Monday, April 30, 2012

SM Johnson ~Bloody Monday~ Fifty Shades of Grey

E L James site

Happy Monday, darlings! (I can say that, because this week Monday is my "Friday" and I have two glorious days off after working the weekend. Yay! Life is good).

Before I get into talking about Fifty Shades of Grey, I just want to put in a little reminder that Bloody Monday has broadened its scope beyond vampires to include other dark fiction. I also wanted a venue to discuss the latest "pop culture" fiction craze. I want to experience the books that "everyone" is talking about - first, to see what all the fuss is about, and second because I do want to keep up with the mainstream, despite the fact that I don't write for the mainstream. Still - I wouldn't hate it if one of my books caught the attention of the masses and did a wildfire dash into bestseller realm.

Just remember, even if it happens, I'll still hate the movie. Guaranteed.

And for the third and probably most important reason - my quest to learn about great stories and great writing. Not that the mainstream masses always care about great writing, but they do a pretty good job of holding great characters up into the light.

Okay, onward to Fifty Shades of Grey. I'm really excited to re-read some reviews now that I've read the book.

This next bit will be my general thoughts, rather than a review, so please don't take it as a review. I know,  I know, but whatever.  I will probably get into some stuff that will be considered *spoilers* - so just an FYI, I will put in a cut and a "read more" link at that point.

I'm going to start by saying - I really enjoyed this book.

Which surprised me, because I expected to be rolling my eyes for the duration.

I typically have to write the stuff I want to read.

E L James is a fine story-teller, and doesn't slip into the purple prose that so aggravates me. There aren't any "turgid members" or "heaving bosoms" or nipples that constantly "pebble." James has a fresh voice, and generally calls body parts what they are - and doesn't yank me out of the narrative laughing, or groaning in consternation (most of the time) - which is a very good thing. The emotional aspects of BDSM are  quite well done. A couple of the "scenes" - in the BDSM sense - are scorching. Some of the others could be, but they tended to be over too quickly for me to really start to burn.

What I found absolutely fascinating were Christian Grey's fifty shades of fucked-up. I mean... oh my. And oh my. There, I said it. 

The Anastasia character could be anyone -a Mary Sue, the girl that lives down the street, the girl that lives down the street from Mary Sue. Hell, she could be Bella Swan, for all I care, and I don't know if I've met a literary heroine that I care less about than Bella Swan.

The best part of Ana's characterization is her hysterical inner Goddess. A little corny at first, but I got used to her, and just love the vivid and fresh descriptions of what Ana's inner goddess (subconscious, unconscious, and sometimes even her conscience) is up to - i.e. rolling her eyes, hiding behind the couch, tapping her foot, doing gymnastics - the inner Goddess is a hoot.

Christian Grey is an outstanding character. In the words of Winston Churchill, a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma.

He is so many layers of fucked up, to be sure. And we get hints, and tantalizing pieces, and little bits of information that lets us guess as to what level of fucked up he is, but then we don't find out. I mean, OMFG, the book ends and we don't find out.

Absolutely stellar.

Okay, so here are the things that aggravated me - because of course, since I didn't write the book myself, there are things that aggravated me (grin). The stuff I loved is spoiler-y, so it comes later.

Anastasia is about to graduate from college and she's a virgin. Not only is she a virgin, but she's really never been on a date or been kissed, or been heavily petted, nor has she ever masturbated.

I found it very, very difficult to suspend my belief on this point.

Especially when she can have sex multiple times over short period of time and never getting sore enough that soreness inhibits her from having an orgasm. ***NOTE*** And yet - this is erotica and fantasy, so being able to fuck like rabbits over and over again without insy/outsy pain is pretty standard to the genre ***END NOTE***

Personally, I think she may have been a stronger character if she'd had a couple of lame sexual experiences with unskilled boys, and it just sort of put her off the whole sex thing. That would make perfect sense to me.

AND YET (and this is really important) - part of Ana's appeal to the amazing and astounding Christian is that he is her first and only lover, and that, my darlings, contributes and heartily feeds his need for ownership. I don't think there would be a chance in hell for  Christian to fall for Ana if she had not been a virgin.

And because I think Christian IS the main character of this story (despite the fact that the story is told from Ana's point of view) - I will accept that Ana's virginity is 100% true to CHRISTIAN's characterization.

Notice how I embraced the author's choices even when I initially thought they were hokey? That's the mark of a great story-teller.

