In other news, I
am was so exhausted last week. I normally do not get jetlag when I fly between San Francisco and New York City, partly because I fly so often, and partly because a three hour time shift doesn’t kill me. But this time, I had the additional complication of a new addiction; reading the first damn romance novel I’ve ever picked up. Ergo, my exhaustion is was amplified times 100, because I’ve I’d stay up all night reading, and then wake up sometime in the middle of the day.
The name of the books my friends, are Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed. If you buy the first book, just go ahead and buy the next two at the same time.
Also, if you do not like reading sex scenes, do not read them. I lost 30 purity points just by reading these books.
The Fifty Shades trilogy is like crack. And I am cracked out.
I’m I was not eating well (partly because we’ve we’d yet to go grocery shopping plus the fact that I started reading the books during Passover; we were eating weird concoctions that are destined to become the next generation of matzo brei, which in and of itself is a desperate concoction). I missed all my yoga classes because I’m I was either too tired or reading, to go. And I’m I was drinking coffee so I can could get energy so I stay up so I read so I am was tired in the mornings so I make made some coffee…
*disclosure (and you’ve probably figured this out by now–I started writing this post last week).
The Fifty Shades Trilogy is like a mashup of Clan of the Cave Bear (deflowering virgins and sex scene after sex scene), Thomas Crowne Affair (the glider scene and a male protagonist who is wealthier than Thomas Crowne), Beauty and the Beast (monsters and romance and true love), Twilight (secrets and monsters again), 9 1/2 Weeks (BDSM and sex scene after sex scene), Jane Eyre (secrets and a new form of tortured Mr. Rochester), and The Fountainhead (stalwart and stoic capitalists). It’s a suspense-filled psychological thriller and it’s romance and it’s erotica. It’s formulaic and yet completely addictive featuring the ever-damaged, complex Christian Grey and the ever-spunky, strong Anastasia Steele. Seriously, are these romance novel names, or what? If your name is Anastasia Steele, your life is a romance novel waiting to happen.
The trilogy is an amazing lesson in building a pageturner that keeps readers so intrigued they get sleep deprived. Once I go into Fifty Shades Rehab, I’ll be able to figure out the pieces of the puzzle. (I’m diagramming the novel out as I type–see below for some of my dissection).
Fifty Shades of Grey, Darker, and Freed have the dark/grey/liberating sex life that Murakami wanted for his characters in 1Q84 (which incidentally, I am still reading). The sex scenes in 1Q84 are uproariously bad. Oh I love Murakami, but I found myself laughing during his sex scenes, or sometimes rolling my eyes. Shades of Grey is no literary jewel, and there are a lot of “fluid mentions” and “shattering/exploding into a million pieces” orgasm descriptions throughout, but at least the gun in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy gets used. Ahem. I was about to say pun unintended, but I’m going to say that it was intended. Gun. Gets used.
The trilogy, as all genre lit can be, is a lesson in plot. And it uses the first person present tense narrative well (first person POV present tense is all about surprise, because we experience things in real time along with the narrator); the Fifty Shades Trilogy has its fair share of plot twists and surprises and tension, all befitting first person present tense.
There are things for which you suspend disbelief as in any romance novels: the amount of orgasms, and the fact that she can go without panties in a dress and get turned on and yet not leave any tell tale stains (I swear, her pooty-juice is well behaved). Also Christian Grey tells Anastasia Steele that you’re supposed to not chew when eating raw oysters. WRONG.
The books are not a lesson in language–the lines that made me wince are too many to count. And E.L. James’ thinks that description is satisfied by describing what the characters wear (and drive) in every scene. At least I know their wardrobe. And so will the director when it comes time to make a movie.
