The Undergrad Reads Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 1

Apparently, the new rage in the reading scene is the erotica novel Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. It’s a must-read, they say, a story every contemporary woman should get her hands on. Everyone that lays their hands on it adores it, they report.

Is that so?

Apparently, this defines my womanhood.

I don’t really have the literary tastes of a contemporary woman, to begin. On my bookshelf are Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré, and The Hound of the D’Urbervilles by Kim Newman; not exactly a treasure trove of chick lit, in truth. I got even warier of the story when I found out it had originally started off as Twilight fanfiction, which to me is some of the worst writing ever created, second only to the masterpiece by Stephenie Meyer herself. But okay. I decided I’d, despite my previous bias, to give Fifty a shot.

Amazon offers the first two chapters for free, so I dove in. 

The story begins with the somewhat awkward, Plain-Jane Anastasia Steele getting ready for an interview, battling with her slightly unruly hair (hmm, I relate) and wondering why her wide sky-blue eyes cause her to look so ugly (wait, what?). All the while, she mentally condemns Katherine Kavanagh, whom she faults for making her undergo such horrors (the ugliness, or the interviewing?). She bemoans the fact that this cursed Kate, Anastasia’s roommate, managed to get sick on the day of this big interview, especially when journalism isn’t Ana’s forte and she has finals to study for. From this, I deduced that Anastasia and her roommate are not the best of friends, and that all of this is a begrudged favor.

Anastasia Steele, as I see her.

In the living room, an ill Kate is croaking her gratitude at Anastasia, wrapped in blankets with snot dripping down her nose, and yet still glowing like Aphrodite herself. Anastasia blandly accepts her thanks and offers her acetaminophen to relieve her pains. Kate urges Ana to go on and get an early start on the long drive ahead, and our narrator grumbles off into the distance. No, wait, that isn’t what happens. After apparently sulking about, unhappy about the situation she’s in, she suddenly turns to give her sniffly roommate a loving glance, thinking (and I quote), Only for you, Kate, would I do this. As she leaves the roo m, she notes Kate’s strength of persuasion and beauty, which surely would make her a wonderful journalist.

And this was where I decided that I shipped Anastasia/Kate, because clearly Ana has some deep lesbian crush on her goddess roommate.

ship /SHip/

verb: To endorse a romantic relationship, especially one that is not canon in the works in which it appears.

Anastasia borrows Kate’s “sporty Mercedes CLK” and “floors the pedal to the metal” (gag, is that a cliche I see?) on her way from Vancouver to Seattle.

Ana's lesbian crush on Kate is clearly helped by Kate's apparent wealth.

She arrives at a huge steel-and-glass palace operated by Barbie doll receptionists that accentuate Anastasia’s ogre face. She waits in the grandiose, contemporary waiting room, and goes into great detail about it. Finally, she’s escorted into the mysterious interviewee’s office, and with all the grace of a Russian ballerina, she makes her way in. Oh no, wait, that’s not right. She falls flat on her face. Luckily, an attractive (very attractive) young man helps her up with his long-fingered (*shudder*), gentle hands. His eyes are intensely gray, which suits him: his name is Christian Grey.

I'm sure long fingers are supposed to be an attractive quality, and yet THIS is the image lingering in my brain.

Anastasia takes in the grandness and the modernity of the office in a generally negative mindset and wonders if it’s a reflection of the man behind the desk. She holds terse small talk and sets up her interview supplies with the finesse of cave troll. Likewise, the young Christian responds with subtle sarcasm and the vocabulary of a mansion-dwelling 65-year-old.

So, add the aforementioned Nosferatu fingers to this and you have Christian Grey.

The interview goes on, but truth be told, I skipped it. It was fabulously tiresome. Anastasia lets the informal phrase “chill out” slip into the stuffy discussion, and Christian smiles, driving Anastasia into cardiac arrest—okay, just kidding. But she does stop breathing, in awe of his unreal beauty, which seems to overshadow Christian’s overall arrogance and machine-like disposition (“There are people who’d say I don’t have a heart,” he admits).

As the interview progress, spiraling out of Ana’s control, she suddenly asks, “Are you gay, Mr. Grey?” because this clearly a question one asks of a man within the first hour of the professional acquaintance. She explains that Kate created these odd questions (well aren’t you the next Walter Cronkite), and this displeases our stone-cold Mr. Grey. He turns the interview on her, asking about her post-graduation plans and distracting Ana with his beautiful mouth (really). Christian attempts to offer Anastasia an internship and a tour of the place, both of which she turns down almost rudely. The interview concluded, Christian escorts Anastasia out of his office and helps her into her coat, which sends Anastasia into cardiac arrest—nope, kidding again. But she does gasp as his hands touch her shoulders. (My, her breathing is erratic.)

Please, Ana. Breathe.

With his Nosferatu finger, he calls up an elevator, and Anastasia waits desperately to get out as fast as she can. Christian leans attractively in the doorway and fares her well, stony eyes burning into her. She returns the farewell, suddenly on a first-name basis, and is off.

And thus ends Chapter 1.

My breath isn’t exactly being taken away; rather, I read through it rolling my eyes and snorting at every other sentence. And honestly, I think I’m rooting for the wrong pairing; Ana seems to be lusting more for her roommate than for the male lead, but I digress.

You know what? I’ll read the rest of my free sample. I’ll find out what happens. And so, reader, will you.

For Part 2, go here!

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