurdly long book. But for as long as I can bear to read this garbage, I will blog about it. Because what’s the point of reading shitty shit if I can’t even snark on it?

(Incase you needed to be told: THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!)

Chapter 1

Grey opens with a dream Christian is having wherein he is a child, but I’m so used to E.L. James’ terrible writing that I thought it was just Adult Christian’s inner monologue for a while.

I have three cars. They go fast across the floor. So fast. One is red. One is green. One is yellow. I like the green one. It’s the best.

The dream Christian is having is actually a memory of his drug dealer/prostitute mother, who calls him “Maggot” and otherwise largely ignores him. Because that’s what drug addicts do, right? And because sad childhoods inevitably lead to sexually fucked-up adulthoods, right? Guh. This book is pissing me off already.

After Christian wakes up, he goes for a run on his treadmill while watching the “morning business news” on TV. One of my favorite features of the Fifty Shades franchise is how little E.L. James knows about business, or even the business that her main character is the boss of. The phrase “business meeting” is repeatedly used in the first book and movie. Like… can you do the tiniest bit of research on the lingo of the world you’re inhabiting? Or at least be the slightest bit more specific than “business” in all the many, many contexts you use that word?

Later in the day, Grey meets with his personal trainer, who is named Bastille. It’s like James is trying to make a historical reference, something about how Christian’s physical fitness and aggression serve to protect him from emotional vulnerability the way the Bastille fortress protected the French in its day. But I dunno. It doesn’t quite work. I mean, what kind of a name is Bastille?

My mood is as flat and gray as the weather.

Oh, Christian, what an original thought.

At work now, Christian is scheduled to be interviewed by journalism student Kate Kavanagh for her school’s newspaper. Grey and Kate’s father have “done business together” (yup, another vague reference to “business”) and Christian is “curious about his daughter.” Is he planning to mack on Kate?

Of course, Kate’s fallen ill, and Anastasia Steele has been sent as her replacement. Though Christian initially “repress[es his] natural annoyance at such clumsiness” when she falls headfirst through his office door (what a kLuTzZz!!), he’s immediately caught up in her “powder blue and guileless” eyes that seem to be able to “see right through” him, and then all of a sudden he’s wondering “what [her skin] would look like pink and warmed from the bite of a cane.” Yikes. This guy is an instantaneous predator. Straight creepin’.

She gapes at me, and I resist rolling my eyes. Yeah, yeah, baby, it’s just a face, and it’s only skin deep. I need to dispel that admiring look from those eyes but let’s have some fun in the process!

Oh my god, I hate this guy.

A bashful, bookish type, eh? She looks it: poorly dressed, her slight frame hidden beneath a shapeless sweater, an A-line brown skirt, and utilitarian boots. Does she have any sense of style at all?

Uhhh, Christian Grey is definitely having a Miranda Priestley moment.

He goes on to remark to himself that Ana can’t possibly be a journalist because she lacks assertiveness and seems submissive. As a journalist myself, yes, I can say it is true that you need to be assertive. But what the fuck is this conflation of weakness and passivity with submissiveness? Being a sexual submissive is incredibly active in many ways and requires strength and tenacity. This is exactly the kind of bullshit misconception that the Fifty Shades series is infamous for peddling.

As she fumbles and grows more and more flustered, it occurs to me that I could refine her motor skills with the aid of a riding crop. Adeptly used, it can bring even the most skittish to heel. The errant thought makes me shift in my chair. She peeks up at me and bites down on her full bottom lip. Fuck! How did I not notice how inviting that mouth is?

I wish I could shake Ana by her shoulders and tell her to get the fuck out of there. This dude is not safe.

Literarily speaking, can we talk about how James writes the entire book as Christian’s inner monologue but also occasionally italicizes certain phrases, as if to say, “Look, these are Christian’s thoughts”? The whole book is Christian’s thoughts. I’m confused by this choice. I’m confused by E.L. James’ entire approach to writing, actually.

The interview continues. Ana asks a bunch of smart questions and Christian answers them patronizingly while thinking about fucking her mouth and whipping her ass. What a charmer.

The chapter ends with Christian making a call to some guy named Welch to ask him to run a background check on Ana. Helloooo, stalker.

No surprise here: chapter 1 of Grey was every bit as creepy and worrisome as I expected. And E.L. James’ writing was just as bad as I remembered. Hip hip hooray for the modern literary industry!

Want to keep reading? Go to the next chapter.