Okay, another thing I didn't like - the fully and completely inexperienced Ana gives a mind-shattering blow job. The very first time. She deep throats and doesn't gag. She swallows. I mean, between this and the virginity thing, I'm beginning to think that E L James is a man. This is so typical of a man's fantasy.

The repetitive description thing - well, you can read about it in any number of reviews. I noticed it - the smirks, lip-biting, and orgasm were exactly the same throughout the book - but it didn't bother me as much as it bothered some other people. I think my eye just started skipping over the repeated phrasing.

A couple more nit-picks - and I'll move on.

Ana is a senior in college in America who is about to graduate with what I perceive to be a higher than average GPA. And she's pulled this off without owning a computer. She borrows her room-mate's laptop, or uses the computer lab at school. And she doesn't even have an email address.

This is ridiculously difficult to believe. No one in this day and age can possibly wind up a college senior and not have an email address. I think I had 2 email addresses when I was in college in 1995. I have at LEAST four email addresses right now. That's one complaint. The other is that laptops aren't that expensive, and the girl works. It is just not feasible that she wouldn't have one. If a student doesn't get a laptop for high school graduation, it's very likely the very first thing they buy with their student loans.

And kind of alongside the above, my last negative picky observation: Ana is annoying and totally sets my teeth on edge (like Bella Swan) when Christian buys her things. Christian is obscenely wealthy. He doesn't see the point of Ana doing without certain things (laptop, blackberry - okay, maybe a new car is a bit of an excessive gift in a new relationship, but still). This is kind of a Cinderella story - does Cinderella refuse the prince because marrying him will make her a princess, and she's not worthy?)

So what does Ana think, she'll be with Christian, but she'll live in a shack in poverty on the back 40 while he resides in the lavish mansion? Aaaarrrggghhhh. Wealth is his way of life. Embrace it. Or if you can't embrace it, get over it and quit whining. Money might not buy happiness, but it can make life a lot more pleasurable. And techno-gadgets are fun. Just go with it, already.

Basically Ana whines, "Oh, don't buy me nice things, because it makes me feel like a whore."

What-the-fuck-ever. You ARE having sex with him, sometimes crazy-bondage sex, so accept the gifts. He doesn't think you're a whore, he just has money and is accustomed to spending it. He's being NICE for God's sake. Sheesh.

Lastly - why does Ana have to be mousey and homely? Perfectly normal girls can be pretty, too.

This is the primo sign of a Mary Sue character - "oh, I'm not all that pretty or stylish and I don't wear make-up, and I'm just so plain, especially compared to my roommate/sister/cousin/best friend."

The truth is that people are attracted to others who have similar status. And when I say "status" I'm not talking about wealth. I'm talking about self-esteem, self-worth, opinion of self, perception of self. I'm not trying to be a c*nt here, but very often plain people hook up with other plain people, beautiful people with beautiful people, ugly people with similarly ugly people, mentally ill people with mentally ill people. Partly it's because that's who they meet in the places they go. Seriously. When you go to Walmart, or a restaurant, or a club - check out the couples. Sometimes it's funny.

But again, when you consider Christian - the rules may change of course, but he does have some social esteem to uphold, so I can't imagine he'd claim as a girlfriend a girl who is as out-right unattractive as Ana seems to perceive herself.

And let me tell you flat out - women who choose to be sexually submissive often have incredibly positive self-esteem and very strong senses of self. It's not about being a doormat, and it's not about feeling they "deserve to be punished" or are unworthy in a deeper sense.

Trust me. I know stuff.

The opposite is more often true - that they trust and often love their Dominant, and by giving their submission they are honoring the Dominant with an incredible gift.

And also being submissive gives them spectacular orgasms. Let's not forget that part.

I said it earlier, and I'll say it again - I really liked this book.

The funny thing is that I liked it for reasons that I never expected. And so now I will discuss the reasons that I love this book.

And so now here are the things I LOVED about this book:

****SPOILER ALERT****

Here's the cut. Click "read more" to keep going....

(if you don't want to read the spoilers, stop reading here and leave me a comment telling me if you're planning to read Fifty Shades of Grey, and what you expect from the book based on media coverage, discussions, blogs, or even just the back-cover description).

I expected to read a story in which the kinky Christian Grey leads the innocent Ana down a twisted dark path to raunchy, rough, bent, and twisted sexual deviance.

This is the way of most erotic BDSM stories.

I never in a million years expected Ana to lead Christian Gray out of the dark and into the terrifying realm of a "vanilla" egalitarian relationship.