I’m a literary writer, but I have no snobbery towards genre lit. There is good stuff in sci fi, fantasy, mystery, and romance to mine. And I’m not saying The Fifty Shades Trilogy is Jane Eyre (even though it’s clearly inspired by the romance of Jane Eyre)–just that it’s an enjoyable read with good plot points. Okay, that’s an understatement: it’s an addictive read. It’s awesome. Not Pulitzer Prize awesome, but smutty-stay-up-all-night-turning-the-pages-awesome. Like, awesome junk food. Because if you’re going to eat junk food, you might as well eat the awesome tasting kind. (Doritos, Cheetos, Sara Lee poundcake, Shake Shack hamburgers, New York cheesecake, Big Gay Ice Cream (Monday Sundae), ramen, Doughnut Plant donuts, Cheese Board brioche,…)
There are some pretty hilarious breakdowns of the novel. New York Magazine documents every sentence (87, to be exact) in the first book containing the full name “Christian Grey”–in another article, the same magazine counts 24 acts of intercourse in Fifty Shades of Grey. And then there’s the 50 Shades of Suck tumblr (read and enjoy the awful lines for yourself–but I don’t agree with the assessment that the book is badly written; see my points on plot and usage of first person present tense narrative).
In terms of plot development, Fifty Shades of Grey follows a very standard trajectory:
- The first 25% of the novel (i.e., Chapters 1-7) focuses on (salacious) introductions. Introductions meaning characters, themes, conflicts, questions, character goals, etc.
- The next 46% (50% if we round up) of the novel is “the middle” of the novel in which we explore said characters, themes, conflicts, questions, character goals, etc.
- The last 25% of the novel is “the ending” and (ahem) “climax” of the novel during which some questions resolve in the midst of great tension.
It’s clear that E.L. James meant there to be another book, because the book does not resolve its greatest question. The book follows a very standard plot trajectory. But G*d is in the details; the book is all about its characters and plot developments–the same strengths that have kids lapping up the Harry Potter series (face it–we don’t read Harry Potter for language, either). I’ve since finished the trilogy and put the books down, but the Christian Grey character has left an imprint on my mind.
p.s. Christian Bale for the part of Christian Grey!
For further breakdown…I’ve provided a brief summary (**SPOILER ALERT** do not read ahead if you do not want spoilers, even though I tried to avoid critical spoilers).
Fifty Shades of Grey is comprised of 26 chapters.
Chapters 1-7: Even though Christian Grey offers up a BDSM contract to Anastasia Steele (who completely balks) immediately after they meet, and even though they are immediately attracted to each other and even though Grey pursues her with stalker-ish abandon and even though there is a helicopter in the first seven chapters, the two protagonists do not have sex.
Chapter 8-9: Oh, and then they have sex. Lots of sex. Man if I were a virgin, I would not be wanting to have that much sex, but Anastasia does. And does. And does.
Chapter 10: But we’ve just had sex! But we meet Mom who gatecrashes one morning.
Chapters 11-19: I want you, but no! I can’t! I want you. Wait. No I can’t. I want you. Yes I can. No I can’t. Wait. I’m jealous. Wait I can. Yes you can. No I can’t. *Spank* (and I don’t mean Spanx). I want you. Dammit, no I can’t. I can. I can’t. I can’t. *Spank Spank* Christian as a Dominant, is both turned on and frustrated by Anastasia’s irreverence. Because men who aren’t into BDSM aren’t turned on by this? Bollinger gets a product placement. So does Audi. And VW, in a less flattering way. There’s also intrigue about Christian Grey’s early childhood. And they practice safe sex and birth control (but no product placement for any condom company). (also there is a lot of going over that BDSM contract).
Chapters 20-25: Anastasia leaves town to think about things. Christian has secretly upgraded her plane ticket to first class, natch. They email. More tension. Of course, you know what happens if your boyfriend is a control freak billionaire with a private jet. Actually you might not, but I’m trying not to leave spoilers. Only that there is some sort of chase. Kind of. Bwahahahahaaa.
Chapter 26: Anastasia makes her decision after a pivotal moment involving a belt.