Pick up a flogger and knock me right over.

Holy-Moly, Rocky.

Christian is so fucked up that the idea of a "normal" relationship is just not something he's ever put on his radar. He doesn't seem to long for it, he doesn't seem to wish he were different than he is.

But he wants Ana. And he can't have Ana purely on his own terms. Because she's not submissive. She doesn't really mind the kinky, but she doesn't understand how anyone could even want to be submissive, much less find happiness in being hurt.

And she doesn't understand at all how Christian can love her and want to hurt her at the same time. To her, that's a disconnect. And it's such a total disconnect that she "gets it" - it doesn't matter if she loves Christian - if he wants to hurt her, then in her world it means that he is unable to truly have feelings of love for her. No matter how he makes her feel, no matter if he professes his undying love (which he doesn't).

Now - I would argue this, and I do hope that in Fifty Shades Darker E L James does argue it.

(And I really hope hope hope that Ana gets to tie Christian up and touch him all over. Oooooh, please!)

And I want, no I NEED to find out more about Christian's past - why he hates to be touched, and how badly he must have been abused to never get over his hatred of being touched. And I'm also really curious about the 6 years he spent as Elena's submissive - did she force him to accept her touch? And how did he handle that?

And how will Ana handle hearing about it?

I have to say... I totally agree with Ana that Elena is a pedophile who abused Christian when he was too young to make the adult decisions that Elena required of him.

So this part of the back-story is just killing me. I want to know more. Damn that enigmatic Christian. He is driving me crazy.

I think he's the hero of the story, and yet... the way this book ended, he's also clearly the villain. There's just so many shades of gray (wink, grin).

Which leads me back to mainstream fiction.

(Huh? How did we get HERE?)

Christian is a sexual deviant, therefore he MUST be cast as the villain, right? At least, that's the only kind of sexual deviant the mainstream can embrace, and that's pretty much the message I received at the end of the book when Ana left. And I don't like that message.

Because I kind of like sexual deviants. They are supremely interesting.

It's why I write erotic BDSM. And believe me, my kinky Roman is so not the villain. (Come to think of it, I'm not sure any of my boys are the villain).

I am kicking myself a little bit - that if I'd made Dare a girl, *I* could be shaking up mainstream literary culture with MY book. Damn it. Made the wrong gender choice. Perhaps I should re-release Above the Dungeon under the title "Fifty Shades of Gay." But then I'd have to revise the new cover yet again. Ugh. That's tedious, and I'm way too lazy to actually do it.

E L James' Site
I can't stop thinking about Christian Grey. I have to go buy Fifty Shades Darker. Now. And then I'm sure I'll have to buy Fifty Shades Freed by tomorrow.

**NOTE: Not a lot happens in Fifty Shades Freed, so if you feel content having read Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker, you could easily skip it. I actually felt a little upset that I spent $10 for an ebook that mostly was a reprise of the other two books. The plot was glaringly missing as of 49% of the book, and when it did show up, it didn't stay long. And no gymnastics for the inner goddess this time, either. She spent most of her time in the corner, reading English literature.**

Please leave some comments - do you agree with me? Disagree? Like Ana? Hate Christian? What do YOU think of the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy? Were you surprised at the direction it went? do you think EL James is an amazing storyteller? Talk to me, darlings.

4 comments:

  1. Absolutely, I think EL James is a wonderful storyteller. I have read erotica before but have never, NEVER finished a series and immediately started to read it again. I was so enthralled by the characters and their story that I was not ready to say goodby to them. The epilogue at the end of Fifty Shades Freed also provided some intriguing information that allowed me to reread the set with a different perspective. I can't wait to see what else EL James will gift us with.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the comment! I just finished Fifty Shades Darker, and I'm not sure how long I can wait to buy Fifty Shades Freed. I really should stop reading and engage in life, at least for a day or two. Reviewers really don't like Ana's inner Goddess, but I have to say - I think it's a fun and quirky take on the inner monologue that we all have.

    The erotica part is tame compared to much of what I read, but I think it stays true to the characters and the story EL James is presenting.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Epilogue of Fifty Shades Freed was the weakest book in the trilogy, in my opinion, although saying that, I really enjoyed the epilogue bits. It was interesting to see some things from Christian's point of view.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think the above was supposed to read "Fifty Shades Freed was the weakest book in the trilogy, but I enjoyed the epilogue."

    ReplyDelete